Team Chances Brunch

Saturday morning the team met bright and early at Coach Susan’s house for our last “long” run and a big team brunch/meeting/information overload. When we arrived, I was totally blown away at how decked out her house was!

26.2 jack-o-lantern. Genius.

Shortly after we arrived, we headed out for a quick 40 minute run, then returned to sit down for the big informational meeting while many of the Believe Train Become runners slaved away cooking our breakfast. They’re the best. :) It was still chilly out, so a lot of us huddled in close and gathered around the fire.

Michelle and I love bright shoes. LOOK HOW BRIGHT WE ARE! Okay, she is so much brighter, but mine have so many colors! I love running shoes ;)

Susan started off explaining many of the normal feelings of taper–sluggish, irritable, feeling fat. As she mentioned each one, it was like everyone around me just kept turning to look at me because not 5 minutes before we started, I had been complaining about pretty much every single one. Then Jason just had to be a really awesome friend and make sure to call attention to me and my…issues. Anyway, it was nice to hear it was all normal, and despite the fact that I feel like I’ve gained 9 MILLION lbs the last two weeks, people keep telling me I look smaller, so clearly I have no idea what I’m talking about. Shocking, right? Anyway, one big moment came when Susan surprised us all with these bracelets:

A couple of weeks ago, one of my teammates suffered a major heart attack on one of his long runs. I’ve actually wanted to write about it for a while, but I didn’t want to put him out there on display. Anyway, he is doing FANTASTIC, but clearly cannot run NYC, so Susan got each of us TIMstrong bracelets. She also told us that the reason he IS okay is because he is a runner–because he has taken such great care of his body and is so strong. That is where I really got emotional. I started to think about where my life was heading a few years ago, and how I probably would have ended up dying at a young age from obesity complications if I hadn’t made a change. Sounds dramatic, but I was on a steady weight gain spree with no end in sight, and I am just so glad to be in a place where I am taking care of my body, and more importantly, I am so glad that Tim’s lifestyle saved his life.

As Susan made her way through the overwhelming amount of information, she got to talking about something that really spoke to me: The Voice. We all have it, and it’s always our biggest enemy. Runner or not, we’ve all experienced that negative self talk that tells us we’re not good enough, tells us to give up, and pushes us down. She told us the story of when she was running the olympic trials and she was on the 2nd loop of the 4 loop course. Her voice started, and she was certain she couldn’t do it. She knew up ahead there was a trash can, and legit made a deal with herself that she would run until she got there, then hide behind it. Totally logical. As she got closer, she realized that if she hid behind it now, eventually she would have to come out, and then what? So she didn’t stop. She ran past the trash can, and finished 30th out of the entire country. Then she said

“Most of us quit just before we reach our potential.”

I’m pretty sure I’ve always eventually broken down and listened to the voice, and that I have yet to see what I’m fully capable of. This quote really spoke to me, and I hope I can use it to carry me through the last 10k of the marathon, and any time in life when the going gets tough. I feel so lucky to have such a motivating and inspirational coach!! I know I’ve said it a million times, but every day I feel MORE grateful!

After the information session, we broke for breakfast and then took some team photos.

Then I insisted we all play the camera game…

Well, maybe only like 3 people participated, but I’m pretty sure Susan and Tracie nailed it. Check out their faces!

Your welcome Susan, Tracie and everyone else who played along ;)

I chatted a bit more with some of my teammates, and grabbed my marathon packet (it’s filled with SO MUCH AWESOMENESS!!!).

Jaime, Jason & Me. No double chin. Good photography, Bill.

It was a perfect morning, and a great way to end the training cycle. BIG thank you to Susan and BTB for hosting us! 5 days and counting!

Reasons To Be Grateful

As my first marathon draws closer (ummm, somehow it became marathon week–YIKES!!), I am finding myself even more emotional than usual. If you know me, you know it’s hard to get more emotional than my natural everyday state, but I promise you it has happened. Yesterday, I spent 15 minutes crying in the car because I felt so proud of what I’ve done. Not just the marathon, but every big goal I’ve set out to conquer, I feel like I have achieved. Not many people can say that, and I have a lot to be proud of.

With this pride comes so much gratitude. I’ve not achieved these things on my own, and beyond that, this experience and trip to New York City gives me so many reasons to be grateful. I’m totally overwhelmed by all of it, but I wanted to try to put some of it into words, so that when all I can think about is how badly my legs hurt, I will have a mental picture of why I’m lucky, why I should suck it up and run faster. ;)

  • I’m grateful I can run. Not everyone can. I see people every day who are physically less fortunate than me, and it breaks my heart that not everyone can experience the same joy, release, and freedom that I find in running. I could have a disability, or worse, I could not care enough about myself to make the choice to try. I’m grateful for the ability to run: mentally and physically.
  • I’m grateful for Susan LokenWhen I tell people about Susan, they either know exactly who she is, or are quickly impressed when I spew off her list of accomplishments that I’ve memorized through all my internet stalking. She has given me everything: my plan, tough love, an ear to listen, and most importantly, the belief that I can do this. The other day she told me that I’ve come a long way and shown a lot of improvement. She probably doesn’t know how much that meant to me, or how much I needed to hear it, but it made my month. I couldn’t have done this without her.
  • I’m grateful for my team. I’ve made so many great friendships through this process, and they have shown me tremendous support, love, and encouragement. There really is nothing like training with a team. I would highly suggest it for anyone training for their first marathon. I LOVE these guys!
  • I’m grateful for my parents. They are flying to New York to see me cross the finish line. My dad can’t afford it, but he insists on going to be there for me. My mom hates to fly, but her ticket is booked. Talk about support–flying across the country to watch your kid run a marathon. Yes, I’m still a kid. They are the best.
  • I’m grateful for my friends who are coming out to support me. Some of them live in New York, some of them live here, some of them live in the surrounding areas, but many of them are making special arrangements to be there for to share this moment with me. I will probably have my first marathon lined with some of my very favorites cheering my name. I don’t know what they heck I’ve done to deserve that, but I’ll take it!
  • I’m especially grateful I get to spend time with this friend. Mac is one of my best friends in the entire world. He lives across the country, and I see him more often than some of my friends that live in Arizona. Our friendship was just kind of meant to be, and so we make it work, and find ways to see each other. He is a life-long friend, and has been an undying source of support through this whole process. I cannot freaking wait to celebrate with him!!!
  • I’m grateful for the world’s most supportive husband. The other day we had an argument, and then “surprised” each other with coffee (at the same time), then he showed me he loved me by turning on every single light in the entire house because we always playfully bicker about the lights (I turn on all the lights, never turn them off, then he turns them all off). He is perfect, and I absolutely could not have done this without him.
  • I’m grateful for YOU PEOPLE. With the support of many of you, I have almost reached my goal of raising $5,000. So many people showed incredible generosity, and I am beyond grateful. I know those donations will be put to good use, and I cannot wait until I can attend an event to see kids reaping the benefits of our efforts!
  • I’m just grateful to be. To be alive. To be healthy. To be where I am today. I am beyond lucky. I wish everyone out there could feel a little bit of what it’s like to feel like you have it all. Just for a second. It feels amazing.
  • Oh, and I’m grateful for MARATHON TOES!!! Had to include that ;)
So tell me, what are you grateful for?

Skinnified Sunday: Apple Cinnamon Crumb Muffins

A couple of weeks ago after one of our Monday runs, we got back to Nicole put the most amazing muffin in my hands to send me off with. It was drool worthy, and let’s just say it didn’t even last my 3 mile drive home.

 

Good friends end runs with muffins. Just sayin’. Actually, I’m a little bit surprised that spending so much time with an other food blogger hasn’t caused both of us to gain 100 lbs. That girl is always giving me delicious things to try like these. So.much.food.

These were actually fairly healthy already, so it didn’t take much tweaking, but ya know what I learned? There is no substitute for butter in a crumb topping. Well, I’ve seen some people use coconut oil, but there is no “low fat” option. UNLESS YOU KNOW THE SECRET?!?!?! I tried light whipped butter–no dice. I tried pumpkin puree and ended up with a goopy mess, so I finally sucked it up and told myself that using 3 tbs for 1.5 dozen muffins was not the end of the world. So there. I used real butter. I actually couldn’t believe I had any in my house, but I dug in the back of the fridge, and there it was in all it’s butter glory.

Just call me Paula Dean, I guess. ;)

I was super happy that my muffins came out just as delicious as the original, and they were definitely my tean’s favorite. Chunks of apple in the middle with a crumbly cinnamon streusel top? You just can’t go wrong there!

Ya know, in case you wanted to be ALL UP IN THIS MUFFIN’S BUSINESS.

 

Original recipe via Foodie Misadventures

My Swaps:

  • White whole wheat flour for all purpose (+fiber, + protein)
  • Less sugar
  • Reduced fat buttermilk for regular (-fat, -calories)
  • Apple sauce for canola oil (-fat, -calories)
  • Liquid egg substitute for real egg (-fat, calories, -cholesterol)
  • 1/2 streusel topping (-fat, -calories, -sugar) <—I made the all of it at first, but there was SO MUCH that I only ended up using about half
Skinnified Apple Cinnamon Crumb Muffins
yield 1 1/2 dozen

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice
  • 1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large apples, peeled and diced (I used gala, but honey crisp would be AMAZING)
For the cinnamon crumb topping:
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tbs white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tbs butter, melted
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 muffin tins with 18 paper liners. Spray lightly with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and all-spice. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, applesauce, egg substitute, and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until just combined. Do not over mix. Gently fold in the apples until just combined.
  3. To make the crumb topping, in a small bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and melted butter. Mix with a spoon (or your fingers…) until crumbly.
  4. Fill the prepared muffin pans 3/4 full with batter. Evenly sprinkle each muffin with crumb topping. Bake for 20 minutes, or until muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve immediately or store in an air tight container.

 

Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Muffins

Ultra-soft whole grain pumpkin muffins filled with a sweet and spicy cinnamon sugar swirl.

The weekend before last, most of my team was completing their longest training run bright and early Saturday morning. Even though I had already completed my 20 miler the day before, I wanted to go cheer on my friends, and Susan had ordered some muffins for the team to celebrate all of the hard work we’ve put in over the last 4 months.

Obviously I had to bring something pumpkin, and these were a huge hit! Of course, I had to taste one before sending them off, so I shared one with my pumpkin hating husband who loved them just as much as I did! I don’t know know if it was the pumpkin, or the perfect amount of baking time, or what, but the texture of these muffins was absolute perfection!

They are so light and fluffy and the cinnamon swirl really spices them up perfectly!

And GUESS WHAT!!! This was the first time I took all my own pictures without my fancy camera husband around to even help me get my settings and everything adjusted. 100% me (and, you know, the fancy camera helps a little ;) ). I feel like I know absolutely nothing about photography, so I was thrilled at how these came out!! I’m really excited to learn be learning more, and getting a little more self sufficient on the photography end, since it is such a big part of the blog.

Anyway, back to the muffins! They would be the perfect treat to wake up to on Thanksgiving morning for a quick and easy breakfast while you prepare for family and the big day. Cut them in half, slather them with pumpkin butter because there really is no such thing as too much pumpkin! Trust me.

These babies will definitely be a fall (well, pretty much year round since I’m an all season pumpkin lover) staple in my house!

Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Muffins

Yield: 1 dozen

Serving Size: 1 muffin

Cinnamon Swirl Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon milled flax seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 12 muffin tins, then spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, flax seed, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup sugar and pumpkin puree, vanilla extract and egg substitute until well-combined.
  4. Alternate adding dry ingredients/buttermilk to wet ingredients (flour mixture, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour).
  5. Fill muffin tins 1/3. In a small bowl, whisk remaining 2 tbsp sugar with cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over the top of the batter. Top with remaining batter.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Let stand for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

Ultra-soft whole grain pumpkin muffins filled with a sweet and spicy cinnamon sugar swirl.

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Coconut Mocha Brownies

There was a time in my life where I didn’t love chocolate.

I mean, I liked it okay, but I always preferred vanilla based desserts. Now? Let’s just say I’m an equal opportunity dessert eater. ;)

My friend Jason, however, has always been a chocolate fiend. He always chooses the chocolate desserts, and it was only through tasting his amazing drink at Dutch Bro’s that I found the perfect post long run coffee drink (Cocomo–basically an iced latte made with chocolate milk + coconut syrup. I get sugar free coconut to make this drink so healthy ;) ).

When Jason’s birthday came around (back in June…), I knew immediately that I had to make something chocolate, and after several post run coffee dates, I was super inspired to make something based off a coffee drink. Espresso makes chocolate sound even chocolatier, and these brownies are ohhhhh so chocolatey. Like, must have a glass of milk chocolatey.

I honestly don’t even know how I did it. I don’t know how I made the gooeyest brownie I’ve ever tasted without using any butter or oil, and I don’t know how or why they tasted so freaking good, but I just know they didn’t taste the slightest bit healthy. I mean, they really aren’t, but they tasted like they had ALL of the bad stuff, rather than compromising somewhere in the middle.

The flavors just all complement each other perfectly, and the melty chocolate chips in the center with the rich chocolate cream cheese frosting are just to die for. They are definitely a little indulgent, but worth the treat, in my opinion.

 

Coconut Mocha Brownies

yield 32 brownies

For the brownies:

  • 1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbs espresso powder
  • dash salt
  • 11 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened reduced fat coconut
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
For the frosting:
  • 12 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder (dutch process or special dark are best)
  • 2 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/4 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract
  • extra shredded coconut for topping (optional)
Directions:
  1.  Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9×13 pan, then line with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together yogurt, chocolate, and sugar, eggs, and extracts until combined. Fold in the flour mixture, followed by coconut and chocolate chips. Do not overmix.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30-40 min, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out mostly clean. Let the brownies cool completely, then use parchment paper to lift them out of the pan.
  5. To make frosting, beat cream cheese in a large bowl on medium speed until smooth. Add extracts. Add in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating on low speed, followed by cocoa powder. Increase to medium speed and add melted chocolate. Beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl often.
  6. Frost completely cooled brownies, then serve immediately or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.