Illinois half marathon review

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Illinois half marathon 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!

I had the fortune of running the Illinois half marathon on April 28th. I say fortune because with my injury history there is no guarantee that I will toe the line for the races I sign up for. :/ Luckily, I made it to this race in one piece..although I was unlucky enough to pick up a cold a few days prior to the race. 🙁

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I credit making it to the starting line to my amazing coach Heather! She helped me get up my mileage after a stressful job ended, I solidified my new career path, I started two part time jobs, and I missed many runs due to illness the week of the Shamrock Shuffle. 25-30 miles per week is not ideal for half marathon training, but that is MUCH better than my mileage was while I was teaching. Heather made sure all my miles counted and provided me a good base for my further out races (like my 1st marathon in October 😉 ). Despite having a cold, I am happy to say I crossed the line in 1:34:06, good for a 6 minute PR. The highlight of the race weekend, though, was my husband’s massive 26 minute PR in the marathon. He finished in 2:42:57 good enough for a 2019 BQ!

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Other race notes:

Expo/Packet pick up: My husband and I encountered wicked Friday late afternoon Chicago traffic and an hour into the trip knew we were not going to make the expo in time. Thank goodness for our friend Mikey (who ran the 10k race) and saved the day! He picked up the packets for us and then delivered them to us at dinner at Biaggi’s.

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Parking: Parking was free and easy to find. We were able to leave our hotel, drive, and park in less than 20 minutes. Definitely a huge pro to have a low stress parking situation!

Waiting for the start: It was a little chilly so I wore a “throw” shirt, but everything was easily marked with signs. I made my way seamlessly to coral A. I actually run into fellow BibRave Pro Zenaida on my way to the start line, so that was pretty cool! We chatted, wished each other luck, and took a picture.

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Once I was in corral A I ran into another fellow Bibrave Pro, Kim and I met fellow instagram runner Katherine in real life. It was nice to run into some familiar faces!

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Last start line note: there seemed to be enough porta potties and the lines moved quickly. I didn’t use one, but that’s always a pro in my book!

Race course: The course was flat and fast! Perfect course for a PR. It went though campus, nearby neighborhoods, and a park. There were tons of spectators throughout the course, which was a nice morale boost. There were ample aid stations. I only took in water, because I don’t fuel for half marathons, but they also had Gatorade and GUs. I also remember one aid station that offered sliced oranges. I’m not sure how to eat while running (hence one of the many reasons I’m not ready for an ultra. lol), but it was a nice gesture.

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The energy toward the finish was unreal! The last mile of the race you made your way toward to finish in the stadium and it was so cool! I was in awe of how beautiful the campus was and excited to be close to the finish. 😛 I can imagine that people who attend/attended University of Illinois for college felt emotional at the finish! I know if I ever return to my alma mater to run the race that finishes on our track that I will get emotional.  The stadium finish was hands down my favorite part of the race! 🙂

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Post race/after party: At the finish, in the stadium, I was wrapped in a heat sheet, offered water, offered a sports drink, and offered a stretch from the Athletico station. There were also ample opportunities for photos, which I took as I waited anxiously for my husband to finish the marathon. I took some photos with Mikey after his 10k, Kim, Katherine, and alone while I waited. I also got stretched out at the Athletico station which felt awesome on my tight hips and IT band.

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Once my husband finished in an astonishing 2:42:57, we took a few more photos with and without the PR bell. The PR bell had received a lot of love at this point and was broken…we took photos anyway, but that is why we are laughing 😛

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After the photos we made our way to the post race party to check out the beers and snacks. My husband got a beer and there were a lot of snack options! None of us were hungry at that point yet or we would have eaten something. Mikey and I cooled down and then we all headed back to the hotel so we could all shower before check out and the long drive home.

Swag: Every finisher got a sweet medal (regardless of race) and free finisher photos. For running the half I got a dri-fit long sleeve shirt and my husband got a quarter zip for running the full. Our hotel was super cute and made us little good luck goodie bags as well, but I forgot to snap a picture 🙁

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Athlinks: At the Illinois Half Marathon race, I was able to run a new half marathon PR, even with a cold! 🙂 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 and well organized race! It’s flat and fast which is perfect for obtaining a PR or BQ. I definitely want to return!

Did you run the Illinois half marathon (or a different race distance) 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 Illinois half 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! 🙂

 

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Why I’m not running the Cinco de Miler tomorrow

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Cinco de Miler 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 someone who lives for running, the running community, and racing it saddens me to write the following words: I am not running Cinco de Miler tomorrow 🙁 I am sad because as I discussed in my  “top 5 reasons to run” post, it is a really cool race with a fun atmosphere, sweet swag, and an awesome post-race party.  I’m having some serious FOMO right now 🙁

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So why am I sitting on the sidelines?!

Well…I ran a half marathon last weekend and my body still has not recovered on multiple accounts :/ I ran with a cold and it has lingered a bit, but that certainly is not stopping me from running tomorrow 😛 For those of you that know me IRL I tend to be a bit stubborn… The real reason is that my right IT band and both hips are very tight and generally unhappy. Welp!😭 My coach Heather and I decided that with my extensive injury history I need to take a little time off of running to recover from the half, cross train, and work on strengthening the ‘ol hips, glutes, and core. Plus some yoga…you all know how much I love yoga 🙄 I know that being able to touch my toes, having looser muscles, and a stronger body/core will make me a better runner in the long run. Regardless, this was not an easy decision and I am sad.😔

Cinco de Miler is such a cool race! This just means I will have to run it next year 😉 I am looking forward to rooting for all of you running tomorrow and will be following the race. I can’t wait to see all of you crush it! And please, drink a few post-race beers with your sweet bottle opener medal for me!🍻

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Are you running the Cinco de Miler tomorrow or have you run it before? If you are, make sure to write a race 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! 🙂 

 

Product Review: CTM Band

Disclaimer: I received the CTM Band 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!

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I am not exaggerating when I say that the CTM band has been a life saver and welcome addition to both my and my husband’s training/recovery tool box. 🙂

 

No other tool that I have at home has brought me as much relief from tightness and soreness (especially with my quads and IT band) as the CTM band. And trust me, as a former collegiate runner with a storied injury history I have tried many, many tools. The stick, the trigger point foam roller, a regular foam roller, a tennis ball, you name it…I’ve likely tried it. The CTM band is the closest at home tool to providing me the relief I would get when I’d go to a Physical Therapist and get the Graston Technique done. The upside of the CTM band: less painful, less expensive, and similar results (sweet, sweet relief, looser tissue, improved range of motion). Check out their website to learn how to use the CTM Band for different injuries, sore spots, and areas of your body.

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And I’m not the only one in my household that loves the CTM band! During this marathon training cycle my husband was experiencing the worst quad soreness he has ever had and after two days of suggesting he tried my CTM band he finally caved (he’s running the Illinois Marathon). It was life changing for him! The next day his soreness was a lot better and felt like he had better range of motion during his run. Now he regularly uses the CTM band before and after running. I often have to fight him to use it first if we run at the same time! 😛 I’m even packing the CTM band for our race next weekend (marathon for him and half marathon for me). I think he just needs his own 😉

I also think you should try out the CTM band! Especially because I have a sweet deal for you: the code “CTMBIBRAVE” gets you 20% off your order! So try it out and let me know what you think! 🙂

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Finally, don’t just take my word, see what other BibRave Pros have to say about the CTM Band:

Christine

Connie

Danielle

Janelle

Jessica

Karen

Lindsey

Mary Jo

Michael

Mike

Illinois half marathon training week 10

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Illinois Half Marathon 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!

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Good evening friends! I can’t believe we are 11 days away from race day! 😱

I am definitely getting nervous because it’s my 1st big post-college race, but I also feel prepared. This training cycle started out rocky with my crazy schedule during my temporary teaching job, but getting a coach a month ago has been a game changer. Plus, my teaching job is over now, and although I am working two part time jobs, I have been able to train more consistently than when teaching. And I’m just generally happier and more motivated about training because now I am on a path to pursuing my passions. 😍

I sometimes have to be creative about when to fit in my runs, though, because some weeks I work mornings/days and other weeks I have to work evenings/nights. Regardless, the change in jobs has allowed me to run more often with others, go to fun events, and meet new people as you will see in this week’s training recap. I even hit my highest weekly mileage since college over the last two weeks. 30 miles per week may not seem like much, and I was running more in college, but I’m just so happy to be running injury free again! 🙂 So without further ado let’s get to the recap!

Week 10: Monday April 9th -Sunday April 15th

Monday April 9th: My friend Ben has a somewhat a flexible work schedule and I was off work, so he came to Chicago to run 5.1 miles (7:47 pace) with me. Afterwards, I took him to one of my favorite coffee shops. He’s silly and got a cold drink even though it was chilly and it had snowed earlier in the day! I got an oat milk chai and I would 10/10 recommend. It was fun to spend the afternoon running and talking to another fellow running nerd. I’m grateful for all the awesome people I have met through Bibrave!

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-Tuesday April 10th:  I ran 4.5 miles with some 6x 30 second strides at 6:16 pace mixed in. Then, I went to one of my favorite Thai places to finally meet up with Danielle in real life. We had been following each other on social media/our blogs for a while and talking nearly every day prior to dinner about all things running, health, and nutrition, so I was not scared at all to meet up! The two and half hours really flew by at dinner and I cannot wait for more adventures with another fellow future RD!

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-Wednesday April 11th: I helped lead an easy 3.1 mile evening fun run with Scott Jurek and then attended a question/answer session and book signing. It was amazing and honestly I’m still star struck that I met one of my favorite runners in real life! I cannot wait to read North, his newest book! It was worth the long line to get it signed and have him write personal note to my husband, who was coaching track and unable to attend the event.

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-Thursday April 12th: A while ago Katie messaged me saying she’d be in Chicago for a business trip and asked if I’d want to run this week. Katie is another runner that I connected with through Instagram. We decided to run together on Thursday. We ran 5 miles at an easy pace (7:53/ mile) along the Lakefront Path. The weather was amazing and actually spring-like, unlike Monday when it snowed. The miles flew by far two quickly and we bonded over being former division 1 runners and our love of training/racing even in our busy adult lives. I hope we can run again soon! I love how social media and this blog has connected me to so many amazing people.

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-Friday April 13th: REST DAY. Spent some time doing yoga and foam rolling because it was much needed.

-Saturday April 14th: 12 miles at 7:53 pace. This was supposed to be a hard workout within my long run, but the freezing, windy, rainy weather made that tough. I did the best I could, but only completed 4 of the 6 tempo miles. It’s tough when you are supposed to run 3 miles at 7:00-7:15 pace, 2 miles at 6:49 pace and 1 mile at 6:49 pace or faster and you know you can hit all those paces, but running into the crazy headwind you get a 7:09 as your fastest… My husband was helping me pace the workout (all my paces are easy for him because he is super speedy) and together we decided the time on my feet was much more important than hitting the paces. We decided to just finish the run as a regular long run rather than tempo more into the crazy wind. I was super frustrated on Saturday, but now reflecting back on the day I am proud I got my long run done! It would have been easy to turn around, head home, and throw in the towel.

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-Sunday April 15th: REST DAY.

WEEKLY TOTAL:  29.7 miles

Tonight’s question: Are you racing this month? If not, want to last minute join me at the Illinois half marathon? They also have a 5k, 10k, full marathon, and marathon relay! So there’s a race for everyone!🤗 Use the code “2018bibravebonus” code for $10.00 off your entry if you want to join me!😉

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?

Top 5 reasons to run the Cinco de Miler on 5/5/18

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Cinco de Miler 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!

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As is tradition this year, this will be my first time running Cinco de Miler and I’m super pumped! Even though I have lived in Chicago for nearly 4 years, I have not run many races because of injury and running burnout. I’m happy to be back to running healthy!💪🏻 Cinco de Miler is a 5 mile race that starts and finishes at Montrose Harbor at 8:30 am sharp on May 5, 2018. Event though it’s a week after my half marathon and my legs are going to be tired, I’m excited to run Cinco de Miler because it is such a fun race. YOU SHOULD RUN CINCO DE MILER TOO!!!😉 Need more convincing?! Check out the top 5 reasons why you should run Cinco de Miler below. And by the time you reach the bottom I can (almost) guarantee you will want to sign up! There will even be a discount waiting for you at the bottom. So, what are you waiting for?! 😜

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Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Run Cinco de Miler:

1. The race is a unique race distance. How many other 5 mile races do you know of in and around the Chicagoland area? Plus the course is USATF certified, so you know that the 5 mile course is in fact 5 miles and not 4.98. 😜 A unique race distance= a likely PR! And we all want to earn that elusive PR, am I right?! 😉

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2. To cater to the competitive, seasoned runner there is chip timing, elite coral assignments for those that qualify, and cash prizes for those in the elite corral. So, if you want to run with some of Chicago’s best and earn a PR and/or bragging rights, there is a spot for you at Cinco de Miler!

The cash prizes are as follows for the top 3 overall men and women in the Elite Corral:

1st Place = $400
2nd Place = $250
3rd Place = $100

Additionally, if you break the existing event record will receive an additional $100!

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3. Speaking of PRs…even if you don’t earn one, you can still get this super sweet finishing medal just for crossing the finish line! And the medal even doubles as bottle opener so you can easily open post-race beers!  😜🍻

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4. Not a competitive runner? No worries, there is plenty of fun at the post race fiesta! There will be a mechanical bull, human fooseball, mariachi bands, and live Lucha Libre matches, Not to mention there will be plenty of beer breakfast tacos, Horchata, and Mexican sweets!🍻🌮

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5. Last, but not least you will get this sweet technical tee for running, plus other awesome swag in your race goodie bag! You will get the goodie bag and tee at packet pick-up.

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So, what are you waiting for?! Sign up today! 🙂

Have you run Cinco de Miler before?! If so, what’s your favorite part of the race? If not, are you joining me at the race this year?! Sign up by using the code “BRCinco” for some extra swag on race weekend – a pair of super awesome sunglasses!

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! 🙂

Top 5 reasons why you should join me at Run for the Zoo on Sunday June 3, 2018

Disclaimer: I’m received a free entry to 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 review find and write race reviews!

This will be my first time running Run for Zoo and I’m not sure what took me so long to sign up! 😛 When I first moved to Chicago about four years ago I even lived across the street from the zoo and would regularly take a lap through the zoo in the middle of my runs…at least until I got injured 🙁 What can I say, I’m a sucker for cute animals🦁🐵 If it weren’t for all my injuries over the last few years, I’m sure I would have run it sooner! YOU SHOULD RUN IT THIS YEAR WITH ME!!! Need more convincing?! Check out my top 5 reasons why you should run the Run for the Zoo below. And if you read the whole thing I’ll even give you a discount code (or you can scroll to the bottom right away for the code, but I’ll know you didn’t read)!😜

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Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Run the Run for the Zoo:

1. The course weaves through the beautiful Lincoln Park Zoo! If you have run many races in Chicago ,you know that is is a treat because most races occur on the Lakeshore Path. Granted, the Lakeshore Path is gorgeous, but it’s fun to shake it up. 🙂

2. Multiple race options. Do you have a competitive side? Do you have a little one at home? Or trying to convince a reluctant spouse to try running for the first time? This is the perfect race for all three options! There is a 5k, 10k, and the Safari Stampede race for kids ages 3-6. There is chip timing, it is a USTAF-certified course, and there are wave start times, so you can go for that elusive PR OR take leisurely walk-run through Lincoln Park Zoo. The choice is yours!

3. Proceeds from the race go directly to Lincoln Park Zoo to keep it up and running for FREE 365 days a year!

4. You will receive fun swag and attend a post-race party! All finishers get a tech T-shirt with the new an improved logo, plus admittance to a fun post-race party with a DJ, free beer (for those over 21), and snacks!

5. I’ll be there! I’m running the 10k for the first time and you know you’ve always wanted to meet the Black Bean Queen in real life 😉😜  And yes the Black Bean King (AKA my husband is also running) Plus, if there’s interest I could host a shake-out run the day before or a warm-up the day of the race. Just let me know on social media or via e-mail!:)

This is a picture of my husband and I is from Zoo Lights in December 2017. It is a free month long event during Christmas time that is open to the public. It is made possible through generations donations and proceeds from events such as Run for the Zoo. Just incase you needed a 6th reason to run 😉

Have you done Run for the Zoo before?! If so, what’s your favorite part of the race? If not, are you joining me at the race this year?! Sign up by using the code “BIBRAVE” for  10% off your race entry!

Illinois half marathon training weeks 1 & 2

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Illinois Half Marathon 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!

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I can’t believe I’ve made it through the first two weeks of Illinois half marathon training! It has been tough to balance training with my (relatively) new teaching job…Things are going well training wise, though, and I really hope it stays that way! I’m nervous because of my injury history, but I am optimistic, especially after I wrapped up week 2 yesterday! So without further ado, let’s take a look at my last two weeks of training! 🙌🏻

Week 1: Monday February 5th -Sunday February 11th

-Monday February 5th: REST

-Tuesday February 6th:  3 miles @ 7:42 on the treadmill followed by strength work

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-Wednesday February 7th: REST/XT

-Thursday February 8th: REST

-Friday February 9th: Unexpected day off work (snow day) resulted in a fun, but snowy/slippery 5 miles @ 7:59 pace

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-Saturday February 10th: 4 miles @ 7:31 pace

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-Sunday February 11th: REST

WEEKLY TOTAL: 14 miles

Week 2: Monday February 12th -Sunday February 18th:

-Monday February 12th: 3 miles after school at 7:18 pace followed by stretching

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-Tuesday February 13th: REST

-Wednesday February 14th: 3 miles @ 7:07 pace. I ran by feel, but ended up with a run that was almost at tempo pace…

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-Thursday February 15th: Late and dark 4 miler at 7:49 pace. This run didn’t feel great…

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-Friday February 16th: REST

-Saturday February 17th: 1 mile w/u, 3 miles @ goal half marathon pace (6:49, 6:54, 6:48), and 3 mile c/d

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-Sunday February 18th: 5 mile recovery run @ 7:39 pace followed by yoga

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WEEKLY TOTAL:  21 miles 

Tonight’s question: What races are you training for this spring? Will any of you be joining me at the Illinois half marathon? They also have a 5k, 10k, full marathon, and marathon relay! So there’s a race for everyone!🤗 Use the code “2018bibravebonus” code for $10.00 off your entry if you want to join me!😉