Volunteering and Fun Run

I scored a pretty sweet volunteer gig – if I do say so myself! I’m helping to write some blog posts for the MN/Dakotas Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). I’ll be writing patient and volunteer profiles and highlighting some of the CCFA services and events on their blog: Digest This — Stories from IBD Patients.

It’s pretty sweet because, if you’re reading this, you already know I like blogging. ;) I also love the idea of helping to share stories about people living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis as well as the volunteers who support CCFA. This past weekend I got to attend a CCFA Pediatric Support Group to write a blog post about it. It was humbling to hear the stories of these young kids and their parents as they navigate their way through the ups and downs of these diseases. (P.S. The kids are rock stars!) The group offers a great opportunity to get questions answered and make connections with others so they know they’re not alone. I wish I had known about a group like this when I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, but I’m grateful that I’ve found resources now and that I’ve always had family love and support.  I just submitted my first two posts, so I’ll be sure to let you know when they’re up on the blog!

Speaking of CCFA, I did a fun run 5K on Sunday to help raise money for a friend running the half marathon in Las Vegas with Team Challenge next weekend. I met her and her husband when I did Team Challenge last year. Check out those recaps here, here, and here. Since they’re heading to Las Vegas, there was a really cool activity during the run. When we got to the start, we drew a card from the deck. Then, at three more locations on the 5K a volunteer gave you another card. You got your final card at the finish. They had prizes for the best poker hands! There was also one Joker card, and if you drew that you automatically won a prize. Guess who drew the Joker – me! I got this cool wine carrier complete with a bottle of wine.

wine prize

Hearing people talk about heading to Las Vegas with Team Challenge makes me reminisce about last year. Still, hands down, one of the best race experiences ever. I’m starting to think about when I can do Team Challenge again. Not sure if the Las Vegas race will fit with my other 2015 race goals (more on those later) because of the timing in the fall, but Team Challenge will be going to the Jamestown half marathon and Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country half marathon in July, so those are contenders.

What volunteer activities do you do? Have you ever won a cool prize at a race?

Cauliflower soup recipe

I have failed miserably at my 2014 goal of trying one new recipe each month. Oh well. There’s always next year. ;) I’m hoping the cooler temps will make me want to spend a little more time in the kitchen trying out a few new recipes.

I did try out this cauliflower soup recipe on Monday. It was a Pinterest find. The thing that attracted me to it was the description that said it was 0 Weight Watchers points! You could make it with broccoli too, or a combo. There aren’t very many ingredients, and most of it is stuff you probably have around.

cauliflower soup

The broth is basically water that’s flavored with chicken bouillon cubes and dried basil and oregano. The rest of the soup is veggies: cauliflower, carrots and onion. You simmer all of the ingredients together until the veggies are tender.

The recipe then says to drain off and reserve the liquid and put the veggies in a food processor to puree. I don’t have a big food processor, just a small blender thing. I had to blend up the veggies in batches and unfortunately they didn’t really get pureed. But, I actually kind of liked having larger chunks of veggies in the soup, so you could do whatever you prefer. After that, you add back in some of the liquid you reserved. I put about 2/3 of it back in, so it wasn’t a thick soup.

The chicken bouillon flavored everything really well. I had made a loaf of beer bread on Sunday, so I had a slice of that with it. Don’t be too impressed by the beer bread, it was from a mix that you add a bottle of beer to. But it still tastes good, and is perfect for slopping up soup. :)

What new recipes have you tried lately?

TC 10K, 5K and 10 mile race recaps

A lot to recap from last weekend! Here goes…

TC 10K

This was the first race of the TC Loony Challenge. I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. so I could get up, get dressed, and eat something before heading out. The race started at 7:30 and I had access to a parking ramp right by the start/finish area. I was early, so I hung out in my car for a bit to stay warm. The temps were in the mid-30s. Great for running, but tough for waiting around.

At 7, I headed over to the start area. No corrals or pacers for this race, so I just lined up somewhere in the middle.

TC 10K start
TC 10K start

My goal was to run about a 10-10:30/mile pace for the 10K. At the beginning, it was the normal weaving around people until the field thinned out a bit. My legs felt good as I got going. We headed away from the Capitol, past the St. Paul Cathedral, and eventually on to Summit Ave. The trees on this street were beautiful on a crisp fall morning.

Before I knew it, I looked up and saw the flag for mile 1. For a second I thought they had messed up and put the flag in the wrong spot because there was no way I could’ve run a mile already. But, a couple seconds later my watch beeped, so I knew it was correct. My pace was where I wanted it to be and it’s always a good feeling to have run further than you thought!

At the first water stop, I did slow down and walk for a few seconds while I got out a couple of chomps, but that was the only walking I did during the race. The out-and-back course continued up Summit and it wasn’t long before I saw the turnaround. Around mile 5, my shin started to bug me a little, but nothing crazy. The last part of the course is mostly downhill which helped for one final push to the finish line.

10K finish

I crossed the finish line in 1:03:36 (10:15/mile) – perfect! It was just after 8:30, which meant I had about 25 minutes before the 5K started. I got my medal and put it in my spibelt. They had all of the usual post-race food and water. I didn’t want to eat much, but I was feeling a little hungry so I grabbed a small banana and had a Gu with some water. Then I hit the restrooms before lining up again.


The 25 minutes was actually just the right amount of time between races. I started to cool down a bit and was anxious to get running again. I lined up around the same spot I had for the 10K, and pretty soon we were off. There was more weaving around people at the beginning of this race because there were walkers, so I probably could’ve started a bit closer to the front.

5K start

As we got going I realized my shin wasn’t hurting anymore, so that little bit of rest seemed to help a lot. My legs still felt good, but I forced myself to keep my pace somewhat conservative. I was going to have to do 10 miles the next day after all.

The course was the same as the 10K – but obviously with an earlier turnaround. Once again, the mile 1 flag showed up faster than I expected. I worked on keeping a leisurely pace and coasting to the end of the race. My legs were feeling a bit tired and heavy near the end, but I still ran the whole way.

I crossed the finish line in 33:31 (10:48/mile). I picked up my second medal of the day and made my way past the food and water. This time, I wanted all the food. :) Then it was back to the car and home to rest up for Sunday.

10K and 5K medals

TC 10 mile

After running 9.3 miles the day before, the 4:30 a.m. alarm came very early. I repeated my routine of getting up, getting dressed, and getting something to eat. The start of the 10 mile is in Minneapolis, but the finish is in St. Paul. I headed to my same parking spot to be near the finish line and hopped on the light rail to head to Minneapolis.

When I got there, I had time to hit up the bathroom and hung out a bit before dropping off my sweats bag. I had brought an extra throwaway shirt, but at the last minute I decided I didn’t want to deal with it, so I left it in the bag and headded to my corral.

The race started at 7 a.m., but my corral wasn’t released until 7:12. As I crossed the start line, I was really worried that my legs would be super tired and heavy. Not the case! The running Gods were with me and my legs actually felt great!

10 mile start
TC 10 mile start

The course started by making your way through part of downtown Minneapolis. Part of the course felt a bit narrow for as many people as there were, so it was the usual zigging and zagging to end up in a spot where you can just run your own pace. Once again, the mile 1 flag surprised me with how fast it appeared. Only this time my watch didn’t beep. I looked at the distance and it said .90 miles. Hmm. A bit off, but I had hope it would work itself out as the course went along.

I found a comfortable pace and kept ticking off mile after mile. We made our way to West River Parkway and through part of the U of MN campus. Then it was on to Mississippi River Blvd — a running route I’m very familiar with. Around mile 5, we were back to Summit Ave. To get on to Summit, you have to go up a bit of a hill. This is also part of the marathon course, only it’s around mile 21 for them. The “Summit hill” is commonly referred to. I get it. My legs were feeling it as I made my way up the hill, and I can only imagine how tough that hill is in the marathon.

Making my way onto Summit felt like familiar territory and it was the home stretch. My legs were definitely feeling all the miles at this point, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I knew Hyedi was spectating around mile 8 which gave me some extra motivation to keep going. I gave her a high-five as I ran by.

Then, for the third time in two days, the cathedral and capitol were in sight. I saw the finish line and the growing crowd of spectators. My legs got a bit of a second wind and I kicked it up a notch.

I crossed the finish line in 1:46:57 (10:42/mile)! I’m actually really happy with my pace for this race and the whole weekend. My legs held up so much better than I thought they would!

I  picked up my medals – one for 10 mile and one for completing the Loony Challenge!

10 mile and loony medals

Oh, I do have to go back to the mile marker issue I noticed early in the race. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work itself out by the end of the race. My Garmin said 9.95 miles at the end, and then Twin Cities in Motion notified runners later that an error with the lead car cut the course by about .10 miles. Kind of a bummer, but not the end of the world.

Overall, an outstanding weekend of running. I had a lot of fun and feel great about conquering another big running challenge! Signing up to run three races in one weekend is a little crazy, but I’m thinking it’s okay to be a little loony. ;)

loony challenge medals

TC Looney Challenge Goals

It’s officially here. The TC Looney Challenge starts tomorrow.

TC Looney profile

Over the course of the weekend I’ll be running a total of 19.3 miles. Eek!

Saturday morning are the 10K and 5K. Sunday morning is the TC 10 mile. I stopped by the health & fitness expo this afternoon to get my bibs, chips, shirts, and other swag.

tc looney bibs


10k and 5k shirts

Shin splints kept me from doing the full training plan I had laid out, so my goals for the weekend have adjusted a bit.

Goal for the 10K – Run between 10-10:30 minute miles. This has been a comfortable pace for me on longer runs recently, and while I don’t want to tire out my legs in the first race, I do want to make sure I have a few minutes to recover before the 5K starts (those two races are pretty much back-to-back).

Goal for the 5K – Take it easy and enjoy the last 3.1 miles of the day. I’d love to run it, even slowly, but I’m going to try and give myself permission to walk some if I need to in order to save my legs for Sunday.

Goal for the TC 10 mile – Finish. Period. I’ve done some back-to-back training runs in the last couple weeks to prepare for doing a long run on tired legs, but doing a full 9 miles the day before will be new, so I don’t really know how I’ll feel.

Goal for all three races – Have some fun and enjoy the ride.

I’ve got all the usual pre-race jitters and excitement going on right now. Actually, they’ve been building for several days. I drive by the finish line for all of these races every day and have watched as fences, tents, porta-potties, signs, and more get set up. I’ve seen all of the set-up in years past, but I was never running any of the races. It’s an exciting weekend in the Twin Cities. I hope everyone running this weekend (in the Twin Cities or elsewhere) has great races!

Have you ever run multiple races in one weekend? What races are you running this weekend?

Building Strength 5K Race Recap and Weekend Update

Saturday morning was the Building Strength 5K benefiting South Metro Human Services. It’s a smaller 5K, but it’s close to my heart because it was the first 5K I ever ran 3 years ago. It’s sort of like an anniversary each year that I do this race.

It was a gorgeous morning — actually warmer than it has been the last couple years. I met up with Hyedi and other friends before the race. Several of us lined up to run together and were aiming for a sub 30 time. At 9 a.m., we were off. The route is two laps around a park. It’s a nice route with a good mix of sun and shade and just a few small hills. We kept a good pace throughout and I felt pretty good. My unofficial time was 29:27. EDIT: My official time was 29:26. It was a lot of fun running, hanging out with friends, and supporting a good cause!

Building Strength 5K

Stole this pic from Hyedi
Stole this pic from Hyedi :)

Later that day, my parents were in town. We went for a leisurely walk by the river. With temps in the 80’s in September, we needed to soak up as much sun as possible.

river walk

Then we headed to the Gopher volleyball game. We ended up playing musical chairs with our seats. When we reached our assigned seats we found scaffolding was set up over them (they were in the last row of the lower level). My sister went to the ticket window to let them know and they assigned us new seats that were in the second to last row of the upper level – a much worse location. We sat there for the first two games of the match, but then decided to talk to the ticket office again because it didn’t seem right to be given worse seats for something that wasn’t our fault. The office did the right thing and gave us new seats on the floor to watch the rest of the game. The Gophers lost to Penn State, but it was still fun to see a game!


On Sunday morning, I got up and headed out for a run. I wanted to get in one more long run before next weekend’s TC Looney Challenge (3 races in 2 days). Doing the run the day after the 5K was also a good test of running on tired legs. I set out with a goal of running somewhere between 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes. My legs were tired and heavy at the beginning, but after a couple miles they started to warm up and I was keeping a pace around 10:35/mile. My route ended up having a couple of hills on it, which I actually handled without any trouble.

I made it to 1 hour and 30 minutes and still felt good, so I decided to try for the last 15 minutes. When RunKeeper chimed in that I had reached that time, I saw that my distance was just short of 10 miles, so I decided to run for one more minute in order to hit 10. Overall, it was a good run. Really the best part about it was the mental boost it gave me for next weekend. I was feeling a bit nervous about running 3 races in 2 days. It’s still going to be hard, but I feel more confident that my body will get me through it.

In the afternoon, I met up with a few coworkers and their families to celebrate one of the last hot days before winter hits by sitting outside in a park and relaxing. A lovely way to wrap up a busy weekend!

How was your weekend?

Summer Bucket List Recap

It’s officially fall! Without a doubt my favorite season. But, before I jump boots first into fall, I need to recap my summer bucket list.

2014 Summer Bucket List

  • Take in some smooth jazz at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival.
    Sort of. I got a group of friends together and we ventured out for the last day of Jazz Fest. Of course, it’s an outdoor festival and storms decided to roll through that same night. Most of the shows got cancelled, so we only heard about 5 minutes of jazz. It was still a fun night out with friends, and that was the point!


  • Eat on the rooftop patio at Amore Victoria. 
    Check! Had a lovely happy hour on the rooftop with a dear friend.


  • Take a day trip to Stillwater.
    Fail – for now. I didn’t get there this summer, but I already have plans to go this fall, so just postponed.


  • Go see a show or movie at one of the Minneapolis Music & Movies in the park locations.
    Check! I did get to hear some music at Minnehaha Park. It wasn’t the jazz quartet that the website said it would be, but the drummer was pretty good.
    music in the park


  • Play mini golf.
    Check! Got to play on my favorite mini golf course in Myrtle Beach!
    mini golf


  • Go to a St. Paul Saints baseball game.
    Fail. Just didn’t get there.


  • Buy some fruits, veggies, and other fun stuff at the Minneapolis and St. Paul Farmers Markets.
    Check! And, made it to the Mill City Farmer’s Market! Bought some delicious veggies, beautiful flowers, and fun treats on each trip.

    Tulips from Mill City Farmers Market
    Tulips from Mill City Farmers Market
    St. Paul Farmers Market
    St. Paul Farmers Market
    Minneapolis Farmers Market
    Minneapolis Farmers Market


  • Spend a night at the drive-in.
    Fail. But, I made a solid effort. A friend and I had plans to go a couple weeks ago, but the movies weren’t very good. We decided to postpone until the next weekend only to find that the drive-in had closed for the season. Oh well, there’s always next year!


  • Eat something on a stick at the MN State Fair.
    Check! Got a lot of yummy food at the fair, but I made sure to get a pickle on a stick.

    Pickle on a Stick!
    Pickle on a Stick!
  • Walk around the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
    Check! Last Sunday morning, I made a trip to wander around the sculpture garden and take some pictures. It has beena couple years since I’ve been there. I saw a lot of sculptures that I had seen before, but also saw some new ones. Here are some pics. I was kind of obsessed with the wind chimes and snowman.

    "Front of Snowman"
    “Front of Snowman”
    47 wind chimes hanging in the trees. Beautiful sound!
    47 wind chimes hanging in the trees. Beautiful sound!


    bronze coat


I didn’t get to everything on my list, but I still had a great summer! I’m looking forward to a new season and new fun times.

What’s something fun you did this summer? What fun plans do you have for fall?