Meet the Athletes: Erin Laverone

This past weekend I took a little business trip to my old home of Austin, TX.  For the past 11 weeks, I’ve been training my friend and old roommate Erin via text message, email and Skype to get her ready for the 2015 Austin Half Marathon.  She’s no stranger to the half distance, completing New Orleans 2014 and San Francisco 2014 with me as well as a couple other before we met.  She’s also no stranger to Austin’s hills and heat as we ran the 2013 Austin Marathon together!

Meet Erin Laverone:

Erin Laverone

Erin Laverone

In the three years I’ve known her, she’s been a mentor, educator and motivation for me as well as an incredible friend.  We’ve shared a lot together and I was honored to be asked to help her hit a huge milestone.

Goal: Run 2015 Austin Half Marathon in sub 2:00

Plan: Run 3 times per week: one track for speed building, one tempo for aerobic training and one long run for mental strength.

Timeline: 11 weeks over the holidays

Erin worked so hard – fighting through illness, injury, cold weather and rain to get her runs in.  I never doubted that she would crush her PR and nail her sub 2-hour goal.  She had no doubts either after she floated through a ten miler at a sub 9 minute pace.

Race weekend was a blast and Austin greeted me with sun and warmth.  We ate (a must in Austin), and relaxed, and ate, and expo-ed, and ate some more.  Erin was a little more careful on her eating than me.  I planned to run the race with her but the knee injury in  November has me sitting at only 3 miles for now.  So I indulged in all my Austin favorites.

I waited for her on the dreaded Enfield hill, cheering runners as they pushed up.  I spotted her bright yellow Team Live Strong shirt and ran down to meet her.  I was greeted with “I’m gonna puke”….”Well that’s fine, just keep running!” I said.

She trudged on, one foot in front of the other with less than a mile to go now.  I decided to run her all the way to the last turn of the race.  Turned a few corners in the neighborhood and were eventually headed back towards the capitol.  She never slowed down – eyes on the prize.  My plans to jump off at the last second were foiled as I found myself trapped on the course with fences on both sides of the street.  So I just kept running her across the finish line and into the chute.  I didn’t have my bib on, but since I was a true registered participant, didn’t feel too bad about it ;).

She nailed it.  1:57:25, beating her previous PR by 5:44.  I couldn’t have been more pleased with her run or the weekend in general.  I know she’s quietly thinking about the next milestone…..1:55 is calling your name!

Erin, you were a committed and dedicated athlete throughout the entire process.  You didn’t let the flu or the cold get in your way or become excuses for not putting in the work.  I am so proud, and inspired by your efforts, and your results.  Congratulations girl, you earned it!



Recipe: Sweet and Salty Brussels

Happy Monday everyone!  I spent the weekend testing out my DIY-skills and I can’t wait to share the finished product (in a few weeks….)!

Jig sawing

Jig sawing

I also spent some time in the kitchen working on recipes between client appointments and carpentry time.  In honor of both the Austin City Limits Festival and Red River Rivalry week, I’ve chosen to share an Austin-inspired recipe with you today.

Red River Rivalry

Red River Rivalry

There’s a restaurant in Austin called the Salty Sow.  It’s close to where I lived my second year of graduate school off Manor Road.  This meal was one of my top 5 in Austin, and is what taught me to love brussels (the only way to get rid of the red squiggly line was to pluralize that…) sprouts.  I’ve been playing around with it and this version is pretty darn close!

Brussels Salad

Brussels Salad

I love the crisp feel of the brussels just barely coated with the cool and creamy parmesan dressing.  The salty meat mixes so delightfully with the sweet raisins but neither are so prevalent that they overpower the other.  Feel free to adjust to your own tastes and add protein in egg whites or more meat as needed!

Sweet and Salty (Sow) Brussels Salad

  • 2 cups chopped brussels sprouts
  • 3 slices pancetta (or 2 slices bacon, I used pancetta because it was leftover from a previous salad), fried
  •  2 tbsp raisins (substituted for dried cranberries since the crans have added sugar)
  • Up to 1 tbsp Annie’s parmesan dressing

This salad is super easy to assemble once you get past all the chopping.  Place the slices of pancetta in a frying pan over medium heat and cook until desired crispiness.  Keep an eye on them, flipping occasionally (I usually flip 3 times).  Remove meat from the pan and pat dry.  Throw a handful of chopped brussels into the pan to cook in the leftover grease.  Chop the pancetta and then add it to the chopped brussels (both cooked and uncooked) in a large bowl.  Add raisins and dressing and toss.  Feel free to garnish with more cracked black pepper or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese!



Here’s to Austin (and me surviving being a Longhorn in Sooner country this week!)!

Meet the Athletes: Kate

Except for the fact that it’s Friday, it’s a pretty dreary day in Tulsa.  Foggy and mid-50s (temps I haven’t seen since March!) with a sort of sneezy feel to the air.  I’m spending the morning running all the necessary errands for becoming an official resident of Oklahoma – wish me luck!  (I’ll do a post later with all the boring but necessary details in hopes it’s a little easier for someone else to have all the info in one place!)

It’s time to meet more of the team 🙂

This is Kate:

Kate: Fashionista Extraordinaire

Kate: Fashionista Extraordinaire

Our journey began when I lived in Austin and she and one or two other girlfriends would come to my house for group training sessions.  She’s a leader in the workoutfit fashion industry (see above).

Goals: Kate is quickly approaching her walk down the aisle and came to me for help to feel stronger and more confident in her dress.  She wants to stay focused on her goals even though I’m not in town anymore and during all the stress of the final weeks leading up to her big day!

Kate and Jake

Kate and Jake

Timeline: Less than 2 months!

Action Plan:  When I lived in Austin we met two to three times a week doing anything from sprints on the track to boxing style workouts (to the tunes of the Disney Princesses) at my house.  I helped develop an eating plan for her to supplement her Weight Watchers membership.  We had to shift our strategy when I moved and now meet once a week via FaceTime for a weight workout.  I also check in on her daily to make sure she’s done her workout for the day.

Jess has made the transition really easy by figuring out ways to stay connected.  Whether it’s a text or a FaceTime workout or sending homework, I still feel her accountability even though she’s a state away.

Post-FaceTime Sesh

Post-FaceTime Sesh


What Starts Here

I moved to Austin, a little bit hesitantly, in  August of 2012 to pursue a Masters degree in Sports Science and Nutrition.  This past Saturday, I got what I came for,  joining a small group of classmates turned friends at our Masters Hooding Ceremony in the morning, and and participating in the evening processional.  I’m officially Jessica Sprenkel, MS!

Our morning started early, with more prep and dressing than I’m used to.  This once in a lifetime occasion called for a dress, light makeup and even heels.  Erin and I picked up the other girls, Tiffany and Lauren to head to campus.  Our first ceremony was the more formal of the two and included all the students of the graduate school.   Our speaker was Dean Terry Kahn, the UT Associate Dean of Graduate Student Services.  I’d never seen or heard of him before but a big man with a lovely Texas drawl took the mic.  After opening with an A&M joke (rivalries run deep here), he left us with four pieces of advice.

  1. Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know
  2. Tell it like it is
  3. Understand no opportunity to assist humanity is too small to warrant your attention
  4. Have reverence for what you’ve accomplished

I loved it.  A concise and practical list.  Number 3 especially struck a chord with me.  That’s what is great about this field I’m in because I get to assist people everyday.  Provide encouragement and motivation.  Write plans to help them get stronger.  Faster.  And I understand that no high five is ever too small or unwanted during a training session.

After he finished giving all the grads his best advice, the hooding began.  College of education was the very last to be presented but soon enough it was my turn.  Never a performer, being on stage made me surprisingly nervous.  Not sure how anyone can get things done or think straight with bright lights in their face.  But I smiled.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I smiled as they placed the hood over my head, smiled as I shook the hands of the deans, smiled as I gave a big hug to my advisor, smiled as I waited for everyone on the other side of the stage.  I couldn’t help it!  For the first time in the two years at UT, I did feel proud.  I did work for this.  I worked to get accepted (1 of 1600 graduating, out of 26,000 applicants annually to the graduate school).  I worked to make the grades.  I worked to absorb knowledge and experiences outside of the classroom.  I worked to reduce my tuition and have a little spending money.  I earned this.

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I was so glad to share this celebratory experience with the people who were by my side at coffee shops in the last minutes of business for the day.  People who quizzed and quizzed on dry erase boards over the physiology of various types of exercise.  People who made the time outside of class fun and adventurous.  We’ve shared a lot in four semesters and this was a great ending.

The morning ceremony felt very similar to my graduation from Rhodes four years ago – formal and traditional.  All week people had been talking about the evening processional, noting that if I went to only one ceremony it should be that one.  So, we went.

Boy does Texas know how to throw a party!  This ceremony involved all the students.  Undergraduates, graduates, doctors, business, law, engineering.  We lined up close to the fountain and got to walk through the rows of big oak trees with faculty standing beneath them.  Our walk ended at the base of the Main Building or Tower and we filed into our seats.  There were cameras floating through the air on the ends of long mechanical arms, zooming over the audience of excited students hoping to get on the big screen at the front.  It was very much like a sporting event.  We had great seats too.  The tower stood proudly over us and a pedestal was set up at it’s base for the speakers.

The atmosphere was much different than the morning ceremony and both of my previous graduations.  Students were dancing on the chairs, had decorated their caps, were carrying light sabers, blowing whistles and air horns and chanting various fight songs (including “OU sucks”, another deep rivalry here).  President Powers took the stage and introduced the student body president to speak and our commencement speaker, Admiral William H. McRaven.  He was quite eloquent and poised but stuck some funnies in throughout his speech.  He also had a list of advice for us:

  1. Make your bed
  2. Find a mentor
  3. Measure people by the size of their hearts
  4. Get over discomfort and move forward
  5. Don’t be afraid of the circuses (extra work or hardship), it will make you stronger
  6. Slide down the obstacles head first
  7. Don’t back down from the sharks (punch them in the face)
  8. Stay calm in the darkness, you must be your very best here
  9. There is power in hope
  10. Don’t ever ring the bell (surrender)

When he finished, the students erupted into a standing ovation and the conferring of the degrees began.  Each school’s dean was called to the podium and while the tower glowed with the color of their college, the dean certified his or her students to receive their degrees.  Some colleges were much louder than others – Moody College of Communication and McCombs Business school were quite rowdy.  We stood up with the Graduate School and I gave an appropriate yell of excitement for us.

There were a few final remarks, a dozen “Hook em Horns” and a communal singing of “The Eyes of Texas” before we got to the part everyone had been waiting for – fireworks.

Austin, over the past two years you’ve given me challenges, knowledge, novel experiences, a new set of friends, a puppy and now a Masters Degree.  I’ll always be grateful of my time here and what it has given me but after this summer I’ll be on to the next chapter.  Watch out Tulsa, you’re next on my trail to change the world!

Hook ’em horns!


Austin Bucket List

One of my goals for 2014 was to be a tourist in my own hometown.  If you’ve followed me since my Memphis days, you know this has always been important to me.  Explore. Do. Sightsee.  Learn.  Wherever you live, the history, culture and activities of your hometown are unique and you should soak them up!

My situation is perhaps a little more unique because I might be running out of time.  I moved to Austin a year and a half ago to start graduate school at UT.  I like this town a lot, and it has provided ample opportunities for me to learn and grow in my field.  But I know it is not my home.  I will not settle here.  I will not dig the roots of my fitness business here.  I know for sure I will be here through the end of school (May) and through the end of the lease on my house (early August) but after that I have no plans.  No plans to leave, no plans to stay.  I’ve got six months to make those plans but in case of the latter, I do have plans to DO a lot of things in and around Austin!

Here is a Bucket List my roommates and I have constructed for things we’d like to do before we leave:

  • First Thursday (SoCo)
  • Gospel Brunch – Stubb’s
  • Roller Derby
  • Top Golf
  • Peter Pan Mini Golf
  • In.Gredients Trivia Night
  • Greenbelt
  • Hamilton Pool
  • Float the River
  • Tower Tour
  • Two Stepping
  • Capitol Tour
  • National Park
  • Boat on the Lake
  • Bat Bridge
  • McKinney Falls
  • Chicken Shit Bingo
  • Hippie Hollow
  • Wimberley
  • Run the Cap 10k
  • Fredericksburg
  • Juan in a Million
  • Uchi
  • Freddie’s
  • Mozart’s
  • Enchanted Rock
  • Explore Downtown
  • Slam Poetry (Spiderhouse)

A pretty comprehensive list I’d say!  Some restaurants, some outdoor activities, some culture, some history.  The list is by no means complete so if you have a suggestion for something for me to do before I peace outta this town, let me know!