Sunday, February 28, 2016

Spring Thaw Race Recap

Happy Monday everyone!  Today I'm excited to share my first race recap of the year.  On Saturday, I ran in the Spring Thaw race at North Park.  

This is an interesting race- there are three distances available (10, 15 and 20 miles) which equals 2, 3 or 4 laps around North Park.  Everyone is scored on the 10 mile distance, but you can decide on the day of the race which distance you're going to run.  I love this, because some times you're having a great day and other times you're not feeling it- so you can change your distance with no penalty or fee!  Love it.  There's also some pretty good swag- everyone who completes at least 10 miles gets a hat and medal.  15 milers also get a pair of gloves, and 20 milers get all of that and a neck warmer.  Here's what I got:

I decided to run the 15 miles (3 laps) and test my marathon race pace.  My goal was to run a 3-mile warm-up, 15 miles with at least 10 miles at MRP (9:04) for a total of 18 miles.  My plan was to run with the 9:00 pacer for the first two laps and hold on as long as I could for the final lap!  I'm going to break down the race by lap so you can see how I did!

Note- my miles splits are based on my Garmin and the lap time/overall times are all official race results so they are a bit different.  My watch was about 2/10 of a mile off which is why there's about a minute extra at the end!

Lap 1 (Miles 1-5) : 44:58
[8:47, 8:52, 9:00, 8:52, 8:53]
Listed to : Criminal podcast
Fuel : Date @ Mile 5

The race started out, and there was a huge group around the 9:00 pacer.  Everyone was talking and enjoying the race, so we started out a bit fast for the first few miles.  The course went counter-clockwise around the lake, starting at the boat house, so the first 2.5 miles are a one-way street that was closed for the race.  One bad thing about this course is that the road is extremely sloped on this half of the park, so I made sure to run in the middle of the road where it's more level as much as possible.  Doing this affected my tangents which is why my watch was off, but it was worth it for the sake of my hips and knees!

The second half of the park is on a busier road with three substantial uphills and downhills.  I actually prefer this half of the park.  The first half is pretty much 2.5 miles of the same scenery and the same rolling hills along one road, whereas the second half has turns and more "landmarks" that I know to look forward to.  It always seems like this section goes by a lot quicker!  Overall on this lap, I felt pretty good but a bit cold.  It was around 30 degrees and windy, so it took me a while to warm up!

Lap 2 (Miles 6-10) : 45:00
[8:50, 8:59, 8:56, 8:57, 8:51]
Fuel : Water @ Mile 6, 7.5, Honey Stinger Gel @ Mile 10

As soon as we crossed the start/finish line to start lap 2, I took a bite of my dates for a bit of fuel.  I wasn't really hungry or hurting yet, but I figured I should practice fueling during a race.  There were a lot of water stations set up- about one every mile- so I grabbed water at mile 6 and 7.5.  They also had a sport drink (I believe it was Glukos) which I enjoyed after the race, but sports drinks usually make me cramp up during races.  It didn't taste very sweet or sticky like some other sports drinks, so I actually think it wouldn't bother my stomach during a race!

I started to feel a bit sore on this lap.  My breathing was still relaxed and the pace felt easy, but my legs and arms were feeling really stiff.  It almost felt like they were frozen from the cold and were having a hard time bending or moving quickly.  I tried to loosen up a bit by shaking out my arms and doing some butt kicks and that helped a bit.  Overall on this lap, I still felt decent but was beginning to feel sore.

Lap 3 (Miles 11-15) : 43:50
[8:42, 8:54, 8:39, 8:39, 8:36 (extra 1:13)]
Listened to : Music
Fuel : Water @ Mile 11, 12.5, 14 Date @ Mile 12.5

Once we crossed the start/finish line to start the final lap, I ate a bit of my Honey Stinger Gold gel.  There was water right at the timing mat, so I went to grab some to wash down the gel.  Unfortunately, a bunch of people in front of me also grabbed water, so the volunteers didn't have time to pour new cups of water and I had to skip it.  I knew that water was just a mile away so I figured it wasn't a big deal.

As soon as we got away from the water, I switched on my music and told myself it was time to go!  I was still feeling pretty good and my body felt warmed up.  I also realized that I was the only one left with the pacer, so we started to talk a bit and I decided to stick with her on the first half of the lap.  This is the area where I struggle anyway, so I figured having someone to run with would help me out.  I also grabbed some water at mile 11 and 12.5, and had a piece of date at mile 12.5.

I started to pull away from the pacer around mile 12 and really felt great!  On all of my long runs, it seems like after the halfway point is when I really start to loosen up and feel my best, so I'm glad that that was the case in this race as well.  

The only issue that I had on this lap was that my stomach was bothering me right around mile 13.  I'm not sure if it was because I picked up the pace, or because I didn't wash down the gel right away and the second piece of date was too much, but it was really bothering me!  I was worried that the pacer would catch up to me and I would fall apart right at the end, so I'm glad that I kept it together for the final two miles and actually had my fastest miles of the race!  Overall, besides my stomach issues, I felt the best on this lap.  My body felt warmed up and relaxed, and I took a few minutes off my lap time.

Overall Time : 2:13:46
Overall Pace : 8:56/mile

I'm really happy with this race.  I executed my plan perfectly, and this was a huge confidence builder for hitting my goal of 4 hours in the marathon!  If I'm able to keep this same pace for 11.2 more miles, that's a 3:54:03 marathon.  I feel pretty good about that!  I just need to work on my fueling and continue training hard for the final 8 weeks!

Anyone else have a race this weekend?
Do you like running odd distance races like this?
What did you do this weekend?
linking up with HollyTricia and Katie

Friday, February 26, 2016

Top Five Friday #45

Hi everyone!  Did you all have a good week?  I had a really busy and stressful one, but hopefully it will all be worth it!  I'll share more of what's going on lately in my "What's New With You" link-up on Thursday- make sure you join Kristen and me!  For now, I'm going to share my favorites from the week.  I hope you all have a great weekend and I'll see ya on Monday!

Linking up with MarCynthia and Court 



Blog Relaunches

It seems like this month was the month of blog relaunches.  There have been a lot of blogs come and go throughout the past few years, and I was so excited when I saw three of my favorites come back recently.  

If you're at all into the minimal trend, then you've definitely heard of this blog.  This is such a great resource for getting started, and has lots of informative worksheets and books.

Most people jumped in on the capsule wardrobe idea thanks to Caroline's blog.  After a cross country move, and a family emergency that forced her to move back home, I'm excited to see that Caroline is back posting on her blog.  Her focus has slightly changed, along with a new site design.  I really like her writing style and her philosophy on life, so I'll follow her no matter what direction her website goes!

Emma has become one of my blogging friends after connecting with her blog last year.  I was sad to see her move away from posting, but now she's teamed up with her best friend to make an incredible blog.  I love the wide variety of posts they share - from DIY projects to Whole30 tips and everything in between!

Beating the 2:00 Slump

I'm hoping that you can all relate to that 2:00 feeling at work.  It's after lunch, you still have a few more hours of work to go, and you just hit a slump.  It's an awful feeling, and you just need a small pick-me-up to get through the work day.  I already shared what products are in my desk drawers at work, so today I wanted to share what I have to beat that slump!

- Water.  We have an amazing ice and water machine at work, that has the perfect size ice and cold, fresh water (yes, I get excited about ice machines at work).  Sipping on ice water helps to refresh me and make me feel more awake.

- Tazo Refresh Mint Tea.  Even though this is caffeine free, the invigorating mint flavor really helps to wake me up.  I absolutely love how refreshing this flavor is, and I'll make either hot or iced- either way it's great!

- Peak Energy Tabs.  I was sent these tabs to review by Zipp Foods, and I absolutely love them.  There are two in a pack, but I only have one at a time and find it gives the perfect amount of energy.  These are mint flavored, which is really refreshing and delicious!  I like the fact that I can just grab one of these when I'm heading to a meeting and don't have to worry about lugging some kind of beverage.

- Barrisimo Hazelnut Coffee.  We have a Keurig at work, so I like to have coffee occasionally in the afternoon.  I try not to drink too much because if I'm in meetings, I don't want to have bad breath or stained teeth.  If I have nothing planned in the afternoon, I'll brew a mug and enjoy the amazing flavor of this K-Cup!  This was an Aldi's find so it was a really reasonable price, and I can't wait to try more flavors!

- Amazing Grass Green Superfood Energy.  I have a few products from Amazing Grass, and this might be my favorite.  I love how this comes in a single serving packet, and the taste is amazing!  Just mix this in with water, and you'll get a delicious watermelon drink that is alkalizing and energizing.  The best part is that it's vegan, gluten free and raw!

The Pioneer Woman

I mentioned a few months ago that I picked up Ree Drummond's cookbook , and this week I tried out a few recipes.  I'm not sure what magic ingredients she includes (might be all the butter) but everything that I made was incredible.  The recipes were all super easy to follow and I seriously couldn't believe how great everything tasted!

My two favorite recipes that I tried were chicken with mustard cream sauce (I subbed coconut cream for the heavy cream and chicken stock for brandy) and shrimp scampi (subbing chicken stock for wine and adding coconut cream at the end).  If you follow me on Snapchat (gretchxo), you might have seen me cooking the scampi.  No lie- it was probably the best thing that I've eaten all year, and it seriously took 15 minutes to make (and about 15 seconds to devour).

Blogiversary Post Comments 

One of the highlights of my week was reading all of the sweet comments on my 1 Year Anniversary post.  I started this blog as a way to stay accountable in my half marathon, training, and I never expected this kind of response, or for people to actually visit every day and leave comments!  It's really encouraging to hear so much great feedback, and I really do appreciate it.

I also welcome any kind of criticism or suggestions you all have for how I can improve.  I'm always wanting to better myself in any way, so if you have any feedback that you'd like to submit in private, I set up an anonymous form, where you can tell me whatever's on your mind!  You can find that HERE!

You're also always welcome to email me any feedback (positive or negative) if you'd like to talk directly to me!  Thank you all for your support throughout the past year, and don't forget to enter my giveaway as a way for me to say THANK YOU!

Have a great weekend!

Post contains affiliate links.  This is not a sponsored post, but I did receive a free sample of Peak Energy Tabs to review.  I was not compensated for my review, and all thoughts are my own!  Thank you for your support!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Basic Cleaning Schedule for Apartments

Hi everyone!  Today I'm going to be sharing my cleaning schedule with you all that I created as part of my annual goals.  In the past, I've been a pretty messy, sloppy person (I'm guessing my mom is laughing out loud, thinking that's the understatement of the century).  I like to be organized, but I tend to be lazy about actually putting stuff away and keeping things cleaned.

This year, I really wanted to change that.  I love how my apartment looks when it's all clean, and I really believe that a clean space makes you happier and feel more productive.  I decided to put together a cleaning schedule to keep myself accountable for cleaning, which I'm sharing today!  I have my tasks divided into two categories- daily tasks and weekly tasks.  I'll explain what each of those are below, and tell you (by room) what falls into each category.  I'm also linking up to some of my favorite products, and I would love to hear some of your suggestions as well!

Keep in mind that I currently have a one-bedroom apartment, so if you're using this as a guide you will have to add on additional rooms.  It'll be interesting to re-do this when I finally move into a house, so be prepared for a part two in the (hopefully) near future. 

I also want to make two announcements before I start the post.  Next Thursday will be the next "What's New With You" Linkup with Kristen and me!  Check out my post from last month to learn more :)  Also, make sure you enter my 1 year blogiversary giveaway!  There are still a few days left to enter!

Daily Schedule

Tasks that should be done every day.  I admit that I'm not great about doing these things every day, but I'm working on it!


Make bed.  This is one of those things I'm not great about, but working on!

Dishwasher.  I like to either run the dishwasher or empty the dishwasher (or dish drainer) in the mornings.  This isn't something that I run every single day, but more often than weekly.  We have a tiny little dishwasher that doesn't hold much, and we don't have many dishes, so I run this way more often than I would like!


Dishes.  I do all of my dishwashing while I'm waiting for things to cook for dinner.  It's my way to multi task!  I usually put on a TV show on my laptop and wash the dishes.  It's actually kind of therapeutic after a long day!  After I'm done cooking and eating, I'll also wash any additional dishes or put them in the dishwasher.

Counters.  Every day I wipe down the counters just to make sure I get any crumbs or spills off.  I do a deeper clean weekly, which you'll see below.

Put Away.  I try to dedicate about 10 minutes a day to putting everything where it belongs.  I'll spend more time doing this on Fridays when I have a day dedicated to decluttering, but I try to stay on top of things on a daily basis.  Another area I can work on!

Weekly Schedule

Tasks that only need to be done once a week (or that I only care to do once a week).  For each room, I have a task to do each day, and when I complete that task, I put a check in the box below.  Since there are usually four weeks in a month, I have four boxes for each day.  Here's a breakdown by room:

Living Room

Monday = Furniture. This means vacuuming the sofa, chair and ottoman and spraying with a fabric spray.

Tuesday = Mail.  Go through all the mail from the past week, make sure my bills are paid (writing it down in my planner), throwing out junk mail, going through catalogs and reading magazines. 

Wednesday and Thursday = Free Day!  Just have to do my daily chores!

Friday = Declutter.  I do this in each room of my apartment.  Basically I just go through my products and see what I can get rid of.  This is mostly useful in the bathroom and kitchen so I can get rid of old products or food.  Most weeks I don't have a lot to declutter, but doing it weekly keeps things under control.

Saturday = Dust.  Self-explanatory, just dust everything!  I use an old fuzzy sock which makes things really quick and easy, then throw it in the wash when I'm done.

Sunday = Floor.  Our living room has hardwood floors and an area rug, so I vacuum everything, then Swiffer the hardwood.  We get a lot of dog hair from Selma, so vacuuming first is a must!  I've had this one for 4 years now and absolutely recommend it!  It's bagless, never loses suction, and works really well.  It's pretty cheap and lightweight too!


Monday = Recycling.  I gather up all of our recycling and take it outside.  Since we live in an apartment, we have dumpsters outside so we can really do this any day that we want.  Doing it on a weekly basis works, but if we ever have a lot accumulating I'll take it out more often.

Tuesday = Trash.  See above.  I also have trash cans in the bathroom and bedroom, so I'll take all of these out at once.

Wednesday =  Disinfect.  I either use Lysol wipes if I'm lazy or Method All Purpose Cleaner to really clean off the counters, sink, stove, microwave, cabinets, appliances, etc.

Thursday = Free Day!  Just have to do my daily chores!

Friday = Declutter.  See above.

Saturday = Floor.  First I'll vacuum to get up any food bits or dog food, then use a dry and wet Swiffer rag to clean the floors.  

Sunday = Meal plan.  You all know I love to meal plan, so Sundays (or sometimes Saturday nights) I'll make a plan and go grocery shopping.


Monday = Toilet.  Not fun, but it needs to be done!

Tuesday = Trash.  See above.

Wednesday = Brushes.  I like to deep clean my makeup brushes on a weekly basis.  I use Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap and it makes the process really quick and easy!

Thursday = Sink.  Another area that's not fun.  I also clean off the mirror and disinfect the cabinets.

Friday = Declutter.  See above.

Saturday = Floor.  See above.

Sunday = Shower.  Probably my least favorite area to clean in the house.  I'm pretty lazy about this to be honest.  I like to use Scrubbing Bubbles because the foam looks cool changing colors, and it makes the process pretty effortless. 


Monday, Wednesday, Thursday = Free Day!  Just have to do my daily chores!

Tuesday = Trash.  See above.

Friday = Declutter.  See above

Saturday = Dust.  I don't have a lot of furniture in my bedroom, just a dresser and sleigh bed, so this is really quick.

Sunday = Floor.  The bedroom is all carpet, so I just vacuum.  It's also really small so this is a quick process!

For more cleaning schedule resources, check out these links!
Morgan Manages Mommyhood
Molly Maid
Real Simple
Living Well Spending Less

What does your cleaning schedule look like?
What areas do you hate to clean?  What do you like to clean?
What are some products that you swear by?

post contains affiliate links.  this is not sponsored in any way- I just wanted to share some of my favorite products!  If a cleaning service wants to sponsor another post about cleaning, I would be fine with that :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Athleta Review

Hi everyone!  I'm here today to share three reviews of new clothes that I got from Athleta.  Now that my marathon training is halfway done, I wanted to treat myself and replace some of my over-loved and worn out winter clothes.  (P.S. this doesn't break my spending freeze since I have permission to buy running gear!)

I'm also big into setting goals and treating yourself when you hit them.  Going into this training cycle, I knew my biggest obstacle for me would be long runs.  They've always been a big mental struggle for me, so I promised myself that if I hit all of those long runs at the half way point, I could get some goodies.

It just so happened that the halfway point coincided with a big sale at Athleta!  The items that I bought were on clearance, with an additional 20% off.  I've never bought anything from Athleta but heard great things, so I was excited to try out some of their clothes!  I originally was planning on getting a new pair of my Lululemon Toasty Tech Tights since I wear mine all the time, but I ended up getting these three items for less than the price of one pair of tights.  It was a no brainer!

I hope you enjoy these reviews!  My next big milestone will be my 20 mile long run.  This is usually the pinnacle of marathon training, so that's what I'm setting my sights on!  See you on the other side!

Original Price: $74
I got it for: $41.59

Athleta Drifter Tight Review

These pants are very similar to the Lululemon Toasty Tech Tights.They're not quite as warm and don't have the fleecy lining, but these have a similar cut and pocket placement.  I love having a pocket on the inside of the pants, as well as a zippered pocket on the leg.

Athleta Drifter Tight Review

In the Toasty Tech Tight, I have a size 6 which fit a little loosely on me.  In these pants, I got a size XS which fits perfectly.  I would say that the Drifter Tights fit true to size, and an XS would be similar to a Lululemon 4. Here's a comparison of the two sizes:

Athleta Drifter Tight vs Lululemon Toasty Tech Tight

I really like these tights, and I think that they're a great alternative to Lululemon tights.  The look is really similar, and these are a great pair of basic tights.  They're not quite as warm as the Toasty Tech Tights and lack some of the extra details, but it's well worth it for the lower price. They're really comfortable during runs, and are perfect for a wider range of temperatures.  I'm glad to add them to my rotation of running pants!

Athleta Drifter Tight vs Lululemon Toasty Tech Tight

Original Price: $69
I got it for: $44.79

There are a lot of things that I love about this top.  It's a very flattering style, since it has shirring going down the front and back, and I absolutely love the space dye pattern and the colors.  There are also little plastic grippers on the bottom, which helps it "grab on" to your pants and not ride up while you run.  There are thumb holes in the sleeves which is always a good thing!

Athleta Fastest Track Top Review

The fabric is really comfortable as well.  It uses REGUL8 technology, which is supposed to adapt to weather and your body temperature so that you're never too hot or too cold.  I wore this on a short run when it was about 60 degrees out, as well as a long run that started at 40 degrees.  In both scenarios I was completely comfortable in this top!  Another cool feature is the  natural silver salts embedded in the top so that it's less stinky after runs.  After my long run this weekend, I went to Target and Dan didn't notice any smell in the top and wasn't embarrassed to be walking around with me, which means the silver salts must work!

Athleta Fastest Track Top Review

The only downside that I see in this shirt is the sizing.  I got this in an XS and found it to be too loose in the sleeves, and the sleeves were also pretty long on me, and I have long arms.  Overall, I love how this shirt feels and looks.  Even though the fit is a bit large on me, I'm still going to keep it, and I can tell why this is such a popular style at Athleta (also available in short sleeve and sleeveless!)

Athleta Fastest Track Top Review

Original Price: $79
I got it for: $24.79

Athleta Neo Thermal Top Review

This top has a lot of the same features as the Fastest Track Top- REGUL8 technology to keep you comfortable in a variety of weather conditions, and Unstinkable technology to keep you smelling fresh.  It also has thumb holes- my favorite!  Other than that, this top is very different.

Athleta Neo Thermal Top Review

The top is lined with a fleece fabric which keeps you very warm, but is still breathable.  I hate tops that make you feel claustrophobic because the air has no where to go, which traps in all your sweat and makes you even colder.  This top kept me comfortable for my entire run.  It also fits a lot smaller than the other top, so an XS was actually a bit tight.  I bought this mostly for layering under vests or jackets when the temperatures are really low, so this is fine for me.  I would recommend sizing up if you're between sizes or like a looser fit.

Athleta Neo Thermal Top Review

The fabric is also seamless, which makes it really comfortable for running and prevents chafing.  I thought that the shirt was really soft when I wore it, which is perfect for running!   I also liked the design of the side of the shirt, which you can see in this unflattering shot (you can see how tight it is here!)

Athleta Neo Thermal Top Review

Overall, even though this shirt was a bit tight, it's really comfortable and stretchy. It will work perfect as a base layer, and you really can't beat the price for the quality!  Of course, as soon as I put in this order Pittsburgh got hit with spring-like temperatures, so I haven't been able to wear this on an actual run.  I'll be sure to share an update as soon as I do!

Have you bought new athletic gear recently?
What's your favorite place to shop for workout clothes?
Do you also treat yourself during training or when you hit a milestone?

Post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for your support, and happy shopping!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Training Check-in : Halfway

It's hard to believe, but I'm already at the halfway point of my marathon training!  This is week eight on my schedule, which means I have eight weeks to go!  I wanted to check in today to share how my training is going, including a recap of my mileage and workouts, what's working, and what needs to change in the second half.

Recap of Mileage

Total Miles: 184.95

Long Runs: 79 miles, ranging from 5 to 17 miles.  Average pace 9:22

My long runs were all on the river trail or at North Park.

Easy Runs: 72.7 miles, ranging from 3 to 6.2 miles

My easy runs are all over the place- Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Roads, Trails, Treadmills - basically anywhere and everywhere!

Speed Workouts: 33.25 miles, ranging from 4.5 to 6.75 miles

Some of the speed workouts that I did include:
- Mile repeats (average pace of 8:00)
- Tempo runs (average pace of 8:10)
- Marathon pace runs (average pace of 9:00)
- Ladder workouts (average pace of 6:51)

Cross Training: Usually twice per week

I've tried a lot of different classes for cross training, including:
Group Centergy
Group Power
Group Core

Races: None.
I was signed up for two races, but I chickened out with the weather on both.

What's working for me

Listening to Podcasts:
I love listening to podcasts at the beginning of long runs, or during my warm-ups for speed work.  This helps to keep my pace slower when I start out.  Once I start to get tired (or start my speed work), I switch on music and that helps to give me a burst of energy when I need it the most!  You can see a list of podcasts that I love in this post.

I've been focusing on making recovery a priority.  After every run, I stretch out (doing a lot of my favorite yoga moves), foam roll (I have this one), drink tart cherry juice, and hydrate with an alpha amino acid drink.  Whenever I have issues popping up (this time around it's been my back that's giving my problems) I also use a heating pad.  This is great for large muscle groups that are really tight and sore.  For smaller areas or more acute pain, I'll use ice and compression socks.

Believing in myself and getting support:
A marathon is a huge challenge, and coming into this training cycle I was really nervous.  My previous two full marathons were both disasters, so I thought I wasn't cut out for the distance.  After really great training cycles for two half marathons last year, I decided to give it another go, and so far it's been great!  I realized that I need to believe in myself and forget about the mistakes I've made in the past, and focus on being stronger in the future.

I've also gotten a lot of support from fellow runners.  I think that we can all relate to having those negative thoughts, or feelings that we can't do something.  My friend Sokphal gave me some great advice the other day after my 17 miler, including this gem- "You are always stronger than you think you are".  That's going to be my mantra for the rest of training- so simple and powerful.

Cleaning up my eating:
I talked enough about the magic of Whole30 enough, so I'll keep this short (if you want to read more, make sure you check out my Whole30 recap!).  Changing how I eat has completely transformed my life and my running for the better, and I think it's a big reason why my times are getting faster and my recovery is better than ever!

What to improve

Longer mid-week runs:
So far, I've been shortening my mid-week runs.  There's been a lot going on in my life lately- from house hunting to wedding planning- so most of the time I'm just trying to squeeze in a few miles before I have to head off somewhere.  I'm hoping that most of the hard work is behind me, and I can start to add miles onto these easy runs.  I'm also able to start running before work now, which should help free up time!

More consistent cross training:
I've been all over the place with cross training.  Some weeks I'll do an activity pretty much every day, and other weeks I completely skip it.  I would like to get into a routine for these final eight weeks, and hopefully include swimming and core as my main activities.  I also see huge improvements when I go to group power, so I want to prioritize that as well!

I mentioned above that I skipped my two races that I had scheduled so far this year.  Of course, the worst weather days happened to fall on those days, so I'm trying to not beat myself up about missing.  Heading into the second half of training, though, I want to make sure I get in some races to practice race-day fueling and paces.  I have a few scheduled right now, so I'm hoping nothing catastrophic happens!

linking up with Tuesdays on the Run and Training for Tuesday
post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for your support!

How is your training going?
Does anyone else have a mantra when they're running?
What can you improve for the rest of your training cycle?

Sunday, February 21, 2016


These weeks are just flying by now!  I can't believe that I'm already sharing another weekly update on my training.  This was another good week for me- I feel like I have a down week then a really good week.  Does any one else's training go like that?

I was so happy that Pittsburgh had some nice, spring-like weather this week so most of my runs were outside.  Let's take a look at my training, and make sure you stick around for the end of the post for an exciting giveaway!


I did some light stretches, not following any specific video or flow but just going through some moves that felt good.  I followed a lot of the stretches that I shared in my post about favorite poses!


4 miles
This was a very, very gross run.  There was tons of slushy snow and ice, so I basically just slogged it out for four miles.  Not a great run but I got it done.


6.75 miles / 57:30 / 8:31 pace
Sidewalks were even worse (slushy roads that freeze over night = not ideal running conditions) so once again I was stuck inside for speed work.  Not ideal, but better than skipping or getting hurt.  

The workout was 4 x 1 mile repeats with 1/4 mile rest in between. Goal pace for each mile was 7:50-8:15, and splits ended up being 8:00, 8:00, 7:56, 7:45. My legs felt good and I was able to hit those paces with no issue, so I was happy overall!


Rest day- yay!


4 miles / 36:50 / 9:12 pace
I had a lot of emotions going on this day (more on that to come) so I'm grateful that I can go out for a run to release all those feelings.  I had so much energy and this was a perfect way to get it all out.  Sometimes there's nothing better than an all-out run when you need it.


3 miles
We had absolutely gorgeous weather this weekend, so I had to take advantage of it with Selma!  We went out for a run together and ended up covering about three miles.  She loved it and was so tired afterwards!


17 miles / 2:38:00 / 9:17 pace
I was really nervous about this run, because I knew that this would be my longest training run ever.  Even though I've run two full marathons, I've never trained over 15 miles so to me this was a huge milestone.  I was worried about everything going wrong or not being able to finish.

I decided to run at North Park, but didn't want to do 3 1/2 laps of the lake, so I switched it up a bit.  I ran the McKinney loop from the Just a Short Run race, then did a lap around the lake.  Did a second lap of McKinney and did a lap going the other way around the lake.  Dan met me at a parking lot about a mile down the road so that I would finish at 17 miles.  

It was a beautiful day and I felt great the entire run!  I brought along some gels and dates with me, but besides having a bite of a date at mile 8 I really didn't need anything.  I didn't want to force myself to eat and my stomach felt full from properly fueling in the morning and the night before.  I also stopped for water twice..thank goodness for the water pump at the football field or I would have gone water-less the entire time.  Two thumbs up for this run!


I can't believe it, but GretchRuns turns 1 year old today!  I've learned so much throughout this year, and have really enjoyed using this space as a way to connect with other people both near and far, and have a bit of a creative outlet.  I really appreciate each comment that I receive and every view and share that my posts get, so I wanted to do a little giveaway as a small way to say thanks.  

I asked a few weeks ago what kinds of items you would like in a giveaway, and a lot of you suggested a collections of my favorites.  That's just what I'm doing!  I'll be giving away:

Picky Bars - my favorite pre-run fuel that never upset my stomach, in two flavors
Trader Joe's Cookie and Cocoa Swirl - pretty much the best spread I've ever tried
Kat von D Tattoo Eyeliner - great eyeliner for beginners or makeup-aholics alike
40 Days: Life, Love, Loss and a Historic Run Around One of the World's Largest Lakes - one of the most inspiring stories I've ever read
+ a few other surprises!  because who doesn't love surprises?

I would also like to give a huge thank you to Steven Cannon for offering a copy of his book for this giveaway!  I know that I raved about it and told you all how inspirational it was, so I had to include a copy for one of you to enjoy.  Other than that, this is not a sponsored giveaway in any way, and all other prizes were purchased by me.

Enter this giveaway using the Rafflecopter below!  The giveaway will run for one week- from today till the 28th at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

post contains affiliate links- thank you for your support so I can do more fun giveaways in the future!
linking up with Erin, Carylee, Jenna,  HollyTricia and Katie

Friday, February 19, 2016

Top Five Friday #44

Hi everyone!  I'm stopping by quickly today to share my Top Five Favorites for the week.  This has been a crazy week, so it's going to be a short and sweet post.  I hope that you enjoy, and I promise to talk more next week!

Beets Blu Paper Tag

I was really excited when Beets Blu contacted me about trying out one of their new products- a wireless key finder!  I can't tell you how many times a day I misplace my keys or my cell phone.  Dan's become so accustomed to this, that whenever I come into the living room and start moving stuff around he asks "what did you lose now..".

Enter- the Paper Tag.  This tiny little device does a ton:
  • Keep track of your valuables (keys, wallets, suitcase, laptop bag, backpack - whatever is tagged)
  • Detect the proximity of lost or forgotten items wirelessly
  • Alert you when your item shifts outside of a connection range (about 15 feet/5 meters)
  • Send sounds and enable an LED light to alert you
I've had this product for about a week now, and I'm slightly ashamed to say that I've already used it a few times.  I love how quick and easy it is to use, and it's so small that I don't mind it on my keys at all!  It also has a cool feature of controlling some phone functions like taking a picture or playing music.  It's great to use as a remote for my phone camera so I don't have to use the self-time anymore!

SuzLyfe on a Podcast!

I am so proud of one of my favorite bloggers Susie for being featured on a podcast!  If you haven't checked out Susie's blog yet, you have to.  She's such an inspiring person and her blog voice is really genuine and hilarious.  I love her outlook on life, always turning lemons into applesauce.  She's just as joyful and amazing in person, so you've got to check her out in this podcast!  You can listen to it here, or find it on iTunes!

(Flashback to when I met Suz in real life!)

Grammy Fashion Favorites

I didn't watch the Grammy's at all (except for Gaga's performance and some other clips on Snapchat) but I love looking at the fashion afterwards!  Here are some of my favorites:

Carrie Underwood, working the side slit

Selena Gomez in one of my favorite colors and an interesting cut

 Chrissy Teigan, looking gorgeous as always!

THON Weekend

I've mentioned a few times before that I went to Penn State, and this weekend is one of the biggest for the school.  Each year, the students host a 46 hour long no-sitting, no-sleeping dance marathon to raise money for pediatric cancer.  The money raised goes to the Four Diamonds at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital- an incredible $127 million dollars since 1977.  Last year, THON raised over $13 million and 96% of those funds went directly to Four Diamonds.

The marathon starts today, but there's still time to donate!  You can go here to make a donation and help join the fight against pediatric cancer.

TV Shows

American Idol - All I can say is that my two favorites (La'Porsha and Dalton) KILLED it in the first round!  So excited to see them progress as the competition goes on, because I think they'll make it very far.

How to Get Away With Murder - So excited that this show is back on!  I'm already falling behind but I can't wait to see how the season follows up after the big cliffhanger!

Vanderpump Rules - I just started to get into this show, and it is crazy.  Never have I been more thankful for having Dan in my life instead of those creeps on the show!  Is no one loyal?!

Property Virgins - Thanks to house hunting (still) I'm watching every show out there about home buying or DIYing.  This show is my "show of the week" and I'm loving it!  I can relate so well with the people on this show, except for the ones looking for million dollar homes in Manhattan!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Linking up with MarCynthia and Court 
Post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for your support!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Favorite Podcasts for Running [That Aren't Serial]

I'm convinced that there are three types of runners- those who listen to podcasts on runs, those who listen to music on runs, and the very few who somehow make it through runs with no sound but the stomping of feet, and the rise and fall of the breath.  I personally fall into the first group.  To me, there's nothing better than catching up on my favorite podcasts while getting in my workout.

I think that podcasts became popular thanks to Serial coming out last year, and now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.  While I liked season 1, I've found other podcasts out there that I enjoy even more.  I think podcasts are the perfect way to get your mind of your body while you're running, and they really help the miles fly by!  I like how I can get lost in a new story, learn something new, or just be entertained.

Today I'll be sharing some of my favorite podcasts.  I'm always adding new ones to my list, so this is ever evolving!  If you have any suggestions I would love to hear it in the comments below!  I'll be dividing up my recommendations in a few different categories, starting with food and health, then pop culture, moving into story-telling podcasts and ending with everything else.

Balanced Bites
A practical and modern approach to holistic and Paleo/real food nutrition with a healthy dose of humor. Hosted by Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe (of Real Food Liz).

I started to listen to this podcast during my Whole30, and I love the wide variety of topics that Diane and Liz cover.  Not only do they interview a wide range of health professionals, but they also talk about organic beauty products and pop culture.  I never know what to expect from this podcast but I always learn a ton!

Burnt Toast
Here at Burnt Toast, we talk about the things that don’t always make it on the website. Join host Kenzi Wilbur, plus a rotating cast of smart, salty guests, for controversial cooking topics, food culture, and occasional good-spirited debate.

This is another podcast that is all over the place, but the topic always centers on food.  The episodes vary a lot in subject matter and length, so I never know what I'll get going into the episodes!  I love to cook though, so this is an interesting podcast to me.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin is HAPPIER, and she wants you to be happier too. The #1 bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before gets more personal than ever as she brings her practical, manageable advice about happiness and good habits to this lively, thought-provoking podcast. Gretchen’s cohost and guinea pig is her younger sister, Elizabeth Craft, a TV writer and producer living in Los Angeles, who (lovingly) refers to Gretchen as her happiness bully.

I love how organized this podcast is- I always know how each episode will be formatted and I really like that.  Each episode features a tip to try out, a happiness stumbling block, listener question, and weekly gold star and demerit.  Gretchen and Elizabeth are great to listen to, and I love hearing their tips for being happier everyday!  Their most recent episode featured the creator of Whole30 if you're looking for a good episode to start with!

Here to Make Friends
A HuffPost Podcast about The Bachelor, where hosts Emma Gray and Claire Fallon lovingly snark and recap the latest episodes from The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise.  Whether you love The Bachelor, or love to hate it, you will enjoy their witty discussion about this reality show and what it reveals about the world of dating.

The Bachelor is one of my guilty pleasures, and this podcast is my new favorite.  I don't have many friends that watch the Bachelor, so I love listening to recaps and reactions of each episode.  The co-hosts of this podcast are so entertaining and are so much fun to listen to, and I feel like I'm chatting with girlfriends about the show (even though they're doing all the talking and I'm just listening along).  They also bring in interesting guests like past contestants and even Chris Harrison!  If you're as into the Bachelor franchise as I am, you'll love this podcast (and also, can we talk about the show in real life too?)

Wait, Wait..Don't Tell Me!
Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is NPR's weekly hour-long quiz program. Each week on the radio you can test your knowledge against some of the best and brightest in the news and entertainment world while figuring out what's real news and what's made up. On the Web, you can play along too.

This is one of my favorite podcasts to listen to during a run.  Each episode is around 50 minutes and follows the same format.  There are always three comedian panelists along with the funny host (and runner) Peter Sagal, listeners that call in for quizzes, and a celebrity guest that plays a game.  I feel like I learn a bit of current events from this show from bizarre stories to big headlines.  It's all delivered in a hilarious way, so it's a great program to listen to when I really want to miles to fly by!  This is actually what I listened to during the first half of my most recent half marathon!

It's not just crazy talk, it's Psychobabble - the official free audio podcast from YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley. Listen each week as he and his bestie Korey Kuhl bring you a half hour of unfiltered gossip sessions, pop culture scrutiny, and stories never told before.

Tyler Oakley is one of my favorite YouTubers, and I absolutely love his hilarious, over-the-top personality.  He has this podcast with his best friend Korey (both of whom are currently on the Amazing Race, by the way!) where they talk all about pop culture.  I'm not the hippest person around, so I like that this show keeps me in the loop of what's going on, including celebrity twitter feuds, music releases, movie reviews, and more.  The show is very inappropriate but hilarious!  I find myself laughing out loud to this podcast more than any other on this list!

There's a theme to each episode of This American Life, and a variety of stories on that theme. Most of the stories are journalism, with an occasional comedy routine or essay. There's lots more to the show, but it's sort of hard to describe.

Each week on This American Life, a unique and interesting topic is explored with completely different stories told by normal people, celebrities, comedians and more.  I always look forward to the release of new episodes of TAL because they're all so intriguing and you never know what to expect!  I also just love Ira Glass as well, so any podcast that he's on I'll listen to.

Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again.  In this seven-part podcast, American Public Radio host Lia Haddock asks the question once more, "What happened to the people of Limetown?"

Limetown is one of my favorite and least favorite podcasts out there.  It's my favorite because the story line and delivery is so, so good.  I'm always on the edge of my seat (while I'm running of course) and can't get enough of the mystery.  On the other hand- the release of new episodes was so sporadic and I was waiting months for the latest episodes to be released.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but from episode one we were promised seven parts total and only six parts have been released.  I've been waiting and waiting on updates and have been left on a huge cliff hanger, so I'm not sure how I feel about this podcast!

Modern Love
Modern Love: The Podcast is a new audio experience produced by WBUR and based on The New York Times’ popular series of weekly reader-submitted essays. Exploring the joys and tribulations of love, Modern Love: The Podcast adds new dimension to the popular New York Times column, with readings by notable personalities and updates from the essayists themselves.

This is the newest podcast that's on my list, and I've only listened to a few episodes.  I love the premise of the show though, and the few episodes that I've listened to have been great!  I can't wait to hear more!

Most people don't like to talk about money. We are not most people. On each episode we catch up on married life and check in on our money - from big financial goals to weekly grocery bills. We share real numbers, including our budget, and how we spend and save as we raise our two young boys.

Since I started really planning on buying a house, I've cared more and more about my finances.  This podcast is all about money, but it's actually interesting and not intimidating at all.  Kelsey and her husband Chris talk all about their bills and financial goals in a really relateable and non-intimidating or judgmental way.  They both inspired me to start my very first budget and make my own financial goals for the year!  I also don't want to brag but I was mentioned in an episode (just in case you're looking for more of a reason to listen!)

The Girl Next Door
We're two next door neighbors who love a good chat and a good cocktail.  Come on in, have a drink and stay a while.

This is another podcast by Kelsey from the Matrimoney podcast.  She does this bi-weekly podcast with her neighbor, and they talk about every topic under the sun.  I don't really have anything in common with either of them- they're both moms of two kids and live in is an ex-teacher who is now a stay at home mom to two little girls she adopted while the other is a science writer at an University- but they're so entertaining to listen to!  I actually started listening to this podcast during my half marathon training last year, and made my way through their backlog of episodes on my long runs.  I feel like they single-handedly got me that sub-2 hour finish!

The Lively Show
The Lively Show is designed to uplift, inspire, and help you add a little extra intention to your everyday.

Jess Lively is another podcaster that covers every topic under the sun.  Her podcast always inspires me and puts me in such a great mood!  She also features lots of interviews with interesting people which I enjoy.  Most of her episodes are around an hour long, but she also does random short episodes which are great "fillers" during long runs!

What kind of person are you- podcast, music or none of the above?
What's your favorite podcast?
What do you like better- podcast or audio books?  For some reason, I can't stand audio books!  I lose attention or get lost and end up replaying sections over and over, then get fed up and shut it off.

linking up with Amanda!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wednesday Reviews : Group Core

Hi everyone!  If you'll remember in my fitness goals for the year, I want to try out four new workouts this year.  Today I'm going to be talking about the first new class that I tried out- Group Core!  This is a new class that's offered at my gym.  It's described as a 30 minute workout that will work your entire core, so I had to try it out!

My gym offers group fitness classes by the company Body Training Systems.  In the past, I've gone to Group Power and Group Centergy, so I was excited to give another class a try.  On the website, the class has this description:
Let's get Hard Core!  Train like an athlete in 30 action-packed minutes.  A strong core, from your shoulders to your hips, will improve your athletic performance, help prevent back pain, and give you ripped abs!  Expert coaching and motivating music will guide you through functional and integrated exercises using your body weight, weight plates, a towel, and a platform- all to challenge you like never before.  Reach your Peak with Group Core!

I love the fact that this class is only 30 minutes long, and that half hour really flies by!  The workout is divided into different sections of your core, and switches between high intensity and low intensity.  Here's what a typical class looks like:

Warm-up : Dynamic stretches to warm up your body and muscles.  Exercises use the step and towel.

Cardio Max : High impact exercises that really bring up that heart rate!  Lots of burpees and dynamic core work.  Full body is working during this track!

Core Integration : Low impact with balance.  Small, slow movements that force you to engage entire core.

Core Stability : All about the planks - straight arm, forearm, and side.  This one is a killer!

Core Mobility : High intensity track that targets the obliques.  Lots of twisting using both a weighted plate and a towel.  Track continues to speed up as you work, so while you get tired you have to keep up the pace!  

Cool-down : Short cool-down that stretches out the core and brings back down the heart rate.  

As you can tell, this class is short but really effective.  It targets all of the areas of the core : abs, hamstrings, glutes, hips, lower and upper back, and obliques.  For runners, it's really important to exercise these muscles to prevent injury and make us stronger and more stable!

I can tell a huge difference in my fitness when I focus on strengthening my core, but don't take my word for it.  Here are a few posts that I find really informative about running and core exercises:

Why You Need A Strong Core
13 Essential Core Exercises for Runners
Core Work for Runners
Runner's Core Workout

What's your favorite area to workout?
Is there a core exercise that you love?  Hate?  I have a love/hate relationship with planks!
What new workout have you recently tried?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pinterest Hack or Pinterest Wack?

Happy Tuesday everyone!  It was so nice to have a few days off to just relax.  I pretty much didn't leave my bed all weekend, and I'm completely alright with that.

Today I'm going to be joining in the Show and Tell Tuesday linkup with Momfessionals!  Today's topic is one of my favorites- testing Pinterest Pins.  I'm going to be attempting four different pins today- an outfit, hair style, makeup look, and recipe.  Cross your fingers for me- this could get messy.  Let's find out if these pins are hacks or completely wack!


My outfit details - Sweater x Button Down x Pants x Boots

I wanted to find a new way to wear my white button down to work, and I loved this pin!  I love the classic look of a crisp white button down shirt, but the only way I ever wore it was with basic blue jeans.  I liked how the pinned image paired it with a burgundy blazer and skinny black pants, so I used that as inspiration for my outfit.

I paired my shirt with my favorite cardigan from Madewell, some pixie pants from J Crew (which feel like leggings but are thick enough to pass as pants, especially when my top covers my butt!) and wedge boots from HM.  I love how this turned out!

Hair and Makeup

I always like to do natural makeup, so I was excited to see a quick and easy makeup look that's meant for a bride!  Never too early to start testing out makeup ideas, right?  In the pictures, you can see that it's very subtle and I think it enhances my eyes instead of being overly dramatic.  Here's a closer look at the eyes:

Products used:  NYC Cityproof eyeliner in dark brown for base, Lorac Mega Pro shadows (brown in crease, cashmere on lid), Maybelline Master Precise for liner, Kiss Chic Lashes, YSL Rouge Volupte in #2 on lips.

I like how my hair looks curled, but it always takes such a long time to do it!  I wanted to find a Pinterest hack that would cut that time down so that I can do it in the morning before work.  All you have to do for this look is gather your hair in a ponytail, and curl 3-4 sections of hair.  I ended up curling closer to 8 sections because I have a lot of fine hair, but I love how it turned out! 

This took me less than 5 minutes to do, and I love how it looks.  I feel like a Victoria's Secret model with the hair and makeup!


I recently discovered the blog Amanda and Kevin, and I couldn't wait to try out their recipe for Ham and Cheese party rolls!  I love making quick and easy appetizers for snacks during the week (and to test out recipes for actual parties or potlucks).  This recipe was easy to follow and came out really well!

I made a few substitutions in the recipe- I had Trader Joe's Whole Wheat pizza dough in the freezer, so I was happy to use that up for this recipe.  I also omitted the poppy seeds because I'm not a fan of them.  I found the sauce made the rolls a bit too greasy and saucy, so I would recommend cutting back the butter to 4 tablespoons instead of 8.  

Overall, I think this is a great recipe!  I love the fact that you can prep it ahead and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, then take it out and bake it the day of the party.  That would make for an easy party appetizer!  I also like that this can be customized with different meats and cheeses, or substituting different pizza dough to give more flavor combinations.  Two thumbs up!

Overall, all four of these pins were successes!  I loved how the outfit came out, the makeup was great for a special occasion, the hair will be my new go-to style, and the rolls will be made over and over again.  Way to go, Pinterest!

What is a recent Pin Win that you had?
Who else is obsessed with Pinterest?
What do you mostly use Pinterest for?  I love finding new recipes and Ikea hacks!

Post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for your support!
Linking up with Anne for Pin to Present