How I Run: Portland Women’s Run Club’s Debbie Koski

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In honor of our inaugural Portland Women’s Run Club season, I’ll be introducing our new team members via this interview series throughout the next few months. Get to know these impressive ladies, and come join us for FREE workouts Monday nights from 6:30-7:30 pm in Portland!

First up is Debbie Koski, one of our former community members who has stepped into her captain’s role seamlessly this season.

As a new mom (you may remember her sporting a baby bump last season), Debbie’s one of those women who juggles a busy schedule with ease. She balances work with family life and motherhood and still has time to train for a half marathon each year – talk about #goals!

We chat about her running habits below, but feel free to hit Debbie up for postpartum workout advice or ask to see some pics of her adorable son if you’re in need of a baby fix at an upcoming workout.

1. What’s your favorite route? My favorite route is along the Portland waterfront — mainly over the Tillicum crossing because I love the view!

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2. What shoes do you wear? I love my Asics; I’ve always been a fan of the Nimbus.

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? My Flipbelt! It’s the only running belt I have ever owned that doesn’t bounce AT ALL! Worth every penny.

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” If I want to run early in the morning I will sleep in my running clothes. Then I have no excuses!

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5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? Not sure on this one; I might have to get back to you guys!

6. What do you listen to while running? I love my Walk off the Moon Pandora station.

7. What are you currently training for? Hood to Coast!!

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Celebrating a previous Hood to Coast finish

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? I always try to go to bed as early as possible the night before a run, and I love to eat bananas after a run. It’s just enough food to hold me over especially if I have an uneasy stomach after a long run.

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? Just get the distance in even if you have to walk some! I was told that when I trained for my half marathon and didn’t think I could go far enough. And I always that to people when they tell me they can’t run with me because they aren’t in good enough shape. There is NO SHAME in walking some if you need to. Just get the miles in.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? Hood to Coast was the best run I’ve ever done. I got put in a van where nobody knew each other, and we had the best time ever. When you’re that exhausted, sweaty and gross together you somehow become instant friends.

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. I would love to go for a run with Sarah Brown. Even though she didn’t make it to the Olympics, she trained all through her pregnancy and is a huge inspiration. Anyone who has been pregnant knows that this is not something easily done. She is a great athlete who probably has some amazing mom advice.

Thanks, Debbie! Not only do you inspire us as an active mama, but we also look forward to hearing about your Hood to Coast adventures again this year.

Friends, if you’re interested in being featured here (all levels & abilities welcome), please drop me a line at info(at)kineticfix(dot)com.

Recipe: Kitchen Sink Energy Cookies

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Try as I might, I just can’t quit those dense, chewy, seed-laden Power Cookies from Whole Foods. Their siren song calls to me from the end of the conveyor belt, and somehow a package (or two) always sneaks itself into my basket at checkout.

But seeing as they’re quite the sugar bombs and surprisingly lacking in some key nutrients, I decided to take matters into my own hands and try to re-create them at home with, ahem, whole-food ingredients.

The result? You’ll have to taste for yourself, but I think it’s pretty darn close. And they’re chock full of fiber, essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc (thanks to the dates!), plus natural sugars for a sustained energy boost.

Kitchen Sink Energy Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 c wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 c oats
  • 1/2 c wheat germ
  • 1/2 c golden raisins
  • 1/2 c unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 3/4 c chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 c sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 c ground flax seeds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together wet ingredients until blended.
  3. In a large bowl, stir dry ingredients together.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Shape into golf ball-sized balls with your hands, and gently flatten before placing onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake ~15 minutes or until cookie tops feel dry to the touch.

 

Top 5 Things to Look for in a Running Coach

In my previous post, I talked about the fact that I’m now a running coach convert. It covered why, but now we’re talking about how — as in, what exactly does it take to find someone who’s a going to be a good fit?

After all, there’s more to running than just…well, running. It’s as much a mental sport as it is physical, so here are the top five things I considered when shopping around for a running coach:

  1. Credentials – Look for someone with at least one type of professional certification (e.g. RRCA, USTAF, Revo2lution Running) under their belt that covers the fundamentals and mechanics of the sport. Continuing education is also important to they stay on top of the latest industry news, research and trends.
  2. Experience – While not completely necessary, I like working with someone who has firsthand experience and can speak from the athlete’s perspective; it’s especially helpful when explaining abstract concepts and working on the mental game.
  3. Personality – Consider what kind of relationship you want with your coach and what motivates you. Do you need a nurturer or someone no-nonsense, a cheerleader or more of a pragmatist?
  4. Philosophy – Ask about their approach to training to see if it jives with your schedule and lifestyle. Are you heavy into cross-training but working with a coach who believes it takes six solid days of running per week to get you to your goal? If so, you may want to reconsider.
  5. Budget – There can be quite a range here depending on how much access you want to your coach or how much direction and feedback you need along the way. A tip: more hands-on means more expensive, so think about how you work and what makes sense to keep it cost-effective.

Bottom line: There is no formula for a perfect running coach; the best one is simply someone who meets your specific needs, gets you fired up to put in the work and helps guide you safely toward your goals.

And if you decide that a coach isn’t in the cards for you? That’s totally fine, too!

There’s always the option of working out with a group under the guidance of a coach — like Portland Women’s Run Club, for example, if you happen to be in the PDX area 😉

What’s your best tip for meeting your match when it comes to running coaches?

8 Reasons to Hire a Running Coach

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Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always been an advocate for running. But it wasn’t until recently that I also became a believer in the wonders of a running coach.

I’d soured to the idea after a negative experience back in high school, but fast forward to post-baby, and I needed help busting though a plateau of irregular workouts, fits and spurts of mileage and an overall lack of direction.

Who knew that after 20+ years in the sport, sometimes the answer is as simple as getting out of your own way? So I happily handed the reins over to my coach, who ultimately helped me find my mojo again.

Now I’ve change my tune: Hiring a running coach is totally worth it. And here’s why:

  1. Accountability – No more lame excuses for skipping workouts; you’ve got someone to answer to now, plus they can provide valuable motivation and feedback to help keep you on track.
  2. Health – Not only will a coach keep you in check to help avoid injury, but s/he can also provide tips for better nutrition and fueling (or at least keep you honest about it).
  3. Performance – Instead of relying on trial and error with your training, why not go with a tried-and-true methodology for results? A coach can help you decrease race times, train more efficiently, define realistic goals and keep expectations in check.
  4. Training – Learning the correct cadence of a good training plan (here’s a hint: more ≠ more) is invaluable, plus a coach can help you achieve consistency and push you safely within your limits.
  5. Support – Whether you’re coming back from an injury or just processing a poor workout, it’s always good to have an outside perspective. A coach can offer encouragement, boost confidence and be a sounding board.
  6. Personalization – Because they know where you need to grow, a coach can purposefully schedule in ways to help strengthen your weaknesses.
  7. Restraint – One of a coach’s jobs is protect clients from their worst enemies: themselves. If you have a tendency to get overzealous, caught up in numbers or take on too much too fast, this is critical.
  8. FUN – One of the best parts of having a coach? They do the hard part (thinking), while you get to do the “easy” part (running)! Turn your brain off, focus on the task at hand, and you just might find that elusive runner’s high as you nail that next workout.

Do you work with a running coach? If so, why do you think it’s worth the investment?

 

Recipe: Cocoa Recovery Truffles

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Eating well on the run isn’t always easy. But eating well while running…or, more specifically, while training and building mileage can be even tougher.

Suddenly justifications abound for treating yourself. And before you know it, “just this once” becomes a regular part of your routine. Or at least for me it does.

That’s why I’ve started whipping up batches of what I’ve dubbed my Cocoa Recovery Truffles. Full of protein, good fats, vitamins, antioxidants and decadent flavor, they hit the spot when you’re craving sweets yet still deliver some great nutritional benefits.

Cocoa Recovery Truffles

Ingredients:

  • Approx 1 cup almond meal (use leftovers from making almond milk)
  • 2 cups unsweetened, finely-shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 10 Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (warmed to liquid)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs

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Directions:

  1. Combine almond meal, coconut, hemp hearts, cinnamon, vanilla, water, salt, dates & cocoa powder in a food processor, blending to a uniform consistency.
  2. Turn off food processor & scrape down the sides.
  3. Replace cover, turn it back on & slowly pour in coconut oil until fully incorporated.
  4. Transfer mixture to a bowl & stir in cacao nibs.
  5. Using a spoon, scoop mixture into hands & roll gently into small balls.
  6. Store in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper, for up to one week.

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Almost as good as my favorite indulgence of diving spoon-first into a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough!

Race Report: Vernonia Half Marathon

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After a year and a half hiatus from racing, it feels SO good to be back in the saddle!

When my plans to race 26.2 last fall got put on hold (because sleep > running), I set my sights on what felt like a more manageable challenge: the half marathon (my 15th!).

My PR was 1:47 and change from a few years ago, so when I signed on with a coach to help me with my postpartum comeback and restrain keep me from over-training, I told him I was eyeing not only a PR, but also an even bolder post-baby goal of 1:45.

We started working together in early January with a mission to get me safely to the start line of the Vernonia Half Marathon on April 9. Training went smoothly; after figuring out my paces, we exchanged emails each week as I eagerly tackled my nap-time workouts on the treadmill.

It felt good to be on a schedule. It felt great to be running regularly. And it felt awesome to finally start pushing myself again.

Although I was nailing workouts, my coach was frank about setting expectations when it came to race day: Based on my tempo runs, overall paces and our conservative build-up of mileage (I started at square one, so my long runs maxed out at 10 miles by the time we got to race day), he warned me that a PR may not be in the cards this training cycle.

By that point, however, I was just happy to be toeing the start line well-trained and healthy, so I figured it’d be a good opportunity to set a baseline from which I could work for my next race. It also meant that I’d leave my watch at home and just run by feel.

Fast forward to race day, and I was battling a serious case of self-doubt. Would treadmill mileage translate to the roads? How would I handle the last few miles (which I’d likely be running on fumes)? Could I even get in the head-space to go hard? Hell, I wasn’t even sure if my race kit from 2016 would fit.

We arrived about an hour and a half before the 9 a.m. start because the course was point-to-point and there was a 20-minute bus ride to the start. Luckily, it’s a super low-key event (~150 marathoners & fewer than 400 half marathoners), so everything went smoothly and we soon found ourselves inside Stub Stewart State Park at Hilltop with a little more than an hour until the gun went off.

To say it was cold for Oregon in April would be putting it mildly; there were more than a few “penguin” jokes circulating as several hundred of us huddled in a shelter, hopping from foot to foot, in an attempt to share body warmth.

Several cups of water and trips to the HoneyBuckets later, Ben, Matt and I lined up at the start barely able to feel our feet. The race started without much pomp and circumstance; no National Anthem or so much as a countdown or warning before we were off.

The course took us uphill for the first mile or so before joining the Banks-Vernonia State Trail at mile two, so my plan was to A) warm up for the first mile, B) go out conservatively so I didn’t expend too much energy, and C) try to run separately from Ben and Matt because they were anticipating slightly slower and faster finish times, respectively.

When we hit the first mile marker and I was still next to Matt, I figured he was having an “off” day because I just assumed my first mile would be around a 9:00 pace due to the hill. But when he said we were at 8:20, I decided to double-down and go for it.

The next six miles or so took us along a paved trail, through scenic woods on an abandoned railroad bed. And since we had a gradual downhill until mile seven, everyone was taking full advantage of it.

Things were going well until somewhere after mile eight when we hit an open section of the course and the wind picked up; even though the final stretch was flat, the previous downhill had taken a toll on my quads. That, combined with a lack of mile markers at this point made for a total mental battle as I fought fatigue and wondered where I was on the course.

Not wanting to tempt the GI gods, I had also avoided any kind of fuel for the first hour or so. But after mile seven I paused at each water station to take a few sips of Gatorade. Somewhere around mile nine, I felt the first gut flutter and around what I think was mile 12, I pulled over to take a quick nip of Gu to help get me to the finish.

For those final few miles my brain was squarely at the intersection of “I-just-wanna-walk,” “the-faster-I-run-the-faster-I-am-done” and “uh-oh-my-gut.” But words of encouragement from my coach and fellow mama runner friends kept me pushing along.

When we turned off the trail and into town I knew we had to be close to the finish. In a matter of minutes, we turned in to the Banks High School parking lot and made our way to the track where we had one lap to complete the race.

Per usual, that last lap felt like the longest portion of the race. I didn’t allow myself to look at the finish line until we rounded the first curve, then silently cursed because it was, indeed, a full lap.

As I rounded the last curve, I saw the clock read 1:46:XX. With one final kick, I crossed the finish line, found Matt, then headed straight to the bathroom; thank goodness for ample facilities at this race!

Matt had finished in 1:42, an impressive PR. Ben ran a 1:49, which was fantastic for the amount of training he didn’t do did for this race. And my official time was 1:46:06, which was good enough for a new PR, a 4th place finish in my age group and a top 20 finish among women.

Immediately my mind went to what I did well (in order to replicate it) and what I can improve upon (i.e. remove a negative variable) next training cycle: Having a coach was beneficial in so many ways, as was the consistency of my training and speed-work. But I definitely need to focus on improving my nutrition going forward — not only fueling during the race, but also the days/weeks leading up to it.

And although I’m still in shock about the outcome, the wheels have started turning about what’s next. My coach assured me that 1:45 is doable with more mileage under my belt, which is tempting. But I’m also mulling over going shorter and faster; I’d love to finally beat my 5K PR from my high school track days.

But just as life evolves, so does a runner’s relationship with the sport. And as good as it feels to nail a new PR and chase after the next one, I’m also realizing that there’s much more to it now than just the numbers.

I run because it makes me feel alive. Running makes me feel like I’m unstoppable. It makes me feel as though I’m capable of anything.

But now I also run because I’ve got an example to set for Wyatt. I want him to see his mom setting goals and working hard to achieve them. I want him to learn that it takes dedication to reach our goals and that we can do hard things.

And my ultimate goal is that he’ll be inspired to chase after his own dreams, running or otherwise.

Recipe: No Added Sugar Banana Zucchini Date (Smash!) Cake

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They say that with age comes wisdom. But, for me, it took being responsible for another little life to finally smarten up about my eating habits.

Sure, Ben and I have always tried to eat healthy, which mostly meant forgoing sugary treats until we’d eventually cave into temptation…only to start a cycle of guilt, restriction and inevitable relapse.

But it wasn’t until I got pregnant that I decided to cut myself some slack and relax when it came to cravings. Although with space in the belly at a premium, you’ve got to make every calorie count.

When I stopped thinking of foods as “good” and “bad” and started judging them on their nutrient density, I felt empowered instead of deprived. Not to mention it felt great to fuel my body — and my baby — with whole foods that would help both of us thrive.

Enter Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates. I’ve partnered with them this year to help our family make the swap from refined sugars to a more natural alternative: whole foods that the body can recognize and pull nutrients from.

My 2015 almond milk experiment started what has become a passionate love affair with these little gems. Medjool dates deliver sustained energy from their combo of fiber and natural sugars, plus they’re packed with potassium to support muscle fuel and recovery.

So Wyatt’s first birthday “smash cake” became an experiment of sorts in substituting date paste for processed sugar. It may have taken me a few attempts — the first was too moist, the second was too dense — but the third time was a charm, as you can see from the shot below.

This recipe works for birthdays, but I think it’s even better made into muffins for a quick energy boost throughout the day. Finally, you can have your cake — and eat it (along with some very valuable nutrients), too.

No Added Sugar Banana Zucchini Date Cake

Ingredients: 

  • 2 small zucchinis, grated & squeezed dry (about 2 cups)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup date paste
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease muffin cups with coconut oil (or use muffin liners).
  2. In large bowl, mix together zucchini and banana. Add eggs one at a time.
  3. Blend in date paste, peanut butter and vanilla.
  4. In small bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add slowly to wet ingredients, stirring to incorporate.
  5. Spoon into muffin cups, filling each 3/4 of the way.
  6. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into muffin come out clean.

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Give it a try, and let me know what you think!