Monday, October 29, 2012

The Scenic Byway Half Marathon: Part II, Thirteen Point Freekin' One

Need to catch up? Read Part I.

Race day was a drizzly cold. It was the kind of rain, that when landing in your eyeball, kind of blurred your vision. It felt like I needed windshield wipers for my eyes. It was chilly outside, but I was comfortable in my cold weather running garb and figured I could peel off layers during the race, if I needed to.

I positioned myself near the 2:10 pacer and planned on starting fast enough to keep her behind me the whole race. Without Pete with me, I wanted to have something or someone there to inspire me to keep pushing if I my pace started to lag. I figured the 2:10 balloon was inspiration enough.

I run with the Runkeeper app on my phone to track my runs. I also wore a watch this race. I usually don't keep track of my pace, but I thought watching my time as I hit each mile marker would give me a good distraction and incentive to keep the first 8 or so miles at a good pace.

Again, my "good pace" is relative to me. My last few weeks of running I had pushed through the 9 minute barrier and was running at 8:50 per mile. My goal for the start of the race was to keep my
miles as close to 9 minutes as I could. I hoped, if I needed to or was forced to slow down the last few miles, I could still achieve a good race time overall.

At the start, I chatted with a fellow runner as I turned on my GPS, Runkeeper and iheart Radio app. I jogged in place and watched all the runners around me doing the same nervous, jittering, pre-race dance. There was a fog above the runners from all the hot breath in the cool air. There was quite a nice crowd around us. Lots of kids bundled up in their strollers, or sitting on their Dad's shoulders. At least, those were the race watchers I noticed.

When I heard the gun, I started to feel the masses moving around me and hear the scraping of their feet on the wet pavement. A smile crossed my face and I didn't feel it pass till mile two. I felt like happy-crying. I was so nervous and excited. I kept thinking to myself, I was finally doing it. I knew I could do it!

Start of the Scenic Byway Half Marathon via the Belle Plaine Herald.

The first mile was through the town of Belle Plaine. There was large decline at the end of mile 1, and then large bridge into mile 2 over the Minnesota River. I stared out over the water and saw the brown beach, grass, and wooded areas. I thought of my Dad. He was hunting that day.

As we inclined onto the scenic byway, I started to envision the course map. I had spent a few weeks here and there visiting the map online. At the time, I thought about how I might be feeling or what I would be seeing when I was actually racing. I felt a sort of odd relationship with where I was running, even though I had never been there before.

As I turned onto the Scenic Byway, I ran through a little construction and then found a nice easy mile 3 and 4. The road had a nice roll to it. Soon, into the not-so-far distance I started to see the first of what would be, several large hills. They made me a little nervous, but I kept Pete in my head. During our ten mile race he mentioned he needed to keep his pace up on the hills, as to not get winded. This really seemed to make no sense to me. Why would I want to go faster on the hills? Won't I get too tired?

I have been incredibly fearful of walking during my runs. I worry I won't be able start up again. I feel I am giving up. I would rather slow my pace down and not actually walk, than to run at a faster pace and have to walk. So, on the quite intense hills, seeming to stretch a few minutes of running, I pushed myself hard. I kept telling myself as soon as the hill was over, I would jog off the pain. As I ran up the hills, my body felt like it was running at a 45 degree angle. I pumped my arms, I breathed hard out of my mouth and push my legs with what felt like everything I had. As the incline subsided, I ran through the pain and imagined myself running down hill. Through all the hills in mile 2-8, I never had to stop.

Mile 7's hill was a BEAST. There was another female runner about my age that was ahead of me the first 6 miles. I tried to catch up to her but was having a tough time. I passed her on the top of the mile 7 hill when she walked it out. I never saw her again. There was a nice decline for the next mile or so and a volunteer told me there was a water stop at the bottom of the hill. I ran for that water stop like a bat out of hell. However, even with my even pace, the 2 hour balloon passed me.

I struggled for a half of a mile or so with the passing of the balloon. I wanted to catch up to the pacer, but I was enjoying my run. I wanted to keep the enjoyment of the run more than finishing in 2 hours. I let the pacer and her yellow balloon go and kept her in my sights until mile 11.

I started to feel my toes numbing a bit at this point in the race and I was feeling a slight ache in my left ankle. A pain I had never experienced before on any of my other runs. I stopped to re-lace my shoes, stretch my hamstrings and hips at the water stop. When I stopped, I actually felt my legs shake and the sweat start to pour out of my face as I tied my shoes. Worried my body might give out, I quickly kept running through to mile 9.

I was definitely tired by mile 10, but I was so excited to pass the mile marker knowing I still had some fight in me. I often have, what I call, a "crumbling" feeling in my legs when I get through the last mile or two of my long runs. It feels like my legs have no support in the knees and I could just crumble at any point. I did not feel this at mile 10. I was very optimistic at this point in the race.

That feeling was short lived. Mentally, mile 11 was very difficult. The pain in my ankle and numb feet were very, very distracting. I stopped to walk for 5 steps three separate times in these two miles. It killed me to stop and walk, but mentally I was starting to give up a bit. I knew there was a huge hill at mile 12, so I drank Gatorade at the mile 11 water stop in hopes to get my second wind.

I knew Pete, my babies, and my Mother were at the race. At every sight of race spectators I hoped to see their sweet faces. I needed to see them. I needed a push. I needed something to help get through the pain. It did not help 3 people passed me in mile 11. I still remember each one who did. I kept telling myself how far I had come already. There was so little of the race left! I tried to picture leaving my house on my short runs. The rest of the race was shorter then the "little loop" (3.3 miles) Pete and I frequent.

Then I saw it. THE HILL. I seriously considered just walking up it. Could I really run up the hill and still finish the race? As the hill started I took out my headphones. This hill needed my full attention. As I pushed though the pain, I tried be positive by yelling to the spectators and race volunteers, "how mean to make a course with such an awful hill at the end!". I could barely talk, and I am sure I sounded like a babbling, red-faced, idiot. As the hill came to it's peak, I hoped not to see my family. I am sure they would have worried!

I walked another 5 steps at the top of the hill and turned to look behind me for the first time all race. There it was: another yellow balloon. Oh, hell no. I did not just run up that hill to get passed by the 2:10 balloon. No way. The pain in my ankle now turned my run into what felt like limping. I kept going.

After a minute or so of "don't-let-the-balloon-get-me-how-much-longer-is-this-insert-swear-word-here", I saw them! I saw my husband, children, and mother. Oh, how I needed to see them, too.

I babbled again to Pete about how the balloon was behind me. I am sure he had no idea what I was talking about. I waved to my kids and said, "Hi, mommy!" to my mom.
I ran pass a group of spectators who were cheering, "You are almost there! Just around the corner!" I turned for a block or two and then saw the red "finish" just a few short blocks away. I started to feel the swell in my heart. I was going to finish the race. I was going to finish the race!! I can't remember if I saw a 13 mile marker, but I sure looked for one. So many people were cheering and telling me great job. I just kept saying "thank you" over and over again, like a beauty queen or something.
I ran through the finish. My chip was ripped off my shoe and a medal was placed over my neck...
and I cried, like a little baby.

Read Part III.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Honey Garlic Crockpot Chicken

Crockpot chicken is one of my favorite meals to make lately. The crockpot really comes in handy for my family and I. Pete most often gets home at 7 with the kids hungry at 6 and I like to eat dinner when I get home from my run. The crockpot is an easy way to feed the whole family and only have to cook once! Also, there is usually enough leftovers to put a spin on for the next night, too!

I have been getting tired of the usual beef roasts and have ventured to chicken in the crockpot recipes. Here is my latest find via Living Rich with Coupons:

Honey Garlic Crockpot Chicken

2 lbs Boneless Chicken Breasts Frozen (approx 4)
3 Garlic Cloves - Chopped (I used 1.5 T minced garlic)
1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Ketchup
1/3 Cup Honey
1 tsp dried basil or fresh basil

Combine ingredients and pour over chicken breasts in crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours.

These chicken breasts are the perfect combination of sweet and salty. After the chicken was done (I was sure the temperature of the chicken was 160 or higher. Mine were at 180 after 4 hours.), I removed them from the crockpot with tongs, sliced them with an electric knife, and topped them with shredded cheese and leftover bacon. I then broiled them on high in the oven for a few minutes till the cheese was melted and bacon was sizzling.

Honey Garlic Crockpot Chicken

I removed the chicken from the hot pan with a spatula and served them with warm mashed potatoes and cold sour cream. A delicious, delicious supper.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Scenic Byway Half Marathon: Part I, Pre-Race

If you have been following my current obsession with running, you know the completion of a 10-mile race in September marked a huge milestone in my life. I set a goal for myself and I achieved that goal!

Well, then I just got greedy.

What else could I do? How far should I go? Is there more my body can handle? Pete is nursing a hip flexor issue and we talked about running a half marathon together. However, it is no secret we are hoping for baby #3 in coming months, and how much longer did I have to race in a half marathon?

I decided, with Pete's consent, to run a half marathon on my own. I was feeling pretty tired the last few miles of the 10-mile race and wasn't completely sure I could handle another 3 miles added on to the next race. When I completed 80 miles in the month of September, I knew I could do it! I signed up for the Scenic Byway Half Marathon in Belle Plaine, MN on October 13.

My body was hurting after uping my weekly miles in September. I started having knee issues and feeling a little "burnt out". I had my doubts about finishing the half marathon injury free so I started to taper my runs 2 weeks before the race. What does that mean?

If you follow my activities on RunKeeper, I was running 4-5 times per week in September. My distances ranged from 3-10 miles. In October, I cut the miles down to 12 miles per week and didn't complete any runs longer than 8 miles. Part of me felt guilty cutting runs out, but I knew I had to be healed up for the race!

A week out from the race I started to panic a little about not having completed a 10+ mile run in a month. I thought I was such an idiot for just deciding to run such a long way, when I had never run that far before. I started to get nervous I wouldn't be able to complete the race all together. What if my body gave out? What if I fell, threw-up, got dehydrated? What if I made my family worry about me? What if, what if, what if...

My stomach was in knots for days. I didn't even want to talk about the impending race day. The night before the race, my little family had spaghetti dinner together. I swear, I had to force myself to eat. I had planned to go for a short 2 mile run the night before, just to stay loose, but I was still too nervous to go! I couldn't sit still. For hours I picked up the house, did laundry,  packed the kids for the next day for Pete, showered, picked out my running gear. I tried to get in the mood, but I was feeling like I was making a huge mistake.

Thankfully, I woke up the next morning at 6 a.m. feeling FANTASTIC. I was so excited to get to Belle Plaine! My heart and soul went into running mode. I started envisioning how thrilling it would be to cross the finish line. I fantasized about the sights I would see, the music I would listen to, my fellow runners, seeing Pete and my babies at the finish, and receiving my first medal. I started to be positive about my first half marathon.

After waking, I dressed, ate peanut butter toast and had coffee. It would take me an hour to get to the race site so I knew I could drink some coffee and wash it down on the way to the race with plenty of water. I put make-up on to make myself feel good.

Race morning vanity.
I expected race morning to be raining and about 50 degrees, so I dressed warm in running leggings, running shorts, and a long sleeve tee. I also wore my Asics, a headband to keep my ears warm, my armband to hold my phone, and head phones. I run to music via the iheart app and I chose the Coldplay station. It was a good upbeat music mix on previous runs.

The drive to the race was a little nerve racking. I honestly thought I was going to puke. So, many thoughts were going through my head and I feel with my stomach! I stopped at the Belle Plaine gas station to use the bathroom, not sure what the race site would have for restrooms. It was pretty cold and drizzly out and I feared I may have gotten to the race a little too early. I didn't want to stand in the cold for an hour and get soaked!

I found a place to park and headed to pick-up my race packet. I wished Pete was there. It is so much more fun to have him there with me. I scoped out the site and used the bathroom, again. I headed back to my car to put my bib on and leave my backpack. I sat in the car and listened to talk radio for about 20 minutes before heading to back to the race site.

I used the bathroom AGAIN, just in case! Seriously, it was going to be 2 hours before I would get to use one again so I had to be sure. I waited around before heading to the start line. I stretched and walked around briskly to get my legs warmed up. When the announcer gave the runners a 5 minute warning, I headed to the start line.

Before heading to the start.

A nice woman was standing next to me at the start. We small talked about how cold it was and hoped we dressed right. We talked about our race goals and our experiences with running thus far. She was hoping to finish the race in 2 hours and within the last year or two had lost 50 pounds. I didn't see her again after we started, but I know she finished before me! I hope she finished far enough ahead of me to complete her goal.

I went into my first 13.1 mile race hoping to finish in 2:10 or better. If I finished at 2 hours I would be pleasantly surprised, if I finished after 2:10 I wasn't going to beat myself up over it. I saw other runners and their families. I saw kids with signs waving to their Mom. I really felt like I was a part of something really amazing. The runners around me were not trying to win the race, but be winners for themselves. It is such an inspiring and scary moment to know we were all about to embark on a huge achievement and a huge test of endurance. I waited and waited and waited to hear the shot fired that would start it all...

Read Part II.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Free 4x6 'Thank You' Halloween Party Printable

As you can tell, I love playing around with small design projects, like my website and and other graphic projects for my home and parties I throw.

In a previous post, I shared a treat bag tutorial for James' Halloween themed 1st Birthday party. I thought I would share the coordinating 4x6 printable "Thank You" print. These prints, when printed in original size, will fit a 4x6 frame. I am setting the frame next to our bowl of treat bags!

For personal use only.
Please credit me if re-blogging or sharing!
Thank you.
Scroll to the end of this post for more color options!

I have been using an outdated Photoshop 7, but it has worked for every design and photo project for someone of my design caliber. The program is familiar and I can whip out designs pretty fast and save my templates in PDF form for future uses.

I am going to use the same template for our photo frames on the "Boo-tiful Burger Bar" and beverage table, as well! See here how I am using orange Ikea frames to make my thank you printable really stand out:


In addition to the light orange option, here are three more color options for my "Thank You" Halloween party printable in dark orange, lime, and red:

Again, please credit Occupation Housewife or if you choose to use, blog or post these free printables!

Credits and resources for my "Thank You" Halloween Party Printable:
Halloween Icons
Biker Bones Font
Chevron Background (Originally from

Let me know if you decided to use the print in your parties! I would love to see how you used them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Photo Treat Bags for a Milestone Birthday Party

James' 1st birthday party is only a few short weeks away. I was looking through some old 8x10's I had printed a few months ago, when I found some wallet cut-out printer paper from my Aunt! I thought it would be so cute to print the wallets and attach them to the treat bags I was planning for the party as a "thank you" for coming!

I love reciving photos, especially of my friends and families kids on milestone birthdays. I thought my treat bags would be a great way to say "thank you" and also get James' picture out to my guests!

Treat Bags
Wallet Sized Photos
Hole Punch


You can really do this project on the cheap. I got the treat bags at the thrift store for $.49 for 20. I got the photo paper from my Aunt but you could easily print photos on regular paper or card stock, or get them printed at Walgreens right now for $.60 for 4. I had leftover yarn in my craft box, but you could tie the bag with ribbon, hemp, or any other string you have on hand. Even those twisty ties from garbage bags would work (I never use those at my house, do you??).

On my to-buy craft list is a cute shaped hole punch, but I just went with a regular 3 punch. I thought a little leaf shape or heart would have been cute.

The most expensive part of the treat bags is the candy! How can I not have a Halloween-ish themed birthday party without Halloween candy? My Mom has advised me to pay $.20 or less per ounce of candy. I hope to get some chocolate fun sized candies with shiny wrappers to really make the treat bags look nice!

I haven't quite decided where I will put my little favors. Maybe in my entryway so my party guests can take one as they leave. Jessica, at Live the Fancy Life, likes to use Ikea standing frames to adorn and guide party guests to different parts of her party:

Photo Credit // Live the Fancy Life
A few weeks ago I picked up the same frames in orange and will print out a "thank you for coming" or "please take one" next to my treat bags!
Photo Credit // Ikea

How do you say "thank you" to your guests when they come to your party?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Grandma's Pepper Steak (with Leftover Steak!)

I often like to brag at Grandma's house. However, she gives me permission to do so.

Whilst (what a great word!) I was bragging about Pete's awesome steak he made the night before, Grandma was tuning in to hear if I had any leftovers. My Grandma is amazing about using any leftover bit here and there for future meals. In fact, she is amazing about saving any and every leftover bit of anything to use for something else. I think of her every time I get to the end of my shampoo bottles. You know you have a good 10 or more washes left out of the bottle, but it is so much fun to get new shampoo! I try my hardest these days to not waste. It feels way easier to chuck a near empty bottle of shampoo, than it is to just tip the bottle over for a few days.

Anyway, I told her I had about 1/3 of a steak left. I might just cut it up cold and have it for a snack (or, God forbid, forget it is in my fridge and throw it away after finding it a week later). "No, no, no!" she says to me. Before I knew it, she was rustling around finding pen and paper and scribbling down a recipe for a super easy Pepper Steak.

That's right, she had it memorized.

I found myself saying the usual, "Yeah, yeah. Ok, Grandma. I'll try it. Sure, sure." Well, this time I DID try it! And it was awesome.

Grandma's Pepper Steak

1 c. Leftover Steak - cubed
1/2 c. Diced Onion
1/2 c. Diced Green Pepper
1/2 T Butter
1 c. Beef Broth or Beef Bullion Dissolved in Water
2 T Soy Sauce
2 T Cornstarch
1/4 c. Water

  1. Cook down onion and green pepper in butter until soft.
  2. Add steak and stir.
  3. Add broth and soy sauce and bring to boil.
  4. In separate container dissolve cornstarch in water.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and stir in cornstarch mixture to thicken.
  6. Serve over rice.
I served my Pepper steak with buttered toast sprinkled with garlic salt! This recipe is so flexible, you could add any odd & ends veggies you have in you fridge or freezer.
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