Mile Marker 1: Coast Guard 5K

So why am I thinking of the last 33 weeks in "Mile Markers"? 

Last summer, I decided I would do a Couch to 5K program, and I'll admit, my motivations weren't so noble. Steve has been a runner for a few years now, even doing the Chicago Marathon in 2011.  As much as he tried to convince me to run and work out, I was dead-set against running. So convinced was I that I decided to train and race, and if I hated it, at least I could say I gave it a try "so get off my back." :) 

Turns out, though, that I got hooked, and in the next eight months I would run another 5K, sign up for 2 more 5K races, the 8K Shamrock Shuffle, and register for a half marathon.

The first race I ran was the Coast Guard 5K in Grand Haven, Michigan. Up to that point, I hadn't run more than 3 miles, and that was with a 5 minute break in the middle of that training run. But I had heard about this "Race Day Bump" so I was pretty confident that I could run it beginning to end. At least that was my goal, to finish the race running. I started out at a comfortable pace, and was passed up by quite a few runners. But about halfway through, I started passing all of those folks who blasted out at the beginning. And, honestly, that felt pretty good. Then I turned a corner on the course and it became painfully clear that I was running in a coastal town built on sand dunes. But at that point, I was running near a family with two young kids, between 4-6 years old or so. And I thought to myself, "Seriously? If these kids can run up and down these hills, I can too. My lungs can handle it!" And once I came around that last  curve and ran the last mile along the shore of Lake Michigan, I was in my stride. Anything could be easy after running those dunes...

My time wasn't fabulous, but I finished running, and that was the most important thing to me.

In the 9 weeks of my training program, I had two goals - prepare for the race, and lose weight. I accomplished the first goal, but as for the second goal, I gained three pounds during training. Gained weight. While exercising. I didn't even think that was possible. 

So that's when I joined Weight Watchers. It couldn't be just diet. It couldn't be just exercise. It had to be both. And when I lost 3.8 pounds after my first week, that's when it clicked. 

So as I saw my first 3.2 miles pass in my race, this is the first mile I passed in my own journey - finishing my first race and finishing my first week on Weight Watchers. Both successfully!

Here's the plan that I followed for training - it worked for me, if this doesn't float your boat, I hope you find one that does! (I hear the Couch-2-5K apps are awesome.)

5/3 Riverbank Run 5K Training Plan

This recipe was one from my first week. You know that awesome, bubbly, gooey Spinach Artichoke Dip that you get at restaurants with chips, and you tell yourself that its healthy because it has spinach in it? Here's a lighter version that you can have for an entree! That you can make ahead! That you can freeze! Its a win-win-win-win! 

And how about a little healthy carbo-loading before a race?

Spinach Artichoke Pasta
Originally from Budget Savvy Diva, found via Pinterest

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed
13 1/2 oz frozen and thawed artichoke hearts, roughly chopped (or canned, packed in water) 
13 1/2 oz uncooked pasta (rotini, penne, etc...)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
8 oz low fat sour cream
8 oz fat free cream cheese
salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 425.

Cook pasta according to directions on the box, but 1 minute or so less, since the pasta will keep cooking in the oven during baking. Before you drain the pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

While pasta cooks, heat oil in pan and saute onions for 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, lemon zest, parmesan cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese. Stir in cooked onions and garlic. Add pasta and stir to coat. Add in spinach and chopped artichokes, 1/4 cup pasta water, salt, and pepper.

Place mixture into a greased 2.5-3 quart baking dish, or a glass 9x13 dish (I prefer this dish, as its easier to portion out). Top with shredded mozzarella cheese. 

Bake until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings

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