19 goals for 2019

Happy New Year friends! 🎉I hope 2019 is off to an amazing start for all of you! 🙂 I’ve seen a few people share their 2019 goals over the last few days and I love reading other peoples goals (is that weird?! 😂), so I thought I would share mine as well. 😛

I’ve seen a lot of people pick 19 goals for 2019 (#19for2019), so I decided to do the same. The #19for2019 is from Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast, I believe. I do not listen to the podcast, but I have heard good things, so maybe I will start! Anyway, the point of 19 goals in 2019 is to pick several smaller, more manageable goals and/or changes to implement over this year and to periodically check-in with yourself. Last year, I had 15 goals and tried to check-in with my goals each season, so I will strive for the same this year.

My goals are a combination of running, marriage, hobby, and life goals. It helps with accountability to have specific goals and to pick when you will check-in with them. I aim to check-in with my goals in March, June, October, and the end of December 2019! So let’s run into 2019, with speed, determination, and enthusiasm toward our goals 😉

19 goals for 2019:

1. Read (or listen) to 24 books

2. Read (or listen) to a book for at least 10 minutes/ day 

3. Write 2 new blog posts/ month 

4. Maintain my paper/pen running log (I use the Believe Training Journal) for the entire year 

5. Go to bed earlier (ideally before midnight, but this will be tough with night class)

6. Crochet or knit at least 1x/week 

7. Try 3 new workouts this year

8. Strength train 2x/week (at least 20 minute sessions)

9. Yoga 1x/week (at least a 20 minute session) 

10. Glute strength/hip strength/pre-hab exercises 3x/week

11. Foam rolling/ Roll Recovery before OR after every run for 5 minutes 

12.Run 2,019 kilometers this year (1,254.5 miles)

13. Embrace cross training 1x/week to help prevent future injuries 

14. Run a race (any distance) in a state that is not Illinois

15. Sub 1:30 half marathon 

16. Sub 3:10 marathon 

17. Focus on saving-double our savings account

18. Cook 1 new meal/ month with my husband

19. Try 5 new veg-friendly restaurants 

What are your goals for 2019? Did you also make a #19for2019 list?! Let me know here or on Instagram, so I can cheer you on! 🙂

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2018 in review

Hello friends! Long time, no post and Happy New Year’s Eve! How is it only one day away from 2019?! 😱

Life got a little crazy since my last post in October: I ran my 1st marathon in a BQ, got injured during said marathon, finished my 1st semester of nutrition classes, and focused on injury recovery! All those recent events reminded me that it’s been a crazy fun, tear-inducing, challenging, awesome, amazing, and unpredictable year. 😜

So why not recap/reflect on the highlights from each month of 2018, so I can start 2019 on a high-note? Without further ado, here are my top moments for each month of 2018, running and otherwise:

January:  The top moment of January was running the F^3 Lake 5k and meeting a few of my new BibRave teammates. It was my favorite moment because I spent a lot of the fall injured, so it was exciting to be able to lace up and race a 5k, even though I only had a few weeks of training under my belt and no workouts. I treated the race as a tempo, somehow won, and had an overall great time. My husband ran the half marathon and earned a personal best time of 1:15! We were fortunate to have weather in the high 30s and the post race party was fun. If you want to read more about this race check out my recap 🙂 I am recovering from injury (again) now, so I likely won’t run the race in 2019, but I highly recommend the 5k or half marathon on 1/26/19!IMG_5111

February: The top moment of February was a tie between the unexpected snow day (and day off work) on Friday February 9, 2018 and being chosen by BibRave to test out the Aftershokz wireless headphones. And yes, I’m sure you’re wondering how one single day could be my top moment of 2018…but if you are a regular follower/reader here you may remember that I used to be a high school chemistry teacher. In January- March 2018 I was working as a temporary chemistry teacher for a teacher on maternity leave. The teacher had been on leave since September, and the school had trouble finding a teacher to take the maternity leave, so the students had been without a permanent teacher until I took the position in January. Without divulging every detail, it was tough situation that really tested me, especially when I was already fairly certain (not yet publicly at this point) that I did not want to teach, but rather go back to school to become a Registered Dietitian, but more on that later 😉

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Anyway, after a particularly tough Thursday with some unruly students and a mountain of grading, we got an unexpected snow day on Friday, February 9th. For those of you who aren’t in Chicago, it is incredibly rare for the Chicago Public Schools to declare a snow day. It happens maybe once every 5 years. 😛 It was much needed! I was able to fit in a snowy run with my new trail shoes, my new Aftershokz, and in the daylight hours on a week day. Friday, Feb. 9th was AWESOME! It’s still funny to me in December 2018 that a simple snow day was my top moment of February 2018.

March:  Hands down the best moment of March 2018 was winning an Instagram contest for of three months of coaching with Heather McKirdy of McKirdy Trained. She had been a runner and coach I looked up too since I made an instagram page for this blog. 🙂 She’s positive, hard-working, a dreamer, speedy, and extremely knowledgable about running. In my short three months with her as my coach, I grew so much as a runner! I set a half PR, integrated more workouts and recovery, and took my running more seriously for the first time since running for my college in 2010-2013. I also watched many of my other Instagram friends become her athletes around when I did and make awesome running gains (I’m especially looking at you Teagan, Meghan, Laura, and Nicole :P). I was very sad after my three months ended because I decided to exit the work world and go back to school to study nutrition, so unfortunately I could not and still cannot afford a coach and I loved working with Heather 🙁 It would have definitely been helpful to have one when I trained for the Chicago Marathon because my training was kind of a mess 😂 ANYWAY, if you are looking for a coach and it’s in your budget I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend Heather or any of the other McKirdy Trained coaches. 🙂 A majority of their athletes BQed or set PRs at their races this year and those are results you cannot ignore! 😱

Honorable mention/a close second was finishing off that maternity leave teaching position and figuring out my now public next steps. More on that below 😉

April: Okay, okay! I can’t pick just one moment because this month was freakin’ awesome. Hands down the BEST moment was deciding to change my path and go back to school to study to become a Registered Dietitian. I also ran a personal best in my second ever half marathon (1:34), while sick, under the guidance of my new coach Heather. My husband ran the full marathon that same day in a stunning 2:42, cutting 26 minutes off his previous best time and securing a ticket to Boston 2019. You can read much more about my experience at the Illinois Half Marathon here.

Last, but not least I was able to meet and become real-life friends with two of my Instagram friends: Katie of 2fabfitchicks and Danielle of Feed Me Happy. Danielle and I are also now real-life classmates and future RDs, so that’s pretty awesome. 🙂

Meeting and running with Scott Jurek during his North book release tour also deserves an honorable mention! April was truly an amazing month!

May: May’s top moments are a tie between being interviewed for my first ever magazine article in Voyage Chicago and my birthday BibRave run meet-up at Millennium Park. It was nearly 95 degrees, but I still had a blast running with Steph, Ben, and Frank on my 26th birthday! 🙂 Joining such an awesome team of supportive and fun runners/ambassadors may have been my greatest decision all year, besides deciding to go back to school 😛

June: It was a hot day and not my best race time, but I still pick my first ever 10k at the Run for the Zoo as my top moment of June 2018. I even managed third female overall somehow 😛 It was a fun race to rep BibRave and somewhat kick off my Chicago Marathon training!

July: My husband got a new teaching job and we moved to a new apartment. I absolustely love my new loft apartment and it’s proximity to awesome places to run along the Chicago LakeShore path.  I  was honestly hoping that the Rock ‘N Roll Chicago half marathon would be my top July moment,  but I just did not have a good race and you can read more about it on my Instagram 🙁 I’m still glad I ran it even if my time of 1:36 was very far off of the 1:30 I was hoping for at that point. 

August: A hot month full of marathon training and long run PRs (mileage wise) every single week. I even made it through my through my longest run ever (20 miles) and nailed my fueling strategy with Spring Energy (ElectroRide in my hand held and Canaberry gels ).

Running the Nike unsanctioned 6k race deserves an honorable mention, as well. It was a fun race and a great way to fit in a mid-week workout.

September: Oh man September was a tough month! I was struggling to balance my classes, work, my extremely long commute to/from school, and training for the marathon. I had a few 0-10 mile weeks and I even contemplated not running the Chicago Marathon. Thankfully, after turning around my training a bit, some reflection on how far I had come (despite a less than ideal training situation). and the kind words of so many of you I decided to still run. That is definitely my top moment of September 2018. It was not an easy decision!

October: Completing my first marathon in a BQ, enough said! 😛  Although, having to stop multiple times to stretch due to hip and IT band pain and then becoming so injured I just started running again a little over a week ago also serves as a bit of a low point. :/ You can read more about my race on Instagram.

I am extremely grateful that Dale of Marathoner Dale ran part of the marathon with me. She had a fantastic race (earning a 3:22 PR) and helped me at my lowest, most painful points. I am also grateful that Jess (the cofounder of BibRave) and I were able to run together for some of the race! 🙂 I am positive with better training (and honestly a coach ), I would have a had a much better and injury free race, but hey- a 3:28:01 is not bad for my first one!

I am proud, but am also dreaming bigger (and training MUCH smarter) for my next marathon! 😛 I had a blast meeting a lot more of my BibRave teammates at the Chicago Marathon summit and the race and would not change the race or this weekend for anything, though. I can only hope to perform at what I am actually capable of next time I run a marathon 😉

November: No running at all for me in November, as I focused on cross training, resting, and gaining hip/glute strength. BUT the best moment was watching my husband cut two more minutes off his personal best marathon time at Indy Monumental in a blazing fast 2:40! 🔥 I am also grateful for Ashlyn, who is the kindest human and an amazing friend, who put together a strength training plan and will make a running plan once I am able to run more. I am not sure what I did to deserve her help, but I am grateful because this injury has been a struggle and an uncertain time for me. :/

December: After not being able to run post-Chicago marathon, hands down the top moment of this month was the pain-free mile (even if it was on the dreadmill) I ran three days ago! I am cautiously optimistic about my return to running as enter 2019! I am not sure anything I will do in the remaining hours of 2018 can top that, unless I am able to run 10 miles 😉 But don’t worry, I’m won’t try such a foolish thing!

Finishing my first semester nutrition school finals and earning good grades also earn an honorable mention, but clearly being able to run again is more exciting to me 😛 I also got accepted to be a BibRave Pro for another year, so I am grateful that they want to keep me! 🙂

So now, I want to hear from all of YOU! What were your top moments of 2018, running or otherwise?! 👇🏻

Healthy and happy running with Nuun Immunity

Disclaimer: I received a 2 tubes of Nuun Immunity (Orange Citrus and Blueberry Tangerine) to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find and write race reviews.

As many of you already know, I am running my 1st marathon this weekend! 😱 One of my biggest concerns, besides fitting in the training with my busy work and school schedule, was staying healthy. Running is really good for you, but high mileage on a student schedule with less sleep than ideal and hours spent on public transportation, had me concerned… I was looking into ways to stay healthy before school started, and then I was given the opportunity to test Nuun Immunity through BibRave! 🙌🏻

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First things first, what is Nuun? Nuun is an electrolyte supplement that you add to your water.  I’m sure many of you have tried Nuun before or even seen it at local races. There are a few different types: Electrolyte, Vitamins, and Immunity. I’ve used the Electrolyte tablets on some of my long runs for the sodium replacement. Immunity is different from the other varieties because there is less sodium and more immune boosting and inflammatory nutrients. I love that each tablet contains elderberry, turmeric, zinc, ginger, and echinacea, all things that might help prevent colds or reduce inflammation in your body.

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Each tube comes with 10 tablets that dissolve easily in your water. No scooping or measuring is necessary, so perfect for people who live on-the-go lifestyles, like myself. There are two delicious flavors: Orange Citrus and Blueberry Tangerine. Blueberry Tangerine is my favorite, but both are tasty. Since, receiving the tablets in August I have had at least one tablet and as many as three a day. I’ve had to reorder a couple of times- that’s how much I love them! 🙂 There were a few weeks where many of my classmates and a few of the professors I work for as a nutrition assistant were sick and I managed to stay healthy.  What is even more amazing is some of the last few weeks I was only averaging 5-6 hours of sleep a night, which is not ideal for marathon training (or in general). I’m a person who feels best with 9 hours of sleep! I cannot speak for sure what has kept me healthy, but I feel like Nuun Immunity played a role! Plus, like a good future Registed Dietitian, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to stay hydrated and pair your Nuun Immunity with nourishing plant-based meals to be your strongest self 😉

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You better believe I will be hydrating with all the beverages and drinking Nuun Immunity tablets like it’s my job over the next 4 days until the Chicago Marathon. Then a after the marathon, they will be a critical piece in my recovery puzzle 🙂 I am a believer! Nuun Immunity has helped me run healthy and happy this training cycle and I want it to help you too!  Head over to the Nuun website and use code HYDRATEBIBPRO for 20% off!

Have your tried Nuun before? If so, which is your favorite flavor? The Blueberry Tangerine Immunity and Blueberry Pomegranate Vitamins are my two favorite flavors. 🙂

 

Organizing Your Weekly Plant-Based Meal Plan

Good afternoon friends!

It’s been a minute since I’ve done a food related post here 😱 I’ve been a little caught up in the busyness of school, work, and deciding if I should run the Chicago Marathon or not over the last few weeks. The good news is, I decided to still run the race despite a few weeks of less than ideal training! Those of you who follow me on Instagram already know this!😜 You can’t run you first marathon if you don’t start the race!😉

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During these busy days of marathon training, school, and beyond, it is so important to eat healthy and often. When I get busy or stressed, I tend to under eat, which is the opposite of a lot of people and not ideal for running some serious miles.😩 What has been key for me overcoming this over the last few weeks is planning my meals (especially lunch) ahead of time. It also helps to have most amazing husband, who makes me cashew butter and jam sandwiches on especially busy mornings to bring to school. I’m lucky, what can I say?!😍

Anyway, imagine my excitement when Meghan Harris of White Rabbit Garage Storage, reached out to me to write a guest post here about meal planning. I thought that it was perfect timing, as I am personally working on being better about meal planning!

So, without first ado, here is the first ever guest post on Black Bean Queen! 🙂

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Eating a plant-based diet is not only healthier for you but also makes you feel better and have more energy throughout the day. However, organizing and creating a meal plan to follow can be tedious and daunting. Without a solid plan in place, it is easy to fall back into old habits and to slip up more often than you’d like. Below are 3 tips to help you organize your weekly meal plan and a sample plant-based meal plan for you to try.

Look Through Your Pantry

Go through your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator to get a solid idea of what foods you have to cook with already. Starting with foods you have previously purchased allows you to not only save money, but also time when shopping. You’ll also waste less food.

Going through your pantry will give you a sense for what foods you typically eat and help you remember which ones you didn’t like when you tried them. You will also be able to free up more space and organize the shelves, so you can look through your food storage easier in the future. If you have any food that you don’t like, and it hasn’t yet expired, donate it to your local food pantry.

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Find a Place to Keep Recipes

If you prefer written recipes you will want to find a place in your kitchen that won’t get ruined by spilled oil and is easily within reach. Consider finding recipe organizers at Target or on Amazon.

If you prefer online recipes keep a file on your computer or phone to organize different websites, you have found with recipes. You can use a word doc, detailed Pinterest board, or Google files to do so. Make sure this is accessible from several devices in case one is misplaced or broken.

Choose Meals with Familiar Ingredients

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 Meal planning will help you feel less stressed during the week, so you can avoid spending money on unnecessary food purchases. However, if you are shopping for items you primarily are unfamiliar with you won’t use them either.

If you shop for black beans often, you know when they are a good deal and when you should use a different kind of bean. If you use quinoa often, you know exactly how long to cook it for before it becomes soggy. As you become more comfortable with meal planning, add in 1 or 2 new ingredients each week.

As you work on your weekly meal plan, remember that it’s okay to be flexible and that some meals may go awry. You can always pick yourself up and try again the next day!

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BONUS: Here is a simple work week meal plan for you to try!

Day Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Monday Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Basic Tofu Stir Fry Cauliflower Fried Rice
Tuesday Vegan Waffles with Blueberry Sauce Creamy One Pot Pasta Pasta Bean Casserole
Wednesday Peanut butter and dark chocolate oatmeal Squacos Greek Goddess Bowl
Thursday Apple Buckwheat Pancakes with Coconut Caramel Apples Tomato and White Bean Salad

 

Black Bean and Quinoa Taco Bowls
Friday Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Vegan Macaroni and Cheese Hummus Pizza with Veggies

This post was written by Meghan Harris at White Rabbit Garage Storage. She enjoys hiking, playing card games, and spending time with her family.

What other tips do you have to organize your weekly meal plan?

 

A long overdue Chicago marathon training update

Hello friends!

I’m really struggling. REALLY. STRUGGLING. And then I saw this e-mail… but only after I dug through my junk e-mail folder before emptying it.

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It’s like the Chicago marathon knew that seeing this e-mail would not be in my best interest, so it went right to junk. But I saw it and it’s already something I’ve been considering since late last week.

So yes, it’s true I’m considering NOT running the Chicago Marathon as my first marathon. I know this may come as a complete and total shock to you..especially if you follow me on Instagram. There you see that I update my training pretty frequently, but that is not the whole story, especially lately.

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I offically made the decision in April 2018 to change my path and pursue my dream to become a Registered Dietitian. At 26 years old, you could say I’ve never been one to do things conventionally 😉 But my former jobs will only make me a better RD in the long run. I’m two weeks into my classes and new job as a nutrition assistant. I’m loving it, but things have been tough. I don’t want to sound ungrateful-I’m so fortunate to have the ability to take out loans and go back to school, be healthy enough to run, chase my dreams, and rely on the support of others, especially my husband. I could not make this dream a reality otherwise.

But, there have been a lot of doubts.

I keep questioning myself: “Is it worth it to change my career after I already have a BA in a related field and MA in a different field? How do I balance sleep/ training/ work/ classes? What does it say about me if I chose sleep after a late night of studying versus an early run? Am I passionate enough? How can I utilize my time more effectively on my 2.5-3 hour commute? As a future RD, isn’t it ironic that I struggle to eat enough to fuel my training/life sometimes? How can I expect to run a marathon on 30 miles per week when I was doing better mileage  earlier this summer?”

Then, I feel like I turn these personal questions into EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES…

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(My longest run last year since college almost exactly a year ago that resulted in another injury)

I spent most of my college running career and the years after nursing injuries/not running. I got hurt again last year at this time when I was trying to finally make my return to running! I later realized the key for me to staying healthy is doing most of my runs at a very easy pace. It took me until this year to master that. I’ve spent years just wanting to get to this point of healthy, consistent running! And now I’m there (or was, except for last two weeks of training)…

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(throw back to 2011 college cross country)

In college, I had a demanding science major, a very part time job (I was allowed to do my homework during it :P), cross country practice (sometimes twice a day), and a few other extracurriculars.  So, now that I’m older, back in school, and healthy, it’s frustrating that I am struggling to balance my schedule. But I’m only on week 2, so it will get better! It doesn’t help sometimes that when I am talking to other people training for a marathon in person or on social media I see so many who juggle even more than me crushing their training. And the first thing I think after being inspired and excited for them is, how? What is their secret? I don’t mean for that to sound pessimistic. But it’s hard to not to play the comparison game. I know I’m not the only one.

But my husband reminded me that some of you may look at me here, on social media, etc. and think that I too am crushing it and have the perfect training/life balance. I assure you I don’t! I am a firm believer in less is more, but America teaches us to be busy, busy, busy. Who can work the longest? Who can eat the healthiest? Who can run the most miles? Who can do the most extracurriculars? Work the most jobs? etc. etc. It’s not realistic to do everything, all the time, and you never know the whole story until you ask someone. We are all just trying to figure it out.

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I pride myself on being honest in the hopes that others can relate. Last week I ran only 35 miles (instead of my goal of 40-45). I struggled with the timing of runs with my new classes, my 2.5-3 hour commute to school, and the heat/humidity/weather. This week I started working on top of my classes and that further complicated things. I’m still trying to get in the rhythm of a good schedule because this is all new to me. I’m only at 8 miles this week and may reach 25-30 miles depending on the next 24 hours. I’ve been demoralized about my paces during runs and I feeling worn down on more runs than energized. Also, I’m competitive and put a lot of pressure on myself to run a certain time. Yet, I know no one will judge me if I run a 3:15 marathon or a 4 hour one because it’s amazing to just finish one! Although, I cannot decide if I have enough training to still run Chicago, especially if this trend in my training continues…This is why I desperately wish I had a coach and/or team. 🙁

I thought it might help me decide to reflect on the majors lows and highs of my training so far. Lows first, then highs because I  am doing my best to remain positive!

Training lows:

The Rock ‘n Roll Chicago half marathon (week 8) where I ran much slower than I expected, but it was a tough day for all in the monsoon-like conditions:

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My first “true” long run of training cycle was 14 miles (week 10) where I learned that 12 ounces is not enough water, you need to wear sunscreen, and one gel is not enough:

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Last week’s long run (week 14) that was supposed to be 14-15 miles and I only completed 12. It was my worst run this training cycle and left me feeling defeated and questioning if I have what it takes:

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Training highs

The first tempo run in the training cycle (week 11) that felt good/strong. I did a 4 mile tempo in 6:51, 6:54, 6:40, and 6:49:

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My first ever 16 miler (week 11) with my husband while on vacation in Michigan, where I nailed my nutrition and first started feeling like the possibility of me running a marathon was not so crazy:

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My mile repeat workout during week 12 of training where I exceeded my expectations and ran a 6:24, 6:13,  6:11, and 6:22. I realized I am in better shape than I thought! Nowhere near where my mile repeats in college, but this is a new era of running for me, so I was proud of myself that day:

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My 18 miler (week 12) where I ran 12 miles with my old college teammates and 6 miles on my own. I nailed my nutrition on this run! The run made me realize I am tough and can run further than expected:

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My 20 miler during week 13 done all on my own. I nailed my nutrition on my run and ran it at an easy pace, but was able to pick up the pace a little at the end, despite it being 85 degrees out.  The run was actually pretty fun and it made me realize I am mentally and physically strong enough to run farther than I though!

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The Nike race last week (week 14) where I ran a decent 3.4 mile race (22:04) in the middle of my first week of school where all my other runs that week were subpar. It was fun! It reminded me that I miss racing, especially the shorter ones and training with a team. The positive energy at the race was contagious!

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If you stuck around to read this…thank you! 🙂 It was helpful for me to formulate how I have been feeling. I have until Sept. 18th to decide what to do. As of tonight, I do not know the best decision, but know that your support of my running, my new career path, and me means the world. Know that whatever I decide about Chicago, I am still rooting for all of you! Keep crushing your runs and workouts! At the end of the day we run for fun, so what’s the point if it’s not fun? I am taking the pressure off myself and thinking through this decision. I have a feeling that even if I don’t run Chicago I will find another race to do since I have increased my fitness a lot the last few months 😛

Have you ever deferred a major race (or any race)? Why did you make that decision? 

 

Plants are cool #2: Basic Tofu Stir Fry recipe

Good afternoon! This is the 1st Saturday I have gotten off of work early in months, so I decided it was time to finally share another plant-based recipe! Today I am sharing a staple recipe in my apartment: basic tofu stir fry. My husband and I eat this at least one a week, if not more often 😛 That’s how much we love it! And it’s easy to prepare, easy to customize, and easy to clean-up,

I am sharing this as a part of my new recipe series called “plants are cool”. Because duh, plants are amazing! And because we should all be eating a lot more of them! I’m here to show you that cooking with plants can be cheap, easy, versatile, and fun! I know I am biased because I am plant based…but please be open minded, maybe try a few plant recipes and who, knows?! Maybe you too will agree that plants are cool! 😉

Basic Tofu Stir Fry recipe

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Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

1 bag of frozen stir fry vegetables OR slice up your favorite fresh vegetables (I recommend peppers, broccoli, onion, mushroom, carrots, celery, and baby corn)

Organic extra or super firm tofu (I recommend Trader Joe’s or 365 by Whole Foods)

Grapeseed or Avocado Oil (for sautéing) 

1 cup rice or grains of your choice (I used 365 by Whole Foods Organic Super Grains, but other options I’ve used include brown rice, jasmine rice, and quinoa)

Dried ginger (we never measure :P, but I’d put at least a teaspoon or two)

Tamari sauce to taste (at least a tablespoon)

Optional: red pepper flakes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and/or nutritional yeast. 

1. Measure and rinse your grain of choice in a mesh sieve.

2. After rinsing, prepare your grain of choice according to the package directions.

3. Chop the vegetables if you aren’t using frozen.

4. Press your tofu. We invested in a tofu press because it significantly cuts down on the time of the recipe.  (Here’s some methods to press tofu if you don’t have a press).

5. After pressing your tofu, slice into bite-sized cubes.

6. Add the Grapeseed or Avocado oil to a sauté pan or a Wok and then add the cubed tofu.

7. Sauté the tofu on medium- high for about 5-10 minutes or until the cubes start to brown.

8. Add the fresh, sliced veggies or the frozen stir fry veggies and continue to sauté until everything is cooked thoroughly .

8. Check the grains and if they are cooked, turn off of the stove top and fluff them.

10. Once the tofu stir fry is cooked throughly, serve atop the cooked grains and add your desired mix-ins. My favorite mix in is pumpkin seeds and my husband loves red pepper flakes.  🙂

If you make my basic tofu stir fry recipe, I’d love to see your creation! E-mail me or share on social media ( InstagramFacebook, or Twitter), but make sure to tag me! I’d be happy to feature your version of basic tofu stir fry on my social media channels!

 

Run for the Zoo 10k review

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Run for the Zoo as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

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I was lucky enough to run my first ever 10k at the Lincoln Park Zoo Run for the Zoo on Sunday June 3, 2018. Even though I ran cross country/track in college, I never made it through a track season due to injury and thus never got the chance to run a 10k race. The weather on race morning was absolutely perfect for a shorter race: sunny, no wind, and in the 70’s. 🙂 I was fortunate to be joined by my husband, my good friend Michael, Michael’s mom, and fellow BibRave Pro Ben.

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My training for this race was virtually non-existent. I ran the Illinois Half Marathon on April 28, 2018 and after the race I took a couple weeks off/very low mileage due to some knee/hip pain. Once I finally started running again, I did not do any speed work and only ran 9 times between the half marathon and this race, so I was very surprised with the outcome. I came in 2nd overall and 1st in my age group with a time of 43:58. So not bad!

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Although, next time I run a 10k, I want to do speed work and train hard because my ultimate 10k time goal is sub 40 minutes 😱

My husband had a speedy race for his first ever 10k: 35:03 (5:39/mile!!!) and came in 5th overall and 2nd on his age group.

 

Michael and his mom were also happy with their races! I did not get a chance to catch up with Ben after his race, but his recap is here and it sounds like a solid race, especially because he ran two tough races in the span of 24 hours!

Other race notes:

Expo/Packet pick up: The packet pick-up was held the Friday and Saturday before the race at the Lincoln Park Zoo. It was easy to find and the volunteers were friendly. I picked up packets for myself, my husband, Michael, and his mom since I was off work the Friday before the race.

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Parking: It was a little tough to find parking at the Lincoln Park Zoo lot and it was a little expensive, but it was worth it to get a close parking spot. Michael and his mom found a parking garage about a mile from the zoo for cheaper. Free Street parking is hard to come by in the area, so you should either take public transit or be willing to shell out some cash for parking.

Waiting for the start: The start line was easy to find and had different sections of the corral depending on your projected finish time pace. I lined up a the appropriate spot, but I felt like a lot of other people did not. There were definitely people who started too fast and then faded, but I feel like this happens most races.

Race course: The course was relatively flat and fast. It started on the road in front of the Lincoln Park Zoo, then moved to the Lake Front Running Path, and then you finished with a loop inside the Zoo. There were lots of beautiful views to take in on the 10k course! The only parts of the course I did not like was the start of the race/end of the race were run on the uneven road and the slippery board walk in the last half mile. I felt nervous that I was going to slip, but I luckily did not. It is not the race’s fault either- it had rained the night before. Overall, they did a great job of marking the course and ensuring our safety.

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Post race/after party: As soon as I finished the race inside the Zoo, I was greeted with all kinds of beverages and treats. My favorite was the post-race popsicle! There were various vendors out and about, so you could get a lot of free treats. Kind bars, beer, water, Gatorade, and Bobo’s Oat Bars to name a few. You could take a walk through the Zoo to say hello to the animals, take pictures in any of the ionic locations in the zoo, or dance to the post-race music.

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Swag: Every finisher got a cool dri-fit shirt. The top male and female 5k and 10k winners each won free flight tickets, so that was cool. As mentioned above, there were treats galore. There were also free race photos and they definitely captured some great moments during the race. 😛

Athlinks: Since this was my first ever 10k I get to consider the race a PR 🙂 So, of course I claimed my shiny new PR on Athlinks. I’ll be sharing a post about what Athlinks is later this month. You can see my claimed results here! Athlinks is an awesome way to track all results for your races. I also use it to figure out what goals I should shoot for my next race by adding myself to the start list. I definitely suggest creating an account and claiming your results too. Share your Athlinks profile link in the comments below and I’ll follow you! 🙂

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Overall, it was fun race! It’s flat and fast which is perfect for obtaining a 5k or 10k PR. I’d run it again next year!

Did you run the Run for the Zoo this year? If not, you really should register for next year! I’m already thinking about it 😉

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P.S. Check out my review on Bibrave. It is a great place to go when you are looking for races to run because you can read about the experiences that other runners had at that race in the past! 🙂

Your path is not linear

Your path is not linear and it is NOT meant to be!

I’m not sure about all of you, but I wholeheartedly believe everything happens for a reason. And sometimes that reason happens right away and other times it could be a very long time before it makes sense. No one knows what is best for you, BUT YOU! Not everyone will approve of your choices or your path, but you are not here to please them, you are here to be TRUE TO YOURSELF. 🙂

So, where am I going with this?! Well, I have a story to tell about my own path and it is certainly not linear!

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My senior year of college (nearly 4 years ago 😱) and most of college for that matter, I remember feeling really anxious about what I wanted to do as my career. I knew that whatever I was going to do I wanted to use science to help people. As a freshmen in college, I chose biology as my major and thought it would help me reach my a goal of becoming a neurologist. I had that goal since I was 12 when my grandmother died of brain cancer. I quickly learned that medical school was not for me. I would not have taken kindly to the high pressure situation of brain surgery or any surgery for that matter. My love of science persisted, though. I played around with other ideas including a physician assistant, physical therapist, and science teacher.

Then, junior year of college I moved off campus to a house with a kitchen and that changed everything for me. I was now responsible for ensuring that I had nutritious meals and snacks to fuel my workouts as a college runner. Some students become really  unmotivated to cook once they move off campus and live off take-out and ramen, but not me!  I have been passionate about eating healthy as long as I can remember. I used to annoy my dad in high school with my requests at the grocery store for things like natural peanut butter, wheat germ, Clif Bars, and giant canisters of oatmeal. I loved eating healthy food and found out I loved making it even more in college! I really enjoyed cooking new dishes in my off campus kitchen and making healthy snacks for after cross country practice as a welcome study break.

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(My junior year snack staples: no bake peanut butter energy bites and peanut butter granola)

Then, my senior year of college we moved to an apartment closer to campus and I decided to go vegetarian. I can share my full vegetarian story at a later date if there is interest. I welcomed the new cooking challenge and had a lot of fun making food and snacks. I made smoothies and homemade energy/protein bites almost every day. I even tried tofu for the first time my senior year. I loved it! It was also nice because one of my good friends/teammates, who is also vegetarian, lived next door to me. Some nights we cooked dinner together after practice. My favorite dishes we made together were black bean burgers and black bean tofu tacos (which should not surprise any of you :P)!

 

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(Homemade black bean burgers with my teammate)

I even got my now-husband hooked on black bean burgers then before he went vegetarian! 🙂 Despite my crazy busy schedule, I spent my spare moments cooking or reading about health, fitness, and nutrition. I was becoming really passionate about vegetarianism and nutrition! But I was also becoming really stressed out because it was my senior year and I was still not sure what I was going to do with my life.

My now-husband and I talked about both of us pursuing Master of Education degrees to become science teachers. I really liked that idea at the time. So, in late fall we went to take the subject area exam (biology for me and chemistry for him) to gain admission to a program. I really thought I had it all figured out! But over winter break I could not shake the thoughts of “are you sure you want to teach?” and “wouldn’t it be awesome to work with food/nutrition/health instead?” And on Christmas day my senior year I remember searching for ideas of how to make a job out of nutrition and wellness. I had an epiphany! I could become a registered dietitian!  And to share my love of black beans with all 😉

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(Black beans, corn, brown, rice, and salsa. A staple meal to this day. :P)

But then panic ensued…So many of the programs I looked into were past the deadline or within a few weeks of the deadline. If I wanted a Master’s degree in nutrition I needed the GRE and it takes weeks to report the GRE score to schools. So if I wanted to pursue nutrition that year, I had to pick a second bachelor’s degree program instead of a master’s program. Plus, some programs included the internships and some did not. It was an overwhelming amount of information.😱

I also learned I was two pre-requisites shy for all programs and scrambled to figure out ways to take the classes, which were not offered at my college. I somehow finished the application, got letters of recommendation, and figured out how to take the pre-reqs before the fall in time for the deadline. In April of my senior year, I found out I got into a program! We also found out my now-husband got into a Master of Education program. We graduated college and moved in July 2014. Fun fact: I actually made this blog in June right before we moved. Life was good! 🙂

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(Undergraduate graduation in spring 2014 with my now-husband)

I finished up my last pre-requisite class and then began the nutrition program in late summer. My now-husband started his classes too. Things were going well for the most part. But, then the doubt started creeping in…”why didn’t you stick with teaching?”, “it’s dumb to get a second bachelor’s degree”, “you should have taken a gap year after undergrad to figure out a better plan”, etc. I went from feeling sure and confident to doubting everything I was doing. I told my now husband how I was feeling and he said that maybe I should teach instead. He reminded me that I’m a decent public speaker, passionate about science, and he thought I’d be good at it. Plus, I already had all the pre-requisite classes taken care of because it’s what I was going to do originally. I agreed with him and applied. I got in the same program as him.

I finished out a semester of nutrition courses and then began my teaching journey in January 2015. I still kept this blog as a place to write about food and running, but stopping posting as frequently. By July 2015 I stopped posting here altogether. I tried to put my heart and soul into teaching, but I continued to read about nutrition in my spare time. I missed the nutrition program I switched out of, but kept it to myself. I even read The China Study during my commute to and from teaching observations. I did a good job in graduate school and student teaching. I won an award for most promising science educator. I liked teaching enough! I just knew all along I liked nutrition more. My now-husband and I graduated in June 2016 and we both tried to find teaching jobs.

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(Master’s graduation in June 2016)

My now husband got a teaching job right away! I did not land one, so I started subbing. Subbing was not a steady enough paycheck, so I was lucky when my old boss (from my job in graduate school) asked me back to work.  In that time frame, I also got engaged. Things were crazy with working full time at the firm and wedding planning, but I still could not shake that feeling of doubt. Doubt about why I went into teaching, especially because I struggled to get a job, and doubt about where I was headed. I knew that I still had a passion for nutrition.

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(Our wedding in July 2017)

A few months after my wedding, I secretly started researching how I could go back to school for registered dietitian programs, but I did not know if it was feasible. Around that time I also started this blog back up again. I was feeling stuck in so many ways in my life. 🙁 I figured the ship for becoming a dietitian had sailed, but I also was not sure I wanted to teach or stick at the firm. Soon enough, I got a new science related job in late 2017. Then, an opportunity to temporarily teach for just under four months presented itself to me. After asking many different people for advice, I took the temporary  teaching job, even though I had just started a new job two months prior. I told myself I needed to give teaching a shot because it is what I studied. I secretly decided that if it’s not for me then I would find a way to make my passions a career. Because at the end of the day you are the best version of yourself if you work a job that you are passionate about. You do your best work this way too! 🙂

Overall, it was a tough temporary teaching job, but I think I did a decent job! Less than a month into the teaching job, I started working on applications to registered dietitian programs that include the internship component, but did not finish them. Around two months in, I talked to my mom and my husband about wanting to go back to my original path and they were both wildly supportive. I decided to finish the applications and play the waiting game. I wanted to go to a school that would not completely uproot my husband’s life if possible.

THE GOOD NEWS: I recently found out I got into a nutrition program! I’m so excited for my new journey and I cannot wait to become an RD! 🙂

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I learned so much about myself and my long term goals during this journey.  I am almost 26 years old, so I can say I took me a long time to figure it out. I did not do everything in a logical manner. If I could do everything over again I would have taken a gap year after undergrad to research nutrition programs more, complete pre-requisites, and apply to the most logical program. BUT I can’t go back in time, I can only move on. I would not trade these twists and turns in my journey for anything! My path was not linear and it taught me important lessons.

There is relief in the destination, but also so much beauty in the journey. And if you have reached your destination it is time to start a new journey 😉

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So please, join me on my new path to becoming a registered dietitian! There’s bound to be bumps in the road, but ultimately I am excited to become what I’m meant to be! I’m also excited to continue to share my my love of plant based food, running, fitness, recipes, and eventually my nutrition expertise here!

Have you changed careers before or want to? If so, what was your experience? If not, what is holding back?

Plants are cool #1: “Squacos” recipe

Good afternoon! 🙂 As promised many, many months ago, I am finally sharing my butternut squash taco recipe, AKA “squacos”!🌮 I am sharing this as a part of my new recipe series called “plants are cool”. Because duh, plants are amazing! And because we should all be eating a lot more of them! I’m here to show you that cooking with plants can be cheap, easy, versatile, and fun! I know I am biased because I am plant based…but please be open minded, maybe try a few plant recipes this month, and who, knows?! Maybe you too will agree that plants are cool! 😉

Of course, today’s recipe has black beans, because I have not been living up to my namesake!😱 This is a very basic recipe that lends itself to dressing up with different toppings and serving options, because that is half the fun with taco recipes! So, without further ado let’s make some “squacos”! 😋

“Squacos”

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Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

1 bag of frozen butternut squash or 1 whole butternut squash

Grapeseed or Avocado Oil (for sautéing) 

1 cup rice or grains of your choice (I used 365 by Whole Foods Organic Super Grains, but other options I’ve used include brown rice, jasmine rice, and quinoa)

1 can of black beans drained and rinsed

Cumin (we never measure :P, but I’d put at least a teaspoon or two)

Cinnamon

Himalayan sea salt (to taste)

Optional: avocado, tomato, cilantro, shredded lettuce, red pepper flakes, salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, cheese (regular or non-dairy), and/or sour cream (if you aren’t vegan)

1. Measure and rinse your grain of choice in a mesh sieve.

2. After rinsing, prepare your grain of choice according to the package directions.

3. Chop the butternut squash if you aren’t using frozen.

4. Add the Grapeseed or Avocado oil to a sauté pan and add the chopped fresh or the chopped frozen butternut squash.

5. Sauté the butternut squash on medium high for about 5 minutes or until warmed.

6. Add the cinnamon and cumin to the butternut squash and make sure everything gets thoroughly mixed.

7. Add the drained and rinsed black beans to the butternut squash mixture.

8. Check the grains and if they are cooked, turn off of the stove top and fluff them.

9. Sauté the black bean and butternut squash mixture for another couple of minutes.

10. Serve on tortillas or make a taco bowl. Be sure to add in any of the fun extras listed above! The optional mix-ins add flavor and depth if you eat these on a weekly basis like my husband and I do! My personal favorite is making a taco bowl with salsa and other veggies and then using tortilla chips as scoops. 🙂

If you make “squacos”, I’d love to see your creations! E-mail me or share on social media ( InstagramFacebook, or Twitter), but make sure to tag me! I’d be happy to feature your version of “squacos” on my social media channels!

Running into 2018: goals and dreams for the new year: spring check-in

Hello friends! Happy Easter (if you celebrate)! I hope you all had a fun and relaxing Sunday. Mine was busy because of work, but now I’m happy for some time to relax. 🙂

For those of you who don’t know, my temporary teaching job ended last week, so I acted quickly and snagged two part time jobs. Both of the jobs are at places I adore and are perfect for this somewhat “limbo” phase of my life. I’m still figuring out what my next steps are, but I have a really good idea what they will be and will share when the time is right…

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In the meantime, I thought the 1st day of April was the perfect time to check-in with my 2018 goals. This is mainly a way to hold myself accountable, so feel free to skip this post if this sort of thing bores you 😛 If not, I appreciate your support by reading and commenting! I’d love to know if you set goals for 2018 and have accomplished some of them, so feel free to share with me too!

Black Bean Queen’s fifteen 2018 goals check-in #1:

1. A minimum of 5 minutes of stretching/foam rolling after EVERY RUN

9 times out of 10 I have accomplished this goal since January! So that feels good. 🙂 Just knowing that I shared this goal publicly with all of you made me think twice when I wanted to slack on stretching and rolling 🙂 Plus I am recovering from my runs well so far…but we shall see once I start ramping up the miles 😱

2. Strength training a minimum of 2x/ week (particularly glute/hip exercises)

Not doing well with this goal…I’m at once a week when it’s a good week. When I was teaching I barely had enough time to fit in my runs, let alone my strength workouts, but this isn’t optional for me or I will get hurt. 🙁 Strength training at least twice week, focusing on hip strength, is my top goal moving forward. 

3. Yoga 1x/ week (a class or YouTube video)

Also not doing great with this goal for the same reason as #2…BUT now that I am done teaching and working two PT jobs that do not require outside work (i.e. lesson planning, grading, etc) I will be able to better fit in the “extras” that enhance running training. Yoga will be my second top goal moving forward. However, I have done yoga twice in the last week for what it’s worth.🤷🏼‍♀️

4. Finish my first marathon in October (my ultimate goal is 3:30 or faster so I can Boston Qualify)

Not accomplished yet 😉

5. PR in the 5k and the half marathon by increasing my mileage (SLOWLY) and adding in more track/speed workouts (5k goal is sub 18 minutes & half marathon goal is 1:25)

Same as above. I’ve only done one 5k in 2018 and no half marathons yet. My first half marathon is the Illinois half marathon in less than a month!

6. Run my first 10k race

Same as above. My first 10k will be on June 3rd at Run for the Zoo

7. Run a trail race of any distance

Not accomplished yet 😉

8. Hire a coach in the spring/summer to help me with Chicago marathon training

Accomplished sooner than expected. A few weeks ago, I won two months of coaching with Heather Szuba of McKirdy Trained and it could not have come at a better time! I’m at a new phase in my life where I can prioritize my training a bit better than when I was teaching. I can already tell this is going to be huge for my running and so far I love working with Heather. I can’t wait to see where working with her takes me! 🙂 

10. Join a running group or racing team

Not accomplished yet 😉 Since one of my new jobs is at a running store, I think it is time for me to finally do more group runs or join a team. Stay tuned…😜

11. Read 24 books (2 books/month)

Not accomplished yet 😉 Sadly, I’ve only read one book in 2018 so far 🙁 On the bright side I am an extremely fast reader, so I am confident I can still accomplish this goal!

12. Connect with more liked minded people by growing Black Bean Queen to 1,000 subscribers. I also want to grow my social media presence on Instagram and Twitter to at least 1,000 followers and my Facebook and Pinterest to at least 500 followers.

Partly accomplished! 🙂 Last I checked this blog has over 1,060 subscribers, so it has grown a bit in the last few months. My Instagram is also over 1,000 followers, but I am not at my Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest goals yet. I’m concerned less about actual numbers and more about connecting to even more awesome runners, fitness enthusiasts, plant based eaters, etc. 

13. Be kinder to and less critical of myself by reflecting on the positives in my life at least 1x/week

Working on this! One of the best things I did to help me with this goal was buy 52 Lists for Happiness by Moorea Seal. I love starting a new week with one of the lists. Thanks to Connie of Constantly for the recommendation! 🙂

14. Take my vitamin everyday

I was really good about this in January and February, but fell off the wagon during March. It’s a new week and month, so time to be better about taking my vitamin again! 😛 

15. Cook a new vegetarian/vegan recipe with my husband 1x/month

Working on this goal! We got in a bit of a rut cooking the same old favorites the last few months..BUT we just bought the Run Fast, Eat Slow cookbook and I flagged some of the vegetarian/vegan recipes to make over the next few weeks. Plus, I still need to make a bunch of the recipes from Oh She Glows Everyday, which we bought a year ago. So ideas are not the problem 😛 One way that has helped us in the past has been by turning it into a date night to make a new recipe. I highly recommend this tactic for any couples out there who keep making the same things or go out to eat for many meals. 

Are YOU accomplishing your 2018 goals, running related or not? I’d love for you to share, so we can support each other! 🙂