SF Marathon Training – Week 14 and 15

These past two weeks were mentally the most challenging ones for me during the entire training period. Okay, but let’s start from the beginning. We started week 14 off with a nice 12 miles run which actually was really pretty nice. I was nervous at first, I mean it’s almost a half-marathon, but we went to our favorite route along the American River in Sacramento and time flew by πŸ™‚ We even saw these wonderful ducks and geese along the way!

CAM00765As I mentioned in my earlier post, I was going to try the electrolyte drink provided by the SF Marathon, Nuun. We recently had picked up a pack of four tubes, each a different flavor. We did buy the “active hydration” kind, not the energy one as I don’t like having caffeine added to my drinks. We both really enjoyed the flavors and were positively surprised. They don’t test too sweet and you still want to take a sip after a bunch of miles. Pretty good! So it seems we might just stick to the SF Marathon’s electrolyte drink then and skip carrying all our water with us, yaaay!!

The run itself was fine, even though my old knee injury from last year came up. Sigh! I experience some knee pain on and off during my training, so it’s nothing that had bothered me too much. But this time, ugh, I don’t want to be all whiny but the pain was almost as bad as during my marathon last year and that was just awful. Well, with some stretching every mile I got it under control and I could finish the 12 mile run, but it was a huge disappointment since the training was going SO well so far.

Anyway, I did my cross-training on Sunday, the easy run on Monday, the interval training on Tuesday, and I felt totally fine. Weird though the injury seems to come back almost randomly. So I decided to take a few days off from running. I also was really busy at my job, clocked in way too many hours, so it almost felt like I had to take a break from running. The problem was the longer I paused from running, the more I got afraid of hitting the road again, since I wasn’t sure how my knee would feel like. Also, I had trouble bending it every now and then just randomly in my everyday life which really puzzled me. It doesn’t seem to be linked to running after all? I have no idea. So I made an appointment with a doctor another runner recommended. I hope it’ll all work out. Unfortunately, the appointment is not until June 9th, sigh… I went back to running today (after a 10 days break!) and what happened, again knee-pain within the first mile. It wasn’t as bad as last time, but I’m too scared to run through the pain. I really don’t want to damage my knee. So I decided to stick with cross-training for now until I’ve seen my doctor, focus on strengthening my knees and legs, hoping this will help to support the muscles. Very sorry for not having better news, but I will keep you posted how it goes. ❀

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SF Marathon Training – Week 13

So, this is week 13, and luckily not an unlucky one πŸ˜‰

This week was a week to take it down a notch following our 10 miles run from the week before. We only ran 6 miles that weekend, but did some nice interval training. I do enjoy the intervals a lot as it spices up the training. It’s pretty fascinating to run fast – even though it’s depressing at the same time as an elite runner can keep that speed not just for one minute, but for 26.2 miles! Well, they get paid for it, right πŸ˜‰ Anyway, for our intervals we usually do a 3 minute warm-up, and then 5 repeats of keeping up a fast pace for one minute. There is a 2-minute break to recover between each repeat which is absolutely sufficient. A the “fast speed” you’re not supposed to sprint, but you should not be able to keep up a conversation, nor speak in full sentences. Right now, we’re able to keep a pace of around 6:15 – 6:30 min/mile. That way we can do our repeats without being nearΒ  unconsciousness which is good. Before starting this training I didn’t believe this interval thing will work. It didn’t make much sense to me why running really fast for a minute should help me keep up a faster pace for my long distance running. But as I learned from a quick online research, it does make sense. Why? Because by doing interval training you’re training your muscles to switch more easily/more quickly between aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Put in simple words: On a flat course your muscles are in aerobic state and you’re feeling fine, but once you hit a hill (or a LONG distance such as a marathon) you need to breath harder and your heart rate increases (the work interval of your interval session). That’s when your muscles need to switch to the anaerobic system to squeeze out the last bit of energy that’s left. If you’ve done your interval workouts, you’ll be able to keep up your pace at the end of the hill or race, and will recover more quickly, meaning your muscles will switch back to the aerobic system. If you didn’t do your interval workouts, your muscles won’t be able to make that switch. Makes sense, right? And I must say, the results have been amazing so far! I’m so glad I’m incorporating this nice workout into my training.

Another nice workout I’ve adapted from the training program from No Meat Athlete are the tempo runs. These are pretty fun too! We do a 3 minute warm-up (the same as for the interval workout) at an easy pace, and then significantly increase the pace, but it’s neither sprinting nor interval pace. You still should be able to speak in full sentences, but should not be able to keep up a conversation. Matt Frazier defines the pace to be 30 seconds slower than your 5K pace. Well, since I don’t know my current 5K pace, I just go with the “still able to speak in full sentences”-definition, and sometimes a bit faster than that. So, for this week’s workout I was able to keep up a pace of around 09:30 to 10:00min/mile for the full 3 miles (this does not include the 3 minute warm-up) which is pretty cool for my standards. I started off with a 11min/mile pace, so I’m pretty proud of how my pace increased just by incorporating this routine. Tempo runs finish with a 3 minute cool-down. We usually run a 4 miles route, so we end up with a longer cool-down time which never hurts. Oh, I should note that we alternate the tempo run with hill training, meaning one week we do a tempo run, the next week hill training, then again a tempo run. As I hear from experienced runners, you’re not supposed to do such kinds of workouts more than once a week as it’s pretty hard on your body. The long-distances on the weekends are supposed to be recovery runs, which I had not realized before getting into long-distance running.

See you next week πŸ™‚


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SF Marathon Training – Week 12

Week 12 – oh wow! That means it’s half time. Only 12 more weeks to go! In the past week we ran 10 miles, did some amazing intervals, hill training, and some easy runs in between!

On our 10 miles run I tested a few products from Vega Sport which I got for a very good price in one of their promo packages.


I tested the electrolyte hydrator as my drink and the endurance gel as my carbohydrate source later in the run. The electrolyte hydrator was really yummy, not too sweet as other drinks I tested before, but sweet enough. As a sweeter they use stevia which is more on the healthy side. The powder easily dissolved in water and was still refreshing at the end of the run. Usually I tend to make my own drinks, see the recipe here by the one and only Brendan Brazier ;-), but since I’m training for a marathon I don’t necessarily want to carry the drink for the entire race with me. That’s why I’m currently looking into some electrolyte drinks that I can mix with the water provided on race day. Sure, I could easily use the energy drinks they provide at the race, but in the past I made the experience that they provide drinks that are more on the sugary side. Well, and since I try to be as healthy as can be, these are no option for me. But I’ll definitely look into the energy drink that will be provided at the SF Marathon, Nuun. I heard good things about it, and will definitely give it a try on my upcoming 12 miles run. Do you have any experience with them? I really liked the electrolyte drink by Vega Sport and I hope I’ll get my hands on them for a good price soon.

The endurance gel was also quite nice. I typically don’t like gels, just because of their consistency and being SO sweet that I can barely swallow them while running, ugh. But you know, I’m always open for new things, so I gave it a shot. And yes, it still is not my favorite thing to eat during a run, but I think it’s a good option if you want to take a gel with you. Just like the electrolyte hydrator it’s not too sweet. It also doesn’t taste like it was made in a chem lab rather than using natural ingredients, so I would definitely consider trying it again πŸ™‚

Both products definitely helped to finish my 10 miles run in pretty good shape. We were still smiling πŸ™‚



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Marathon Training – Week 11

Being in week 11 of my marathon training I finally feel comfortable to let the world know – yes, I’m training for a FULL marathon!! 26.2 miles!! The race of my choice? The San Francisco Marathon which means 26.2 miles of scenic ocean views, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park AND hills!!


We did this race last year but due to an injury (IT Band) it resembled more of a run/walk event than anything else. Luckily, my husband ran with me and literally dragged me to the finish line. This year I want to make it better! Things I’ve changed this year? I added more cross-training taking special care of my legs, especially my IT Band, and more regular training. Last year I thought I’ll be okay to train a little bit here and there. I did my long runs but often skipped the weekday runs – bad mistake when training for such a big race. Well, this time it’s been good so far (*knock on wood*)!!

This is me after my 8 miles run (longest distance we ran so far) two weekends ago rocking my PETA Pack shirt!!

ImageThe training plan I chose for this year (or we chose – my husband is training with me again) is from No Meat Athlete which I purchased AFTER last year’s marathon (haha, the irony is clear here). The first six weeks of the plan mainly focus on building a good basis for what’s to come while slowly increasing the mileage. That’s different from last year, mainly because we started training a bit later than this year. The NMA plan is a 24 week plan. There are 26 week plans too, but since we were running more or less regularly, the 24 week plan seemed like a good idea. Following the six weeks of base building the plan starts incorporating speed work, hill training, and tempo runs. This is great for two reasons: 1) I’m a fairly slow runner, so I like to be able to work on my speed while training for a longer distance, plus it’s a lot more fun than just running at the same speed. 2) Hill Training is crucial when running any race in San Francisco. I’ve done three races (two halfs and one full), so I definitely know what I’m in for.


In total, we’re running 4-5 times per week plus a day of cross-training, but as I mentioned earlier we’re trying to do more cross-training during the week in addition to that one day, for example following an easy run. May favorite routine is this one here. It’s one of those routines where you can barely walk afterwards, but your legs will benefit tremendously. I love it! But it’s also super important to train your abs and arms as well. A strong core is very beneficial for your running posture. You’ll find great routines on tone it up but also from Jillian Michaels or Brendan Brazier. These are just three of my favorites, but of course there are many other great resources available. What I also adapted from No Meat Athlete is foam rolling. Yeah, it makes such a HUGE difference!!!! Believe me! The first couple of times it’ll hurt, but once you got your muscles loosened up a bit, it’ll feel SO good. You gotta try it to believe it πŸ™‚ I usually try to combine foam rolling with some stretching. I was never a big fan of stretching before as I thought it doesn’t any good. But now that I do it regularly, I feel that I recover more quickly and experience less soreness the next day.

This was just a first overview of my training for my marathon (SCARY!). I’ll soon follow up with more details on the gear I’m using and love, the food and fuel I love the most, and much more. Stay tuned πŸ™‚

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Plant Based on a Budget Challenge – the organic way

Plant Based on a Budget is one of my favorite blogs. Last November they provided meal plans for just $25 per week/per person! They put SO much effort into this and I think it’s just an incredible job they’re doing πŸ™‚

I like buying organic and I mean really prefer it over conventional stuff due to various reasons which come through my job where I’m working on changing the regulations for pesticides. Organic farmers definitely need the consumer’s support as it’s a tough challenge, especially for small farmers. Organic farming also is proven to be healthy not just for the people buying the produce, but also for farm workers and the environment. I’d rather save some money on clothes or other stuff, just to buy organic. Maybe crazy for some of you, but it’s what I consider a consistent lifestyle, especially when working against toxic chemicals and for a healthier planet on every level.

Anyway, that’s why I had the idea of making the organic Plant Based on a Budget Challenge to find out how much more this Challenge would cost if buying mostly organic. I also like to support my local Food Coop here in town. To save some money, I work there four hours per week (remotely). For that work they credit me 16.5% discount which is awesome. A coop is a great alternative grocery store where fair wages are being paid, where you can find lots of organic items on their shelves and a huge number of vegan items compared to regular supermarkets. Some people say it’s pricier there, but believe me I compared prices and that’s not always the case. By offering their costumers to volunteer their time in exchange of some store credit, they offer an incredible possibility to buy fresh locally grown organic produce and any other item in their store for a great discount.

You can find the Plant Based on a Budget Challenge for two persons, week 1, right here, and in this post I’ll talk about my modifications to that challenge plus my expenses and more.

Let’s start with my expenses first. In the following table I’m comparing the prices for organic items (right column) to the prices of the challenge. I have to say that I’m purchasing canned items such as beans at costco where I can get organic items fairly cheap, but all other items were bought at the coop in Davis, CA.

1 lb green/brown lentils: .83 1.59
1 cup white rice: .28 0.87
.5 lb pearled barley: .31 0.99
1 cup cornmeal: .30 0.45
.5 lb quinoa: 2.50 1.63
2 tomatoes: 1.23 4.07
About 6 onions: 1.98 2.34
1 bunch celery: 1.48 2.69
2 lbs of oats: 2.42 Β N/A
2 packages extra firm tofu: 2.96 4.58
1 sm lemon juice bottle: 1.00 1.9
2 sweet potatoes: 3.78 1.6
1 large butternut squash: 1.56 4.07
2 lb bags of whole carrots: .98 2.78
(2) 28oz can whole tomatoes: 1.16 3
2 packages bouillon cubes: 2.00 1.54
(2) cans tomato paste: .84 0.99
2 garlic heads: .96 1.32
(3) 15oz can diced tomatoes: 1.74 2.25
(1) 8 oz can tomato sauce: .18 0.58
(2) 15 oz can red kidney bean:Β  1.78 1.7
(1) 15 oz can cannellini (white) bean: .89 1.2
(5) 15 oz can chickpeas: 3.56 4.25
(2) 15 oz can black beans: 1.78 1.7
1 jar of marina sauce: 1.79 1.17
1 lb ziti or penne: .99 1.21
1 bag frozen fruit: 2.99 3.33
1 sm bag frozen spinach: 1.19 2.39
1 bag of 3 head romaine: 1.99 3
1 bag of sliced sourdough: 2.99 3.79
coconut water 6
spinach 2.39
Bunched Kale 2.19
Navel Oranges 4
7 banana 3.23
TOTAL 80.79
Including a discount of 16.50% 67.46

Please note that we had green smoothies for breakfast, so I omitted the oats but added some extra items such as bananas, kale and coconut water at the end of the list. We had a total of $80.79 for one week’s worth of food items. Including our discount of 16.5% this was decreased to $67.45! Wow!! The challenge listed a total of $48.14. When I had the idea of using organic items in this challenge, I thought it would at least double the price if not more. But no, it didn’t which is pretty cool in my opinion. This proofs once more that the Plant Based on a Budget Challenge is just AHHH-mazing because even when buying organic stuff you still end up with a pretty cheap grocery bill πŸ™‚

Okay, but let’s proceed to the yummy food. I’ll just sum this up here, as Grace outlined everything so beautifully on their website.

As I mentioned above we always had green smoothies for breakfast, so I’ll omit mentioning it over and over in my summary:

1 banana
A few leaves of spinach
2 leaves of kale
1 orange
1.5 cups of coconut water
1 cup mixed frozen berries
1.5 cups water

Day 1:

Lunch: Chickpea Tacos!!

These were awesome for two reasons: I learned how to make home-made tortillas which may sound silly, but I never thought of making them my self since you can get them fairly cheap at the grocery store. So why even bother?! Oh yes, because it’s SO super yummy!!

Second of all this recipe was super quick, healthy and delicious. Perfect!


Dinner: see website

Day 2:

Lunch: Chickpea Salad Sandwich! That’s perfect and easily the most healthful meal you can take with you to work! We both loved it.

Dinner: Tomato Soup. I hate to admit it, but this was my least favorite dish of the week, sorry 😦 We spiced it up by adding some cashews blended with water and a few more herbs and veggie broth, so it was good after all.


Day 3:

Lunch: Sweet potato and black bean tacos with Mexican Rice. Okay, this is one of my favorite dishes on the PBB website, but unfortunately day 3 was a working day, so it was A LOT of work in the morning. I should have checked earlier to prepare it the night before. Anyway, it’s a fantastic recipe and I would eat it every day if I could πŸ˜‰Β  CAM00594

Dinner: Pene Marinara with Tofu Ricotta: Super yummy, quick and SO yummy πŸ˜‰ I think we reduced the oil a bit in the tofu ricotta as we’re usually consuming no to very little oil. We also used fresh spinach instead of frozen. It’s a great recipe and we’ll definitely make it again πŸ™‚


Day 4:

Lunch: leftovers

Dinner: Butternut Squash Soup: What can I say, again super yummy and fun! Love the gingery taste, just great!!Β Β  IMGP5470

Day 5:

Lunch: The Caesar Salad was fantastic! We again reduced the oil and had red leaf lettuce instead of romaine because it was on sale. The tofu was incredible and the dressing as well. Definitely make it again πŸ™‚

Dinner: Minestrone! What, did I just make my very first own minestrone?! SO excited! I can’t tell how many lifetimes ago I told myself to make my own minestrone, and FINALLY I got an awesome recipe, woohoo!!


Day 6:

Lunch: see website

Dinner: Lentil Tacos!! That was the very first recipe I had from the PBB website and that’s when I fell in love with that page! πŸ™‚ Do I need to say more?Β Β  IMGP5476

Day 7:

Lunch: Leftover Soups

Dinner: Lentil Tacos! Haha! We loved it so much that we decided to skip the 4-Bean Chili and just make them again. Guess that’s understandable, right πŸ˜‰

Overall conclusion:

We finished our first week and hey I must say, it’s a hell of a job that PBB did! All this calculating, planning, comparing, woah! I just went in my stores, bought what I had on my list, done. A lot easier for sure. So thanks SO much for this awesome meal plan! It helped us to save a lot of money even though we bough organic stuff and thus had a slightly higher grocery bill. I’m still pretty impressed by the small price difference when comparing organic to conventional though. Additionally, we got to try so many new recipes and this was super exciting! I’m a soup lover too, so I was in heaven πŸ˜‰ I’m super excited for week 2 and can’t wait to tell you about it next week!!!

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