Week 20: Ramping it up…

Plus Realizing Why Mom Never Let us eat Cookies for Dinner…

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So, we are starting to get into the home stretch for this season’s training season. We are also in the thick of the Holiday Season, which means lots of obligations outside of training. Christmas parties, shopping, and work obligations seem to take over and come into conflict with our training schedule. However, it seems like we are still managing to get everything taken care of, even when everything seems to be going wrong…Last Saturday was a big day for us, which is becoming a normalcy for us…it started off with a 10 mile run scheduled with Team in Training and ended with a cookie exchange (er ummm…dinner…) at our teammate and mentor Kelsey’s place. Between that, there was a lot of baking…but I’m getting ahead of myself…

The 10 mile run went beautifully for Mark, he flew by the pack and was having a great day! I wish I could say the same for myself. I was struggling! Even though I had a deep tissue massage and had been rolling out my IT band religiously every morning, evening, and before/after runs, it was still acting up on me. I was getting especially frustrated Saturday because the pain was coming on sooner and sooner in my runs, this day it started 2 miles into my run…

I decided to stop at the water stop (2.5 mi) and chat with Coach Jill about my issue. I/We decided it was best for me to call it there and evaluate my situation. After a lot of thought and research, I decided my issue was my shoes (again…). So, Sunday I had planned to change my shoes back to neutral shoes (with my custom-made insoles) and run 5/1 intervals (5 minutes running / 1 minute walking) and attempt to get the final 7.5 miles in on Sunday…

Saturday morning was frustrating, to say the least, for me but I wasn’t going to let it get in the way of me having a great rest of my day! We had one final cookie to bake for our cookie exchange (double chocolate mint cookies, pictured above) plus the cookie exchange. Baking went well, we ended up baking 4 types of cookies over the course of 2 days for the cookie exchange. Varieties included: “tried and true” varieties of double chocolate tofu cookies and peanut choco-chip cookies, and newcomers included double chocolate mint cookies and vegan Mexican wedding cake cookies.

Cookie exchange time finally arrived that evening, to which I brought my point and shoot camera for a few snapshots!

First an early view of the cookie-staging area…

This picture was taken before all of the guests arrived. At one point, this area required a baking sheet to be placed over the sink in order to display all of the cookies! The hand in the background is going towards my double chocolate mint cookies…hopefully it meant they looked good.  ;-) Hope they tasted good too!

However, one can’t subsist on cookies (and liquor) alone! Thus, Kelsey was smart enough to have a “savory” table put together as well to help balance out the sugar overload.

My favorites on this table were the pastries with artichoke and feta cheese (or goat cheese, couldn’t tell exactly) and the caprese skewers. I bet the others were tasty too, but I was avoiding bacon and other heavy meats. Later on in the evening, one of the couples brought an amazing spinach artichoke dip, heavy on the spinach, light on the cheese. Delicious!

I didn’t get a picture of it, but there were also lots of options for tasty drinks. Kelsey made mulled wine, hot spiced apple cider, and a white champagne sangria. It was my first experience with mulled wine…it was an interesting experience. I’d highly recommend mulled wine if you really like cloves. I personally am not a fan cloves, so it was good, I could appreciate the drink for what it was, but it’s not something that I’d seek out. However, I’m not normally a fan of champagne, but the champagne punch was amazing, accented with cherries (which I ate quite a few of after the punch was drained…)!

The clear winning cookie of the day was made by Steve, a British Columbia specialty (Steve, please help me with the name, I can’t remember off the top of my head…)!

What’s really cool about Steve’s cookie is that it isn’t healthy in the least, but Steve himself is quite a healthy person. He doesn’t eat refined sugar (gives him a headache), so he only samples his cookies to make sure they are just right, but can’t really eat them himself. I thought they were good, but way too rich for me. I can definitely see why they were the star of the party, a definite crowd-pleaser!

So, after an evening of indulgence, both Mark and I found out why our parents never let us eat cookies for dinner. A huge tummy ache! Boy was it a big one for both of us. I think it took me about a day or two before I was comfortable again. Too much sugar, and too much butter (not to mention a bit too much wine).

I think our cookies were successful, but it was hard to tell exactly…but I’ll give you more information on my cookies later with a delicious recipe!

So, on Sunday I was planning on running the remaining 7.5 miles of my 10 mile run the day before. Surprisingly enough, I accomplished it! Changing out my shoes seemed to do the trick. I was able to run the 7.5 miles pretty comfortably with only a little IT band discomfort. I’ve been speculating the causes and what-not, but I’ll save that for a separate post. Before my run, I started a lovely three bean chili in our crockpot, which yielded a smell that was absolutely lovely to come home to after my run!

That afternoon, I decided to give hot yoga a try with Ashely, another new friend from Team in Training. I love yoga and what it does for me, but despite me hydrating like crazy all day long, about an hour into the session I started to develop a headache (tell tale sign of dehydration).

Hot yoga and three bean chili was a great close-out to my weekend to last me through my last working week until Christmas. Work this week was trying…I was in a week long outside sponsored class on Reservoir Engineering. You normally would think a class would be a great break from normality before the Christmas holiday…or you would be wrong…dead wrong!

This was the worst, most trying course I’ve taken. Poor instructor, slow pace, few breaks (and far between), no decent place to keep lunch (i.e. had to go out), plus it was held on the other side of town pretty much in a shopping center (i.e. going out for lunch = not much more than mall food). It actually didn’t take much for me to keep up motivation to work out before or after class. I seriously needed it to keep my sanity…I was so glad when Friday arrived, after class, I was off for the Holiday! Mark and I get to spend Monday through next Saturday in Pennsylvania with our families…Mark goes back to work on the 27th, and I on the 28th. It will hopefully be a nice break (plus we get to come home to snow).

Mark didn’t have as good of luck keeping his training up this week, life really got in the way…

So, here is our training summary of the week:

Saturday: Mark – 10 miles; Stef – 2.5 miles

Sunday: Mark – rest; Stef – 7.5 miles + 1.5 hours Hot Yoga

Monday: both – rest

Tuesday: Mark – rest; Stef – 1 mile easy + 20 min strength training

Wednesday: Mark – rest; Stef – 3 miles

Thursday: Both – rest (Stef coming down with chest cold)

Friday: Both – rest

Total mileage: Stef – 14 mi

This week was ramping up to our biggest run of  the season with Team in Training, the 12 miler! Well, it wouldn’t technically be the longest run for Mark and me, as we did complete the San Antonio Half Marathon, but it’s purpose is to serve as a dry run for our race day in January! Glad to be getting into the home stretch here…

Now for the goodies!

I have a new favorite Christmas Cookie, and you know what? It’s a vegan Mexican Wedding Cake cookie…

I’m not normally a fan of butter-style cookies, but I think I actually like this one because it’s vegan, made with soy margarine! So delicious light and delicious. I never thought I’d be such a fan of a delicate cookie!

Vegan Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup toasted pecans (I used local Texas Pecans…yum!)
  • 1 cup soy margarine (I used salted and omitted the salt in the recipe, try to find unsalted margarine if possible so you can have control on how much salt you use)
  • 0.5 cup evaporated cane sugar
  • ~1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • powdered sugar for dusting

First you’ll want to take the margarine out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature. After the margarine has softened, toast the pecans and let them cool to room temperature. Pulse the pecans in the food processor into a fine meal, but not paste. Beat the margarine until creamy, once creamy, add sugar and beat once again. Add vanilla and pecan meal and beat until combined. Finally add flour, in parts, until a stiff dough forms.

I took the dough out and placed it on Saran Wrap and rolled it out to ~0.5″ thick. We then covered it with another layer of Saran Wrap and placed it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to stiffen up a bit. During this time we preheated the oven to 325F.

When the dough is chilled, cut into 1″ diameter circles. Now, normally one would use a cookie cutter for this. However, we don’t have one, so we used a tablespoon and scored it into the dough. After the tablespoon circles were scored into the dough, we took a knife and cut them out. It was tedious, but worked in a pinch and approximated the correct size…

Place the cut cookies onto either a silpat (best investment ever) or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for ~10-12 minutes, until set along the edges. Remove from cookie sheet onto wire rack and dust lightly with powdered sugar.

These cookies are awesome! I love how the nuttiness of the pecans is enhanced by the nuttiness of the whole wheat and oat flours. Again, as I said earlier, I was also impressed by the light texture of these cookies.

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Heidi at 101 cookbooks said this recipe yielded 1 1/2 dozen cookies, we got considerably more, ~40 cookies or so…

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Hope Everyone Has a Safe and Happy Holiday!