Sandy Hook Virtual 5K and Half Marathon

18 12 2012

On Friday, I was sitting at my office’s holiday luncheon when someone said that there was a school shooting in Connecticut.

We immediately took to our phones to find out the scoop on what had happened. When I read CNN’s latest headline, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Did this really happen?

I haven’t watched or read much of the news since because frankly, it’s too sad, and I don’t need to know every detail about what happened. All I know is that it did. And as a former teacher, it struck me to the core.

I don’t know what to say or think or feel about this awful tragedy. But I do know that when I need time to think or I need a “release” of emotion, I often turn to running.

So I signed up for a virtual 5K and half marathon being put on by Mena-Shaw races. You can run, walk, swim, bike, anything you like, and you can complete the 13.1 miles or 5K all at once, over the course of a week, or whenever you can.

The race benefits United Way of Western Connecticut – Sandy Hook Victims
To help those families affected by the devastating events in Newtown/Sandy Hook, Connecticut, the United Way pledges to stand with the community and everyone affected directly and indirectly by this tragic event.

United Way of Western Connecticut is committed to providing support and resources where and when they become identified and needed. As people from the area and beyond respond to this heartbreaking tragedy, they are turning to United Way looking for ways to help. In response, United Way of Western Connecticut in partnership with Newtown Savings Bank has created the ‘Sandy Hook School Support Fund’ that will be able to provide support services to the families and community that has been affected.

I’m friends with the “Shaw” part of Mena-Shaw, and I know that this is an honest event, and the proceeds will go to the United Way of Connecticut and the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

I urge you to join me as I run for Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Allison, Rachel, Dawn, Nancy, Anne Marie, Lauren, Mary, and Victoria.

Click here for the event Facebook Page


Click here for the Registration link

Santa’s Twilight 5K

17 12 2012

I had never done a Christmas-themed run before. Until this year, December meant freezing temperatures and no motivation to run for a tee shirt with some jingle bells on it.

In Florida, things are clearly different:

Santas 5K(Photo courtesy of Meghann)

Shorts and tee shirts are much more appropriate attire. And, when you can pair that warm weather with some fun socks,  reindeer headbands, and some fantastic friends, I’ll gladly run a 5K!

On Saturday night, I went up with Mary, Marcus, Meghann, and Bill (<– so happy he was in town!!) to the inaugural Santa’s Twilight 5K on Honeymoon Island. I had only ever been to Honeymoon Island once before, when I cheered on Courtney and Felipe at the Dunedin Tri. It was quite different to arrive at the state park as the sun was setting instead of rising! I need to get out there in the middle of the day just to hang out!


(photo courtesy of Meghann)

We all rode up together and got to the race with plenty of time to spare. We were expecting quite a bit of a crowd and parking issues, but we had zero problems so we killed some time in the car.


About quarter til 7, we headed towards the start line. There were lots of fun costumes, including this guy, who won the costume contest:


His costume lit up too! How creative!

We were also given some glowstick necklaces, which became really helpful on the course.

We ran into Rachel, and were chatting for a few minutes, when all of the sudden the gun sounded and we were off! We had casually talked about staying together and having a fun group run. We started out in our small group, following the glowstick necklaces ahead of us. It was pretty hard to tell who was who out there- being on an island away from the lights of the city, with no streetlights at all to guide us, it was dark! The only lights were the glowstick lumineres that lined the course, the glowstick necklaces and the stars. That was not quite enough light out there for me. I was constantly fearing tripping on some unseen object or pot hole.


After about a quarter mile, Bill and Marcus split off from the group and Mary wasn’t too far behind. Meghann and I stayed together for a little while longer, until we were about halfway done. I checked my watch and saw that we were running about 8:20/mile.  Wow, I wasn’t expecting that! I’m still pretty out of running shape, and have been averaging about 9:00/mile on any running I’ve done in the past few months. I guess this was turning into more of a tempo run for me than a nice easy fun run.  I think the salt air paired with the perfect running weather helped.

So, I decided to see if I could keep it up for the rest of the 5K. Sure enough, I was pretty consistent!

Screen shot 2012-12-16 at 8.30.47 PM

I don’t think I’ve really trained for a 5K, so I don’t really know how to race one, nor do I know what I could really do for a 5K if that was what I was training for. I think I’ve broken 25 once before, but based on some of my 10K times at the tail end of a tri, I should be able to go sub 24. Regardless, 25:43 is a consistent time with what I’d done for some other 5Ks in the past when I was in shape. So, I was actually pretty happy with my time, all things considered.

One of the perks of signing up for this race is that they promised unique finishers medals. Very few 5Ks that I’ve done provide you with a finisher’s medal, so I was looking forward to adding this to my collection.


Unfortunately, there was some mix up with the medals, and they were “on their way” for the good hour or so we waited for them. Oh well.

While we stood around waiting for our finishers medals, we decided to check the results, just for fun. Bill, Mary and Marcus had all finished a few minutes before me, and Meghann crossed the line shortly after me. We had joked earlier that with the small turnout for the race (maybe 300?) Mary could walk away as the women’s overall winner. As it turned out, Mary WAS one of the top three female finishers! And because Mary took one of the overall finisher’s awards, that left the top spot in the 25-29 age group open:


HA! That’s right, yours truly won her age group at a 5K!

This really made me laugh because I am CERTAINLY not a runner! Ah, the joys of small races 🙂 What may have been even funnier was the fact that Bill was the first in our group of 5 to cross the line, and he was the only one in our group who didn’t get an award. Whomp whomp 😦 I guess his age group was a little more competitive than ours 🙂

At 8:30, the finishers medals still hadn’t arrived and they were just starting the awards, so we decided to get out of there get some overdue dinner.

I had a great time at this race: I loved the lit-up finish line, the Christmas cookies and hot cocoa at the finish line, and you can’t beat a race by the beach. But there were definitely a few kinks to work out. Hopefully, next year, they’ll provide some more lighting along the course and the awards will be at the finish line when the first runner crosses.

Question of the day: Have you ever done a holiday run? Tell me about it!

Fries + Tomato Sauce = Delicious

12 12 2012

When I was in Chicago for my friend Leah’s birthday, we went to this restaurant called Three Aces. I had a brussels sprouts pizzeta, which was really yummy. But what really stole the show was our appetizer- the Bolognese fries. I wasn’t really expecting much- I mean, its just fries in a meat sauce, but holy cow, these things were delicious! I have been dreaming about recreating that dish ever since.

I finally had a chance, with my own spin on it.


Bolognese fries are a pretty simple concept:  Makes some fries, heat some sauce, combine and voila! It could EASILY be made with frozen fries (I don’t judge!) and a jar of tomato sauce. Easy peasy.

I decided to take it up a notch and make my own fries and perk up the sauce with some sausage, onions and fresh basil.

I guess the whole topping fries with a gravy (sauce) is a spin on poutine, but I don’t really like the word “poutine.” Is it Poo- teen? Or Pout- ine? I dunno; let’s just call this Rutabaga Fries in Meat Sauce.



1 rutabaga, ~2 lbs
1-2 Tbs olive oil
Black truffle salt to taste (or regular salt)
1 jar of pasta sauce (your choice)
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
1/2 onion, diced
4-5 leaves of fresh basil
fresh shredded parmesan

How To:

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Peel and chop the rutabaga.


In a bowl, toss the rutabaga with the olive oil and salt.


black truffle salt

I got this salt at Downtown Disney back in October, and I’ve been dying to use it. Unfortunately, I was too stingy when I added it to my fries, because I couldn’t taste it at all! Of course, the flavored salt is optional. Regular salt will work just fine here.

Spread the fries out evenly on a baking sheet in one layer. When the oven is ready, bake them about 25 minutes, flipping once. Depending on your cookie sheet, you may need to bake these in two batches.

Meanwhile, make your meat sauce.

Brown the sausage in a frying pan.


When it’s done, remove it from the pan (I put it on a plate with a paper towel to soak up some of the oil).

Saute the onion, so that it becomes soft and translucent. Add the meat back into the pan with the onions. Pour in the sauce and season with the fresh basil.


Your fries should be just about done at this point. When they’re baked through, pull them out of the oven.


Top the fries with sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan, and you’re all set!