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“Runger” continues to plague this chica as my mileage groweth. We were on vacation in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last week where I got to run to one of my favorite lakes, Perch Lake, north of the great metropolis of Newberry in a small town called Deer Park.

Perch Lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Perch Lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The view was so nice, I did it twice, for a total of 18 miles. The training plan called for 24, but I just couldn’t fit it in between the eating, sightseeing and spending time with my brother, who was visiting from Puerto Rico.

I saw a moose on the way to Perch Lake.

I saw a moose on the way to Perch Lake.

I did a couple of other uneventful hour-long runs, finally wrapping up my vacay with enough miles so that I was on track with my plan.

It felt good to head home after such a fun vacation.

It felt good to head home after such a fun vacation.

Speaking of all of the eating we did, here’s this week’s plan so you have more time to run, or whatever. And if you want to make your own, here’s how I do it. You can find a few more plans here, here and here.

How was your week? How do you squeeze running time in when you’re on vacation? Feel free to share your blog post if you’ve written about this before.

“You’re crazy” (with its accompanying head shaking) has got to be the most-common response from anyone who learns that I’m training to run 31 miles. For fun.

I often start to explain just how rewarding and fun this whole idea is, but the other person typically either continues to tell me why no sane person would choose to run an ultra marathon or to list reasons why these long distances are bad for me (wear and tear, knee problems and other injuries).

What if they really listened? Could I really articulate just how rewarding all of this training is? How good it feels to be so tired after a double-digit run that all I can think of is a nap (after I eat a donut!)? Just how much more I get out of the run than I expend in time or effort?

I’m reminded of the refrain “those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still” but just can’t help myself. So here’s my list of reasons for why long distance running is actually good for me:

  • Running has given me the most active social life I’ve ever had. Becoming a runner has expanded my circle of friends. I also get to do something fun just about every day of the week, whether it’s running at 5 in the morning or getting roped into doing a 31-day plank challenge (I’m looking at you, Jessi).
  • Running has made me more active. I’ve never been a slacker in the active department (camping, hiking, fishing, biking and tae kwon do come to mind), but now I find even more reasons to be active. I do take rest days off, but I enjoy my fitness-related activities more and am a lot more likely to stick to my schedule.
  • Running has encouraged me to set new goals and to push myself. Planning my runs, working on my training plan and, yes, shopping for new gear give me a sense of contentment. But it’s the big-hairy-deal goals that bring me the most feeling of accomplishment. I never imagined I’d be running a half marathon, let alone training for anything beyond 26.2 miles. Just thinking about it makes me smile.
  • Running has gotten me to try new things. The phrase “I don’t do winter” was part of my vocabulary for more than 20 years. Now I run outside no matter the weather and no longer feel like I live in the Michigan tundra against my will. And I’m running through parts of town I’d never even seen before, whether on trails or pavement, giving me a bigger appreciation for my adopted hometown.
  • Running has helped me make better choices about my health. A chica can’t run 20-plus miles on a stomach full of donuts, so I’ve learned to make better food choices, am drinking at least twice as much water as I ever have, am taking my vitamins and am getting more sleep. (I’m doing that last one mostly because I can’t keep my eyes open past 9:30 at night, but it still counts, right?)

And here’s this week’s menu plan so you have more time to run. If you’re new, here’s how I make my list.

What else would you add to the list of reasons why long-distance running is good for you? Add it to the comments below. Feel free to include a link to your blog if you’ve written about this topic.

MENU IDEAS for your family so you have more time to run

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest time-sucks has always been grocery shopping. With seven people (often more, depending on how many extra teens are hanging around), I have to go to two stores; sometimes twice a week.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw that my local Kroger grocery store is offering a new service called ClickList where you can order groceries online and then pick them up without leaving your car.

Here's how Kroger's ClickList service works.

Here’s how Kroger’s ClickList service works.

In a word: Wowza. I found it to be easy to use and a huge time saver. I’m sharing my experience here in the hope that you have a similar service where you live so you have one more way to find time to run or workout. I am not at all affiliated with Kroger and am sharing my experience after using the service last weekend.

How ClickList works:

Visit kroger.com/clicklist. You will have to sign up for a free Kroger account if you don’t already have one. It’s super easy and gives you several other options, including online coupons, the week’s flyers and an online grocery list.

I found the user interface to be a little clunky, but was able to figure things out once I selected the ClickList button. I had to specify which local store I wanted to pick up my groceries, add items to my list by either searching for them or browsing through different categories (think dairy, meats, breakfast food), and then choose a date and time for pick up.

There’s a how-to video on the site, but I couldn’t get it to work on my tablet.

Once I arrived at the store at my designated time, I parked at a parking spot with the ClickList sign, which instructed me to call a number to tell the store that I had arrived. Each spot has a number so the Kroger team members know where to bring your groceries.

Customers can park at the Kroger store's ClickList spots to pick up groceries they ordered online.

Customers can park at the Kroger store’s ClickList spots to pick up groceries they ordered online.

Two team members came out almost immediately, pulling my bagged groceries inside plastic crates on a wheeled cart.

Kroger cart

My groceries were wheeled to my car, already bagged inside these black crates.

One of the women unloaded all of my groceries into my Subaru’s trunk; the other chatted with me about my order, answered a few questions and used a tablet to process my credit card payment.

My view before leaving the Kroger parking lot after using the new ClickList service.

My view before leaving the Kroger parking lot after using the new ClickList service.

The whole process took about six minutes and I didn’t even have to leave my car. I will definitely be using ClickList again.

A few lessons learned/tips:

  • You have to order for the following day or later. There’s no same-day pickup option.
  • The service costs $4.95, but the first three orders are free.
  • The service offers customers a one-hour window to pick up their order.
  • The food was bagged with cold items together and still very cold and/or frozen.
  • You can choose to allow Kroger to provide substitutes for your items. My order had two substitutes: a larger size of the olive oil and a different brand of the baby back ribs I ordered (the ones they included were on sale).
  • The system saves your orders and brings up favorites so you can add them to your cart.
  • ClickList will automatically apply any of the Kroger online coupons you load onto your account; employees will take your paper coupons inside to scan them in, if you want.
  • I placed my original order on Friday and added items on Saturday and Sunday with a Monday pick-up.

The week’s menu plan so you have more time to run:

  • Chicken fajitas (I thaw frozen chicken in a zip-top baggie with Zesty Italian dressing, grill it and cut it up for the fajitas. I also cut up onions with red and green peppers, wrap them up in foil and grill them. Serve with cheese, salsa, guacamole and tortillas.)
  • Enchiladas, shredded lettuce, tomatoes
  • Arroz con pollo, red beans, green beans, fried plantains
  • Baked Chicken Parmesan with pasta, green salad, garlic bread
  • Eating for Life Caribbean Chicken Salad
Caribbean Chicken Salad recipe.

Caribbean Chicken Salad recipe.

How do you find time to work out? Have you ever used a grocery order/pick-up service? Feel free to share your blog post if you’ve written about this before.

menu ideas burger basket final

In honor of the Independence Day holiday, I’m sharing the meal plan we use when we camp, including our most-recent adventure to Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s all easy and fast food to accommodate our vacation status.

From a running standpoint, our trip to the UP was amazing. Lots of challenging trails with beautiful scenery and my first trail half marathon to cap off the week.

Proof that I survived my first trail half.

Proof that I survived my first trail half.

I even got to run the four miles of trails connecting the Upper and Lower Falls, which I have to admit was the most-technical run I’ve ever done.

They weren't kidding when they said it's medium difficulty.

They weren’t kidding when they said it’s medium difficulty.

Altogether, I ran 14 miles that day. Started out running the four miles from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls on the road, then running back through the trail system and back into a couple of other trails within the park to try to get to my goal of 16.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park trails.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park trails.

Unfortunately, I ran out of water on an 80-degree day and was already past the time I had told la familia I would be back. With no cell service, I headed back to our campsite to a very relieved el husbando.

See? Worth risking dehydration.

See? Worth risking dehydration.

But I went out a couple more times because I just couldn’t waste those beautiful sunny days and scenery.

I don’t know about you, but this running thing has me trying things I never dreamed I would even consider. I’m so glad I got the bug!

Hope you have a great holiday weekend. Here’s a week’s worth of meals to make sure you can find time to run or otherwise be active. Remember, this is how you can make your own family meal plan.

  • Hamburgers, chips, fruit
  • Mac and cheese, rolls, something salad-y or a veggie. I do love this particular recipe, but we use the instant stuff when we’re camping: Italian Macaroni and Cheese
  • Taco-pasta salad
  • Spaghetti and (precooked) meatballs, rolls. Friendly reminder that this Weight Watchers Favorite Tomato Sauce is deliciosa.
  • Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, fruit, chips

Happy camping, boating or, of course, running this weekend!

What’s on your holiday schedule? If you’ve written about this topic, feel free to share your blog post link below.

You know you’ve found your running tribe when you suggest you head out at 6:30 on a Saturday morning for a 14-mile run to avoid the heat and half a dozen women show up. Even more joined us later on the Lansing River Trail.

Team Playmakers at the Lansing River Trail rock.

Team Playmakers at the Lansing River Trail rock.

So continues our ultra marathon training, which has us ramping up mileage for the foreseeable future. I plugged in the mileage into my online calendar and am following it throughout the week, but not having a print-out on my fridge means that I don’t look ahead, so every weekend long run is a bit of a surprise.

In light of the day’s hot temperatures, here are some tips for running in the heat:

  1. Start early or go late. With the forecast including temperatures in the 80s, we settled on 6:30 a.m. With 14 miles on deck, however, it wasn’t nearly early enough. We may be meeting up even earlier in the coming weeks. Or go at 8 or 9 at night, when the temperatures are dropping again. Worst case, run on the ‘mill inside.
  2. Hydrate. Because we run with a formal team, we have water stations with Gatorade and ice water every two miles. But our trail runs have left me water-less with miles to go. I just ordered a Nathan water belt and can’t wait to try it out. Some runner friends stash water in hidden spots along their route; others plan to stop by their local convenience store.
  3. Dress appropriately. I have some really cute cotton tanks that I just love, but on days like today, it’s tech fabric from head to toe. The wicking properties make a huge difference in making me feel more comfortable. And I always wear my SmartWool socks to avoid blisters.
  4. Wear sunscreen. Yes, even those of us with dark skin should slather the stuff on. We’re already bound to get weird tan lines; no sense in also getting skin cancer in the process.
  5. Consider bug spray. Warmer temps also mean more bugs and in our case that means mosquitoes. In previous years, I’ve found individually wrapped Off towelettes. Still looking for them this season.
  6. Wear a hat or visor. Those of us with little hair should especially cover our heads (or remember to wear sunscreen), while the rest of us can benefit from a brimmed hat to avoid squinting eyes and burnt noses.
  7. Bring sunglasses. Once again, glasses can provide eye protection and prevent wrinkles. Plus, you’ll look better in your selfies when you’re not squinting into the sun.
  8. Fuel properly. No matter the temperature, your body still needs those calories, electrolytes and salt. Consider also using salt tablets. I just tried some today and couldn’t tell the difference, but I don’t know if I could have survived the hottest part of our run if I hadn’t been fueling and hydrating properly.

The weather here in Michigan is just going to keep getting hotter into July and August, so I’ll be sure to follow my own advice about running in the heat in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, here’s the week’s meal plan (and here’s how I make my meal plan in the first place.):

Did you do a long run today? What are your tips for running in the summer heat? If you’ve written about this topic, feel free to share a link to your post below.