3M Half Marathon Race Recap

3MHalfLogoBack in August – ahh, remember warmth? – we hosted Morgan and Lauren who came up to escape the Texas heat and eat at every place we could score reservations. Lauren brought up the 3M Half Marathon and I knew that by the end of January I would do just about anything to flee the Chicago winter and head south, so we all (minus Brett) signed up for the January 25th race!

Since my half in October I’ve been running but not specifically half marathon training. I’ve done between 20-25 miles a week with at least one speed interval session a week, but not many tempo runs and nothing over 7 miles. Needless to say, I was not expecting a top performance but planned to see how I felt and just enjoy the course – and the tank top running weather.

Both Morgan and Lauren had run this race in the past and had the logistics down, the most exciting being that the 6.25 mile point is at the end of their street so for peace of mind we had our own private bathroom if need be. No one did, but it was very reassuring to know! Also, Brett would be there cheering us on which I greatly looked forward to.

The course is point to point and logistically very easy. The plan was to drive to the start, park in the garage, and take the free shuttle back to the start after meeting at the finish. The start time was 7am and we were heading out the door by 6:10 to allow time for the inevitable traffic gridlock on the one highway to the start line. We had about 20 minutes after parking to toe the line and in that time I ran into a friend from Chick’s Night at Fleet Feet in Chicago!

10406656_10153056114411948_6442641628404655371_nJulieAnn and I ready for takeoff!

We each had a different estimated finish time so wished each other luck and headed for our respective corrals. Morgan and Lauren both ended up stuck in the porta potty line but I had just enough time to slip through the corral gate and nervously fidget for warmth as the National Anthem was sung. It was mid-low 40s but supposedly would reach 70 in the afternoon with sun expected (rising roughly 2 miles into our run) so I was layered like an onion!

Miles 0.0-5.0
The gun went off and I hit my Garmin crossing the start; 13.1 to go! The first couple miles were a little dark as the sun started coming up about 20 minutes in. My first mile was 7:43 and I felt great. Great enough that my 2nd mile was 7:26! Probably a little too ambitious without PR training behind me and only 2 miles under my belt, I slowed a bit and kept at it around 10 seconds slower the next 2 miles. With no hills and not knowing the city, it’s hard to remember specific points along the course, but I do remember a few things. The course is a net downhill but there were a few small inclines throughout. One of them was around mile 4 when I was decidedly warm enough to shed my jacket. We started the small incline as I took my gloves off (all 2 pair of them), unzipped and worked the fitted sleeves over my arm warmers. I needed my hands to tie it around my waist so I tucked the gloves under my chin and made a double knot, slipped my gloves back on and resumed my pace. This may not see too impressive, but I passed through two runners in the middle of this feat! I just hope the spectators made note. We continued south towards downtown and I happily realized I had just over a mile until I passed by the house and got to see Brett.

Mile 1 – 7:43
Mile 2 – 7:26
Mile 3 – 7:37
Mile 4 – 7:35
Mile 5 – 7.21

Miles 5.1-10.0
I tried to stay steady but push it through the bulk of the race. I was feeling good but knew I wasn’t PR prepped and didn’t want to crash, especially with a known hill coming sometime around mile 10. It wasn’t rumored to be a huge hill but I didn’t want to risk it. There were water stops every 2 miles and just before the 6th mile stop I (mentally) gave the award for Best Dressed Spectator: A grown man in a full pirate costume – hat, hair and all – with a sign that said “Run Your Booty Off!”.
I smiled and got to the outside of the water stop, fueled by the excitement that I knew exactly where I was and would see Brett shortly. I could also toss him one of my pair of gloves. Yeah, I was THAT warm. We turned the corner onto Great Northern Blvd. where we would be for the next mile and I got to the left so I could see my fan. I caught his eye early and waved, said I didn’t need anything but for him to take my gloves, attempted to smile at his phone and was on my way.

austin2Hey, I said I TRIED to smile

Mile 7 was just over a half mile from me and was the first Clif Shot stop. I grabbed a vanilla and mocha for who-knows-when and ate one of my shot blocks; the second of the race.
There was a string band playing up ahead on the left that I thought a little subdued for a race, then I recognized what they were paying: “If I only had a brain…”. I laughed at that one, assuming it was a statement for all of us silly people paying to get up early and run 13.1 miles. It was stuck in my head the next 2 miles.
Miles 6-8 clocked in around 7:30 and I felt good. I knew I had enough miles under 7:38 that I could feasibly get my second fastest time, but there was still a hill and more race to be run. Just past mile 9, as we turned off Shoal Creek Road and onto West 45th, I met my hill. It wasn’t steep but was a full half mile…after running 9 miles already. A girl matching my pace had a friend jump in at the start of the hill and helped pace her and talk her through the toughest part of the course. I hung on her every word! “Please, tell her it’s almost over”, I thought, and about 20 seconds later I heard those magic words and felt a rush of relief. That was it, I can forget about “the hill up ahead”! We had 5K to go.

Mile 6 – 7:31
Mile 7 – 7:28
Mile 8 – 7:26
Mile 9 – 7:33
Mile 10 – 7:38

Miles 10.1-13.1
The rest of 45th Street was a nice steady decline and my hamstrings – especially the right one – were thankful. Knowing my personal Dark Passenger of the Half Marathon are miles 10 and 11 I was incredibly happy to hear a spectator say, “you’re 1 minute away from Mile 12!”. I yelled a thank you, then started wondering how she knew what my pace was and how she could calculate how long it would take me to reach mile 12. Then I saw the Mile 12 marker and stopped caring.

austinFinally, a floating picture!

Knowing that every step is that much “under a mile to go” does so much for you mentally. It did so much that my last mile was by far my fastest. Or maybe it was that mariachi band at 12.5? I knew I had only a few more minutes of running to do so I didn’t let up, even pushing myself harder. There were a ton of curves that last mile and with each one I kept expecting to see the finish line, even muttering, “where the f@$& is the finish” to myself. I finally saw it, along with a small incline (19 ft elevation gain according to my Garmin). I pumped my arms and dug in. I was going to beat my last half time and crossed the line at 1:39:03; my second fastest half and 14th Half Marathon on record!

Mile 11 – 7:33
Mile 12 – 7:31
Mile 13 – 7:17
Average race pace – 7:31

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They called my name as I crossed the line (seriously, that will NEVER get old!) and after grabbing a water I heard Morgan’s name called. I quickly found him, he ran a 1:37 but had started after me in real time, not his fastest but not a bad showing. We got our medals and sat in the sun on a hill while we waited for Lauren. He guessed she would beat her best time and estimated a 1:57 finish. We slowly got up and made our way to the chute when I got a call. It was Lauren, we missed her because she ran a 1:52, a full 7 minute PR! We recapped our adventure, grabbed some finish line SWAG and headed for the shuttles. Overall, it was a great morning!


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Winter Treadmill Sanity Savers


While the treadmill is a great tool to build cardio endurance and get your miles in when it’s too frigid and icy, it can be – let’s face it – mind-numbingly boring. Music or podcasts – or if you’re lucky enough to have full TV access – are definitely helpful, especially when doing steady state cardio – but if you want to make time on Mr. T fly, intervals are your best friend.

With interval training you manipulate 4 variables: Work interval time/distance, intensity, recovery interval time/distance, and number of repetitions. Two main categories of interval training are Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity intervals. Aerobic intervals are a great way to improve the ability of your heart to pump oxygen and blood to your working muscles. Their work intervals are 3-5 minutes with a recovery interval ration of 1:1 or shorter, stressing your aerobic system by not allowing a complete recovery. Anaerobic Capacity is the ability of your body to generate energy through the anaerobic system – or – glycolysis, therefore Anaerobic Capacity intervals increase the amount of energy and ability of your body to produce that energy using the anaerobic system. These work intervals last 30 seconds to 2 minute with a recovery interval ration of 1:2 to 1:4.

If you have a heart rate monitor you want to hit 95%-100% of your max heart rate during aerobic intervals and 90% (1-2 min intervals) to 95% (30 second intervals) during anaerobic capacity work intervals. You may find it easier to go by RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) instead of finding your heart rate (many machines can be drastically off). In this case your aerobic intervals would be a 9-10 and anaerobic capacity intervals would be 8-9. Use this chart to get familiar with what each intensity feels like to you. To some, a 6 min/mile sprint is their most intense interval but for others it may be a 14 min/mile power walk. Wherever you are, these intervals will improve both your aerobic and anaerobic systems.

RPE Chart

Interval training is intense, and it’s advised to have a solid base of aerobic fitness before beginning, meaning you should be able to do 20-30 minutes of continuous aerobic activity 5 times a week. Below are a few treadmill workouts to get you started, but getting creative with intervals is near limitless! Warm up for 5-10 minutes before beginning the interval portion and cool down for 5 minutes.

 Aerobic Interval Workouts

  • 8 X 3 minutes @ RPE 9, 3 minute recovery
  • 5 X 5 minutes @ RPE 9, 5 minute recovery
  • 6 X .25 miles @RPE 10, .25 mile recovery
  • 5-minutes @RPE 6, 5-minutes @RPE 7, 5-minutes @RPE 8, 5-minutes @RPE 9 X 3 (20 minute building interval blocks)
  • Consistent moderate pace; 6 X .25 mile hill repeats @ 8% incline, .25 mile recovery at 1% incline

Anaerobic Interval Workouts

  • 12 X 45 seconds @ RPE 8, 1.5 minute recovery
  • 16 X 30 seconds @ RPE 9, 1 minute recovery
  • 10 X .10 miles @ RPE 8, .10 miles @ RPE 9, .3 mile recovery

Mix in both with this ladder interval workout!

  • 1 minute intervals @ RPE 10, 2 minute intervals @ RPE 9, 3 minute intervals @ RPE 8,
    Work interval time = recovery interval time

Andouille Chicken Sausage with Zucchini Over Spaghetti Squash

Behold the spaghetti squash. Probably the most delicious way to add veggies to a dish and not add a ton of calories. Aside from looking really cool, the spaghetti squash has a ton of health benefits. It’s a great source for vitamins A and C, which are also antioxidants that can prevent cell damage; and potassium, which over time can lower high blood pressure. If that’s not enough, it contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that help prevent heart disease and inflammation. BAM!

spaghetti squash

You may have seen spaghetti squash at your grocery and been intimidated, “what the heck do I do with THAT?”. Easy! With a large kitchen knife, cut the squash in half length wise, scoop out the seeds and membrane, place cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 50-60 minutes and you’re done! Take a fork and drag it along the inside of the squash and be amazed as it comes out in strands that are ready to eat!

For this recipe I treated the squash like it’s namesake and served it pasta style with chicken sausage and even more veggies. Try this at home and get creative!

spaghetti squash and chickenThanks to Newhealthguide.com for the yummy stats!


Get Committed!

make a wish or make it happen

It’s probably not a surprise that the top New Years resolution is to lose weight, and if you’ve set foot in any gym the first week of January it would appear those Resolutionaries (one whose New Years resolution is to get in shape) are on the right track. Unfortunately, statistics show after the first month, many people lose their resolve and not the weight.

Losing weight and getting in better shape is a great goal (and one that can start anytime of the year) but what often happens with New Years resolutions is people go from 0 to 60 with no specific plan of action which quickly leads to burnout, or worse; injury. Setting a SMART goal is a great start. Applying a New Years resolution to the SMART goal formula could look like this: “I’m going to go to the gym for 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of strength training 3 times a week.” , instead of, “I’m going to workout more.” Another component to sticking with a weight loss goal is to plan for the long term and look at this as a lifestyle change, instead of simply something you’re trying out in the new year.

To help those kicking off their weight loss journey this New Years, I’m offering a discount on my larger personal training packages because I believe consistency is key. If weight loss, getting fit, or simply starting a routine is on your New Year’s resolution list, contact me at samantha@sjkfitness.com and together we can create a plan to make your resolution stick!

Get Committed Specials

Circuit Work It

Circuit workouts are a great way to get a calorie torching strength and cardio session completed in one workout, plus the quick changes of exercises keep things from getting boring! There are endless ways to design your own circuit routine; with a focus on strength, cardio, full body or select muscles, weighted exercises for the gym-rat or bodyweight exercises for the at-home fitness fanatic.

Below are a few ideas but have fun with making your own by following these few basic guidelines:

8-12 Stations (exercises)
30-90 Seconds per station
Little to no rest between stations
Alternate muscle groups and cardio
Repeat 2-4 times through, resting 1-2 minutes between rounds

Tuesday Tone-Up Upper Body + Core Circuit Bodyweight Circuits

IHR Thanksgiving Day Run – Race Recap

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 12.13.39 PMIroquois Hill Runners, a run club in Louisville, puts on an annual Thanksgiving Day 5 Mile Run/1.25 Mile Walk which I first participated in back in 2010. We spent a few Thanksgivings in Chicago and one in St. Louis, but every year I’m home for T-Day I sign up; this was my 3rd time running the 5 mile course. The first year was warm but raining, last year it was 23 degrees and this year there was snow BUT a pleasant 32. Perfect!

IMG_7882 IMG_7883 IMG_7880

Typically, 5 miles isn’t something I need to prepare for, but this course – through Iroquois Park – takes runners to the top of the park, around the peak, and back down. That equates to a 2 mile climb, and not the kind that “feels like 2 miles”; the kind that IS 2 miles.

Mom, dad, Brett and Barksdale came to spectate and mom put her time to use by power walking  a few miles while I ran. When mom is in tow, there are sure to be pictures:

IMG_7869Walking to the start line

10704089_10100383848027585_3761926898945932806_n Mom and I waiting near the start

IMG_7872Dad=Gear check

I lined up with 2 minutes to go and shuffled my feet in attempt to “warm up”. This is a great home town race that has grown significantly since I started running it, but you still get the small race features like an unceremonious start. “We’re going now?!”, a girl in front of me exclaimed to her friend, and we were off! The first 1/4 mile is decently flat but a bit crowded so I took to the far right until it opened up and I could find my stride. Just then I heard mom and saw her camera!

IMG_7875Oh, hey!

The start of the hill is steep but there’s a band that plays as you make a sharp left into the park which helps keep your feet moving. Shortly after, we hit the 1 mile mark as a young volunteer yelled, “8:09…8:12…8:15…”. As her voice trailed off I pounded away at the pavement and picked off a few people in front of me as the road leveled out. Well, not so much, “leveled out” as, “got less steep”.

The snow on the branches made a beautiful backdrop against the gray sky, and through the bare trees you could see the rest of the park as we neared the top. I was thankful to see the sharp right turn ahead that signified the final (and steepest) ascent that would end at the top. The worst was over! I tried to hold steady around the summit, knowing that around 3 miles there would be one more sharp but short incline that got me by surprise last year. Not this year, suckah! I passed someone on the hill and muttered, “thank you” to the volunteers handing out water and focused on running the tangents as I tore down the sharp turn.

A stitch started to poke at me on the next straightaway to I focused on deep breathing and not loosing ground with the guy in the blue hat in front of me. I started to worry a little, but soon after heard another volunteer calling splits, “30:20…30:25…30:30”; I had reached 4 miles! The band was soon to come along with the steep downhill! I could do this!



I picked up my feet and let them fall with gravity and managed a semblance of a smile towards the bag pipe players as we turned right to the nearly flat, last 1/3 mile of the race. I suddenly felt my right hamstring saying, “hey there, HEY there, HEY THERE!”. I kept my eye on the girl in front of me and managed to not loose my distance as we approached the finish. “Men on the right, women on the left, men on the right, women on the left”, a man called out at the finish. This race doesn’t use chipped timing so you are guided into gender chutes and handed a card by the first volunteer who writes something-or-other on it and hands it to the volunteer to their right. I knew I was around 37:00-37:30 but was more concerned with regaining proper breathing and grabbing a water.

IMG_7888My official time is 37:01, 11th overall female and 2nd in my (new) division! It was a great race and I later used all those calories I burned at dinner 🙂


Breakfast is King

It seems the first thing eliminated from the diets of people looking to trim down is breakfast. As someone who plans breakfast the night before – and one who squeals when the words, “breakfast served all day” appear on a menu – the thought of avoiding this sacred meal is unimaginable. Luckily, health stats are on my side. If you are anti-breakfast, here are a few numbers that should have you jumping on the Breakfast is King bandwagon by morning! Shout out to Zazenlife.com for the awesome infographic.

breakfast infographic

Think you don’t have time to prepare, much less eat, a healthy meal in the morning? Think again! Here are a few ideas for English Muffins (or toast) that you can make in under 5 minutes at home or work and even eat on the train. Happy morning to you!

English Muffin Breakfasts

Commercial Break Core Work

Watching TV doesn’t have to be a sedentary activity. After all, sitting for hours on end is killing us!

sitting infographicBreak up your TV time with some serious core work! Pick one exercise to do for each commercial and be on your way to a stronger core and healthier habits.commercial Break Core

20-Minute Tabata Torcher

For the day’s you can’t find even 30 minutes for cardio or the day’s you can’t get to the gym, try this 20-minute heart rate spiker! You need no weights, just a stop watch, or download the (free) Tabata Timer to your phone and get your sweat on!

20-Min Tabata Torcher

Bean and Chicken Sausage Stew

I must say, Real Simple is probably my favorite magazine out there. It’s well rounded, offering advice on career, friendship, marriage, health and, my favorite, cooking. I enjoy their recipes so much I own their cookbook; Real Simple Best Recipes: Easy Delicious Meals. In the age of Pinterest, buying a physical cookbook truly means something! The most recent recipe I made from said cookbook was a big hit at my house and I hope it’s a hit at yours!

I used turkey sausage and added some yellow onion that I had on hand, but below is the original recipe which you can also find on the Real Simple website – along with many other delicious recipes – here.

bean and chicken sausage stew