Race Recap: Encinitas Half-Marathon

This past Sunday, I joined 5,000 other runners for the Inaugural Encinitas Half-Marathon in Encinitas, California — a hip little surf town just north of San Diego. Friends, this was my favorite race that I’ve done in a LONG time! Between the oceanfront course, the swag, the great energy of the community/volunteers, and the race organization — everything was perfect and set runners up for a fun, unforgettable 13.1 miles. I’d highly recommend adding this race to your calendar next year if you’re local to Southern California. Heck, even if you’re not local – buy a plane ticket and make a vacation out of it! This race is fun, unique, and SO worth the trip.

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The Course: 13.1 miles starting at Moonlight State Beach, north through funky Leucadia (lots of volunteers and cute families cheering here!), back through Encinitas, by the ocean in Cardiff and Solana Beach, and back again to Moonlight. There were rolling hills, but nothing too outrageous.


One hill was steep, steep, STEEP but it only lasted 45 seconds. I almost walked it, but once I saw this t-rex at the top, how could I quit?


The majority of the course was along Highway 101. Just absolutely gorgeous!



The Swag: Nothing like it! In our burlap race bag, we received so much — protein bars, vegan protein powder, organic sunscreen, chemical-free toothpaste, organic lotion, BioFreeze (always appreciated), stickers, Kicking Horse coffee, and so much more! After the race, there was a REAL post-race breakfast with oatmeal, granola, bananas, coconut water and coffee — including our own Encinitas mug! It was awesome. And the medal and the shirt were pretty impressive, too!


The Organization: I had never been a part of an inaugural race, so I’ll admit that heading into it, I was a little worried about how well things would be organized and if everything would run smoothly. How pleasantly surprised I was! You could’ve fooled me and told me that the sweet folks at Surfing Madonna had been doing this race for 10+ years! On race day, everything was seamless. The logistics were perfectly mapped out, it was never too crowded before, during, or after the race, they had the PERFECT amount of port-a-potties (no long lines!) and they just took really, really good care of us. I was so impressed! Even the volunteers were fantastic.



A lot of friends from the local running community took part in this race! These are my friends Angie and Andie — we ran 11 miles on the trails together the week before the half. Andie (in the middle) is a rockstar and ran TWO halves back to back that weekend to ring in her 40th birthday! You go girl. I ran into friends Smitha, Ali, and Kimberly, too — so many people came out to be a part of the first year!


As always, I am so thankful for my sweet husband who makes the time to never miss a race or a long run of mine. He is so supportive, takes all the stress and planning of race day away, and I can’t imagine any race without him!


For more details, photos, and to register for next year’s race, visit Encinitas Half-Marathon. I’ll definitely be back — and I hope to see you on the course next year!


3 Newbie Vegan Recipes (and snacks to keep on hand)

If you’ve been following along, you may know that I am a somewhat new vegan. Even after being a vegetarian for years, going fully vegan is a hard transition to make! But, it’s a worthy pursuit for my health and for the animals. I dream that one day I’ll be in the kitchen, whipping up fancy vegan treats like Knead to Cook and Minimalist Baker, but I just don’t have the time or talent yet. Lately, I’ve been going for these reaaally easy, quick, simple, (and did I mention, inexpensive?) vegan goodies on hand.

1. Loaded Salad

I eat this for lunch most days at the office because it’s just so tasty and filling. What you’ll need: your preferred lettuce/spinach mix, 1 fuji apple, 1/2 cucumber, walnuts, baby heirloom tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar. If you’re missing the cheesy flavor of your usual salads, sprinkle a bit of Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast. That’s it! If you’re like me and have a meat-eater in your house, it’s really simple to just chop up some baked chicken breast to add to their salad. Less work for you, and everybody is happy!


2. Banana Protein Latte

Not your typical chalky protein taste – when made with vegan powder, this tastes exactly like a fancy Starbucks latte – you’ll hardly even remember that you’re refueling with 27g of protein. What you’ll need: 2 scoops of vanilla Orgain Protein + Greens, a splash or two of unsweetened almond milk, 1/2 banana, a dash of turmeric, and a cup of hot coffee. Blend it all together and perk up with a little protein in between your morning workout and a long day of work.


3. Temeph, Brussel Sprouts, and Sweet Potato Bowl

Ok, so, I don’t have a photo of this one (and truthfully, it’s not the most photogenic), but I’ve finally tried tempeh and I’ve fallen in love with it! What’s tempeh, you ask? It’s cooked and fermented soybeans, in patty form. I get mine from Trader Joe’s for $1.69 (I told you — eating vegan is inexpensive!), sautee and scramble it up with some soy sauce, and add in roasted brussel sprouts and roasted sweet potato bites for a nice, hearty bowl. There’s so much you can do with tempeh – you can even make ‘bacon’, and I look forward to trying out more recipes and getting creative with it!

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There’s a common misconception that vegans don’t get to eat anything fun. Not true at all! Snacking is probably the best part of being a vegan, because there are so many fun snacks and alternative indulgent foods. Some of my pantry favorites include:

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  • Larabars and Larabar Bites
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Gwen’s energy bites (oats, PB, agave, dairy-free chips, flax seeds, chia seeds)
  • Pretzels with stoneground mustard
  • Cucumber slices with TJ’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning
  • Date chips
  • Salt and vinegar cashews
  • Oreos — yes, Oreos are vegan! But they’re definitely not healthy for you. 🙂
  • Kale chips (still can’t find a great homemade recipe – if you’ve got one, please share!)

What are your favorite vegan recipes/snacks that aren’t too intimidating for a newbie to try? Please share in the comments, and have a wonderful day!



You’re Doing Better Than You Think You Are

To the mother of a newborn with a tired, foggy brain, who can’t remember the last time you showered, marveling at this beautiful young life that you’ve been entrusted with and feeding with your eyes closed at 3 a.m….you’re doing better than you think you are.

To the recent college graduate, sitting in a cubicle, trying to prove yourself and work your hardest, all the while wondering if you’re even on the right path or can make enough to pay the rent…you’re doing better than you think you are.

To the young wife burning dinners and budgeting, learning what it means for your heart to be so beautifully bound to another…you’re doing better than you think you are.

To the small business owner, who walked away from the stability and security of a paycheck to pursue your passion, struggling to make sales and make a name…you’re doing better than you think you are.

jspark3000: “You’re doing better than you think. You’re in the middle of your motion, so it’s hard to see where you are. But so long as you’ve been taking one heavy step forward after another, no matter how awkward your stumbling, then this is worth...:

To the new runner, who’s training and trying, learning what it is to be mentally tough, getting back out there day after day even when you don’t feel like it, praying you can cross the finish line, and wondering what the heck a fartlek could possibly be…you’re doing better than you think you are.

To the student who is going back…in classes with peers younger than you, wondering if it’s too late, but holding tight to your God-given dream, studying late at night and making sacrifices and working odd jobs to see that dream realized…you’re doing better than you think you are.

To the mama-to-be, who has lost once before but who has received a new life on the way, full of both joyful anticipation and crippling anxiety, of excitement and grief…you’re doing better than you think you are.

To all of us…in our joy and our pain, our heartache and our celebrations, our questions not answers and our dreams not yet realized…we’re doing better than we think we are. Press on.

Friday Five 03.17.17

Happy Friday! It’s been a busy couple of weeks work-wise, and I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I had hoped to be. As much as I love pouring my heart into this little space, family and work comes first! I’ve got a couple of posts scheduled and a GREAT interview with one of my friends to share with you coming soon…but for now, I’d love to share five things I’m loving this week. Before I do, I just want to say a big ol’ thank you (+ a bear hug) to those of you who take the time to read this blog. I love your feedback and knowing that my words matter even a little bit to you…means everything to me. I love and appreciate you!

Five Things I’m Loving This Week:

1. BodyPump! I’ve been taking BodyPump classes since I joined the Y a few years ago…but never consistently. I recently made the goal to take 2 BodyPump classes a week, and I’m loving it so far! With BP, I get a far better workout and muscle burn than if I’m just doing weights/strength on my own…honestly, because if it’s just me and not a class full of 20 people holding me accountable, I’ll cut my strength circuit short well before the hour is over. But with the class, both the instructors and my new friends are keeping me going, and before I know it – it’s been a FULL HOUR of lifting. This may not be a lot for some, but it’s a huge improvement for me! I typically love cardio more than anything else and get intimidated by weights…so BP has been a gamechanger for my routine. Do they offer BP at your local gym? If so, you have to give it a try! 🙂

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2. Easy Potluck Contributions Like I said – this week was crazy crazy crazy, so I really didn’t have time to whip up anything fancy or complicated for our St. Patrick’s Day potluck at work. I just took 3 cucumbers, sliced them up, spread a little guacamole, and sprinkled some cut baby carrots on top and bam! You’ve got yourself the easiest, cheapest, all-diet friendly potluck platter.


3. HappiYeti – A new shaved ice treat in Pacific Beach. San Diegans, stop by! I got an acai bowl with mango, pineapple, and granola.


4. Friends Being in Town – We’ve lucked out with having so many friends who happened to be in San Diego lately, and it’s been awesome to reconnect with them! I love living in a town that sends so many people here on business trips and vacations.

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5. Fit & Faithful Shop – Not something I’ve been loving lately only, but have been loving for a long time! My sweet friend Chelsy is expecting her first baby soon and is indefinitely closing up her shop to make room (and time!) for her baby girl. She’s having a HUGE sale and I’d love for you to check it out.

I have two of her tanks and they are always great conversation starters on the trails and at races — people always stop me and say something encouraging. Grab yours at a great discount before they’re all gone!

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Pssst…one more thing…Stay Great My Girl is now on Pinterest! Check out the SGMG Encouragement board to add a little brightness to your weekend! XOXO

Heart-to-Heart with Alicia and Alexa

Happy Wednesday! I’m so excited to share another Heart-to-Heart Hump Day with you…this time, featuring my sisters Alicia and Alexa! A & A are twins who completed their very first half-marathon together on Sunday! Read all about their journey to the finish line and see their advice for getting started.


Congratulations on completing your first half-marathon! How does it feel? 

Alexa: After planning for this race for over a year, it feels weird to be done! The race was honestly harder than I thought. There were so many people, I had a hard time getting into a running groove! During training I was able to so this made the first half of the race feel much longer! I was relieved to finally hit the double digit mile markers and knew I was in the final stretch. Once I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to get a fantastic time, I was really able to enjoy the moment which was really important! We were running through Disney World after all! It was awesome to run through Magic Kingdom with no one on the rides and see characters (like Anna, Elsa, Cinderella and of course the power couple Mickey and Minnie to name a few) cheering us on the sidelines! Most of our training was done during the winter on the east coast so the weather was much different than what we were use to. We knew that going in but I really felt it on race day especially since we started much later than we expected. However, we couldn’t have asked for a better morning! Humidity was low and the temperature was in the 50s. We were in the last corral (in hindsight, it would have made a huge difference to submit proof of time so we could have been with runners going the same pace) so we didn’t start until a whole hour after the official start time. Overall it was a great experience and I’m so glad I did it. For years, I’ve told myself I’m not a runner so proving myself wrong was a big deal.

Alicia: Race day came up so fast, it’s surreal that it is over. The beginning of the race felt so easy. I felt good the first half of the race and that was in part due to the excitement of everything that was happening. On this course the halfway point was right after we ran through Magic Kingdom. This was hard since after the excitement of running through the park there really wasn’t much happening for a while after that. I hit a bit of a rough patch closer to the end of the race where it felt like there was so much more to go. This is where all the training began to kick in. I reminded myself that I trained for this and was more than capable of completing the race. The last two miles were easy with the excitement of the crowds and knowing that the finish line was so close. In all honesty I thought it would be easier than it was but I’m glad I did it.


When and how did you decide to go after this big goal? What went into making the decision?

Alexa: We made the decision a little over a year ago. I remember telling people at Christmas in 2015 but it was too late to do the Disney princess half marathon in 2016. Many of our direct family members have always been runners and have done marathons and half marathons so it’s always been something that my family does. We wanted to find a way to get into shape and running seemed to stand out in our minds. A half marathon seemed out of reach just enough so that we would really have to work for it but not impossible!

Where was the race? What made you choose to do this particular race for your first?

We did the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fl. The race started at Epcot and we ran to Magic Kingdom then back to Epcot! Alicia was actually the one who suggested this particular race.

Alicia: Being a big fan of Disney I thought doing one of their runs would be fun. I picked the Princess Half Marathon because I liked the theme of Princesses and that mostly women run the race. I liked that the course ran through both Epcot and Magic Kingdom. I also thought running in Florida would be nice since then the course would be generally flat. The Disney run is a fun one since so many people dress up in crazy costumes and even though we did not really dress up it was cool to see all the creativity that went into other people’s outfits. This made me think that this run isn’t as serious as some of the others and would be a great first half marathon race.

Was there a particular training plan or formula that you used to prepare?

When we signed up for the race back in July, Disney actually had a training plan on their website. It worked out really well for us because during the weekdays the plan had us running 30 minutes and we did long runs every other weekend. The longest we ran before race day was 12 miles which really helped us mentally. Knowing that we ran that far before really helped us get through the double digit miles and once we hit 12, it was only 1.1 miles left – piece of cake (especially since we were running around Epcot at this point!)

Since we weren’t really running before we embarked on this journey, before the training plan started we worked on running for 3 miles straight, three days a week. We worked our way up to that by doing running-walking intervals. Up until the summer months and before the training plan started in the fall, we tried adding a mile to our weekend run. The summer was really hot and humid so we just ran three miles three times a week.

Now that you are officially half-marathoners (woohoo!), what advice do you have for other women who are looking to run their first half-marathon, or just to start running in general?

Alicia: For me it helped a lot to have a running buddy to help keep me motivated. It was good for us since we both run generally at the same pace so while training we could help motivate each other. I recommend if possible to try to find a friend to run with. Also I think it would have helped to run a few more races before race day so you are use to running with a lot of people around you. We only ran one race during our training.

Alexa: Just start. When we first decided to do this race, we were running for two minutes then walking for one so we really started from scratch! On race day we only walked when we needed water which proves how amazing and relatively quickly your body can change! Signing up for the half marathon and ‘putting my money where my mouth is’ also helped keep me motivated once the winter months came and going for long runs didn’t seem appealing. I would also stress how important those long runs are, mentally and physically. Just keep going even if you have a bad run, it gets better!

What was your biggest takeaway from this experience? What did you learn about yourself?

Alicia: Training for a half marathon requires a lot of time and dedication since you have to go on all these runs before the race. There were a few times where I didn’t want to go running since the weather wasn’t ideal. I learned that if I set a huge goal I can work through the roadblocks to complete it.

Alexa: The biggest takeaway for me is that you can do anything that you set your mind to in life. For a while, I just told myself that I’m not a runner even though it was always something I wanted to do – It was just too hard. It wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning. We did most of our runs in the morning before work so there was plenty of mornings where my bed was just so warm and inviting but I got up and ran. Eventually my body got more used to those early wake up calls and my endurance improved so I really started to enjoy this time for myself before I started my day.

Have you been bitten by the running bug? What’s next for you?

Alicia: I am more of a runner now and I plan to keep it up but for now I am going to take a break from the long distance runs. I signed up for barre class in my area and I’m excited to try that.

Alexa: I’m definitely going to keep running but I’m excited to try other workouts as well. I want to improve my strength training routine which I find more intimidating than running! No marathons or half marathons for now but I’m interested in doing some 5ks or 10ks so I can get use to racing. As for non-running goals, I’m starting a new job so I’m excited to set some goals there and get settled in there.

Just for fun, what are three things in life that you’re loving right now? 



  • Tea – I’ve been loving green tea especially if it’s infused with fruit (mango, peach, blueberries, you name it!). I’ve been drinking it everyday in these colder months.
  • House of Cards – I know I’m really late to the party but I just recently got into this show and I love it! We are on the last season and I’m looking forward to the new season coming out in May!
  • Ryan Follese EP – he was formerly the lead singer of Hot Chelle Rae but I love love love his new EP. Its pop with a country twist to it. It’s just a fun EP and I’m excited to see if he releases anything else.


  • My Fitbit – I’m loving the hourly reminders to get up and move while sitting at work and when I get home every day.
  • Series of Unfortunate Events- I read all of the books when I was younger so when Netflix released the series featuring Neil Patrick Harris, I was excited!
  • The warmer weather! The winter seems to be over and we are enjoying some warmer days. I love spring weather!

Thanks for joining me ladies, and congratulations on your finish!

For more Heart-to-Heart interviews, click here.