Ragnar recap

A little over a week ago I participated in my first Ragnar relay from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois. About 200 miles over a day and a half living in a van with five other women. The experience was exhilarating, exhausting, humbling, adventurous, nostalgic and oh-so-worth it, even when it got difficult. Here’s a recap of my adventure.

June 9

8:30 a.m. My friend Erin picks me up in the minivan she rented. I’m loaded with gear – a hiking backpack full of clothes, shoes and personal care supplies; pillow and blanket; a bag full of bath towels for my van-mates; and a bag full of food for us to share. We organize the back of the minivan for the first of about a million times to fit the items Erin, Marissa and I brought for ourselves and to share. Now we are three.

9 a.m. We venture to our next van-mate, Brittney’s, apartment. We organize the van again to fit her things. Now we are four.

11:30 a.m. We arrive at Lake Mills High School and see runners starting to come in. This is where we meet our other van of six teammates, who have been running since 7:30 a.m. It’s also where we pick up our fifth runner, Paty, who got dropped off there because she doesn’t live near Milwaukee. The scene is part track meet and part high school or college leadership conference. Spirits are high, people are walking around with matching t-shirts and costumes and the school grounds are filled with registration tents and people lounging on picnic blankets resting or preparing to run. We decorate and register our van, have lunch, check out the merch tent and find our teammates from the other van.

1:30 p.m. The other van’s last runner comes in and our first runner takes off. It’s about 80 degrees out and sunny. She has about 7 miles ahead of her, but she’s energetic for her first run. We travel from one exchange to another, getting running gear ready, ringing cowbells, and preparing to hydrate our runners coming in.

5 p.m.-ish. We’re already a little behind schedule because the heat is slowing some of our runners down. I take off and have a nice 6-mile run on a flat gravel trail. I stay on pace and arrive at my exchange, hydration belt empty, shins aching, Weezy blasting in my headphones. When I get there, our last runner, Jenn is waiting to meet the van. She missed her first run because of work and will have to do two runs in a row.

8 p.m.-ish. We arrive at Martin Luther High School in Greendale, Wisconsin. This is where we rest and wait for the other van of runners again. They have shorter runs and it’s cool out, so we don’t have much time to rest. We eat Chick-fil-a, which messes up Marissa’s order and she eats BBQ sauce for dinner. We go to Walmart, which is out of sweatshirts. We’re all starting to get tired. We take ice cold showers and attempt to sleep on the hard gym floor. It reminds me of a middle school lock-in.

June 10

12:30 a.m. It’s time for us to start running through the night. Trying to sleep on the gym floor makes us more tired and achey. Our runner Jenn takes off with her headlamp, tail light and reflective vest. She throws up on the course. We make more stops at more exchanges and declare “No one appreciates Van 2!” since we have longer runs in the heat of the day and middle of the night. We’re so tired that we’re delirious and silly.

4:30 a.m. After a few hours of sleeping 20 minutes here and there in the van, it’s time for me to run again. I start to feel more energetic as I start moving. My 6-mile run starts out fine. It’s cool out. I’m listening to Mumford and Sons. Then I turn on to a dark horse trail through the woods. I have to run slowly and watch my footing. At the same time, I’m basically scared shitless and try not to fall behind another runner’s reflector I see about 50 yards in front of me. Of course it could be a killer… who knows. I’m finally out of the woods about a mile and a half later and onto more dangerous footing – an old plank road with uneven boards. I need to be more careful or I’ll trip and fall. After that, it’s on to rolling hills and seeing animals’ eyes on the roadside. The hills are exhausting on little sleep. I reach a busy road and hope I don’t get hit by a car. The sun is starting to peek over the horizon, and I stay on the shoulder of the road. Finally, I see the next exchange and sprint to pass the wristband to my teammate. I’m exhausted. I lie down and immediately start having vocal cord spasms. My shins burn, but I’m mostly focused on getting air in my lungs. I stay on the ground for a while until I can haul myself back to the van.

7:30 a.m. Our last runner arrives in Racine, Wisconsin where we are waiting for her at the YMCA. Unfortunately, all of us fall asleep in the van and don’t see her hand off the wristband at the exchange. We wake up to her texting all of us, trying to find our van. We enter the Y, which is our next rest stop to sleep and shower while the other van runs. I decide to shower before I sleep. The showers can only be described as disgusting. They’re full of clumps of hair, old razors and travel-sized shampoo bottles, and even a pair of shitty underwear. Really? Throw out your drawers. I quickly rinse off, put on clean clothes and head back up to the carpeted rec room to sleep for three hours. Either the room is more comfortable, or we’re exhausted.

10:30 a.m. We slowly start to wake up. My van-mates who haven’t showered do so. They apparently find a different, cleaner bank of showers. We pack up and head for Lake Forest, Illinois, where we will start running again in a few hours. The other van is moving a bit slower because temperatures are in the upper 80s and it’s windy.

12:30 p.m. Our runner takes off down a long, paved recreational trail next to a public train line. She’s equipped with a hydration belt and a cooling towel. Her run is short, but she gets leg cramps from a combination of exhaustion, heat and dehydration. Soon, she’s done running.

3 p.m. I take off on my last run. It’s short – less than 4 miles. But it’s 95 degrees out in blazing sun on a dusty trail with 25 mph headwinds. I go slow. I tell myself I’ll run for two or three songs before I can take a drink from my hydration belt. There are lots of stops because my shins hurt, my lungs hurt and I’m thirsty. I finally turn off the trail into a neighborhood and get some shade. There is no 1-mile marker for me to alert my team I’m coming into the exchange. I think I’m close so I text my team. I ran slowly, but not so slowly that someone from my team is waiting for me. I wait for my teammate to meet me at the exchange.

5 p.m. We’re finally done running! We meet our teammate at the beach in Chicago. By now we’re sick of everything, including heat, sand, wind, feeling dirty and especially, running. We get our medals in an anti-climactic finish, take photos and head home to Milwaukee. We were exhausted, but still so grateful for the experience of running “200-ish” miles as an amazing team of 12.

I’m not ready…

RAGNAR is this weekend. You know that thing where you jump in vans with 11 other people and take turns running until you’ve crossed the finish line about 200 miles later.

I’m not ready. Like not at all.

In April, I dropped out of a half marathon because my shins were bothering me. I assumed it was shin splits. I took six weeks off running, assuming shin splits should sufficiently heal in that time.

With traveling and two straight weeks of rain, six weeks off quickly turned into eight weeks off. I knew I wouldn’t be very well conditioned, but I was sure my legs would feel better by the time I stepped out for a run.

As it turns out, I’m deconditioned AND my shins still hurt like a summabish. Like worse than before. And the pain is localized. Which leads me to believe I might have at least one stress fracture, possibly two.

I did make it through a five-mile run yesterday, just to prove that I could do it. Today my shins feel, well, horrible. So running 15 miles over about 36 hours should be super fun. I know, I probably shouldn’t be running anything if I suspect a stress fracture, but dropping out would screw over my whole team. I just can’t do that.

So Ragnar, here I come in all my huffing, puffing and limping glory.

My first stop after the race is going to be the sports medicine walk-in clinic next to my gym. And definitely no running for a while.

Have you ever competed with an injury?

Stay fit,


Weekly meal plan #18 (June 5-11)

Big news! We got a concrete patio poured! It cost us all of our adult money dollars, but we’re very excited to have a real patio to grill, drink and relax. Not a narrow space between the garage and the house that’s really an extension of the driveway and right next to the trash cans. To celebrate, I have a few grilled meals on the menu this week.


Pulled pork ragu over butternut squash noodles. I got the noodles pre-spiralized at the grocery store.

Credit: Skinnytaste


Buffalo ranch chicken tacos with lettuce and blue cheese dressing

Buffalo Ranch Slow Cooker Chicken
Credit: Sweet Little Bluebird


Pesto stuffed pork chops, sweet potato, broccoli

Credit: allrecipes


Chicken and veggie skewers with peanut sauce over rice


I’ll be running Ragnar Chicago and eating whatever food we have in our van! Blog post about Ragnar coming next week.


Grilled steak, oven fries, salad


Chili pineapple grilled chicken, sweet potato, grilled eggplant

chili pineapple chicken (1) copy
Credit: Plain Chicken

Do you have a lot of patio meals in the summer? What about patio drinks?

Stay fit,


Weekly meal plan #17 (May 22-28)

This week’s meal plan is a little short because we’re going out of town for a wedding next weekend. I hope you get to do something fun Memorial Day weekend, too!


Sriracha burgers (pre-made from the grocery store meat counter), grilled eggplant, fries (I’m using the Alexia Foods Rosemary Fries with Sea Salt from the freezer section)

Credit: The Spruce


Greek chicken and lemon rice, broccoli

Credit: RecipeTin Eats


Buffalo chicken bacon ranch casserole (yes, again, because we love this meal)

Credit: Civilized Caveman


Spicy southwestern salad with avocado dressing (I’ll be adding chicken)

Credit: Pinch of Yum


Honey chipotle pork chops and baked potato with broccoli and cheese sauce (I bought the broccoli and cheese sauce from the frozen section)

Credit: Publix

Saturday – Sunday

We’re headed out of town for a wedding! If the weather is nice where you live, I suggest making simple grilled meat and veggies on the grill with potato salad, like the one I made last week.

Stay fit,


Should I diet before vacation?

If you mean, “Should I continue an existing diet/healthy habits I had for several weeks or months prior to vacation?” by all means, continue!

If you mean, “Will crash dieting and exercising like a maniac make me look lean for vacation?” then the answer is probably not.

Here’s why: A one or two week diet before vacation will cause you to shed mostly water weight and MAYBE a pound or two of actual body mass. You’ll look lean for your first day of vacation and by day two, after you’ve traveled, eaten a burger and poured back a margarita, you’ll be wondering why you’re bloated again. It’s just a given with extra salt and carbs in your diet and the change in your routine.

Personally I don’t think two weeks of starving and crazy workouts are worth it for one day of results and no long-term benefit. I wouldn’t do a two-week diet for the sole purpose of going on vacation.

If I happened to start a diet shortly before but unrelated to vacation, I would ease my way in and keep in mind that my results would be delayed because of my vacation.

When you return from vacation and notice bloating or a higher weight on the scale, don’t panic, don’t starve yourself, and don’t spend hours doing cardio. Your best bet is to drink a lot of water and get back to a healthy routine.

How do you prepare for vacation?

Stay fit,


I’m trying to grow my eyelashes

Remember how I talked about loving yourself but still wanting to improve certain things? That’s how I feel about my short, stubby, uncurled eyelashes.

I considered eyelash extensions, but they’re expensive, require a lot of maintenance and most importantly, they don’t last long if you use oil-based products on your face. Like 95 percent of my skin care routine is oil-based, so extensions were a no go.

After seeing my friends have great results with lash serums, I decided I’m going to give one a try. I chose Babe Lash, which is one of the less expensive serums on the market. I paid about $50 for a 6-month supply, which seems like a great deal to me.

So here I go, growing me some eyelashes.

Here are my before pictures.18486234_10101630712701183_7644877013798957451_n

I should see results in about a month, according to the label, so I’ll update you in June.

Stay beautiful,


Weekly meal plan #16 (May 15-21)

The weather is finally supposed to get warmer this week (fingers crossed), so I planned three meals on the grill! Here’s to hoping my propane tank isn’t empty.


Leftovers: Instant Pot chicken tikka masala from Sunday

Credit: Kitchn


Grilled pork chips with garlic-lime mojo, foil pack asparagus, baked potato

Credit: The Optimalist Kitchen


Grilled burgers, roasted potato salad with dill-scallion vinaigrette, kale salad

Credit: Perry’s Plate


Venison steak and kale tacos with garlic cream sauce

I’m using the same recipe as last week’s shrimp tacos except I’m substituting venison for the shrimp and kale for the shredded cabbage.


Pesto stuffed chicken, broccoli, rice

I’m using last week’s pesto-stuffed pork chops recipe but converting it to chicken. I’ll cook the chicken breasts at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes plus 5 more minutes with the glaze.


Grilled bratwursts, leftover potato salad, asparagus


BBQ chicken pizza with sweet potato crust

Credit: The Soccer Mom Blog

What do you like to cook when the weather gets warmer?

Stay fit,