Pictures from the week!

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My girlfriends and I went to Chima (a Brazilian steakhouse) for Restaurant Week. I’ve never 1) eaten so much steak and salad (they have over 30 items on their salad bar!) and 2) said “That’s what she said!” so many times.

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My friend Steph beasting through Erica In America workout Friday morning! It’s hard, by the way! 🙂

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The “Garden State” juice from Amino Juice Bar at 17th and Arch. Try it out…it’s awesome!!

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A random parade I walked by Saturday. Anyone know what this is??

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My beautiful friend Cyd and her new, awesome husband Doug during their first dance!

The slowest generation?

It’s no secret that I’m a slow runner.  I don’t try to hide my pace, and it’s very rare that I get awkward about telling people my finish times.  Who cares, right?  When I line up to start a race, I know I’ve trained my hardest and I’m going to do the best that the conditions and my body will allow.  My fast friends come to me for advice on racing and the techniques of running, while I go to them for speedwork and pep talks.  It’s a very symbiotic relationship.  And then we all cross the finish line together.  Not together, together, but you know what I mean.

Apparently someone does care how fast I cross the finish.  No, not my dad, but a Mr. Kevin Helliker, a writer for the Wall Street Journal.  His article, “The Slowest Generation,” laments the death of speedy distance runners in the United States.  Helliker, a racer himself, does a humble brag about his finish in the 2013 Chicago Triathlon.  He finished in the top 15% of his age group of 50-54 (or the “grandpa” group as he called it), but the top 11% overall.  Most people would be happy with that type of finish, but instead of basking in the glory of a great race, he chooses instead to segue into a diatribe about how my generation has ceased to compete, but rather chooses to participate, citing races such as The Color Run.  If you expect a race that involves getting covered in colored corn starch to be a sprint to the finish…I don’t even know what to tell you.

Some may attribute that to the upswing of the number of people participating in races to develop better personal fitness, but in Helliker’s mind it’s due to the fact that my generation just doesn’t care about winning.  Not only do we not care about winning races, but we apparently don’t care about anything.   Helliker quotes running commentator and blogger Toni Reavis as saying “This is emblematic of the state of America’s competitiveness, and should be of concern to us all.” My first thought?  Perhaps if past generations weren’t so concerned with winning and being the best, we wouldn’t be in the current economic state that we’re in now.  Just a thought, though.

Perhaps what bothers me the most about Helliker’s point of view is that he seems to think if you’re not fast, you’re not trying.  Unless you have a deal with the devil, there will always be someone faster than you.  Fast is a relative term.  While there’s no way I’m going to stand on top of the medal podium at any race, there’s no telling how much I can PR by if I continue to work on my speed and endurance.  And where does the “fast” and “slow” cutoffs occur?  By his own admission, Helliker finished in the top 11%.  Why not the top 10%?  He must have not tried as hard as the people ahead of him.

Yes, there are people who compete in races just to grab that finishers medal at the end and brag on Facebook about how awesome they are for being a half-marathoner.  But there are those of us who work for months hoping to shave 3.7 seconds off of our back of the pack time.  And then brag on Facebook about it. And wear my finishers medal to the bar so I can tell people how I shaved 3.7 seconds off of my PR.

Getting your fitness on with Erica in America!

As you all know,  I am not a certified fitness instructor….I’m just a girl who is trying to stay in shape, get in better shape, and still eat as many cookies as humanly possible.  That is why it’s great to have friends in high places, such as my main girl Erica Hildenbrand who is a certified fitness and boot camp instructor in the Philadelphia area!  I asked her to create a workout for me to do while I’m running, focusing solely on using my own body weight to develop muscle.  Who knows?  Maybe after doing this work out I’ll have some sort of upper body strength to speak of. 

Since I wanted you to hear about the workout straight from the source, I asked Erica to do a guest post for me and since she’s the best, she did! 

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Things Erica likes: burpees, lunges, and really sweet workout pants.

Hello and happy Wednesday! My pal Annie has been writing this blog and I love her for it, but I also love her for her smile, her freckles, her optimism, and for the way she tends to make everything fun and exciting. (Cheese wheels! Kittens! Running long distances! You get my point).

I have been teaching an outdoor Bootcamp class for a couple years now (woah!) and I love the group that comes. It is where I met Annie!! The most important thing to me is that we have fun and don’t dread coming to class. It’s ok if you hate the burpees I might make you do, though (evil laugh).

Here’s a little workout you can add into your running days (just find a stretch of grass and a bench) or do on its own. If I can stress anything, it is that you need to warm up, stretch, cool down, and stretch some more. So many times we rush to get in that cardio or strength but we skimp on the stretching. Flexibility is JUST as important as the cardiovascular endurance or muscle strength you’re building.

So go get it!!! And please, as always, check with a doctor before starting any new exercise program!

Love, Erica in America

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RUNNING BOOTCAMP WORKOUT

Warm-up for 8-10 minutes however you prefer; stretch

Set 1 (if you’re running, do it at the 25% mark of your run)

  • 15 squats
  • 10 push ups
  • 20 alternating lunges (right-left = 2 reps)
  • 10 sit ups
  • Repeat twice (yes, the whole thing!)
  • Rest 2 minutes

Set 2 (throw it in at your halfway point)

  • 20 step-ups onto a bench or high step (10 per side, then switch)
  • 50 jumping jacks
  • 10 dips on a bench
  • 50 high knees (right-left equals 2 reps)
  • (you knew it was coming) 10 burpees
  • Repeat twice (you can do it!)
  • Rest 2 minutes

Set 3 (at the end of your run)

  • Hold a plank for 1 minute (forearms)
  • 30 crunches with knees tucked in toward your chest
  • Hold one more plank for as long as you can!
  • STRETCH for a good 5-10 minutes
  • Rehydrate
  • Shower, I can smell you from here!

You can modify or substitute if a move feels too challenging or uncomfortable. Remember to let your heart rate go down a bit before you start each set. Have fun with it and flood Annie’s inbox with your sweaty workout photos!

Seriously….send me the photos.  It’s really nice to know that I’m not the only one who is really sweaty after these shennanigans.

People actually study this stuff? (And other important news.)

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Did you race this weekend?  How did it go??

“You ate a whole wheel of cheese?”: Laughing Cow Alfredo Sauce

Despite my overabundance of freckles, I am Italian.  And with my heritage comes an unending desire to consume mass amounts of carbohydrates in the form of pasta.  Cover it with veggies, cheese, chicken…doens’t matter.  I want it and I want it now.

The one thing I do manage to avoid mostly is alfredo sauce.  Aftering looking up the nutrition facts in high school for the Olive Garden alfredo (found here if you are willing to deal with the consequences) it was pretty easy to give it up.  But don’t get me wrong…I do miss it.

So imagine my excitement when I was on my fourth hour of Pinning one day and say someone’s post about Laughing Cow Alfredo Sauce!  I was pretty excited to give it a shot, so I rounded up some test subjects and started in on the deliciousness.

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All of the delicious ingredients!

I was left at the mercy of Whole Foods’ Laughing Cow selection, so I had to buy the original instead of the light.  It was a marginal difference in fat and calories (about a 15 calorie and 2.5g fat per wedge difference) but it could make a difference if you’re following Weight Watchers or just a really diligent calorie counter.

This is the best part: all you do is combine all of the ingreidents in a pan and cook over low heat until everything melts together.  I chopped up some sundried tomatoes and cooked them in the sauce for a little different flavor.  I’ll involve sundried tomatoes in anything I can.

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Yum!

It was a hit!  The only thing I’d recommend is using a whisk while you’re cooking it.  I either couldn’t find mine or don’t have one (my apartment is very tiny, there’s only room for essentials like a juicer and a SodaStream) and the sauce had some lumps in it.  Also, I like a good amount of sauce on my pasta, so I’d recommend making a little more than the recipe indicates.  This might defeat the purpose of “light alfredo” but that’s what running is for.

Speaking of running, I’m leaving for Strasburg, VA in a few hours to celebrate the wedding of two very special people.  If you know of any good running routes for me for tomorrow, let me know!

Did you like the recipe?  Do you have any lightened up favorites to share?

Race Recap: Rock and Roll Philly

The Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half has quickly become a favorite of mine.  I started running it when it was still called the Philadelphia Distance Run and wasn’t sure what to expect when Competitor took it over.  While the Philadelphia Inquirer did a great piece on what the changes have meant to this race, as an average runner who is there to have fun, I’m pretty happy with how Competitor has run the race the past few years.

The Expo

As usual, the expo was well-run.  I guess when you put on a million of them per year you get it down to a science.  It’s open for two full days, which is nice and it’s at the Convention Center which is easily accessible for everyone since it’s in Center City.

Getting my race pack was no problem, but picking up for your friends could be an issue.  I had to take a copy of my friend Dave’s ID and race confirmation to the “problem solving” table so they could confirm that it was real. The man in front of me was picking up several packets for various friends and family….AT $20 A PACKET! Appparently, only the first one is free.  That’s straight up highway robbery.  Beware if you want to do a favor for someone…it’ll cost ya.

The apparel selection was great.  Brooks has a giant tent of RnR merchandise but the highlight for me was Moving Comfort.  I love their Juno bra and it was nice to get it on a discount and not have to pay for shipping!  I picked up a few GUs and as much free stuff as I could carry before heading over to see John “The Penguin” Bingham speak.

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Who wouldn’t want to ride a giant mechanical shoe?

I interviewed John last year for my Philadelphia Magazine blog and it was a great experience.  It was great to finally find someone who was a slow runner who truly didn’t care that he wasn’t fast.  Whenever I get frustrated with my time, I look to him for inspiration.  As usual, his talk didn’t disappoint.  Since the audience was made up of more experienced runners, he really tailored it to our individual questions and needs.

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Can you feel the knowledge? I can.

After the expo, I made my way to Reading Terminal Market with my friend and fellow runner, Steph.  It’s become a post-expo tradition for us for the past few years.  If you’re in the area (it’s right across the street from the Convention Center) it is a must.  After that, it was time to go home and rest up for the race!

It’s go time!

I’d like to say I woke up feeling like a winner…but I didn’t.  For some reason I was kind of nervous about it.  I ate my usual piece of toast with PB and had some OJ before walking over to Steph’s house to get her before going to the start.  Luckily, this race begins and ends within a few blocks of my apartment so I didn’t have to leave too early!

The temperature was kind of a shock to me.  It’s been going back and forth between 90 and humid and 70 and perfect the past few weeks, and while I’m glad it wasn’t leaning towards 90 degrees I wasn’t expecting weather in the 50s!  My throwaway shirt was key.

After a porta potty trip, Steph and I parted ways to head to our corrals.  She’s super speedy (compared to me) so we couldn’t really start together.

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The obligatory pre-race Art Museum selfie. Yes, those are the Rocky steps.

The race started at 8:00am, but by the time they got to my corral, it was about 8:35.  The wait to get to the start is THE WORST.  I get so fidgety, which might be why I started out so fast.  I wanted to target 11:30-12:00 minute miles the entire race, but I ran the first three miles in less than 33 minutes, which is fast for me.  I knew I couldn’t keep up that pace, but I was scared to slow down too much.  I decided to stop thinking and just run.

Despite running this race several times, it did come with a first: I had to stop during the race to pee!  I’ve never done that before and I wasn’t sure if it was going to totally throw me off or not.  I stopped at the 5K mark and let me tell you, it was WELL worth it.  When in doubt, use the loo.  Just sayin.

Honestly, the rest of the race was pretty unremarkable for me.  My legs were tight and my nose was running faster than my legs. I decided the best thing to do was just keep moving and enjoy it.  I made small talk with some of the other people walking and kept moving as fast as I felt like going. I eventually crossed the finish line around 2:56.

It definitely wasn’t my best race, but it was nowhere near my worst.  I’m slightly discouraged because my October half (The Blue Grey Half in Gettysburg) is really hilly from what I’ve heard but I’ll just keep working on it.  I’m just happy to be done and I can’t wait until next year!

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I still get excited when I get a finisher’s medal…probably because I still can’t believe I finish!

What do you do when you have a bad race?  Do you have any suggestions for running a hilly half-marathon??

If an avocado and hummus had a baby.

I actually set them up on Friday night and they did have a baby.

My friend Anne was nice enough to have our usual group of girls over for a movie night.  We’re all trying to save money and the best way to do that as a 20-something living in the city is to not go to a bar, and with Maggie doing her long runs on Saturday and me running the Rock and Roll Half on Sunday, we weren’t up for a wild and crazy night.

We did a BYOB/BYOA thingy which is my favorite kind of night, especially since my friends are such good cooks!  Maggie made us some healthy chicken nuggets (light breading, no oil, baked) and Anne made what be my new favorite app….buffalo cauliflower! I mean, it’s not wings, but you can pretend.

My contribution was Spinach and Avocado Cannellini Bean Hummus from my favorite foodie, Anne and Fannetastic Food.  I love avocados and I love hummus, but I was a little worried this wouldn’t have much taste or it would just taste like blended spinach.  Luckily, it didn’t!  And it’s so simple.

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The avocado was definitely ripe but I had a hard time getting it off the pit. Does anyone else have that problem or am I just bad at avocado?

All you need is a can of cannellini beans, half a ripe avocado, a lemon, spinach, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  I used a food processor, but I feel like all you need is elbow grease and you could do it with a masher or something else.  Get creative.

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Am I excited about how healthy the dip is? Or am I excited about cooking in a normal sized kitchen?

I combined everything in the food processor and poured it into a bowl.  Literally.  That’s it.  BOOM.  You just made your friends a healthy dip.  We ate it with pita chips, celery, and carrots but I also would have eaten it with a spoon.

We never actually watched a movie because we were too busy talking, but nevertheless nights like that are my favorites.

What do you do when you’re trying to save money but still want to have fun?  What’s your favorite dish to bring to a night in at a friend’s house?