Thursday, March 4, 2010

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

So, I mentioned on the Runners Roundtable episode on weight loss that I eschew supplements in favor of real food. An example would be these homemade granola bars. They've got it all, a good blend of simple and complex carbs, healthy fats, and big dose of protein. They're also way more cost effective than Powerbars or similar products. Give them a try and let me know what you think!


2 cups of old fashioned oats (you can use quick oats, but texture isn't as good)
3/4 cup of wheat germ
3/4 cup ground flax seed (I buy it whole and grind it up in a coffee grinder)
1/2 cup of whatever kind of nut you like, crushed (not into powder, but you don't want whole nuts in there either)

1 cup other mix-ins, these can be pretty much anything you want, I've used dried fruit, crisp rice cereal, a different type of nut or more of the same nut. Get creative here! Or, if you can't think of/don't want anything else, you can use another cup of oats.

2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (Yes, the kind you have to stir. I was skeptical at first, but it's sooooo much tastier than that stuff that's basically peanut flavored margarine.)
2 Tbsp butter (You could use 1 Tbsp canola oil here if you're trying to keep it vegan-friendly)
1/2 tsp salt

OK, here we go.

1. Get a 13x9 pan. Tear a sheet of wax paper twice the length of the pan + a little bit, roughly 28" long. Put the pan under the middle of the wax paper so that you have room to fold the paper over on both sides. Spray the wax paper with cooking spray.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the oats, wheat germ, and flax seed on a baking sheet with sides. If you're using raw nuts and would like to toast them, go ahead and throw them on there too. If you're not using a mix-in, make sure to include the extra cup of oats. Put the mixture in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 3 minutes to keep things from burning. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer everything into a large bowl.

3. Add your mix-ins to the bowl. If using something like chocolate chips, let the dry mixture cool down a little before adding them.

4. In a medium sized saucepan over low heat, combine the brown sugar, honey, peanut butter, butter, and salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is melted and everything is combined. Pour this mixture into the bowl on top of the dry ingredients.

5. Mix everything well, you want to make sure all of the dry stuff in the bowl is coated with the "glue". You will be tempted to use your hands to do this, NOT A GOOD IDEA as the glue contains molten sugar. A big honkin' wooden spoon will suffice.

6. Transfer the mixture to the lined 13x9 pan and spread evenly. Fold the extra wax paper on either side over and press firmly all along the top surface of the pan. You're trying to compact the granola bars down so that everything sticks together as it cools.

7. Make sure the stove and oven are off and go for a run. Go for at least an hour.

8. How was your run? Good? Check to see if the granola bars are cool to the touch. If so, unwrap and flip them onto a suitable cutting surface. If you didn't use enough cooking spray, this is the step where you'll find out.

9. At this point, you could melt down some semi-sweet chips or a chunk of dark chocolate and drizzle it over the top. I've never done this myself, but it would probably be awesome w/ the peanut butter and dark chocolate would provide some more anti-oxidants.

10. Get a big, non-serrated knife and cut straight down into the granola sheet to make the bars. I usually cut it in half the short way, then each of those sections in half, then each of those in half so I end up with 8 long bars, then I cut those in half to make 16 total bars. Once you've got them cut up, you can wrap them individually in wax paper to throw into lunchboxes, gym bags, etc.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why I hate cutback weeks

This morning I finished up my "long" run for my last cutback week before the Augusta Half Marathon. I've decided that I hate cutback weeks. Why? In a word: BORING. In four words: Same. Pace. Every. Run. You don't get to mix it up during a cutback week, every single run is at LSD pace. To me, there's just no challenge. I much prefer a regular training week, with a tempo run or a brutal 4x1600 workout, a nice long run, and a whole bunch of base mileage sprinkled in. I realize why cutback weeks are necessary, but that doesn't mean I have to like them. Anyways, here's what next week's schedule looks like.

Monday - off
Tuesday - 3 miles easy
Wednesday - 3 miles easy
Thursday - 1 mile warm-up, 4xMile @ 9:00 w/ .5 recovery, 1 mile warm-down
Friday - 3 miles easy
Saturday - off
Sunday - 11 miles LSD

Sunday, June 28, 2009

You say obsessed, I say brand loyal

You have 3 guesses as to what my favorite brand of running shoes are, and the first 2 don't count. Yes, that's correct, I love my Sauconys.

I actually picked up my first pair, the Cohesion NX on the left, as just a general pair of walking around shoes. When I started running last September, I had some vague idea that Saucony was a running shoe company so they were the most logical choice to lace up for that life-changing first run. They felt good and seemed to cushion my feet well, so I kept running in them.

I burned totally through the outsole on the Cohesions in just a couple of months so I went to All Things Running to pick up my first pair of "real" running shoes. By this point, I knew I needed neutral shoes and since Saucony had served me well, I wanted to stick with them. The salesman there set me up with the Progrid Rides (2nd from left) and I loved every one of the 300+ miles I put on them.

The pair in the middle are my "racing" shoes. Saucony Grid Tangent 3s. Absolutely awesome. They feel like they barely weigh anything and the tiny amount of stability they have built in doesn't seem to affect me at all. Still not used to being able to see my socks through the top of them, of course :)

The last two pairs on the right are new acquisitions. When my first pair of Rides went dead, I headed over to ATR again to check out the Ride 2s. I didn't even get a chance b/c when I walked in carrying my Rides, the salesgirl checked out the wear pattern, said it was "near perfect" and asked if I liked that exact model. Turns out they were clearing out their Rides to make way for the Ride 2s and were selling them for $50 a pair! Since I had already expected to spend around $100, I went ahead and picked up two pairs and now have 600+ miles of Saucony goodness ready to go!

You say obsessed, I say brand loyal. Saucony was with me at the beginning of my new life as a runner and I hope to be in them until it ends!

Run Long, Run Free

Grass Roots XC Series 6K Race Report

Yesterday morning, I ran the 3rd race in a XC series that local university's XC team is putting on. The first 2 races were a 3K and a 5K, this one was a 6K, and the remaining two are an 8K on 7/11 and a 10K on 8/1. Yesterday's race went pretty well, much better than last week's disaster of a 5K. I didn't really have a time goal in mind since this was my first time doing the distance and Blanchard Woods is a pretty gnarly XC course (although I've been told by some that it's nothing compared to running on singletrack). I always have a good time out there, though. I won't break the race up into the miles, b/c I don't really pay attention to the mile markers at BW, too busy enjoying the scenery.

I feel like I did everything right this race. I started off about 30 seconds per mile slow because there's a hill at about the 1.25 mile mark that feels like it's never going to end. I knew that some of the folks who started out too fast would have to walk it and I could pass them there and leave them behind on the long downhill section that followed. Thanks to Chris Russell's excellent guidelines on running hills and the hilliness of my neighborhood, I've gotten quite good at going up and down hills. Some of the downhills at BW are so steep you've just gotta lean forward, relax, and let gravity take you down. After the downhill section, there's a couple more steep uphills, but they're short and my quads are huge (not from training, just from being fat for so long, haha), so I was able to power up, even making a pass on one of them.

I ended up coming in at 45:06, which is pretty consistent with the 36:46 5K time I put in there. I'm happy with that, and it gives me a number to shoot for in next year's race. No racing for me next week, but I've got the 8K at BW in 2 weeks, so I'll put in a nice long run at the canal this Saturday.

Run Long, Run Free

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bare Bones Free 5K Race Report

Yeah, I'm pretty much the world's worst running blogger. Nothing since January, yikes! Hopefully I can break that habit starting today as I have a slew of races lined up over the summer and into the fall. Today I ran in a free 5K put on by my running club, the Augusta Striders Running Club. The course was on a section of the North Augusta Greeneway, a paved trail system created as part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy project. Since the Greeneway runs along the site of an old railway, it's a fairly flat course and I was thinking this was a good race to improve my PR. Read on to see if I accomplished the goal.

The race start was at 7:30, trying to beat the heat (of course, if you've ever been in Augusta in pretty much June-September, you know it's pretty much impossible to avoid it). I woke up at 6:15 and started a cup of espresso-roast coffee brewing while I started munching on a Powerbar, got dressed, and laced up my Saucony Grid Tangent 3s. I drove to the race site and parked about a quarter-mile away and jogged to the registration table to get warmed up. After registering, I did another quarter-mile warmup jog and did some dynamic stretches before heading back to the starting line and finding my spot near the back of the pack. A quick summary of the course by one of the race directors and we were off!

Mile 1 - I felt great for pretty much all of mile 1. It started out taking us along a sidewalk that runs along side one of the main bridges into downtown North Augusta from downtown Augusta before taking us under the bridge and along a gravel path past some old brick ponds that have been turned into a park. From there, the route met up with the actual Greeneway trail, a path that I've become very familiar with on my lunchtime runs since I work in downtown Augusta. This particular section of the Greeneway is very well shaded so the temperature was not much of an issue and I felt like I was just loping along, but when my Garmin beeped to indicate 1 mile, my split revealed that I had just run a 10:12 first mile. My pacing strategy for this race was to run 10:30 for both the first and second miles, then pick it up in the third, so a 10:12 wasn't horribly far off.

Mile 2 - Shortly after the 1 mile mark, the route turned left and took us along a relatively new section of the Greeneway that runs along the riverfront and back to the 13th Street bridge. About halfway into the second mile, there's an old flatbed railroad car that's been converted into a bridge over a creek. It was just after this bridge that my thoughts of a PR came to an end. My intestines began to cramp horribly and painfully. If I slowed to around a 12 minute pace, the cramping settled down a little bit and was manageable, but if I went any faster, it got worse. Mile 2 ended up being a disappointing 11:39.

Mile 3 - Needless to say, mile 3 was absolutely miserable. The route was pleasant enough, taking us down the other side of the 13th Street bridge and through another section of the brick pond park before meeting back up with the main Greeneway and doubling back to the start. The miserable part was knowing that my legs had a PR in them (they weren't even burning at this point), but my stomach was rebelling against it. I ran pretty much all of mile 3 at a pace slower than even my warmup jogs and ended up running a horrible 12:47 split.

The final 0.1 - Once I passed the 3 mile marker, I decided to go ahead and finish strong. If whatever was causing my stomach to cramp decided to manifest itself in the worst way possible, I would at least be at the finish line where there were porta-potties. So, I kicked it. I didn't go for a full-on sprint as I typically would, but more of a good 3rd-mile effort. My average pace over the last tenth was a 9:37, which frustrated me even more because I know I could have sustained that for mile 3 if my stomach had allowed.

Anyway, it turns out the stomach problems weren't related to the running at all. I apparently have a stomach bug that I most likely caught from my next-door neighbor because I've been having the same sorts of problems all day long, basically every time I eat anything.

I ended up finishing with a disappointing 35:21. Yes, it's still faster than my first 5K, when I was close to 50 pounds heavier, and faster than last weeks Grass Roots 5K, which was on the absolutely brutal XC course at Blanchard Woods. But to know that I could have had a time in the low 31s and missed it due to something completely out of my control is incredibly frustrating.

Next week I've got a 6K, the next race in the Grass Roots XC Series at Blanchard Woods. The 3K and 5K there were a lot of fun and quite challenging so I'm looking forward to the 6K, then the 8K and 10K races out there later this summer. Hopefully by next Saturday I'll have kicked this stomach bug and will have a much better race report to write. Until then,

Run Long, Run Free

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pinch Gut Puffer Race Report

Today I ran the 30th Annual Pinch Gut Puffer 7.5K Cross Country Race.  I woke up around 7, got dressed, had a piece of whole wheat toast w/ peanut butter and banana, washed it down with a pint of water, then headed to the race site.  About halfway there, I realized I had forgotten my MP3 player.  I thought about turning around to get it, but I realized that since Cooper River is a headphone-free race, I should probably go ahead and get used to running without it.  Once I got to the registration area, I met up with my father-in-law and my training partner and had a cup of coffee and then the three of us hopped on one of the shuttles to the start.  I've been noticing lately that my calves are extremely tight for about the first half-mile, then loosen way up and feel a lot better, so I did a quick half-mile warmup and stretched out really well.  A few minutes before the start, my heart rate had come back down, so I ran another quarter-mile or so and lined up for the start.

Before I get into the race itself, I'll quickly explain the details behind the funny sounding name.  The "Pinch Gut" part of the name is from the fact that, during the 18th and 19th centuries, Downtown Augusta was known as Pinch Gut because of the corsets worn by the fashionable women of the area.  The "Puffer" part of the name is for Private Robert J. Puffer, a colonial soldier during the revolutionary war.  Puffer volunteered to run a message between two battalions to coordinate an attack on two British strongholds, one of which was located at the current site of King Mill, and the other which was located at the current site of St. Paul's Episcopal Church.  He made the run in 28 minutes and the forts were taken 8 days later.

Anyway, that should help to explain a little of why the official starter of the race was Francis Marion.  With a shot from his musket, we were off!  I settled into an 11:00/mile pace as early as possible once the initial traffic thinned out and pretty much maintained it for the entire race.  I had to slow a few times for some of the brutal hills and switchbacks this course contained.  This was a TOUGH course, including dirt, grass, asphalt, concrete, and brick with lots of elevation changes.  Just before the 3-mile point, we had to run down a very steep, under-construction, off-ramp that's still being graded, then climb over the guardrail onto one of the major roads leading out of Downtown Augusta.  As tough as it was, the course was a lot of fun and I'm already looking forward to running it next year.

All in all, I had a good race, I was passed by a group of 3 people running together at about the half-mile mark and was able to pass them back in the home stretch of the race in addition to everyone else I passed during the course of the run.  I only had one person pass me that I wasn't able to pass back.  I'm no speed demon by any stretch of the word, so I can only assume this means I lined up exactly where I should have for my pace.  My goal for the race was to finish in less than an hour and I pretty much blew that out of the water, finishing in 52:54.

Now it's time for me to start concentrating specifically on training for the Cooper River Bridge Run.  I'll only be running one more race between now and then, the Heart & Sole 5K, because it's for a great cause.  I'm going to try to get more consistent with my posting as well so that I'm providing more updates on my training instead of just giving sporadic race reports.

Run Long, Run Free

Monday, December 29, 2008

5 miles and "Private Security"

I would have made this post when I got home from the run last night, but we're in the process of moving a bunch of rooms aound in the house and the modem and router were disconnected.  They're back up now, so here we go.  I hope you like the way I've decided to do the posts about my weekly long runs.  Since the name of the blog is "Long Runs and Liberty", I thought it would be cool to write a little bit on a liberty-minded thought I had during the week each time I write about my Sunday long run.

Long Runs:
I broke 5 miles for my first time ever last night!  I ran a 5.22 mile route in the neighborhoods around my house (a good mix of hilly and flat, with minimal traffic at the time of night that I usually head out for my run) in 1:13:06, including my warm-up and cool-down walks.  All in all, it was a pretty good run.  My right calf was tight for about the first 2 miles, but that was my fault for not stretching my legs out on Saturday like I should have.  Once it loosened up though, everything felt really good and smooth.  I was wearing my Saucony Tangent 3s, which aren't usually my long run shoes as my Saucony Rides usually have that honor, but I've got the Pinch Gut Puffer 7.5k coming up in less than 2 weeks and wanted to make sure I would be able to handle the distance in such a lightweight shoe.  My knees are a little sore today from the pounding, but nothing too bad, so if that's all the damage I get from that distance on asphalt, the cross-country terrain of the Puffer won't be bad at all.

My splits were:

Mile 1 - 14:52
Mile 2 - 14:40
Mile 3 - 14:15
Mile 4 - 13:54
Mile 5 - 13:22

As far as the rest of this week goes:

Monday - Strength & Stretching (probably Pilates)
Tuesday - 4-miles
Wednesday - 45 minutes of cross on the recumbent
Thursday - 3.5 to 4 miles
Friday - 60 minutes of cross (haven't decided what yet)
Saturday - Rest

My wife and I went shopping for a computer desk at Target as part of the room rearrange yesterday afternoon.  I was open-carrying my pistol as I tend to do more and more now that I've become more comfortable it.  Also, I didn't want to have to iron one of the long-tailed shirts that I typically use for concealment.  You would be amazed at how many people are completely oblivious to the fact that you have a gun strapped to your hip.  I've probably open-carried 5 or 6 times now and not heard a peep from anyone.  Until yesterday, that is.

We found a desk we liked as well as a dress and some shoes for Lu to wear to a wedding we were going to later that evening.  As we were checking out, the cashier looked at me and said "Off-duty Officer?"  I guess I looked the part, buzz haircut, flashlight, and the same model pistol that our local LEOs carry.  I just smiled at her and said "No ma'am, private security," and she just smiled back and continued to ring up our items.  I decided when I first started to open-carry that I would respond to anyone who asked me if I was a LEO with that very answer.  The way I look at it, I take on a huge responsibility whenever I decide to wear my pistol.  I am essentially taking on the role of private security guard for myself and my family, as well as any around me who would otherwise be unable to protect themselves from the threat of death or permanent bodily harm at the hands of another person.  I am grateful to live in a country and state that recognize my God-given right to self-defense and the keeping and bearing of arms.

Run Long, Run Free.