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Race recap: PNC Milwaukee Marathon

27 Oct

This year, things were better. Much better. This year, this race had to be better.

I approached the starting line relaxed — as relaxed as one could be after battling some hamstring tendinitis the few weeks before the race and in the face of 25 mph winds and dropping temperatures. I lined up with the 4:30 pace group and planned to stay just ahead of them as long as possible.

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The race started at 6:30 a.m., so the sun wasn’t even up yet! It also started in a new location (in the Fifth Ward, in an area known as the Reed Street Yards, just southeast of the Harley Davidson Museum campus), so we had about 3 miles under our belts before we headed north and uphill on Lincoln Memorial Drive, along the lake.

I felt surprisingly good, considering my hamstring, back-of-the-knee, and calf pain kicked in almost immediately upon running. I focused on shortening my stride and increasing my cadence as much as possible, and I think that helped not only keep the pain manageable, but also distracted me a bit, since it forced me to think about something other than the pain.

The early portion of the course is my favorite, as it takes us through familiar haunts from the lakefront over to Brady Street and down Old World Third Street.

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I continued to keep the 4:30 pace group just behind me until about 14.5 miles, somewhere along Sherman Boulevard. I also saw Christopher on this out-and-back stretch.

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The first two-thirds of the race remarkably “flew” by, considering the wind (a 25 mph headwind all the way out Wisconsin Avenue), the challenging course, and the aches and pains in my right leg.

I kept on running, feeling fairly relaxed and in control — which is paramount amidst the gritty miles (Miles 16-22).

This portion of the race takes us through the lonely Miller Valley and then onto the quiet, albeit scenic Hank Aaron Trail and through Mitchell Park, before heading back to the Reed Street Yards.

I jogged (it was a much slower run by this point) and jogged and jogged, only walking into and out of the water stops. I continued to marvel at the fact that I had made it this far, and I was still running! I kept repeating to myself, “Be brave.” I continued to remind myself that I was doing much better, physically and mentally, at this point than last year.

It was around this point — Mile 21 to 22 — that my RunKeeper went from being about a quarter of a mile ahead (measuring long, which is typical) to being about a third of a mile or more behind (measuring short). I couldn’t quite process what that meant at the time, so I relied on the mileage signs on the course, and I pressed on through Miles 24 and 25, then down the 6th Street viaduct through Mile 26.

The last two-tenths of a mile — that was it! The crowd thickened. The finish line was in sight. My body had carried me this far.

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I hustled across the finish line, exhausted, relieved, and proud. I hobbled through the muddy finish area to find Christopher, who was with my dad, and we swapped stories (Christopher finished in an incredible 3:51!) over our free beers under the cover of a pop-up coffee trailer.

We hardly stuck around, through; it was too muddy, too windy, too cold.

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Marathon No. 5 done, albeit with a couple of asterisks next to it.

The marathon course came in short for many, many runners. We all received official word Tuesday, Oct. 18, that the course was, in fact, more than three-quarters of a mile short! (The turnaround on the Hank Aaron Trail was set incorrectly.)

Even though the course was short, you can only run the course that’s given to you, so I will proudly share my 4:35 finish — it was that tough of a course on the whole, and my aches and pains were that bothersome throughout the race. I still cannot believe I powered through all that. (And even if I had to run the regulation eight-tenths of a mile more, I would have come in ahead of 4:45, and I consider that a huge victory.)

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Distance: 25.4 miles
Duration: 4:35:07
Average pace: 10:31 per mile
Through 20 miles: 3:34:14

I served as a race ambassador for the Milwaukee Marathon, so I really tried hard to support and promote the race from the day we received our marching orders. I talked about it as much as possible within the context of my social media, and I volunteered to promote it at the Rock ‘n’ Sole Half Marathon expo in June, and I staffed the information booth at the expo Saturday. I had good intentions to do more, like visit the Quad Cities running stores, speak to the Corn Belt and Rock River Road Runners, but we got majorly caught up in searching for, buying, and moving into a new house.

If we’re being honest, though, I expected more out of my role. I know ambassadors were “expected” to recruit a certain number of people to the race to receive perks, and perhaps none of us met those benchmarks…but I haven’t heard a word about my “success”. If none of us, or very few of us ambassadors met these expectations, perhaps the race organizers could have scaled them down? I would have loved an additional thank you for at least making the attempt to get behind this race…which two years in a row now has run into its own problems, and is, as a result, not making a good case as to why runners should support it as the city’s only marathon and why it could be world-class, big-city race.

I want to continue to support the Milwaukee Marathon. I want it to succeed, for my city and for this sport. I hope the new organizers take our feedback seriously, and I hope runners who felt burned give them one more chance next year.

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I am a Milwaukee Marathon race ambassador!

3 Apr

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I am thrilled to be an ambassador for the Milwaukee Marathon this year!

The running festival, which features races at all distances for all abilities and paces, is sure to be the event of the year in the City of Festivals — my beloved hometown of Milwaukee.

Register at www.runmilwaukeemarathon.com and use the promo code “KaylaRunsMKE” for a discount off the marathon, half marathon, 10K, or 5K.

It’s more than a new name, new date, and new finish line. The @mke_marathon weekend Oct. 14-15 is an opportunity to challenge yourself and run the streets of Milwaukee’s distinctive and diverse neighborhoods.

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(Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon 2016)

Join me for one of the races. I promise you’ll have an incredible experience! And I promise, I’ll be one of your biggest cheerleaders, whatever challenge you take on.

The deets:

Milwaukee Marathon (or half marathon, 10K, 5K or even 1-mile)
Oct. 14-15, 2017
www.runmilwaukeemarathon.com
Next price increase is July 1.

I’m doing the Whole30

3 Jan

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I need a reset.

I eat pretty clean most of the time, but naturally, I slack off on clean eating and workouts after big races and, like most people, around the holidays.

I felt like I was going through the motions: planning healthy meals, going to the gym, tracking everything in MyFitnessPal. I let it all slip the week leading up to Christmas and now the week in between Christmas and New Year’s.

And I’m OK with that. I believe we all need short periods of time away from the rigid tracking, the strict workouts, and even the semi-clean meals.

But I need a reset. I need to tame my sugar monster and my snack dragon. I need to amp up my workouts again. I need to be better about drinking enough water.

I want to reinvent my relationship with food. I want to clear up my skin. I want to get rid of my somewhat chronic (of late) bloating.

The Whole30 is the answer.

What is it?

The Whole30 is a 30-day clean-eating plan designed to clean up your diet and reset your cravings by cutting out foods that might be having a negative impact on your health: sugar, grains, legumes, dairy, and alcohol.

So what can you eat?

Lots and lots of protein, vegetables, and (healthy) fat. And coffee. Black coffee is allowed. (Halle-freakin’-lujah!)

And what can’t you eat?

No sugar, not even the natural stuff, and especially, no artificial sweeteners. No grains, not even the ancient ones. No beans or legumes, which means no peanuts, peanut butter, or chickpeas. No soy either. No dairy. No alcohol. No processed foods.

 

 

The Whole30 has some legit benefits–that come from eliminating, then carefully reintroducing foods that commonly cause a lot of health problems and from rebuilding your relationship with food. Consider these:

Weight loss, fewer headaches, fewer digestive problems, clearer skin, more energy, better workouts, improved sleep, fewer cravings, and a better relationship with food (i.e. more knowledge of the foods that make us feel like crap).

The Whole30 prohibits weighing yourself and tracking your calories. Its focus is on feeling good–like really, truly good–from the inside out.

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Ordinarily, I am not one to advocate for diets (or even whole lifestyles) that completely eliminate entire food groups (i.e. grains, dairy), unless it is for a specific health reason (e.g. Celiac disease, lactose intolerance). But I am fine with cleanses that last for a specific and reasonable amount of time (i.e. 30 days) and are done correctly — no shakes or supplements, just real food, quality meals, in satisfying quantities.

My friend Mindy and I, along with our incredible group at Healthy Living Blogs, are hosting a Whole30 that runs from Jan. 9 to Feb. 7.

You’ve got just enough time to prepare, and you’ll wrap up just before Valentine’s Day, so you can celebrate without feeling restricted.

We hope you’ll join us. We’ll have a private Facebook group, where participants can check in as frequently or infrequently as desired, share recipes and meal ideas, share struggles and non-scale victories, ask questions, and above all, find support and accountability. We also have a hashtag, #hlbwhole30, that you can use on social media, to help us all stick together.

Join me?

Race recap: Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon

16 Dec

It has been more than a month since Christopher and I ran the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon…

I thought I might just skip this recap. But I know I would be remiss if this recap wasn’t here in the archives.

So, here it is, abbreviated and completely from memory!

First, some notes:

My training went pretty well until about the final month.

I started getting sick Oct. 1 and cut a scheduled long run of 18 miles down to 12 miles. I felt well enough to tackle 20 miles a week later, but I experienced aches and pains through most of the run, especially from Mile 13.5 and on. I slogged through a step-back run of 13 miles Oct. 15, again with aches and pains, mostly in my left IT band. I tackled another 20 miles a week later, tired and ready to be done with training.

I started feeling really sore and fatigued the next day. I thought it was related to the long run, but I soon developed a nasty, productive cough, along with other symptoms that persisted for two weeks. I went into the doctor the Tuesday of race week to see if she could give me anything to knock it out in time for the marathon. She diagnosed me with near-pneumonia and prescribed a Z-pack of antibiotics.

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And now, the recap:

I toed the starting line feeling decent, but extremely nervous. I had not run in 2 weeks, and I had barely worked out other than my regular yoga classes and one BodyPump class. I went into it knowing it likely would be difficult, but hoping it would be wonderful after a couple of weeks of true rest for my legs.

I lined up with the 4:30 pace group and planned to stick with them as long as it felt comfortable to maintain that pace.

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Through the first several miles, I felt remarkably good. We were clocking a bit faster than our prescribed pace, but we were chatting and laughing, and I remained comfortable, so I just ignored it.

We headed north up Lincoln Memorial Drive, then back south 0n Lake Drive toward Brady Street. We ran across what is (unbeknownst to me) called the Marsupial Bridge past Lakefront Brewery and then down the brick Old World Third Street.

But around this point, I started to feel some tweaks in my knees and IT bands that, truthfully, never went away.

We ran West down Wisconsin Avenue, through the Marquette University campus, then north toward the Sherman Park neighborhood. The half marathoners turned around at the 9.5-mile mark, while the marathoners pressed on; the marathoners cross paths with each other from about Mile 11.5 to Mile 14.5 on an out-and-back stretch of Sherman Boulevard.

At about the halfway point, I started to incorporate more walking breaks. I tried to make it from aid station to aid station and just walk a bit longer leading up to and coming out of the stations.

We wound through Washington Park, then down Hawley Road toward the Miller Valley.

I saw my dad at the corner of Hawley and State, and I was sore and tired and I just threw my arms around him and lamented my pain and struggle. He told me to keep going, so I did.

The crowd of marathoners was really sparse by this point. It was very quiet and lonely, which is just terrible when you are struggling to keep your head above water.

We jogged past Miller Park and then joined the Hank Aaron State Trail for about a mile. We even did a lap around a football field just before Mile 21.

Around this point, a pair of girls sidled up along either side of me and asked if I wanted to walk and talk — and maybe run a little — with them. The three of us would go on to finish the race together, mostly walking the last 5 miles, complaining that the hills were brutal, that the course was long, that none of us was having a good race.

I saw my dad again at Mile 23 in the Third Ward.

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We pressed on past the Summerfest grounds, across Lakeshore State Park, then past Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum before we finished in Veterans Park.

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Another marathon finish in the books. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t my fastest. It wasn’t my slowest, either. (That title is reserved for my first one back in 2012.) But it was another marathon. And every single mile of the race and the training for it tells a story.

This just wasn’t my race. Maybe next year?

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It’s worth noting that the course was, in fact, almost a half-mile long. There were two errors, according to organizers, the first in the 17th mile and the second in the 20th mile. The exact amount of extra distance was 0.489583 miles. The organizers updated our times to reflect the added distance.

Distance: 26.7 miles
Duration: 5:27:03 (5:20:56 for 26.2)
Average pace: 12:14 per mile
Through 10K: 1:04:37
Through half: 2:20:59
Through 20 miles: 3:53:31

Race recap: Quad Cities Half Marathon

10 Oct

I’m back! And I have another (belated) race recap!

If you follow me on social media (my Instagram link is down and to the right on my sidebar), then you know I am training for another marathon — the Milwaukee Running Festival marathon Nov. 6. Christopher is training for it, too.

We wanted to work at least one half marathon into our training plan — just to give ourselves some incentive for logging all these miles, and to practice our race-day routines. We chose to return to the Quad Cities Half Marathon, a race we ran way back in 2012; it’s a well-organized race with a neat course and it’s only an hour from home.

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We were blessed cursed with unseasonably hot, humid weather, so Christopher and I agreed to go for our goal paces but let the chips fall where they might, given the conditions.

He lined up toward the 1:45 pace group, while I lined up closer to the 2:00 group. My friend and fellow fitness instructor, Andrea, who was running her first half marathon, lined up with me; we agreed to run together for as long as it made sense — if I wanted to and could go faster, then I would cruise on without her by my side.

Andrea and I ran together for maybe the first 2 to 3 miles before she hung back and I plodded ahead.

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I felt alright through the first half of the race. I was running at a consistent 9:30-9:45 pace, keeping my breathing in check and taking water and Gatorade at every aid station to stay hydrated given the climbing temperatures and bright sun overhead.

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Christopher waited for me (for 10 minutes!) at the halfway point, then we ran together for about 3 miles, along the river in Davenport and then across Government Bridge onto Arsenal Island. We separated at mile 11; Christopher was feeling like speeding up, having caught a wee bit of a second wind, while I was feeling like slowing down.

I was sore, but more than anything, I was just sapped of any get-up-and-go. I grabbed a piece of candy (sugar-coated gummy fruit slices–one of my favorites!) near the exit from the island, and I couldn’t even chew it because I was so tired.

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I ran my slowest miles (10:49 and 10:36, miles 12 and 13, respectively) on the island and then across the Moline Arsenal Bridge and back to downtown Moline. But I picked up the pace as much as possible through the final straightaway and clocked my fastest pace (9:24) to the finish.

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I breathed very rhythmically, in through my nose, out through my mouth over that last tenth of a mile. I crossed the finish line and got pulled over to the medical tent to sit down and slow my breathing, because it felt like every ounce of oxygen was caught up in my chest with nowhere to go.

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Christopher and I milled around the post-race party for a bit, grabbed some chocolate milk and then beer to refuel and celebrate another race–and a course PR! We waited for Andrea to finish, and then for a couple other friends to finish.

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Given the unseasonably brutal temperatures for a race, I was happy to have maintained an average of about 10 minutes per mile and finish only 7 minutes off my half-marathon best (and almost 15 minutes better for the course). It was just another marathon training run, just with aid stations along the way and a sweet medal at the end.

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Distance: 13.1 miles
Duration: 2:11:52
Average pace: 10:04 per mile

 

Race recap: Dam to Dam Half Marathon

29 Jun

It’s only fitting, really.

We haven’t run an official half marathon in four years, so I haven’t written up my recap until now—three weeks later.

Tardiness aside…

The Dam to Dam Half Marathon in Des Moines was a hot, humid, and challenging race, but it ended with big PRs for both Christopher and me—even if they were a wee bit shy of our pie-in-the sky goals.

As race day approached, I could not help but feel underprepared for the hot, humid weather in the forecast and undertrained for (hilly-ish) miles on the map. After training (to the letter) for and setting personal records at not one, but two marathons last year, and not really focusing on speed or shorter distances, I could not help but feel like I hadn’t given this half marathon its due.

Truly, I had, though. I had put in the miles, albeit mostly on the treadmill. I had put in the speedwork. And I had even put in some mild hill workouts, as our usual route includes some decently steep hills.

So, on race day, I just went for it. I knew I would set a personal record. And I knew I would be close to my big, scary goal of 2 hours. I didn’t know how close, though, given the circumstances. So, I just went for it.

Christopher and I were up at about 5 a.m., at which point we changed into our running gear, grabbed our breakfast, and headed out to the car, where we listened to the radio and ate bagels with peanut butter and bananas.

We drove over to the nearby mall, where dozens of yellow school buses were lined up to take runners up to Saylorville Dam, about a 20-minute drive. We arrived at the dam—on a winding, narrow two-lane road—and got an incredible view.

We used the porta-potties, finished a bottle of Gatorade, and headed to the starting line. Christopher and his buddy, Andy, who joined us for the race, headed to the front of the pack, while I stayed toward the middle. The runners were lined up by pace, but it was so crowded that it was hard to maneuver through the sea of people to the appropriate pace group.

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As such, the first few miles seemed to pass slowly, as I bobbed and weaved through the pack until the course and the crowd opened up.

Around Mile 3, I finally felt like I could start running and thinking about my goal pace, which was about 9:09. At that point, and for a few miles after that, I hovered around my goal pace, if not a few seconds slower.

The course has an overall downhill grade, especially in the first half, which is mostly through the quiet countryside. The big hill—Morningstar Hill or sometimes called Memorial Hill (so named because it is lined with American flags in honor of servicemen and women who have died since the first race in 1980) shows up around Mile 7. It’s about a mile long, starts out gradual, then becomes steep toward the crest. I slogged up the hill. But my pace remained sub-10:00.

The course has a few more rolling hills in the second half, which opens up onto city streets. The shade cover was absent in the first half, so the tree-lined residential streets offered some relief from the heat in the second half.

I saw my dad and the girls somewhere between Mile 7 and 8. It was so nice to see familiar faces!

Between Mile 9 and 10, the course ventures onto a bike trail, and about Mile 10, it takes runners over a wooden bridge over a ravine in total shade cover. It was fabulous, albeit brief.

About Mile 11, the course leaves the bike trail and enters the Principal River Walk, past the Botanical Gardens and over the really cool looking Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge.

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Then, just before Mile 13, there’s a steep, curving hill. It seemed cruel to send runners up another hill, under the beating sun, with less than a quarter mile to go. But it was exhilarating, because of the energy of the crowd, which lined both sides of the street, and the signage marking 400 meters to go, then 200 meters, and finally 100 meters.

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I blitzed across the finish line, and barely took note of my time, I was so drained. I had run the entire 13.1 miles, and I had stayed decently hydrated, but I was a sweaty, tired mess.

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After some water-drinking, bathroom-breaking, and wandering, we gathered near this water feature in the park. The girls happily played in the water, while Andy, Christopher, and I sipped Coors Light and rehashed the race.

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Christopher had a lofty goal of 1:40 and what he thought was a slam-dunk goal of 1:45. He came in at 1:47:11. He had been under the weather all week leading up to the race and just had lead legs—on top of the hot and humid conditions.

He still ran a great race and set about a 10-minute PR.

I came in at 2:05:07. It might be 5 minutes shy of 2 hours, but it also is a 21-minute PR and is only 5 minutes shy of 2 hours. I am proud of this race and know that, perhaps this fall, a 2-hour half is within my reach.

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Distance: 13.1 miles (RunKeeper clocked it at 13.23)
Duration: 2:05:07
Average pace: 9:33 per mile

Back on Track – Week 2

1 Feb

Another decent week on the books!

  • Exercise:
    • Run three times a week, in “training” for the Yeti Trail Series. I ran 4.5 miles Tuesday, 6 on Thursday, and 6 again (outside this time) on Saturday. My cold/sinus infection reared its ugly head late this past week, so I felt pretty miserable Thursday and Saturday.
    • Strength train via BodyPump two times a week. Pumped twice this week!
    • Practice yoga once a week. I squeezed it in while the girls napped Friday.
  • Nutrition:
    • Drink a concoction of apple cider vinegar and lemon water every morning. Check! I don’t think I’m going to continue this, as I don’t really see or feel any marked benefits from it.
    • Eat a vegetable at breakfast every day. Check! Again, still not as easy as I thought. I rotated between green smoothies and a “hidden greens” chocolate oatmeal, and I made high-protein zucchini waffles for a special breakfast Friday.
    • Have higher-protein snacks in between meals; try to have a fruit or vegetable with at least one snack every day. I had a lot of fruit this week, in addition to nuts and cheese. I had a bowl of cereal a few times, too, as well as crackers, both usually as my before-bed snacks.
    • Stick to higher-protein, lower-carb lunches and dinners. Check!
    • Have dessert only once a week. I slipped a little this week: I wasn’t feeling well later in the week, so I treated myself to an oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie Friday night and again Saturday night. Dessert this weekend was creme brulee, which was fantastic and totally worth the wait. My sweet tooth, though, seemed to act up on account of being under the weather.

Overall, I’d say I did pretty well again–another solid B+ with about a B+ effort.

A few highlights from last week:

  • Pearl couscous soup: This soup was great to have on hand for lunches this past week. Tasty and filling, thanks to plenty of veggies, fiber-full red beans, and whole wheat pearl couscous. It clocked in at only 174 calories per 1 1/2 cups, with just 10g protein.
  • Asian chopped salad with sesame vinaigrette: This salad was a beast! It was ginormous and required lots of chewing because of the hearty red cabbage, crisp snap peas, and sweet peppers and carrots. We added chicken on top for an extra protein boost, and mandarin oranges for sweetness, so it came in at 357 calories, with 23g protein.
  • Hidden greens chocolate oatmeal: Real talk: Zucchini and oatmeal go together very, very well. Think bread, muffins, even baked oatmeal. But zucchini did not jibe as well with regular stovetop-cooked oats. The texture, while tolerable, was not appealing. I was glad to get my greens in a pretty significant amount first thing in the morning, so I might make these again, but next time, I’ll “shred” the zucchini more finely in the food processor.
  • High-protein zucchini waffles: These were wonderful–especially warm with a good 2 Tbsp of real maple syrup. They reminded me of zucchini bread in flavor, but had more density. They clocked in at 421 calories, with 21g protein. Maple syrup adds another 100 calories. It’s a hefty breakfast, but it’s got plenty of staying power.
  • Beef taco bowls: A low-carb twist on the typical burrito or taco bowl, these were pretty good, more so, once you get past the strange texture of sauteed cabbage and carrots in your taco meat. We served these with a sprinkling of cheese and 1 ounce of blue corn tortilla chips; I had mine with a blob of guacamole, too. Stats: 446 calories, 31g protein.
  • Chicken fajitas: These were fan-freakin’-tastic! I served them for dinner with Christopher’s parents, and they went over very, very well. The recipe is so simple: Saute a boatload of seasoned peppers, onions, and mushrooms, then sear some seasoned chicken, and combine. We served them with small soft corn tortillas and guacamole. I didn’t even miss the rice or beans!

Some other observations:

  • I still can’t kick my TV-watching snack habit. At least most days, I made decent choices, or stuck to one serving of my snack.
  • If it’s in the house, it’s in my mouth. The mini Reese’s peanut butter cups and Hersey’s Kisses are gone. We munched on those Saturday night and Sunday.
  • I weighed in at 138.6 last Monday and at 138 this morning.

 

Here’s the plan for this week:

  • Roman-style chicken
  • Lasagna
  • Stuffed pepper soup

Here’s to Week 3!