Sweet potato, black bean, and avocado salad

Taco salad has always been a favorite of mine. This simple recipe add a little more heartiness to it, and a lot more taste.

INGREDIENTS

2 cups red or green leaf lettuce

1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped

1-2 TBS red onion, finely chopped or sliced to taste

7-8 grape tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 ear of corn, boiled or grilled and sheered from stalk (I boil)

1/4 sweet potato, baked, grilled or steamed (I steam)

1/2 cup black beans, cooked (I use canned / rinsed)

1 small or 1/2 large avocado, sliced

2-3 TBS fresh cilantro, rinsed and chopped

1 lime, juiced, add zest for additional limey-ness

Cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt and cumin to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Chop salad greens and raw vegetables. Mix into bowl. Add beans, corn, sweet potato and avocado. Add lime juice, zest (optional) and cilantro.

Season with cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt and cumin to taste.

Toss salad so everything is coated in dressing and seasoning.

#plant-based recipes

Night desert trail run gear list

After completing the Joshua Tree half marathon a few weeks ago, I’ve received a few questions about what type of running gear I used during the race.

Here’s my essential gear list for the night desert trail run.

Bandana Any style or color goes, from Ruby Riveter polkadot red to your favorite college team, as long as it’s a bandana. I went with gray because it’s practical, and I’m that boring; and a minimalist. It did a killer job keeping my sweaty hair out of my face and the sand and dust out of my sweaty hair.

Headlamp When running at night, a flashlight – preferably a headlamp to keep your hands free – is a must. In addition to having the use of your hands to pop chews or access your iPhone or if you need them both to break a minor trip or major fall, running with a flashlight has its drawbacks. Handheld flashlights also provide inconsistent light on the path in front of you unless you’re willing to run with one arm steadying the light in front of you, which seems like a balance killer the more tired you get.

The headlamp was easy to turn on, adjust brightness, direct the light where you wanted it in front of you, and go. I wore an aqua-colored Biolite 330, and wasn’t alone. More than half the women I ran with had the same headlamp in various colors. It was lightweight, rechargeable, bright, comfortable, and didn’t fail when needed. Highly recommended.

Buff As I mentioned in my last post, the dust on the course was deplorable. Coughing and hacking could be heard in the darkness throughout the entire course. The buff made it more bearable and I believe saved my lungs from an additional quarter cup of ingested sand.

Hydration vest A hydration vest allowed me to drink water whenever I wanted it. No need to wait every three or so miles for a drink.

It was comfortable, and I carried things I couldn’t without it, like an extra layer, my iPhone, and earbuds (for the last two miles). Plus, the vest was comfortable, which meant for me, I barely noticed it while running.

Outside of picking up a dust-covered orange slice, I didn’t have to stop at any of the aid stations for water or electrolyte drink. In shorter races, like a half marathon, I usually try to skip the aid stations and here are my reasons why.

First, being vegan, I never know if the electrolyte drink the race said they would have is actually being served. The last thing I want to do is ingest a drink with animal products in it. Gross.

Second, if it’s a drink or type of nutrition I don’t train with, I don’t want to risk getting a sick stomach from it. I aim to follow the oldest rule in racing: only eat (or wear) what you’ve trained with, don’t try anything new on race day.

Last, if there’s a racer that you’ve been frog hopping back and forth with, now is the time to lose him. I was so happy to leave “the grunter” in the dust at the third aid station. See ya later, bye. 

Having a go-to hydration vest made all this possible.

Gu Energy chews (vegan) A few years ago, Gu Energy made their chews vegan. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their drinks. I’ve tried a few different vegan options, and these chews, especially the watermelon flavor sit well with me. I took a couple around mile nine and felt great.

Body glide This is an essential when anything could rub against anything else for a period of time. When I’m in shorts, this goes on my thighs. When I have a hydration vest on, it goes on my collar bone, my triceps, and shoulders – anywhere the pack could touch my skin while I’m running. We’ve all gone without this and wished we hadn’t. Don’t let that be you.

Gaiters These were essential in keeping out the mounds of sand that hit the back of my legs while running. The ankle-deep sand was demoralizing. But it would have been worse had I not had these Salomon gaiters to keep out the mounds of sand tossed up behind me from falling into my shoes.

One complaint about these were they chaffed (should have added some body glide) my ankle where the sock had fallen down. They also didn’t keep all of the sand out. These seem more suited for big pebbles, not fine sand. Also, the band that wrapped under the shoe was almost shredded through after the race. Wasn’t expecting that. If I had to do it over again, I would try another brand or style of trail running gaiter.

Running shoes Of course you need running shoes. Some would argue you’d do better in trail shoes, but there was so much sand, I don’t think it would have mattered. I chose (and was happy I did) to run in my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 shoes. I wrapped the gaiters around them and they did great.

There you have my list of essential gear for running in the desert at night. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy running.

Joshua Tree Half Marathon Finisher

We came. We ran. We conquered. And it was a doozy.

The course started uphill. It was a fairly large climb, leveled off for a few minutes, and then uphill again. I had never run at night. The movement of thousands of headlamps was quite a spectacle to behold. All of us lined up, slowly ascending a sandy hill, like rush hour for an army of fireflies marching up.

The dust was unbearable. I’m not talking about a little sand here or there spraying up. This was real dust swirling from the runners ahead, behind, and next to us stomping in the sand, unearthing the lightest of all molecules.

By the light of my headlamp, I saw dirt and dust ever-present in the air. Although, I had not started coughing as some of my fellow runners had, it was impossible not to see how bad the dust was moving, and we were undoubtedly inhaling most of it.

But we carried on. The first sip of water came for me around mile four. It was delightful. I had pulled up my buff all the way over my nose and mouth trying to filter some of the dust from going straight into my lungs.

My eyes still burned and watered. My nose leaked incessantly behind the buff. I had no idea how far I had run until I heard someone called out, “you’re halfway there.”

Great. Half is good. 

Then, several volunteers yelled, “it’s all downhill from here.”

A wave of relief washed over me. Downhill is really good.

But they were lying. All of them.

I couldn’t understand why. We never did anything to them. Why would they blatantly lie to a group of exhausted, choked out runners fumbling through deep sand in the dark? Because they were evil.

Not more than a couple of minutes after those shouts, we were climbing again. The elevation map told the story. Although it looked like runners should be coming down, in fact, they’re actually climbing first before a big drop, which gave the illusion of “all down hill from here.” Bastards.

Around mile 12, there was a wonderful downhill slope, which I bombed throwing caution to the wind, sinking each foot into the deep, ankle-straining sand, and letting gravity to the work. After that glorious forty-five seconds, it was uphill again.

There was also a short section, under a mile, of pavement somewhere in the middle, but other than that, the rest of the course was done in foot- and soul-sucking sand.

After completing the race, I received a medal.

A medal that depicted a fucking paved road and some sunlight. And a dude at the bottom, which is annoying. His silhouette looked more like a detective running to catch a perp than a racer.

But I digress. This medal is should be illegal. Friends, do not be lured by its false promises.

For anyone interested in taking on the Vacation Races JT half, check the reviews of the race. It was hard last year so they changed the course. It was still hard this year.

Now, if you’re in it for a tough race, say mostly uphill in ankle-deep sand, go for it. You will feel like a badass when it is over. But if you’re looking to do a fun race, keep looking.

Happy running.

My half marathon training plan

If you’ve not run a half marathon before, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of training plans available. Some cost money to download and others are free for the taking online.

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years evaluating race training plans, and found what works for some runners, does not work for others. One size does not fit all.

Some training plans have you running five or six times a week and others just twice. If I run four or five times a week, week after week, I’ll injure myself.

It’s best to test as many different types of training plans as you can to find what works for you. If possible, get a running coach, and see what she can build specifically for you.

Below is my half marathon training plan for the Joshua Tree race in November.

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Mileage

Week 0

3

3

Week 1

Hike

Rest

Abs

3

Rest

Rest

4

7

Week 2

Rest

Abs

3

Strength

Rest

Rest

3

6

Week 3

Rest

Strength

Rest

3

Rest

Rest

4

7

Week 4

Rest

Cross-train

4

Rest

Yoga

Rest

5

9

Week 5

Hike

Rest

Yoga

4.5

Rest

Rest

6.6

11.1

Week 6

Rest

3.5

Abs

Rest

3

Rest

5

11.5

Week 7

3.2

Rest

4

Rest

Yoga

Rest

6

13.2

Week 8

Rest

Abs

Rest

5

Rest

Rest

8

13

Week 9

2

Rest

Yoga

4

Rest

Rest

10K race

12.2

Week 10

3

Rest

Rest

3

Rest

Rest

10

16

Week 11

Rest

Rest

3

Rest

4

Rest

8

15

Week 12

Rest

4

Rest

Rest

Rest

Rest

Race Day

17.1

As of this entry, it’s week five of the plan. We did a killer hike this morning to work out any stiffness from my five-mile run yesterday. Everything is feeling pretty good.👌🏽

What’s important to look for in any training plan is how the weekly mileage increases. Slowly. It should be very slowly. Anything over 10-15% increase in mileage week over week is a red flag.

Even the popular Couch to 5K plan gives you the option of running for a set time as opposed to distance, which gives you a baseline to start with. Once you know, for example, how far you can go in twenty minutes, then you can slowly increase your mileage from there.

Don’t forget to add in strength and cross training. I also like to include yoga every other week to help with flexibility, breathing capacity, and mental focus.

When you train, do it on the same terrain as your race. If you’re running on trails, train on trails. Road race? Hit the pavement. Come race day, your body will thank you for the conditioning.

Two things that are equally as important, but not shown on the training plan are your nutrition (go plant-based) and sleep (get lots).

Last, don’t skip the dynamic warmup and comfortable cool down with rollout and stretching post-run. Stretching has become somewhat controversial on when you do it, how effective it is at helping reducing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and impact on muscle health, but I’ve found it incredibly helpful.

The dynamic warmup helps get some heat to areas, like my hips, back and knees, that can’t get into gear as quickly as other parts like my quads and calf muscles.

Post-run stretching and foam and/or stick rolling are recovery tools that have become indispensable. If you’re short on time, and have to skip something, skip the dynamic warmup, but go out slowly. You’ll warm up naturally in the first few miles.

Stay healthy, friends. 🙏🏼🏃‍♀️💚

Running in the desert

Training for the Joshua Tree half marathon has begun.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to work my way out of not running and in to actual training. This weekend, I ran four miles without feeling destroyed (and therefore sad and depressed) post run.

Since going plant-based in June, I find my recovery time has shortened a little. I’m not as sore or sore for as long as I had been on a heavier meat and dairy diet.

It felt like an eternity to get healthy, but now that I am, I give all the credit to my plant-based diet, raw iron supplement, essential oil concoctions, shedding any old negative feelings, and yoga regiment. They have breathed new life into my body and soul. 🙏🏼

My training plan for Joshua Tree is a 12-week program that includes training runs two to three times a week. I designed it so I could ramp slowly, ever aware of not running too much too soon, and peak just in time for the race.

Although, I included a two week taper into the plan, my hope is to continue the training beyond Joshua Tree to build to a full marathon in January or February. We’ll see how it goes.

Joshua Tree National Park is made up of two deserts that converge next to one another. The actual race will take place in the Mojave Desert in Joshua Tree, CA.

In 2018, I visited Joshua Tree National Park. It felt, unmistakably, like everything in the park and both deserts were designed specifically to kill humans. Spiders and snakes and sharp, needled plants and desert bees; and did I mention spiders? 🕷 Big ones.

Running at night means all those dangerous things will still be there, only hidden by and lurking in the darkness waiting to take out any unsuspecting racer. I plan on bringing an enormous – potentially two enormous headlamps. Imagine the light on the front of a train – that’s what I’m going for. I want light 40 feet out and 15 feet wide. I wouldn’t mind if it was able to be seen from space.

Speaking of gear, since I’ve not had much experience with night running, I have even less with headlamp running.

Earlier this year, I participated in REI’s night run, which was a mile, and wore a workable headlamp. But it was cold and I wore it over a trucker hat, which I wore over a warm beanie, which was soft and cushy. And we jogged only a mile along a local trail. Neither of us broke a sweat.

I won’t have those luxuries running 13 miles in the desert night. The headlamp needs to be reliable, last the whole race, which for me could mean hours and hours, comfortable, and, of course, really, really bright. Open to recommendations.

The race is supported with aid stations every other mile after mile 3. It’s cup-free race, and I’m toying with the idea of testing out a vest on the trail. Correction: I’ll test out the vest in training, and then decide hopefully weeks before the race whether or not it’s for me.

If it’s not, I’ll stick with my old trusty Nathan handheld. It didn’t fail me in Antarctica, so I have a fair amount of confidence it’ll do just fine in the desert.

Last, but essential to a solid training plan: nutrition. I ran the Antarctica race on starburst candy. I need a real plan for this race.

Friends who also ran Antarctica used sport jellybeans. I might be open to that if they’re vegan. I’m leaning mostly on using medjool dates, but I’d like a few more healthy options to test during training.

Over seven miles is usually when I start to introduce some sort of nutrition during the run. Anything under, I can do without and eat a recovery snack afterwards.

Again, open to ideas or suggestions.

Lots of training and running and testing still to come.

Stay healthy, friends. 🙏🏼🏃‍♀️💚

Progress

My heart pounded in my throat, and my lungs burned desperate for oxygen. Sweat trickled down the back of my neck. Legs were heavy, knees throbbed, and back ached.

I might actually die, I thought. How long had I been doing this? Forty minutes?

My watch showed 6:33. I’d been running for six f*cking minutes.

That’s how my first run in over three months started.

A mile into it, however, my body remembered, my heart rate regulated. Although it hit 197 and that felt a tad high, I paid little mind to such insignificant details. I was running. 

And running is f*cking amazing. 🏃‍♀️❤️🙌🏼

Best three miles of my forties. Antarctica shmantarctica.

While on the epic jaunt, I came across a massive construction project that spanned the better part of half a mile. It must have started while I was hurt.

New buildings and structures littered the once serene view. The wild grass, brush, and vast greenery (or brownery in the summertime) were gone.

The foothills were blotted out and NASA’s folded dome that I had come to think of as almost home when returning from a long run was indistinct.

What once was the only standing structure in my view had become an impotent and dusty half nickel squeezed out by the shiny titanic-sized scaffolding.

In the photo (above), I can’t tell if when the construction is completed, I’ll lose NASA’s dome altogether.

But this is what progress is: change.

I’m grateful for the progress my body and soul have made in the past few months going from not being able to walk to being in a stupid boot to running.

These new buildings represented someone else’s progress, I guess. Maybe this is how I know I’ve moved into a new chapter of my life. I resent someone else’s progress. 👵🏼

Especially, when progress destroyed the view and eliminated the oxygen-creating trees and plants along the running trail. They better install green rooftops on those massive steel dinosaurs, or I’ll write a letter. 😀

Onward. But first, I need a nap.