Running United: Half Marathon Recap

I had an entire post about the Boston Marathon tragedy written, but just couldn’t bring myself to publish it. There aren’t any words or profound revelations I can write here that haven’t been said by so many already (and more eloquently, I might add) to truly express how I feel. Simply put,  as a runner I feel like my friends were attacked, and as a human being I’m horrified… and I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

The running community really is something special; there seems to be an unwritten understanding between runners. We’re able to be competitive with one another, while simultaneously lamenting in each other’s pain, and celebrating each other’s success. I know a lot of other runners feel the same way, but that little nod, wave, or half smile you get from another runner while you’re deep into your own run is so much more than a simple acknowledgement. For a brief moment, it’s a shared connection with a complete stranger. I think I love these encounters because I am usually running by myself.

So when I toed the line for the RU Unite Half Marathon this past Sunday, the race’s name had even more meaning. This race was my goal race for the Spring, and based on my training and racing throughout the winter, it seemed like I would have little problem setting a new PR. The last two weeks of training were lackluster due to super tight calves one week, and an pinched nerve in my neck the second, that was still around on race day. So of course, I started to doubt myself and my ability to run as fast as I had hoped. But I knew that I needed to try as hard as I could, while also being smart about the race. I go into races a lot with “plans,” but rarely wind up sticking to them. I swore to myself this time would be different.

Pre Race!
Pre Race!

Race day started like they all do – peanut butter & jelly, and some Nuun. The race is only about 10 minutes away, so I’m lucky that I don’t have to get up super early for the 8am start (but let’s be honest, 5:30am IS early). It was chilly, but thankfully I had a spectator with me so I was able to wear a fleece and sweatpants until I got into the corral. There is only one corral and it’s self-seeded, so I tried to position myself more towards the front than I have in past years, and wound up in front of the 8 minute pacers. My ultimate goal was to run a sub-8 average, but I did want to start out more conservatively. Remember when I said I had “plans”? Well, you can imagine those went out the window once the race started. Before we took off, there was a moment of silence for Boston and our troops, and they played “Sweet Caroline.” Of course I teared up and vowed to remind myself of that moment when the pain started to set in later in the race. Next thing I knew, it was go time.

I started out conservatively with my first mile at 8:05, while trying not to weave and expend any extra energy (though cut-offs make it inevitable). As with most longer runs, the first few miles flew by and when I checked my watch at mile 3, I realized I had definitely dipped under the 8 minute pace earlier than I had wanted. I felt good enough, though, so I decided just to go with it. The next 7 miles were a combination of me running too fast, then slowing down too much, and having waves of feeling awesome with waves of feeling like death. I’ve run this race every year since it started (in 2010) and it was actually my very first half marathon… so I have a special place in my heart for the course. So you would think I’d know how to best pace myself.

Homestretch Pain Face!
Homestretch Pain Face!

By the time I got to mile 10, I wanted the race to just be over. The thought of another 5k made me cringe. But I powered through the park I’ve spent so many summer mornings doing marathon long runs, and over to the final stretch. I actually saw Oiselle Teammate Jess right around mile 11, and she was the push I needed for those final 2 miles… with the most hills. Mile 11 was my slowest (well over 8 minutes), but by the time I got to 12 I tried to dig as deep as I could – especially once on College Avenue. Of course the home stretch felt like it went on forever, but once I crested the hill and saw the finish line I knew it was only a matter of seconds to get there. I couldn’t spot a clock near the finish, so I crossed and stopped my watch – 1:43:01 (which turns out was my official time, too)!

My time works out to be a 7:52 average, which I’m very happy with. After running my PR 10k race at the end of March, I plugged in my results to the McMillan calculator, which projected a 1:43:22… so I did a little better than expected! This wound up being a 4 minute and 42 second PR… and quick math made me realize that in the last three years since I started running half marathons (I’ve run a total of 6), I’ve managed to shave off 20 minutes from my first half marathon! The next big thing I need to tackle is my marathon time… hopefully I can get a good training cycle in this summer and rock out a killer PR in the fall.

After the race I headed to a newish (and new to me) coffee shop a town over with Oiselle Teammates Jess and Kate to talk running and enjoy a latte. Of course I headed to Red Robin a few hours later for my celebratory veggie burger, a tradition I’ve kept since I started running this race back in 2010! All in all it was a pretty great day, and I’m SO thankful to be part of such a great community. It might sound cheesy, but running and its community really is something special.

I’m running another half marathon this coming weekend, the Nike Women’s Half in Washington D.C., and I’m planning to enjoy the race with Krissy. Can’t wait for the Nuun aide stations, post-race Tiffany’s necklace as a medal, and post-race delicious cupcakes and museum visiting in D.C!

So tell me…
Who raced this weekend? PR? 
Anyone racing this weekend? Anyone running Nike?


It’s no secret that my blog pictures aren’t that great. Most of the time I snap them with my iPhone, and when they actually look somewhat decent, it’s because I’ve asked my husband to take it for me. Since I started blogging back in 2009, I always knew improving my photography skills (read: gaining any type of “skill” at all), was something I needed to do… but I never took the steps to actually do it.

Last week my husband bought himself a new camera, and so I inherited his Canon Rebel T1i (he got the snazzy Canon 6D)… meaning it was time to finally tackle photography. I’ve always enjoyed photography, and oftentimes help my husband set-up shots. However, I lack patience and have never really been able to take the time to play with settings, let alone edit the photos after the fact. But I woke up on Sunday morning with the drive to get my picture taking on.

Despite the fact that it was 30 degrees out with winds making it feel closer to 20, I set out to take a few photos in the beautiful sun. They’re my first attempts at real photography, but since I was somewhat pleased with the results I figured I would share them. These were all taken at Rutgers University’s College Avenue campus. You can click on each photo to enlarge it.

I’m looking forward to learning more about photography (my head is spinning with aperture, ISO, shutter speed…), and not only improving the blog’s content, but taking pictures I’m proud of!

A Long Time Coming

I ran my first half marathon two years ago at the RU Unite Half Marathon. Up to that point, I had run three 5k’s and a 4 mile race – that was it. Considering my newbie status, I finished with a respectable (for me) time of 2:02:15. From that point on, I went through a vicious cycle of injuries, keeping me from really “racing,” and touching that PR. I ran the Disney half in 2011 with shin splints in 2:03, had the second RU Unite get cut short to 9.55 miles due to flooding, and my only other half marathon up to this point was this past year’s Disney half which I ran as part of the Goofy Challenge.

So, when I signed up for my third attempt at the RU Unite Half this year, I wanted to PR. With the training cycle I had, I knew it was possible. Most of my runs had been just around the 8 minute/mile pace, and I figured that unless I broke a bone, I was likely able to get in under 2:02 – I mean, that was my FIRST half marathon time!

The race started just as they all do; me whining as I choked down half a peanut butter sandwich and worrying I didn’t spend enough time in the bathroom. Our timing was perfect this year, as we were able to get to the start, check our bag, take a trip to the port-o-potties, and wait only about 5 minutes in the corral before starting. I lined myself up just behind the 8 minute/mile pacers, and waved my husband off who planned to run closer to the 7 minute/mile pacers. The race was rather uneventful – I kept myself between 7:50 and 8:20 paces, varying depending on when I looked at my watch. The temperature was perfect, and the rain was able to hold off despite a menacing forecast.

When we hit the mile 10 marker, I realized that all I needed to do was keep a 10 minute/mile pace, and I’d finish at about 1:50, a solid 12 minute PR. Obviously I didn’t have any intention on slowing down, but a nice side cramp, similar to the one I experienced during the St. Paddys’ 10 miler decided to come out and play, forcing me to walk for a bit. This time, I listened to my body, walked for about 10-15 seconds to make sure I was comfortable, and then started running again. Thankfully the cramp didn’t return, and I was able to slowly pick up my pace over the course of the last 5k.

I crossed the finish with an official time of 1:47:43 – nearly 15 minutes faster than my previous standing PR, from the very first half marathon I ever ran. To say I was overjoyed would be an understatement. I finally feel like I’m at a good place with running, and am no longer in the constant push and pull struggle that I’ve experienced over the last year and a half.

Me & the Hubs!

Per tradition, the hubs and I met up with my parents at Red Robin for lunch, and gorged ourselves on a (veggie) burger and fries – a perfect Sunday if you ask me!

I know my blogging has been a little lackluster this month, but it’s my last week of student teaching, so I’ll be back to regular scheduled programing this week!

I Almost Did It Again

Sunday’s race was a prime example of just how crazy us runners are.

On Saturday, the greater tri-state area experienced monsoon-like weather, with extremely high winds, rain pouring down all day in buckets, and the occasional thunderstorm. By the time the rain stopped (in the wee-hours of Sunday morning), the wind was still around, and there was A LOT of flooding. Anyone familiar with the general New Brunswick area knows that almost all of the parks, especially Johnson Park, flood almost every time it rains.

So, when we were on our way to the Unite Half Marathon on Sunday morning that starts over on Rutger’s Busch campus, it was no surprise that we saw flooding in the parks. We also, however, saw quite a few paths and roads that had dried up. Once we arrived at the start, and were waiting for a port-o-potty while listening to announcements, we heard what at first I thought was a joke – due to flooding, the 13.1 mile race was pushed back to be only 10 miles. I definitely heard groans throughout the crowd. I giggled to myself that we were all disappointed to not be running an extra 3.1 miles!

For me, I wasn’t too disappointed; because of all my injuries, I didn’t think it would have mattered for me either way if I ran those extra 3.1 miles as I knew this race wasn’t going to be a PR. However, I did feel badly for everyone there going for a PR, or for anyone that was running their first half marathon. While I understand it’s impossible to control the weather, I don’t understand why there wasn’t a plan B. Like I mentioned, everyone that is familiar with the New Brunswick area knows the parks, specifically Johnson Park, flood A LOT when it rains. I was baffled that they couldn’t have had us do an extra lap here or there, or re-route the course a bit to make up the difference in miles. So instead of heading to the park after 8 miles, we continued across a narrow (3 person-wide) footbridge to make our way to the finish line.

There isn’t much to say about the race – it kind of just happened! It was super windy though, which at points was pushing me to the left and right, and I felt like I was battling through a brick wall. Aside from the heavy winds, it was a great day for a race. The morning started a bit cloudy, and then the sun came out (I think I actually got a little color!). I started off right behind the 9 minute/mile pacers, but quickly put myself in front of them, and stuck with it. I didn’t have any expectations going into the race, but after knowing it was only 10 miles, I felt like I could push it a little. Here I was thinking the race was 10 miles, and it turns out it was only 9.65! That actually annoyed me; not that they cut it short in the first place (I was over that), but that they said it was 10 miles, but was really 9.65. That extra .35 makes a difference – I thought I ran 10 miles on Sunday! My overall pace for the 9.65 miles was 8:54 min/mile, having me finish at 1:23:49.

Looking at that timing, even if I had slowed down a bit, I probably would have PR’d. Crazy to think! The fiancé also ran, finishing in 1:11:53, average pace of 7:28. Considering his own injuries, I couldn’t be prouder!

Since I didn’t run the 13.1 that was planned today, I think the fiancé and I are going to sign up for the Superhero Half on May 15th in Morristown, NJ. Maybe I’ll PR there! And even if I don’t, at least I’ll get to run the full 13.1 miles.

Fa la la la la…fel

No, this post isn’t about Christmas or winter. Though it was snowing Friday morning, April 1st. Get yourself in check, Mother Nature!

Anyway, the first time I had falafel was while working in my dad’s office at Rutgers University the summer before my senior year of college. My dad, the purveyor of hidden deliciousness, brought me to a little restaurant across from the Middlesex County Courthouse; G&P Lebanese Pastry & Fast Foods. I immediately fell in love, and have been meaning to try my own for awhile.

Thankfully, the recipe I wound up using didn’t require me to deep-fry the falafel. As we all know, I haven’t yet mastered the whole hot oil and frying thing just yet. I’m still trying though – I wont’ give up! Aside from the fact that hot oil isn’t my friend in the kitchen, this baked version also means they’re at least slightly healthier. The recipe comes from The Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook, which is seriously right up my alley. All of the recipes are quick, easy, and best of all, cheap. The falafels were no different, though I did have some trouble locating the tahini, but I didn’t give up and eventually found it in ShopRite (we really need to find a better grocery store).

I think these bad boys would be great on a bed of lettuce, as a Middle Eastern burger, or just how we had them – in a pita with lettuce, hummus, feta, and hot sauce. Yum!

Falafel via Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook
– makes about 8 patties –

1/2 medium red potato (I wound up throwing in a whole small red potato)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 (15 1/2 oz.) can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp paprika (I did a full tsp)
1 Tbsp parsley (I omitted)

Optional ingredients:
Whole wheat pita
Feta cheese
shredded lettuce, tomato, and onion
Tsiziki sauce
Hot sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cut the potato into 1-inch chunks. Place the potatoes in a pot of water (enough to fully cover potatoes), and boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
3. While the potato cooks,  heat the oil in a small skillet and slowly sauté onion until soft, about 8-10 minutes.
4. In a medium bowl, mash the beans, potato, and lemon juice. Add the onion, garlic, tahini, paprika, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine. The mixture will have a consistency similar to cookie dough.
5.  Lightly oil a baking sheet with vegetable oil/spray. Spoon the mixture onto the baking sheet, forming 3-inch pancakes. Place in the oven and bake for 15-minutes.

Spicy Quinoa Salad

Promising myself two legitimate dinners in the kitchen this week, I went for a Spicy Quinoa Salad and paired it with just some chicken breast we had hanging out in the freezer. I’m trying to use as much of any perishable items I can, which is why I decided to pair this with just some plain ole chicken.

I actually had a hard time spotting Quinoa at the grocery store on Sunday. I found Bob’s Red Mill right away in the organic section, but it was $8! I know, I know, that’s not much. But for a grain I’d never had before and wasn’t sure what else I’d be using it with, I just couldn’t plunk that down. We also try to stay under $75 a week, and I knew we wouldn’t if I grabbed it. I headed over to the rice and pasta aisle, and spent a solid 5 minutes staring at all the different rice trying to find it. Turns out I had my back to where it was, and after almost giving up, I found a nice box for $3.50! Sure, it wasn’t whole wheat or organic, but sometimes you just have to cut corners.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I struggle with cutting onions. Over the summer I had the great idea of using my swimming goggles to help combat the tears, and it works. I thought it was about time I shared a little treat with my readers. So here’s a picture of me from my Macbook in the kitchen (I bring it with me to read off recipes), post run and gleefully holding a red onion and a knife while sporting my goggles. Laugh away!

The recipe was super easy, and quick, which in these final packing days has been much appreciated. Trying to finish up packing and cleaning, doing homework, and trying to finally get back to running has jam-packed my week. I was able to tackle 2 miles on Monday night, and another 3 Tuesday. It’s definitely on it’s way to recovery, and feels a lot better than it did when I tried to start running last time. I’m really hoping I can be smart about this one. At this point, I’m not concerned about PRing the Disney Half Marathon, rather I just want to be able to finish the 13.1 pain-free. I’ll set my sights on a PR for the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon in April.

This was my last “real” dinner in this kitchen. In retrospect, I’ve really come into my own here. I started off making burritos and stir-fry, and really blossomed to making intricate desserts, scrumptious dinners, and just having a lot of fun. I’ve also given my fiancé plenty of opportunity to work on his camera skills (thanks babe)! Aside from making my work BFF/bridesmaid a sweet birthday treat on Thursday night which I’ll be sure to post about, next week’s food blogs will be from a new kitchen. How exciting!

I didn’t have any good pictures for the recipe, so head over to Serious Eats for a picture, which is where I got this glorious recipe!

Spicy Quinoa Salad
– Serves 4-6 –

1 cup quinoa
Kosher salt
2 cups diced cucumber (about 2 medium)
2 cups finely diced tomatoes (about 2 medium)
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers (to taste), seeded if desired and finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus several sprigs for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely minced (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish

1. In a large bowl, cover the quinoa with cold water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Drain in a strainer and rinse until the water runs clear, then transfer to a medium saucepan. Cover with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste (1 teaspoon or so), reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes until the grain becomes slightly translucent. Drain off excess water, cover the pot with a dish towel, replace the lid, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine the cucumber, tomato, cilantro, and olive oil in a large bowl with a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, combine the onion, lime juice, and vinegar. Allow to sit while the quinoa finishes cooking.
3. Combine the vegetables and toss to coat, then stir in the quinoa. Season to taste with salt, oil, and/or more lime juic, and serve immediately with sliced avocado.

A Piggie Sunday

The latter half of this past week was super stressful; I got sick, we had a family emergency, and then Saturday and Sunday was spent packing, cleaning, and traveling to two (yes, two) Ikeas to get new furniture. Why the new furniture, you may ask? My fiancé and I are moving at the end of the month! Don’t get too excited, we’re only moving about 10 minutes away to a different town, but we’re upping our game and renting a townhouse! We’re hoping this will be our semi-permanent home until we’re ready to buy a house… yikes.

As you know, I had an awesome giveaway this week, that I just picked a winner for (congrats Jordan!). So, any time I do a giveaway, I also get a sample (win!). I decided to make an appetizer styled dinner, since I was exhausted and wanted minimal effort, and I had all these yummy Hormel products laying around. I had stumbled upon You Are What You Eat or Reheat‘s White Trash Puff Balls a week or so ago, and thought they’d be perfect for the little pepperoni package I got. Instead of combining them with cream cheese, I just threw the pepperoni with shredded mozzarella, and since I grabbed the regular Pillsbury rolls and not crescent rolls, I essentially made pinwheels.

Pepperoni and Cheese Pinwheels

I also decided to try my hand at homemade potatchos, which are basically potato chip nachos. They’re served at a New Brunswick and Rutgers University staple, Stuff Yer Face. If you live in the general vicinity (i.e. probably about an hour in every direction) you’ve heard of the restaurant. You may have even seen it on Man vs. Food! At any rate, their potatchos rule. It’s potato chips, bacon, tomato, cheese, ketchup, sour cream, and chives. I assembled pretty much all of that (I forgot tomatoes – duh!) and threw it in the oven. I have to say, they were pretty spot on.

Homemade Potatchos!

Both of these little ditties would be great appetizers for a get together, on game day, etc. I wouldn’t recommend pairing them together as a dinner, unless you are attempting to use a lot of self control, and break it up with a giant salad (as I did). Sometimes, though, you just need a little comfort, and after the past few days, my fiancé and I were glad to have it.

Homemade Potatchos (Potato Chip Nachos)
– Serves 2-3 –

1 bag potato chips
4 oz. shredded cheese (any variation – I used Mexican)
2 handfuls of crumbled bacon (I used Hormel’s Real Bacon Bits)
1/2 tomato, diced
Liberal squirts of ketchup
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (plain) or sour cream
1/2 cup chives, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Spray baking sheet, and pour chips onto sheet
3. Sprinkle liberally with cheese (feel free to use more!) and bacon pieces
4. Bake for 10 minutes
5. Squeeze ketchup all over chips, top with yogurt, tomatoes, and chives

Pepperoni and Cheese Pinwheels
– Serves 3-4 –

2 containers of Pillsbury Rolls
1/2 bag of Hormel Mini Pepperoni
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Coat baking pan and open rolls (unroll them, even though their directions tell you not to) and keep them in twos
3. Place combination of pepperoni and shredded mozzarella on each set of two, and roll from one end to the other
4. Bake for 10 minutes

PS – Congrats to everyone that completed the Chicago Marathon yesterday! Hopefully I’ll be there one day too.


UPDATE: I’ve submitted the potatchos recipe to Foodbuzz’s BACONALIA contest! YUM.

More Breakfast for Dinner: Santa Fe Breakfast Bake

On Tuesday night, I had made Mexican Stuffed Shells courtesy of You Are What You Eat or Reheat, and blogged about it. Apparently, though, my fiancé didn’t think I drove home the point of the true deliciousness. I mean, I’m not quite sure what else I can say. It’s meaty, cheesey, and delicious. It’s a nice variation from typical stuffed shells, and I really think it’s a fun alternative to a more “common” dish. Now don’t get me wrong, good ole Italian stuffed shells are delicious as well. But if there’s anything you know about me from this blog, it’s my love for Mexican/Spanish food. So seriously, you need to make these. Now.

In keeping with the Mexican/Spanish food trend, I decided to make a Santa Fe Breakfast Bake for dinner on Thursday. Yes, breakfast for dinner! Growing up I was never a big breakfast fan. My parents would coax me into eating dessert for breakfast, just in order to get something in my system before school. That meant a Little Debbie brownie, an Entemann’s chocolate eclair, chocolate milk, etc. I would only eat pancakes if they were filled with chocolate chips, waffles were used for ice cream sandwiches, and you could forget about eggs. Come college, though, I discovered the wonderful world of brunch – veggie stuffed omlettes, fried and over-easy eggs with cheese on bagels, hash browns, and all those other fun (and filling, aka bad for you) breakfast deliciousness. My fiancé is a huge breakfast fan, and he’s really added to my tolerance for it. I definitely need to be in the mood for breakfast, but I’ll at least give it a shot, without it being coated in chocolate.

So, when I found this recipe on Sweetly Serendipity’s blog, I immediately added it to my to-make list. While there was an egg recall, thankfully the eggs that I bought were okay. So I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take advantage of my a-o-k eggs. Of course, being the spice fiend that I am, I added not one, but two diced habanero peppers to this dish. Oh yes, it was spicy. I also got a package of spicy Bob Evans breakfast sausage, since, you know, you aren’t doing it right unless your gut and mouth are on fire.

Earlier in the day I double checked the recipe to see how much time I’d be spending in the kitchen. It’s only then that I saw the dreaded words “chill overnight.” Whoops! That definitely didn’t happen. I’m always afraid when I’m making an egg dish they won’t be fully cooked. So, I left them in the oven for about 5-10 minutes longer than suggested, and it turned out perfectly! Unfortunately, that pushed our dinner time to about 9:45pm. We ran 8 miles after work, and then by the time we got home (there was some traffic from Rutgers’ first football game) and I started with everything and it cooked, we were finishing up just in time to watch Jersey Shore.

Speaking of running, my fiance and I are officially signed up for the Disney Half Marathon in January!! We’re both super psyched, but nervous. It conveniently falls right in the middle of an already planned vacation there with a group of friends, so we felt like we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’m not looking forward to starting a race at 5:50am, but it’ll be cool to run through Epcot and Magic Kingdom. I’m hoping to have a pair of compression socks by then, so I can at least enjoy the rest of the trip! We’re doing our own training plan this time around, upping the mileage a bit, and starting earlier to make sure it’s as easy of a run for us as it can be. Once we get back, we’ll have a little break and then it’ll be time to gear up for the second annual Rutgers Unite Half Marathon!

But back to my breakfasty dinner. This thing was awesome. It called for 8 tortillas, but I think I only probably wound up using 2-3 burrito sized tortillas. The recipe suggest to use corn tortillas, and I would definitely agree. I used your average Chi-Chi brand torillas, and while they were delicious, they were a bit soggy after cooking. Of course, for me, adding the spicy sausage and habaneros brought it to another level that was greately appreciated by both myself and my fiancé. Aside from those minor tweaks I stuck to the recipe, and we have lots of leftovers! So much that we each brought a big portion for breakfast at work on Friday, and will probably have it for breakfast on Saturday morning as well. Since it suggests you chill over night, I think this would be a really great dish to have for a brunch, etc. You’re able to prepare it the night before, so you can focus your attention on the things that need to be made the day of instead. I can picture this working really well with some veggie sausage as well.

Santa Fe Breakfast Bake
– Serves 4-6 –

1 pound pork sausage
1 cup salsa
1 cup canned black beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
8 corn or flour tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips
1 cup shredded mexican-style cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 egg whites, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced
Sour cream, guacamole, salsa (all optional, but recommended!)

1. Brown sausage in a large pan, and drain grease, if any. Combine salsa, sausage, beans, and corn, and set aside.
2. Place one-third of tortilla strips in a lightly greased 11×7 baking dish.
3. Top with 1/3 cup cheese and one cup salsa mixture. Repeat layering with one-third of tortilla strips, 1/3 cup cheese and remaining salsa mixture, ending with remaining tortilla strips.
4. Whisk together remaining ingredients except green onions. Pour egg mixture over tortilla strips; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with foil and chill overnight.
5. The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove dish from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
6. Keep covered and bake for 20 minutes. Then, uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes or so until the top is lightly golden.
7. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole, and some scallions for garnish.

Race Recap – My First EVER Half Marathon!

I know this blog is mostly dedicated to food, but after picking up running this past year, I’ve noticed just how many people are into both food AND running! Maybe that’s because in order to eat everything that’s delicious out there, some type of serious exercise needs to be involved? At any rate, through good ‘ole Twitter, I’ve been able to connect with a bunch of people that share a love for eating and running! So because of that, I’m thinking about incorporating some of my running into this blog. But we’ll see.

Anyway, I finished my FIRST half marathon today!! The race was a first annual Rutgers University UNITE 1/2 marathon, sponsored by CGI Racing. We started on Busch campus by the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center, and ran through New Brunswick and Piscataway. It was so funny to start at that particular location, because from the age of 12 to 18 (and then after to cheer for my sister), I spent countless weekends at that location in the pool. Rutgers hosted all of the big swim meets during the winter season, and pretty much all of them during the summer season because they had two short course pools that converted into one long course pool. But enough about swimming, this post is for running!

Before the start of the race!

Today was actually pretty chilly. Both my fiancé and I were completely clueless as to outfit choices. I went with some cotton/spandex mix capris from Old Navy, a technical shirt I got from a 5k race last summer, and a throw-away long sleeve shirt from high school. Within two miles I had ripped off my long sleeve shirt, and was really glad I hadn’t worn any more layers. There was some wind here and there, and a mix of sun and shade, so I was pretty comfortable the entire race (temperature wise, that is!).

The first mile was a little difficult. When I had signed up for the race, I put myself down to finish between 2:16 and 2:30. I really had NO idea how I was going to do, because it was before I started training, and had never raced more than 4 miles. By the end of our training, though, I had completed 10 miles in 1 hour and 40 minutes, and realized that even if I kept that comfortable pace the whole time, I’d crush my goal. So I definitely lined myself up with a slower pack – just behind the 10 minute mile pacers. My first mile wound up being just under 10, because I spent most of it dodging in and out of slower runners, and trying to make room for others passing. The race had over 3,000 entrants!

From there, I kind of hit a stride for the next 5 miles or so. I kept a just over 9 minute mile pace for the first half. I really felt great those first 6 miles. I remember thinking to myself “I can totally do this again! This is awesome!” The course had four spots where you pass runners in front/behind you, and I got to see my fiancé TWICE! The second time we high-fived. That was a really great motivator. He was flying through the course, and apparently to his standards I was too! [You can read his race re-cap over at]

My legs started to get a little tight after those 6 miles, but I didn’t really start to feel it until about mile 9. Holy moly. My hamstrings were NOT having fun. After mile 10 I had to tell myself that I only had a 5k left. But to be honest, I was a little scared, in our training we had never gone over 10 miles, so I really had no idea what to expect. I wound up slowing down a bit between mile 11 and 12. I realized that the end was near, and I didn’t want to look like one of those people coming down the finish line that you can tell is trying SO hard to move their legs, but just aren’t going. I ran down the main drag of the College Avenue campus (on College Ave.) and picked it up about half way, realizing I really had no more than a quarter mile left. I felt like I was going to puke, but I knew it was almost over.

Right at the 13 mile marker I saw my mom jump out from the crowd, and then my dad. Now these two went to almost every single swim meet of my 10 year swimming career (high school and college), and since I started running have been at most of those races too. It’s really great seeing them on the sidelines or up in the bleachers. My mom threw her hands up in the air, screaming for me, so I humored her and did the same back. It really was that final push I needed to give it what little I had left to get through that finish. The clock barely passed 2:03 when I finally made it to get my medal and a water. After looking up my time online, I officially finished at 2:02:15! I kept an average of a 9:20 pace!

Check me out finishing here [I’m in the bright blue and black]! (My fiance finished about 15 minutes before I did, so he was kind enough to video for me on his iPhone!):

I know it might sound a bit ridiculous since it was my first one, but man, if only I had known how close I was to breaking 2 hours, maybe I would have pushed it a little more somewhere between mile 10 and 13. My competitiveness is a bit much at times. I’ve been able to keep it completely internal, but it’s something that I focus and obsess over when I have goals in my head. I’m going to spend the next two weeks analyzing this race, trying to figure out what I could have done differently. But at the same time, I’m really not sure if I could have done anything else. At least I know for next time, I’m really not going to hurt until that 10-ish mile point, so I need to prepare my body for it.

After the race, my fiancé and I hobbled home to get ready to go out to lunch with my family as a celebration. We went to Red Robin, and I devoured a Santa Fe burger. After that, we came home and napped for an hour or two. The combination of being up at 6am and running 13.1 miles followed by huge hamburgers made it impossible to stay awake. Now, thanks to the Rita’s Italian Ice’s “Birthday club” we’re going to head over there to get some ice, since we have a coupon from my fiancé’s birthday!

I really think I’m going to do another one of these badboys. I don’t know when, though, since I still can’t really walk. I’m sure tomorrow will feel great! I’m totally wearing my medal to work, though. Let’s see if anyone notices 🙂

Here’s the breakdown of my race
7 miles – 1:01:41 (8:49 pace)
10 miles – 1:29:37 (8:58 pace) <– that’s over 11 minutes faster than my training pace! I did 11 miles in that time!
Last 5k – 32:39 (10:32) – YIKES! I told you I slowed down!
Final time – 2:02:15 (9:20 pace)

I just want to say a special thanks to all of the people that sent over well-wishes before my race… it really meant a lot to see such support from co-workers, former teammates, friends, family, and fellow running and/or foodie bloggers!!

Review: The Cereal Bowl

Needing to eat something other than turkey, a few friends and I
decided to check out a new breakfast place, The Cereal Bowl, in New
Brunswick, right near Rutgers University. One of our friends organized
the trip, since she was going to cover it for The Asbury Park Press.

Upon entering, we were welcomed by two cereal experts behind the
counter clad in pajamas. The decor resembled that of a cereal box, and they had impressive sideways TVs displaying their menus. The menu screens changed every so often, which was a bit annoying when trying to decide what to order. While we were all weighing our options, the friendly cereal master gave us some tips on our different choices, and also let us know that the bowls are all recycled material and made from sugar cane; cool!

We each decided to get something different; I went with the “Ruby Nuts About You,” while others opted for the “Sweetest Thing,” “Haul ‘N Oats,” “Strawberry Cheesecake Oatmeal,” and a create your own. They have variations of hot and cold cereal, as well as “Oaties” which seem to be similar to smoothies with oats, and also parfaits with yogurt and cereal.

After having devoured a lot of food the day before, (it was Thanksgiving), I went with one of the healthier choices on the menu. The “Ruby Nuts About You” included Honey Nut Cheerios, Grape Nuts, chopped pecans, sliced almonds, and cinnamon. You have the option for either whole, 2% or skim milk you get to add yourself, and since I was brought up on skim, that’s my go-to. It definitely tasted like it was only 300 calories, which I was more than okay with considering the day before.

I washed down my bowl of cereal with a “semi-serious coffee” called S’mores Mocha. It was definitely good, and I would have it again, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. It tasted much more like a rich hot chocolate than a coffee. Towards the end, I noticed some mushy pieces, which must have been graham crackers. A neat idea, however finding unidentifiable mush at the bottom of your coffee isn’t always a sweet surprise. My boyfriend got the Eggnog Latte, which I’d have to say was sub-par. I haven’t really had enough eggnog in my life to have an educated opinion on it, but I really didn’t like it; it tasted a bit soapy. My boyfriend said it was okay, not great.

Everyone else seemed pretty pleased with their choices. There were only a few downsides; the “Sweetest Thing” was missing the Fruity Pebbles, but we noted there were so many other things in the bowl (Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, sprinkles and vanilla wafers) that it was barely noticeable. Also, the “Strawberry Cheesecake Oatmeal” was super sugary. I mean, it had cheesecake filling, brown sugar, graham bites and strawberries mixed in with oatmeal. I think my friend reached her sugar quota for the day within the first meal!

After perusing the menu for quite some time during and after my trip, I’ve decided I would in fact like to go back. This time, however, I plan to be a little less health conscious and go with the “Give Me S’more.” This bad boy is packed with Cocoa Puffs, Golden Grahams, marshmallows, chocolate chips, and graham bites. Yum!

They also had some pretty neat gifts; sweatpants that say “Milky” down the side, fair trade coffee, marshmallow puffs, and cereal boxes that you can fill yourself and create your own cereal!

I did have one question though I thought of after leaving; I didn’t see any soy milk or lactose-type milk. I wonder if they have any? What about our Vegan or lactose intolerant friends? I hope they have it at least available, if not out at all times!

So, all in all I’d say check out The Cereal Bowl. Take it from a girl who thinks breakfast is so-so (blasphemy, I know!) and give it a shot. Don’t expect too much though, and I think you’ll be impressed. It’s very similar to a Cold Stone, just for breakfast. However, they keep great hours (about 9a-10p most week days, and 12a on Fridays and Saturdays) so it really can be an anytime meal or snack!

Rating: B

"The Sweetest Thing"
"Ruby Nuts About You"