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Yesterday, I posted a healthy pizza recipe, but perhaps you’re not a pizza fan, have a gluten allergy/intolerance or want a lower calorie option. So I bring you egg or breakfast “pizza” – essentially like a frittata, with all the delicious possibilities of “toppings,” but without all the carbs.

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I use a silicon round baking dish, spray with non-stick cooking spray or grease with a little olive oil, put whatever veggies/other ingredients I want to use in the dish (pictured above – layer of fresh spinach, chopped mushrooms, shredded tuscan kale, sliced cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese, fresh dill), then pour in the eggs (today I used egg whites – it’s okay if the egg mixture is below the level of the veggies, just try to pour the egg evenly over the veggies so that they are coated), sprinkle with salt and pepper and pop in the oven (400 degrees F for ~20/25min, like with the pizza the center will take the longest to cook, should be firm but fluffy). Adjust the thickness/quantity of egg depending on if you’re cooking for 1 or 2 people.

Slice it up like a pizza and serve with a side of fruit salad for a nicely balanced breakfast (or lunch or dinner)! Each slice is also great topped with avocado slices and/or wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Great Sunday morning meal to fuel my mid-day run – thank goodness it’s finally “warmed up” today to slightly above freezing!

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Sadly, the frigid weather continues in NYC, with yet more polar vortex temps and another snow storm today. I’m thankful it’s not as bad as Boston, but still – I’m OVER IT! Especially since all I hear about from my family in California is how unseasonably warm and gorgeous it is right now. I mean come on, people swimming in the Pacific in Santa Cruz in February?!

I entered a 4M NYRR race in Prospect Park this morning but couldn’t motivate myself to get out of bed early this morning. It was the first time I’ve not shown up to a race – but to be fair, going all the way to Brooklyn for a 4 miler in this weather just didn’t seem worthwhile. To make up for it, I allowed myself to sleep in (much needed) and then E and went on an enlarged “loop” of Central Park, from Stuy Town to the East 60th street park entrance, around the park (plus an extra reverse Harlem Hill loop), back downtown and ending at TJ’s for our weekly shop. It was COLD – as in my hand warmers and two pairs of gloves felt useless and I thought I was getting frostbite COLD – but fitness wise, I felt strong and it was reassuring to know that I’ve been able to somewhat maintain my endurance since my longer runs this past Fall. My speed is another story…I did my first treadmill run of the year last week with some 1min x 8 intervals at 9mph, and it was surprisingly difficult!

By the time we got home, we were freezing, starving and in need of a filling, hot, delicious meal. We often make eggs post-run, and I had some pizza dough in the fridge, so I decided to do a twist on Florentine pizza (egg, spinach, cheese), which I’ve had in restaurants and LOVE. I make pizza all the time with a wide variety of veggie, meat and/or cheese toppings, but this one was so awesome that I decided to finally do a pizza recipe post! Here are a few other pizza variations I’ve made in the past (chicken sausage/veg/feta, cherry tomato/veg/mozzarella, zucchini/veg/feta).

IMG_5796  Pizza night Fresh out of the oven

This one isn’t so much a recipe as a choose your own adventure type of meal. I always use a rainbow of veggies and some cheese, but the rest varies depending on my mood. The (+) stands for whatever you want to include to make the pizza a bit more exciting (and ideally, to boost the protein content) – for example, chicken sausage, eggs, a different cheese, pesto or tomato sauce as a base, etc. I also like to think of the (+) as standing for extra nutritious – obviously you make this whatever you want it to be, but it has the potential to provide a ton of vitamins, minerals and fiber from all the veggies and whole wheat dough, lean protein and a little fat. I love Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough, as it is fast and easy to use, cheap, nutritious, and freezes nicely, but you can certainly make your own or use another brand.

If you use TJ’s, one ball of dough is enough for 2 thin crust pizzas (1 pizza = 8 slices –> feeds two people), which I recommend if you’re trying to keep the calories under control with all the toppings (and if you’re like me and want to save room for a little wine and dessert). If you’re feeling especially hungry, try pairing with a side salad and make sure you include a protein topping to make it a filling and balanced meal. Here are some before and after shots of today’s pie {cage-free large eggs, goats cheese, zucchini, kale, spinach, light shredded mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion, TJ’s quinoa pesto as a base}.

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Ingredients

Whole wheat pizza dough (½ of TJ’s dough ball)
A little flour to work with the dough
Cheese of choice (I like TJ’s shredded fancy light mexican blend, goats cheese, and/or feta)
Sauteed veggies of choice (My favorites: shallots, red onion, spinach, kale, sundried tomato, cherry tomato, zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, eggplant)
Olive oil (to cook veggies)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Possible (+)  items: Chicken or regular sausage, eggs, pesto (TJ’s quinoa pesto is amazing as a base), tomato sauce, other meat/soy/other toppings of choice

Directions

  1. Let pizza dough sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  3. Chop/sautee your toppings of choice (veggies, sausage, etc) – make sure the veggies aren’t too watery to get a nice, crisp pizza (tip – don’t crowd the sauté pan to prevent from steaming and thus getting soggy)
  4. Flour work surface and hands, then stretch the dough outwards into a small circle, place in greased pizza pan and stretch further to fit the pan (I use a metal pan as pictured above – I haven’t found pizza stones to be any better). If the dough shrinks back slightly keep stretching it until it stays (starting to put the toppings on helps too).
  5. If you’re using pesto or tomato sauce as a base, put that on first. Then put a layer of cheese if using (I sprinkle on a thin layer of shredded cheese). Evenly spread veggie toppings (and meat if using) next. Then finish off with another sprinkle of shredded cheese and/or little pieces of other cheese (e.g. feta, goats cheese, ricotta etc). If you’re using eggs, crack 1-3 eggs on top of the pizza (spaced apart evenly if more than 1).
  6. Place in oven for ~12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the pizza to make sure the edges don’t get burned (they should be crispy and nicely browned) and to check the progress of the eggs. In my oven, 15min was perfect for the eggs – whites cooked but yolk still slightly runny. Sometimes the middle cooks more slowly than the edges (perhaps a downside of the pizza pan vs pizza stone)
  7. Take out of the oven, cut into 8 slices, and enjoy!

Yield: 1 pizza, 8 slices

Serving size: 4 slices

Another week, another batch of granola!

It’s insanely cold this week in NYC, so I needed to add a little kick to this week’s recipe. It’s a twist on my ginger coconut granola – this time with slightly larger chunks of chopped uncrystallized ginger, which gives this recipe a more potent ginger flavor. The chunks are quite large and the chopped pieces are very sticky, but I discovered that if you massage them with a little coconut oil, they are easier to separate and intersperse throughout the other ingredients. The oil also allows the ginger to get a little crispy on the outside while remaining chewy on the inside when you bake it (although you will only get this texture once the granola cools).

I also used a wider variety of nuts/seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chopped pecans, sliced almonds) and coconut flakes. I kept the maple syrup, oats, cinnamon, vanilla and salt the same, but barely used any coconut oil this time (just a tiny splash in the maple syrup mixture). I think it’s my favorite version yet…even crunchier, spicier, bolder and more addictive! It’s also a bit closer to the version that I love from Borough Market (Mini Magoo).

Here are the before and after baking shots. You’ll know the granola is ready when the oats are nice and crispy and the coconut flakes are nicely browned (stir frequently to make sure they don’t burn). I made a larger batch today as I’m sending half of it to my sister in California – makes a great homemade “just because I love you” gift! I also included nutrition facts on this recipe (see below).

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Stay warm folks – E and I layered up big time and managed to knock out 14M for our Valentine’s Day long run yesterday, but with today’s sub-zero temps, I think it’s a lazy indoor day for us!

Ginger Coconut Granola (Version 2)

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp coconut oil
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/8 cup flax seeds
Generous pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped uncrystallized candied ginger (lightly coat knife blade in oil to help with stickiness)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  2. Combine dry ingredients except for ginger in large bowl (use more or less of the various nuts/seeds as desired)
  3. Whisk together maple syrup, salt, vanilla and coconut oil in small bowl
  4. Pour wet into dry mixture and combine so that it is evenly distributed
  5. Massage chopped ginger pieces (which are likely stuck together) with a tiny bit of coconut oil using your fingers and separate pieces before adding to mixture
  6. Spread mixture onto parchment lined cookie sheet (or use foil brushed lightly w/ oil)
  7. Bake for 15 min, stir mixture, then bake for three 10 minute intervals in between stirring until oats are crunchy; if you see the coconut flakes browning but oats are not yet crunchy enough, you may want to stir every 5min to make sure it doesn’t burn
  8. Remove from oven and let cool completely
  9. Store in an airtight container

Yield: 6 cups granola

Serving size: 1/4 cup

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Okay, perhaps Granola Sunday isn’t a thing…but I seem to be in some sort of a homemade granola phase! I also am majorly procrastinating writing a paper, and what better way to do that than a nice LONG hot yoga class followed by some baking. Clearly, I’m a very productive procrastinator.

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My ginger coconut granola was so delicious (and sadly now eaten) that I wanted to try a different variation this week. I loved the kick of the ginger, but thought I’d go for something a bit more mellow. I settled on sliced almonds, chopped pecans and dried cranberries, along with vanilla and cinnamon. Like last time, I used maple syrup (only 1/4 cup, since I made a smaller batch), flax seeds, rolled oats and a splash of virgin coconut oil. It turned out great – both crunchy and chewy, lightly sweetened, and delicious with my morning greek yogurt. It’s a great source of fiber, whole grains, unsaturated fats, and calcium (from the almonds). Mixed into my yogurt, it helps to keep me full and sustain my energy levels throughout the morning (which I really need if I am ever going to write this paper…). Enjoy!

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Cranberry Nut Crunch Granola

Ingredients

2 cups rolled oats
1/8 cup flax seeds
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/8 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1-2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven 325 degrees
2. Whisk together maple syrup, salt, vanilla and coconut oil in small bowl
3. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl
4. Pour wet into dry mixture and mix together so that it is evenly distributed
5. Spread mixture onto parchment lined cookie sheet (or use foil brushed lightly w/ oil)
6. Bake for 15 min, stir mixture, then bake for 2-3 10 minute intervals in between stirring until oats are crunchy (total cook time of ~45 minutes)
7. Remove from oven and let cool completely
8. Store in an airtight container

While I lived in London several years ago, I used to go to Borough market at least once or twice a week, as it was just a short walk from my flat off of Bermondsey street. I had my favorite vendors of course, but what I enjoyed most was wandering all around while sipping my Monmouth coffee and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the market, ideally before the hordes of tourists arrived and often after a long run along the Thames. It’s is one of the things about London that I miss the most, aside from all my favorite running routes along the river and in the parks. I like the Union Square Greenmarket, but it lacks the character, history and culinary diversity found in Borough Market.

It was a huge treat to find myself back in Borough market after a three year hiatus during my recent trip to Europe over the holidays. After a few days in Amsterdam and before heading to Paris, E and I spent a lovely, nostalgic week in London wandering everywhere and visiting all our old (mostly food-related) haunts. Whoever says London doesn’t have good food clearly doesn’t know where to go! Just a few of my favorites – pretty much any vendor in Borough Market, St. John’s Bread and Wine (best bread EVER + extremely English fare, Spitalfields), La Boca Dilupo (awesome Italian, Picadilly), The Garrison (cozy gastro pub on Bermondsey St, London Bridge), The Providores (great, casual tapas on ground floor, Marylebone High St), Metro Pizza (meter long insanely delicious pizza, Notting Hill and Battersea)…and SO many more.

Pizza shark, Metro Pizza (London) St John's Bread & Wine The Garrison

Borough market was beautifully renovated since I last visited. It felt great to be back, despite the pouring rain, especially because we were STARVING! We were staying in a hotel down the street (part of the nostalgia tour required staying in our old ‘hood, obviously) and had just finished a 90-minute hot yoga class at our old yoga studio near London Bridge.

Borough Market reunion Heavenly chorizo sandwich papardelle with tomatoes and mushrooms 

First stop was caffeine – my Monmouth cappuccino was delicious and as always, worth the long wait in line (rain never deters Monmouth coffee drinkers). Directly across from Monmouth is Brindisa, where we devoured a double chorizo sandwich with roasted red pepper and rocket (E was upset that I made us share one…but hey, we had a lot more food ahead of us). My favorite pasta vendor, La Tua Pasta, moved to a permanent covered location near the ostrich/rare meat vendor, around the corner from Brindisa. I used to buy their chestnut pappardelle every week to cook with roasted tomatoes, shitake mushrooms and white truffle oil (great pre-long run dinner), but since we didn’t have a kitchen, we got their cooked pumpkin tortelloni to eat there (delicious). We visited the Comte cheese stand (my favorite cheese of all time) and bought a big chunk to eat later on. The Tomato Stall was still there – their oak roasted tomatoes are like crack, SO good in pastas or paired with cheese. We got the garlic version to have with our cheese. Dessert was a Portuguese egg custard tart. I think we must have dropped 50 quid in less than 20 minutes (not to mention the calories ingested). It certainly is a pricey/dangerous market!

The Tomato Stall, Borough Market Portuguese egg custard tarts granola

One of our splurges was a massive bag of ginger granola by Mini Magoo. They have tons of different flavors and products (mostly low sugar/oil); this one is nice as its lightly sweetened, nice and crunchy with various seeds, tiny specs of ginger, whole almonds and dried coconut flakes. I love it in greek yogurt or with almond milk.

We somehow managed to resist opening the bag for the rest of our trip and brought it home to enjoy. Sadly, we just finished it and I wanted to see if I could create my own variation based on their ingredient list. I used maple syrup instead of agave, left out the whole almonds and coconut flakes, added a touch of coconut oil, added cinnamon and vanilla, and crystallized ginger chopped into the smallest pieces I could manage (I would love to know how they get their ginger pieces so tiny and crunchy, as mine were chewy and bigger).

Ginger coconut granola crunch crunch crunch close up

It tastes different but turned out great – crunchy, slightly sweetened, and full of whole grains, fiber, and healthy fats. It’s also gluten free and vegan (in case you care). I love it by itself, mixed with yogurt and fruit (+ almond butter, as I add that to everything), or simply with milk. The nice part about this recipe is that it’s extremely easy to make and can be adjusted to what you like – substitute different nuts/seeds, use different spices, substitute ginger for dried cranberries etc. I’m sure it would also work without the oil or with different sweeteners.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, we helped offset our two and a half weeks of complete gluttony with an average of 5-10 miles per day of walking to see the city sights plus 3-4 beautiful (COLD) runs around Amsterdam/London/Paris per week…THAT is how we do Europe! (I know – I’m a dietitian – but hey, we need vacations and love to enjoy our food too!)

Ginger coconut granola

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil (In its liquid form)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/8 cup sunflower seeds
1/8 cup flax seeds
Pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Directions

1. Preheat oven 325
2. Whisk together maple syrup, salt and coconut oil in small bowl
3. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl
4. Pour wet into dry mixture and mix together so that it is evenly distributed
5. Spread mixture onto parchment lined cookie sheet (or use foil brushed lightly w/ oil)
6. Bake for 15 min, stir mixture, then bake for 2-3 10 minute intervals in between stirring until oats are crunchy (mine took a total cook time of ~45 minutes)
7. Remove from oven and let cool completely
8. Store in an airtight container

(Click here for printer friendly recipe)

To finish things off, a few more photos of our adventures in Europe!

Steaming hot pretzel in an Amsterdam night market  Pigeon graffiti, Amsterdam (?!)

Amsterdam  Beautiful Tower Bridge in all its glory Run!! East London  Chelsea Potter pub (where I met E)

Banana nutella crepe, Ile St Louis  The Mont Blanc at Angelina's in Paris

Le Penseur Playing with statues in Paris

Giant Lindor truffle Local memorial in residential Paris

My last evening in Santa Cruz has finally arrived. I’ve checked into my flight, finished packing my bags, said goodbye to my family, friends and favorite places and am now trying to come to terms with the fact that it’s all really about to happen, after so many months of planning and preparation! I keep forgetting that I’m actually leaving for good tomorrow – it’s only been four and a half months since I left London for California, but it feels a lot longer. Although I’ve been traveling for much of that time, I’ve grown quite used to being based here, close to my family and with so many beautiful destinations at my fingertips. At least the unusual and long streak of gorgeous, warm weather is due to end next week – rainy California isn’t nearly as bad as East Coast winter, but still – makes leaving slightly less bittersweet!

I’ve been feeling a bit more sadness than excitement these last few days, but I know that will change once I arrive in NYC. In fact, it has already started to change – paying my first tuition bill and buying my textbooks this morning was a major wake-up call! It’s definitely time – time to leave my California bubble, live on my own again and move forward with my life and career. Not to say that I’ve just been sitting on my butt this whole time – I’ve accomplished a lot and have been very busy – but I’m also very aware that I haven’t quite been living in the “real world.” I’m grateful to have parents who are so supportive of my career change and my decision to take time off from work while applying to grad school, and I’m also fortunate to have had a good chunk of time off to spend with my family and have some fun before diving back in again. It’s been a good run but I’m ready get going!

  

Speaking of which, I had a wonderful last run on the beach yesterday – 6M including 5M of fartlek (I still can’t quite get myself to do structured speedwork yet, even though I should be preparing for the NYC half…) – and today I did 10M in Nisene Marks at 9:41 average pace and 1,030ft elevation gain. The weather was glorious and I felt strong at the end of both runs – it was a great way to say goodbye to two of my favorite spots in Santa Cruz! I mean, check out that afterglow!!

About halfway up the mountain today, I stopped and listened to the forest for a few minutes. I’m not going to be able to get any real peace and quiet for a long time and Nisene has really become a special place for me since I moved back here, so I wanted to make sure I fully appreciated it. All I could hear was the babbling of the creek and my own breath – it was nice to take a moment to meditate on all the wonderful things that I’ve experienced recently, and all of the exciting things that are about to happen!

Today’s run also taught me that although I am not a fast runner right now, I’ve become a lot stronger due to regular trail running and hiking. I was climbing the tough part of the Fire Road today at a steady, comfortable pace and was surprised when I passed several cyclists and then remained on the tail of several others who were going at a pretty good clip for nearly a mile. They kept trying to shake me and then finally commented, “wow, you’re fast!” It made me feel good, considering my lack of speed training and the fact that I’ve gained eight pounds since running Portland. I’d like to think some of it is muscle (perhaps a small fraction is), but the reality is that most of it is from November – January indulgences. It’s okay though – I’ve enjoyed my aimless training and all the wonderful food I’ve consumed! I know that I’ll be able to shed the unwanted weight once I get back to walking everywhere, begin more structured training and have my own kitchen again, without so many holiday goodies everywhere. Besides, I was only following Scott Jurek’s advice (well, save for the no running part…)…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I wrapped up my California goodbye by watching one last sunset at the cliffs overlooking my local beach – it was so beautiful and the perfect sendoff.

 

My flight leaves at noon tomorrow. I’ve found a nice sublet not too far from campus which begins as soon as I arrive (such a huge relief), and I have an entire week to get settled before classes begin. I’ve already made plans to hang out with several friends (many of whom live close to my sublet) and I’m looking forward to the various NYU grad student orientation sessions that are taking place. I’m so thankful to already be familiar with the city from my three years living there and to have such a large social network in place so I can focus on adjusting to everything else!

So, goodbye California and hello New York City. It is time and I am ready!

Happy (belated) New Year! I just finished up another wonderful California visit with E, who flew in from London on New Year’s Eve and returned this past Sunday. It’ll be my turn to fly in four days, when I move to NYC and begin grad school shortly thereafter. Starting a year filled with so much change – for both of us – wouldn’t have felt right without him by my side. I’m grateful that we were able to take full advantage of my last moments in Santa Cruz and kick off 2012 with a few more adventures!

As usual, our days were packed with beautiful trail runs and hikes and tons of amazing food, with a bit of relaxation thrown in here and there. Every day or two I experienced something special that I wanted to share, such as our blissful New Year’s Day in Santa Cruz, our exhausting but EPIC trip to Yosemite, our 14 mile run in Nisene the following day, our day trip to St. Helena (Napa) and many unforgettable meals throughout the week. However, the incredible (January?!) weather and the fact that we were constantly on the go left very few opportunities for computer work, and those spare moments were better spent enjoying each other’s company. Anyone else who is in a long distance relationship surely understands that!

In other words, I have a lot of catching up to do on FFR! I’ll power through the highlights, and for those of you who don’t feel like reading, I’ve included plenty of photos for your viewing pleasure.

After a fun, low-key NYE spent at my friend’s house, E and I woke up to one of the most beautiful days we’ve had in months – 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. It was hard to believe it was January 1st! I had done my long run the previous day, but Sunday still meant pancakes were on the menu. My Dad made a delicious batch of his gluten-free banana pecan pancakes, which we enjoyed out on the deck.

  

It would’ve been a crime to be indoors, so we all went for a 4+ mile walk on my local beach in the afternoon, and returned later in the day to catch a colorful sunset. I also took E for a relaxing 6M run the next morning at low tide. I love my beach – can’t get enough of it – and E was in heaven after many months of sun deprivation!

Since we had already visited Big Sur and San Francisco in September, we decided to spend a couple days in Yosemite and join my family for a day trip to St. Helena (with an overnight in Concord) later in the week. E had never been to Yosemite before as an adult, while I’ve been twice – once in June about 11 years ago (peak season, packed with tourists, and extremely hot – stayed in a platform tent in Curry Village), and another time in September about five years ago (slightly off season but still busy, mixed weather – backpacked and camped along the trail but had to leave early to escape an unexpected blizzard). Both trips bring back great memories, but my visit with E was particularly unique due to the unseasonably warm and dry weather and the lack of crowds. We certainly got the best of both worlds!

Temperatures were a bit chilly in the mornings and evenings, but they peaked in the high 60s and felt even warmer in the sun. Nearly all the roads and trails were open (except for Half Dome) because there hadn’t been any rain or snow for over a month. I realize that this isn’t good for the park, but the sunshine and perfectly clear blue skies made for incredible hiking conditions – great views and no slipping on ice! Because it was off-season, we were able to book the night before we left (usually, you have to reserve months in advance) and the lower prices meant that we could stay at Yosemite Lodge. I love to camp but it was a nice change to sleep in a warm, clean bed! Our hotel was full, the restaurants were relatively busy and there were a fair number of people roaming around the valley, but you could hardly call it crowded compared to my previous visits. There weren’t many cars in the park or on Hwy 140 and we saw very few hikers on the trails, so at times it felt like we had the place to ourselves. It was refreshing to finally experience Yosemite as it should be experienced – without tour buses, traffic and hordes of hikers everywhere you turn!

   

We arrived in the early afternoon after 4+ hours of driving and decided to continue all the way up to Glacier Point. I had forgotten just how far away it was, but I thought it would be a lovely picnic spot for lunch (it was – very quiet, spectacular views) and once we had already committed 30 minutes we didn’t want to turn back! We checked out Bridal Veil falls (very little water) in the late afternoon on the way to checking into our hotel, then relaxed by the fire in the Awahnee hotel (the main room is beautiful) and had a nice dinner back at the Mountain Room near Yosemite Lodge. FYI, food is very overpriced in the park, so if you visit I recommend bringing things for breakfast (I brought instant oatmeal, bananas and almond butter) as well as snacks and lunch for hikes if possible (I brought sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, granola bars, fruit etc.). The cafeteria at the Lodge has hot water and utensils, and rooms have fridges, so it is really easy to save money this way and ensure you have something healthy and nutritious to eat!

  

Our hotel was a ten minute walk to the Upper Yosemite Falls/Yosemite Point trail head, so we opted to make this our main hike of the trip. We set out at 7:15am – it was cold but given that this trail involves nonstop climbing for several hours, we warmed up very quickly, particularly once the sun started to shine in the valley.

We stopped at the Yosemite Falls overlook (we found a nice flat rock, set away from the railings with insane views) for some lunch in the late morning. My avocado and cheese sandwiches on honey whole wheat bread were pretty tasty after all our hard work! We had passed a few people on our way up, but we didn’t see anybody for the 30-45 minutes we spent at what is usually one of Yosemite’s busiest attractions. By this point, the sun was quite strong, and we enjoyed a nice long sunbath before continuing our journey. Simply amazing.

   

Last time I hiked up here, I turned around at the falls. It was blisteringly hot, extremely crowded and sticking my feet in the cool river just beyond the overlook seemed like a good ending point. Yosemite Point is an additional mile (bringing our total to about 10 miles roundtrip, with 3,000 ft of elevation gain, probably double in net gain) and was well worth the additional effort. We hit an icy patch across the bridge, which was the only tricky, wintery part of our hike. I decided to slide down on my butt and nearly fell into the bushes/partially frozen river, but thankfully E caught me at the bottom. The rest of the trail was forested and beautiful, with patches of ice and snow on either side until we reached the actual point, which was all stone, exposed and extremely warm.

 

We would’ve loved to have continued further towards North Dome, but we were running low on water and thus decided to end our hike here. We found this amazing rock towards the edge of the Point (slightly scary, but not dangerous) with two big holes that made the perfect seats! We sat in our little holes, which secured us safely into the rock, side by side for at least 45 minutes, enjoying the silence (there was no one up there – only one person passed by briefly), the sunshine and the views.

   

This was by far my favorite part of our trip – I’ve been pretty stressed out lately, but up on that rock, my stress melted away. All that mattered to me in that moment was spending time with the man I love, feeling the sun on my skin and staring out into the valley. Next time I feel anxious, I am going to close my eyes and imagine I am back at Yosemite Point with E, sitting in that rock. It’s my new place of calm. Problems become insignificant when you’re up in the mountains, so far removed from everything and faced with so much natural beauty.

It took awhile to motivate ourselves to get up, but once we did, we checked out the other side of the Point to get some different views. I made a little rock pile to celebrate our wonderful start to 2012 and all of the challenging but exciting things coming our way!

   

The way back down was pretty challenging – the trail was practically all downhill on rocks (too technical to run down, for the most part), and it was very hot. We didn’t bring nearly enough water, so we were feeling dehydrated and tired. Nevertheless, the views were amazing and we had a great time – I always love my adventures with E! We really are incredible travel companions. The best part was getting to the bottom and having beer, hot chocolate and ice cream sandwiches, followed by hot showers, passing out by the Awahnee fireplace and a nice big dinner! I know camping is a bit more authentic, but it was pretty awesome returning to a comfy bed and some trashy TV after such a long day.

   

Our day two hike was slightly less strenuous, given that we had to check out of the hotel at 12:30pm and drive back to Santa Cruz. However, we still managed about 8 miles of hiking and 2,000 ft of elevation gain (far more in net gain) up to Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail. I was dying to do a loop – out on the Mist Trail and back (slightly longer route) via the John Muir trail, but given our time constraints, we decided to do an out and back instead.

  

We drove to a parking lot near the trail head and started our hike at 7:45am – it was even quieter than the previous day! We saw one guy for only a couple minutes throughout our entire ascent – it was so dead it was almost creepy, especially since the entire hike was shaded – but then small groups of hikers started to emerge as we made our way back down. As with Yosemite Falls, it was a strange and wonderful experience to be able to enjoy what is normally a VERY crowded trail in such a peaceful way!

   

It was also pretty amazing to see Vernal Falls – a wall of water during my last visit – so dry. As a result, the “Mist” trail was not only fully open, but it was not misty at all! I was actually very grateful for this, since it was colder our second day (so cold at the top of Nevada Falls that we turned around almost immediately) and I was afraid that the stone steps, which are normally wet, would be very icy. Thankfully, every inch of the trail was dry, although there was plenty of snow and ice in the rivers and around the falls.

   

Coming back via the Mist trail meant that we had some extra time to take photos (we were going pretty fast on the way up, since we weren’t sure how long it would take us). We also ran the last mile or so back to the trail head given it was on pavement and felt easier on our legs, which by this point were feeling pretty trashed! It was fun to speed past various hikers giving us crazy looks.

After a nice hot shower and some hot chocolate, we left the park and had a lovely lunch in Mariposa at the Deli Garden. I highly recommend this place – super cute, friendly owners and a wonderful patio if the weather is nice! We enjoyed a sun bath as we devoured our sandwiches – felt good to relax for a bit before the long journey back home.

 

The photos above are only a fraction of what we took (and I got some really great shots) – check out the rest of my Yosemite album here.

Although we woke up feeling somewhat broken on Friday morning, we decided to head to Nisene Marks around noon to go for a run. I know, crazy right? But after all that hiking, we were actually craving something long and slow, and the weather was far too nice not to be outside. We were only planning to do do 10ish (we drove into the park to cut out the relatively boring initial miles) but the trails were so awesome that we became fixated on reaching Sand Point overlook. I had only been there once back when I did a long NYC marathon training run, and was dying to show it to E. It ended up being slightly further away than I remembered…whoops! E was a bit grumpy in the last miles but was a real trooper.

 

Surprisingly, we had an awesome run – 13.75M in 2:22 – and finished feeling strong, perhaps aided by the fact that two lovely rest days awaited us! I wish I had a photo of the trails towards the top and in particular, the views of the redwoods and the ocean from Sand Point, but we opted to leave our cameras behind. All I have is two tired, sweaty but happy runners back at the trail head – and our post-run lunch!

 

I made this pizza using Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough (which I had always wanted to try), mozzarella and a variety of grilled vegetables. It was cheap, delicious, healthy and easy to make – this is definitely going in my poor grad student cook book!

On Saturday, we left Santa Cruz early in the morning with my parents to pick up my sister, brother-in-law and niece in Concord and drive up to St. Helena, in Napa Valley. We were celebrating my sister’s and mom’s birthdays with a day of wine tasting, a bit of shopping/wandering around town and two incredible meals (lunch at Market and dinner at La Condesa). It was a lot of time in the car, especially having just done Yosemite, but we had a lovely day together and I’m glad I was able to spend some time with my family before moving to NYC. Elisia looked like a little doll in her French outfit! It’s impossible not to be obsessed with her when she is around.

   

Check out my full set of NYE, Santa Cruz and St. Helena photos HERE.

We stayed the night in Concord, which gave us some much-needed time to relax before E caught his flight Sunday afternoon. It was sad to say goodbye yet again, but our fabulous week together will carry us through until our next visit. We’re aiming for NYC or London sometime in early/mid February…

Now that my blissful week with E is over, it’s time to bring my focus back to my upcoming move. I still can’t believe that it’s all about to happen! I’m excited but it’s also overwhelming, particularly dealing with all the logistics. Thankfully, everything seems to be coming together, albeit slowly. Last week was a good reminder that when I start to stress out, I need to step back and put things in perspective! I’m so grateful to have such a loving family and so many friends to support me through this next phase of my life.

A frightening number of changes are coming my way, but if the first eight days of January are any indicator, this year is going to be epic! My Jan. 1st SF Chronicle horoscope, at least, seems to be on the right track…

Portland Marathon week 12 was a relatively big training week (37.3M), as was week 11 (30.8M). Now that I’m well into week 13, my legs are REALLY feeling it…

Typically, I would never increase my mileage for weeks on end, as I’ve been doing since I started to run again post-injury about six and a half weeks ago. Also, I usually avoid bumping up my mileage from week to week by as much as I have been doing in the last few weeks (7.5 – 10M increases). Instead, I try to build gradually for three to four weeks, and then cut back on my long run to allow my body to recover, and avoid 10M jumps.

So why have I not been following my own advice? Well, with so little time to train for Portland, I didn’t feel that I had time for cut-back weeks. I know that’s dangerous reasoning – the goal is to reach the start line feeling strong and fresh, but in order to feel strong and fresh, I have to both train and rest sufficiently! I’ve been toeing the line between over-training and hitting a healthy maximum (relative to where I’m at with my injury – compared to what I was doing in my last training cycle, my mileage has been low). I’ve been trying to be careful, but I admit that on many days I have purposely overstepped that line because I wanted to complete a run, which isn’t smart. After struggling through several speed sessions recently (for example, my VO2 interval session last Wednesday, my threshold intervals yesterday, and my MP 6-miler this morning), I know my legs just aren’t getting enough recovery time from my usual one or two rest days to give me the high quality sessions I’m demanding of them. Too much overloading, not enough backing off.

This morning, in particular, was tough – I remember killing a MP run on the beach last year, perfectly pacing 5M starting at 8:15 down to just under 8:00. Today, however, for my 3M @ 8:30, 3M @ 8-8:15, I was fighting to hit 8:30 for the first half, and then just barely managed to up the pace on the way back. I was ready to keel over by the end of this run – it was challenging last year too (running MP on sand, even packed, is hard!), but I shouldn’t have been that fatigued. I thought – maybe – since I’ve lost a few pounds in the last couple of weeks, that I should be a bit faster, so running MP wouldn’t be as difficult, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Hopefully once I give myself some proper time off, during the taper and after the race, I will see the benefits (if I can keep off the pounds, that is!).

At least I’m looking more athletic! I’ve tried multiple times to slim down this year, without much success, so I’m really pleased with my (unintentional) progress in that area. It’s often when I finally stop focusing on it that it actually happens! I’ve been eating as I normally do, but not snacking as much since I’ve been so busy running around doing a billion things rather than sitting bored at my desk, and of course I have been training more, so it makes sense. It’s such a pleasant surprise though, since I gained weight (partly muscle of course) when I trained for my last two marathons, and I almost always gain weight when I go home, since I drive more/walk less.

Anyway, I plan to keep my 18 miler in the schedule for this weekend – just going to try to get through it as best as I can, without worrying too much about pace (at least it’s not on crazy trails this time). However, this morning confirmed that unless I miraculously start to feel better, I need to cancel my 20 miler the following weekend. I wanted to try to squeeze one last long run in two weeks from the race, to boost my confidence levels, but I think it will end up doing more harm than good. Better to just do a “short” long run of 10 miles and let my legs rest up for the big day.

It’s not an ideal place to stop, but it’s not like I haven’t done a marathon before! Which brings me to my race day mantra – which when I’m not simply counting to 12 in groups of 3 (matches my MP cadence perfectly), is, “I WILL do this. I CAN do this because I HAVE done this.” I say each part in counts of threes up to 12 (“this because” flows together in one set of three beats). It’s very simple, but is in line with how I feel at this stage – I may not be as fast as I’d like to be, but I know I WILL finish because I’ve completed the distance twice before. Running one more long run isn’t going to change anything dramatically!

So 18 miles will be my stopping point. I happened to plan this run for this Saturday, the morning of my 30th birthday. I know, smart move right? Then again, it makes sense in my schedule, and it certainly will justify all the amazing food (and cake!) that I will be eating throughout the day. I’ll be in so much pain (judging from 15 miler at least) that I’ll even get a head start on feeling what it’s like to be OLD! 🙂 But best of all, I’ll have a running buddy who will most likely be in more pain than me – not only because he is five years older, but also because he’ll be super jet lagged! Haha!

Yep, E is flying into SFO tonight from London for a ten-day visit, and I can’t be more excited. Although I’m keeping my actual birthday fairly low key (an intimate bbq with family and a couple close friends who live locally), I’ll be having a party up in San Francisco the following weekend. Yet another reason to skip that 20 miler – so I can devote more energy to celebrating!

Lastly, I can’t help but mention Boston 2012 – I know my chance of getting a spot with my NYC 2010 qualifying time is extremely slim, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up hope entirely just yet right?!

According to the BAA website calculator, if there are any places left, registration will open to me on September 19th at 7am California time. I know the race will most likely fill up before then, but you know what concerns me more? Even if (when!) I do qualify again with the new time of 3:35, they are maintaining the new registration process which gives priority to faster runners. That doesn’t exactly give me confidence that I’ll ever get to run from qualifying, given that it probably fills up with people who run at least 5 minutes faster than the BQ. I do feel confident that I can get a 3:30 at some stage, but the point is this: so many people run that race year after year, I wish they would give priority to those first time Boston marathoners who have worked their butt off to qualify and are dying to run! Hopefully I’ll get a spot someday…

I did!

I had a great 45-minute/5.75M fartlek run earlier today on the river. I hadn’t done fartlek training in ages, and was reminded of how liberating and fun it can be.

Unfamiliar with fartlek training?

Fartlek means “speedplay” in Swedish and is a type of interval training that was first established by coach Gösta Holmér in 1937 for his team of cross country runners. It is now a very popular technique among all runners, as well as athletes who practice many different sports.

Unlike a speed session at the track or on the treadmill, a fartlek run is characterized by its lack of structure and subjective nature. A typical run might last 45 minutes (or more), starting out with a warm up and then following the whims of the individual runner, who may choose to practice a variety of faster paces (ranging from steady to sprinting) for varying lengths of time or distances with slower recoveries interspersed throughout. A session can be relatively easy, extremely hard or somewhere in the middle, depending on what the runner wishes to do on that particular run.

What’s the best way to try out this technique?

A fartlek run can of course be done on the treadmill, but I believe it’s better (and more fun) to do this outdoors.

Start out your run with an easy or steady pace until you feel warmed up. If you’re outside, choose a landmark (a tree, bench, etc.) and run at a challenging pace until you reach it, then jog for a few minutes. Pick another goal – perhaps closer or further away, relative to the last one – and run to it (at the same, faster or slower pace, entirely up to you), then jog until you are recovered. If there are no good landmarks on your route or you are on the treadmill, then go by time.

The whole point of this run is to break free from routine, explore a wide variety of paces at different distances and to have some fun! If you’re training for a specific event and want to make your fartlek run more relevant, then you might want to include short, sharp bursts for 5/10k races and longer sections at your tempo pace for 10-milers and half-marathons.

What are the benefits of fartlek training?

I find the flexibility of this run incredibly appealing for many reasons. Firstly, fartlek gives you an opportunity to tailor your workout to how you are feeling, which is important because you should always pay close attention to any signals your body sends you. You have complete control over your speed and distance – no rules, no pressure!

It also gives you a mental break from training plans/other forms of routine without sacrificing your fitness goals (ie. if you want a tough workout, then make it challenging!). If you normally do your speed work on a treadmill or at the track, fartlek training can provide a change of scenery, which is important in preventing boredom and burnout. You’d be surprised by just how quickly the time flies when you’re constantly mixing up your pace and making it all up as you go along! It’s like playing a game – even better if you have a running partner, in which case you can take turns deciding what’s next, increasing the surprise factor.

Lastly, it’s a great way to ease into speed work if you are relatively new to interval training and would like to experiment with faster running, or if you’ve been taking a break from structured training (as I have) and want to squeeze in some speed without pushing yourself too hard too quickly.

What did I do today?

I hadn’t intended to do a fartlek run today, to be honest. I set out for what I thought would be an easy 5 miler along the river at lunchtime, but then five minutes into the run I hit a mass of obnoxious French students clogging up the pathway (a downside of lunchtime running – hordes of young kids, mostly foreign, everywhere). As I tried to get around them through a narrow passage, a kid who couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old nearly burned my leg with his cigarette as he stealthily held it by his side. Ah, the French.

I couldn’t deal and saw that we were approaching a bridge, so I sprinted up the stairs, over the bridge, down the stairs and around the front of the pack and left them in the distance. Whew. Then I thought – haven’t done speed work in awhile – that actually felt quite good! Maybe I should do that again…And so I did, followed by a series of strides, tempo intervals, steady intervals, and slow pacing all mixed up. It was quite challenging but really fun, and before I knew it, I had done nearly 6 miles!

So give fartlek a try if it isn’t already a part of your training regime – the name is a bit silly, but I bet you’ll enjoy it!

Happy Friday, everyone! I mean, how can you NOT be happy when it looks like this outside?!

It was a sad moment when I reached the office after my lovely walk to work this morning and had to part with the sunshine. Thankfully, I was able to escape for lunch and a nice stroll along the river Thames.

But I’ll stop getting distracted and get on to the main topic of this post, which is my final review of the Bodychef home delivery diet that I have been trying out this week.

It’s been hard to stay focused this afternoon (this weather makes me crave a giant ice cream and a Pimm’s), but thankfully I am nearly finished with my 5-day experiment. Yippee! Aside from my one dinner out, I have only supplemented what they have provided with some extra fruit and veg, as well as a small portion of high quality dark chocolate each day (more antioxidants!).

I’m not sure how much weight I’ve actually lost, but I’m guessing somewhere around a pound, which is right on target. More importantly, I feel great compared to Monday! I’m sure the sunshine and spring blossoms have contributed too, though…

So what’s my final verdict?

I understand that running this type of business must be extremely challenging. Think about the hundreds of distinct tastes and allergies you must try to satisfy, while providing a balanced, healthy diet using ingredients that are fresh and tasty yet cost efficient and able to last up to 5 days in the fridge. Also, everything needs to be able to fit into the box they provide, which means no large containers or bulky food items.

Nevertheless, based on my experience, my criticisms of Bodychef are as follows:

  • More balance and protein: Lunches were too small compared to the dinners, and I could’ve used more protein in general (which would have helped control my appetite). I was told when I called that lunches can be made larger and dinners smaller to correct this imbalance, so I would make this request in the future.
  • More flavor: Dinners were a bit bland, so I added cumin, fresh ginger, salt, pepper, dijon mustard etc. to spice things up a bit. Although, I guess it’s better that the food was bland rather than over-spiced!
  • More green vegetables and fresher produce: Bodychef has probably chosen certain types of food because they work best in the delivery context, and have avoided other foods because of higher costs. Regardless, I wish that they would have provided more fresh produce, particularly greens, as well as a broader selection of fruits and vegetables. Why was my one green salad for the week so tiny? Surely greens aren’t the calorie culprits! If space is a concern, place the greens in a bag rather than plastic container. I also received two tiny chopped salads for Thursday – the one for dinner tasted slightly off.  Maintaining freshness is, I assume, where many food delivery programs fall short.
  • More variety/more superfoods: This is an extension of the above. Instead of so many crackers for the dips at lunchtime, why not include some celery, bell pepper and carrot sticks? Or replace one of the two broccoli portions with kale or spinach (if we’re talking superfoods)? Or substitute a portion of red grapes with berries or pomegranate seeds? Or serve nonfat Greek yoghurt with honey rather than cheese cubes for dessert after a day that also had soft cheese and grated cheese?

Overall, however, this program has been a positive experience for me. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I’ve hit a “reset” button on my body. The program/menu was all very well organized, and most of their food tasted pretty good – I started to really like the whole cracker/spread thing for lunch, even!

Personally though, I would not want to do this for an extended period of time. I love to food shop and cook too much, and I prefer fresher, healthier and a greater variety of foods than the ones they provided. But I would certainly recommend doing a food delivery service for a week or two if you’re trying to develop healthier eating habits and want to get a better sense of portion control, and struggle to do this on your own.

Although I will not be continuing as a Bodychef customer, I do feel inspired to be my own “bodychef” over the next two weeks, before I fly to Vietnam for my next travel and culinary adventure. This weekend, aside from finally getting back into my weekly long run, I plan to do LOADS of cooking! I’m looking forward to making some of my favorites, including my Ostrich chili, quinoa herb pomegranate salad, and other good stuff, which I will then divvy up into the containers that I saved from this past week’s meals and snacks. It will be a cost and time efficient way to stay on track with my healthy eating and, in my opinion at least, far more enjoyable than doing another 5-day home delivery program.

So can I out-chef the Bodychef?

I’m pretty sure that I can do a much better job creating a menu for myself, but obviously not all of my improvements would suit the company as a whole. Either way, challenge accepted! 🙂

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

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