Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 More Fitness Women's Half Marathon Recap

The 2015 More Fitness Women's Half Marathon in Central Park
Central Park, NYC As the sun came up on Central Park West, over 14,000 runners and their supporters gathered near Tavern on the Green for the 14th Annual More Fitness Shape Women's Half Marathon. The temperatures couldn't have been better too. Low to mid 50's with lots of sunshine and very little wind.

Race participant Beth McCombs is ready to roll.
The Race Course was two times around Central Park for a total of 13.1 miles. The route was incredibly beautiful with park trees in early bloom. You may not be aware of this but Central Park is full of hills and inclines. Not at all flat like most of the city! As an embedded journalist for this race, I met women who were for physical reasons, choosing to walk the course. One such woman was pregnant and decided to do this half-marathon walking with her mother. Just as long as you complete the course within 4 hours. Carrying a rather heavy bag of camera equipment and taking pictures with video along the way, I had a slightly greater degree of difficulty, especially when we hit the hills!

A Woman's Only Race the More Fitness Women's Half Marathon is one of the largest races of its kind and builds on "Girl Power" with a positive spirit of support. Yes, there were women who are there for the business at hand but there are also women who are recovering from injury or illness, trying this for the first time and those who are looking to get into shape. 

Coming up on Mile 1!
Everyone is welcome and I found none of the snobbery I've seen racing with the men at the Mountain Bike Classics I've participated in. In fact the lead runner came back out to the course to cheer us on during the race. Now how cool is that?

The lead runner passed us to cheers and hoots.
Suffering and Succeeding Together are some of the best parts about an event like this. I saw women with canes, visible limps, grey hair, no hair, in shape, no shape, overweight and everything in between. One thing they had in common. No one was judging them but everyone was encouraging them to finish. Everyone who finishes receives a beautiful medal just for that so each woman who completes the race receives something tangible for their work.

The Central Park Route as you can see from the above video snippet is a beautiful one as it allows you focus on doing your own race without traffic and other unwanted distractions. The trees did not have a lot of leaves on them and so allowed the most sunshine possible for the race. There were also hydration tables and lots of fantastic volunteers who kept cheering us on. Some were holding funny signs saying "You Got This!" and "Ryan Gosling is Waiting at the Finish Line!" It was just like a breath of fresh air and a second wind seeing them out there.

The Finish Line! The Journey was just as much fun as the Destination.
The Finish Line had SO many people cheering the racers on. Everyone wanted to blast over it in triumph. One women whom I met on the race route told me that last year just as she was ready to cross the finish line, the racer in front of her fell. Unable to avoid her, she fell on top of the poor woman! So not every finish is picture perfect.

The Final Stretch: Some walked, some ran.

All the same everyone gathered at the Central Park Band Shell for some great music and dancing. Everyone who came over that finish line had something to cheer about. Completing a goal and perhaps encouraging someone else along the way makes this a worthwhile challenge on so many levels.

Happy friends who came over the finish line together!
What I Learned: A Half-Marathon is a great milestone event and there were pace runners whom you could follow if you wanted to finish in a certain time period. Here are some main take-aways from this race:

Race Essentials: Hytail Hat, THINK Tank & Hoka One One Vanquish

Road Shoes & Socks: I would also wear running shoes about 1/2 size larger than usual. Even though I wore RejuvaHealth Socks (which helped a lot), my toes did swell some. It happens when I skate for long periods too so go a half size up. In this race, I wore Hoka One One's super-light Vanquish Road Shoes which did not disappoint. 

One of my sponsors, Mariel Heather, owner of THINK apparel.
Dress in Layers: The day started with me arriving at about 7:30 am with temps in the high 40's so I wore my THINK separates which I have been training in. The tank was a life-saver as you can see me at the finish line stripped down to it! Likewise the THINK yoga pants have enough spandex to give your thighs a bit of compression. I topped these with my black Terry Metro Skort which is really lightweight. I topped everything off with my THINK Pink Hoodie which needed to be peeled off after a few miles!

Sunblock for face and lips: I applied sunblock before taking off and kept a 30 SPF tube of Australian Gold Lip Balm with me and reapplied it during the route. I also wore my Hytail Pony Tail Hat which helped keep the sun off my face. It kept my hair out of the way as well.

My training table protein shakes, vitamins & energy supplements

Fuel for the Race & After: Having to rise at 4:05 am to make my connection into NYC didn't leave me much time for a hearty breakfast. So I had an Organic Protein Shake and was on my way. I didn't use any energy supplements or fuel bars for this race. Just water and a little Gatorade from the water tables once I was on the course. Once I came over the finish line, the volunteers offered us bagels and fresh apples. I didn't eat them but got some more water and fixed myself a Raw Protein Energy Shake to recover. That night, I took some Rainbow Light calcium citrate and Gaia Turmeric Supreme to ease any lactic acid build up and inflammation.  It helped because the next day I was back on my feet running around!

The Wrap: I would definitely recommend doing a half-marathon like this. Very well organized by the NYRR Club and even televised on NBC, you will find so many people rooting for you to finish! The only drawback to races like these as they often require you to pick up your race numbers & route a day or two before. You could have a family member pick it up for you or do it yourself if you are already staying in NYC. 
I would recommend working your way up to a half-marathon by entering a 5 or 10K first though. That way you can get an idea on how to pace yourself and calculate your approximate finishing time. 

NEXT UP: I'm signed up again for the Rapha Women's 100 Cycling Sportive on July 26th, 2015. I'll also be celebrating Bike Month (May) and Bike to Work Week so stay tuned to more fitness fun at XTreme XTraining.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Race Ready: THINK Women's Fitness Apparel and Hoka One One Bondi 4

THINK - a Brooklyn based line of women's fitness apparel 
Coming up on the NBC TODAY Show's coverage of the More Women Half-Marathon on April 19th has given me the chance to try out some new running separates and road shoes. Spring is the perfect time to update your athletic wear as it will give you an instant mental boost and incentive to get out there. Here are a few of my top finds this season:

What Do You THINK?
A relatively new designer out of Brooklyn, is Mariel Heather of THINK fitness apparel. THINK's goal is to promote positive thinking, empowerment and a healthy lifestyle. Each month they donate 10 % of proceeds to various charities and nonprofits that align themselves with their cause.

THINK Love Hoodie in Pink

THINK Hoodies
These hoodies are available with various messages as offered in Black, Grey or Pink and are comfy cozy to wear, especially on chilly NYC mornings. Two hand pockets up front easily hold your cell and some cash. Made from cotton and French terry polyester, this full zip hoodie is one you'll reach for time and time again. It will inspire you to keep going and definitely encourage all who see you wearing it.

THINK Tank Tops

THINK Tank Tops
These aren't your boyfriend's tank taps. These are INCREDIBLY soft (made of viscose and polyester) and tailored for a woman's body. I love wearing this tank top as it layers so well under the THINK Hoodie and will not shrink. Really it's like wearing nothing at all. Comes in Pink, Grey and Black.

THINK Yoga Pants
THINK Yoga Pants
What I like, aside from the message is the quality of these clothing pieces. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a true fan of yoga pants but I LIKE the ones designed by THINK. They are just the right thickness to give you a bit of support on your run. Made of slim fitting nylon and spandex they go with any workout ensemble. The waistband is also very comfortable with a written message on the back, "It's all in your mind." Yes it IS!
See the entire THINK ALL Ways collection online here: and you can also follow them on Instagram and Twitter @thinkALLways.

Hytail Ponytail Hat
Hytail Ponytail Hat
These sports caps are so cool...literally! I first featured them at XTreme XTraining about two years ago HERE. Hytail Ponytail Hats are a must for us girls with long hair. Simply pop your hair through the opening in the back and BOOM, you're ready to run. Alleviates the need for pony tail clips or elastics as it keeps your hair off your neck. You and your hair will stay cooler and drier. See all the new styles at Hytail Ponytail Hats

Hoka One One Bondi 4 Road Shoes
Hoka One One Bondi 4
This is the fourth installment in the Bondi series and new for 2015. I've been training in these uber cushioned road shoes as I am sometimes running on concrete which is perhaps the worse thing you can do for your joints. I'm happy to report that these road shoes have been more than up to the task and I feel great wearing them. In fact, I'm able to go quite a bit longer in comfort because of their specially designed Ortholite Insole which came packed separately in the box. I did my first few runs without the foot bed insert and then put them in. I definitely noticed a difference.

HokaOneOne Bondi 4 in Corsican Blue

The Bondi 4 have just enough grip that you could also use them to run trails. I tried them on dirt and grass without any slippage at all. I've run with them in the rain, over melting snow and ice, mud, really everything you could imagine with the crazy weather we've been having. Nothing but grip, comfort and control. Look for them on air on NBC at the race which kicks off at 8:00 am, Sunday morning, April 19th and visit them online at

Special Thanks: Hoka One One is an Official Race Sponsor for the More Women's Half Marathon and I want to thank them, THINK Women's Fitness Apparel, Lole Women, Hytail Ponytail Hats and Garden Of Life Organic Nutritional Supplements for supporting me at this upcoming race event.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Grilling Indoors - Lowfat Meals with Cuisinart's Griddler Deluxe

Easy, delicious meals grilled indoors!
It may be April but it's still too chilly for grilling outdoors in the great northeast! All the same, you'd be missing out on some very tasty menu ideas which are: lower in fat, yet full of flavor and nutrients.
I featured my favorite Panini Grilled Meals here on XTreme XTraining before but I've since upgraded to a Cuisinart Griddler Deluxe which has removable plates and better temperature control. The removable plates were a deal breaker for me as my previous Panini Press did not have this. Also the plates on the Griddler Deluxe can be flipped, giving you a smooth griddle surface for: pancakes, turkey bacon, eggs and so much more. So here are a few low-fat, high protein training table meals you can try with an indoor grill like this:

Keep some portioned sized meals in the freezer, ready to grill.
Ready to Grill Meals 
I like to keep ready to grill 3-4 oz portions of burgers, steaks, salmon and chicken breasts in the freezer ready to cook. This means I rely much less on fast food options because I'm stumped on what to fix for lunch and dinner. When making a burger, (I like Cluck n Moo with Kale and turkey burgers), you can lightly defrost them as cooking them partially frozen on the grill is no problem. The Griddler Deluxe has TWO separate temperature settings: One for the Lid and One for the Base. I preheat both plates at 450 degrees and when the green lights appear, I'm ready to cook! Use the following recipe to prep your meats, fish and poultry for the grill:

Basic Grill Seasoning & Marinade

1 tsp EVO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 tsp Grill Masters Chipolte & Garlic Seasoning or other variety
1/8 tsp Ground Cumin
Dash of Black Pepper

Drizzle oil on cutlet, covering both sides of the meat. Add seasonings to both sides as well. Cover and place in refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Preheat grill and cook. Tip: You can also get a lovely sear with a grill coating like this.

Grilling a turkey burger.

Low Fat Grilling
Grilling is ideal because all the excess oil drains off but the flavors are concentrated. Most panini press grills like this have a reservoir cup to catch the pan drippings. Even so, the burgers come out moist and flavorful. There is even a "sear" feature which can be activated at any time or temperature on the grill. 
If I want to melt some cheese on top, I can adjust the height of the lid to just hover over my burger. It will continue to cook from the bottom and melt the cheese topside.

Salmon Steaks
Salmon requires a more gentle cooking technique. I've made my Blackened Salmon with a Chipolte Garlic Seasoned Salmon fillet all on the same grill. You can create meals "made to order" all at once. Once I preheat the grill, I back off of the temperature lowering it to about 400 degrees.

Seasoned Salmon Steaks on the Grill
As fish cooks a bit more quickly than chicken, turkey or beef, I watch them closely being careful not to over-cook the fillets. Keep in mind too that you can cook on one surface as shown above or close the lid and cook with the two independently heated surfaces. In that case your cooking time will be reduced. The Griddler Deluxe cooking plates are non-stick but I find cooking with a few drops of oil (as described in my marinade recipe) on the fillets to be helpful.

Grilled Blackened Salmon

Panini Press Sandwiches
Having TWO separate temperature settings and multiple height adjustments for the lid means you can make a variety of delicious panini sandwiches. 
I like to grill my vegetables along with my meat. Then you can stuff everything between two tortillas and make the most insane Quesadillas imaginable. You can do the same and make grilled cheese and panini sandwiches. We've even done a Grilled Pizza!  The Griddler Deluxe comes with an easy to use instruction and recipe book with cooking techniques for a variety of foods. This grill even opens up so you can use BOTH sides as a flat grill or griddle for maximum space. I would say this is more closer to a restaurant/professional quality grill as it is very sturdy and well made. Check it out at 
Find The Griddler Deluxe at: Macy's, Crate and Barrel, Williams Sonoma and other fine retail stores.

Green Lights mean it's ready to GRILL!