Thursday, January 29, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1.   1.    I don’t know if it’s the running on snow or the increase in mileage, but my calf is killing me. It’s super sore and tight, so I’m taking a rest day. And wearing calf sleeves under my tights.
So saucy
1.    2.   I’m going to do a little home improvement and upgrade my kitchen counters to granite. There are so many options and it’s hard to tell what’s worth it and where I should buy from. It’s all basically in the same ballpark of prices, so I’m overwhelmed by choice.

 3. 1.       I got this new running jacket and am looking forward to trying it out. The whole jacket is reflect, and there’s an LED light integrated into the shoulder. Then this blinky tab on the front. If I get hit by a car now, it wasn’t for lack of trying to be visible.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"It's Either Fast or Fun"

On the way to the F^3 Half Marathon Saturday, run club buddy Keith shared some valuable advice that I wanted to share (and document so I don’t forget it).

Something you should know about Keith: He’s run 57 marathons, and while his fastest was 3:30, he’ll regularly run marathons back to back and come in within seconds of his standard time. The guy runs. A lot. Consistently.

On the way to the race, we were raw nerves. Even after dozens of races, something about the ritual of getting up early and traveling to run concurrently with a bunch of strangers keys me up. Keith’s sage advice was this:

For some it was fast, for some it was fun, for all, there was beer
“There are fun races and there are fast races. But don’t decide a week or a month or even now which one it will be. Decide after the first mile, will this be fun or will this be fast? There’s always going to be another race. You’ll race better if you set out without expectations and see what happens.”

And that, friends, might have been the best race day strategy pep talk I’ve ever heard. It rings true with all my experiences – a mile six of Circular Logic last year, I knew I was toast. Despite all my preparation, it wasn’t going to happen. Then six weeks later at the Vermont City Marathon, I knew by mile two it was happening. I felt strong and started pulling away from my pace group.

How soon do you know if it’s going to be a fast or a fun day?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Race Report: 2015 F^3 Half Marathon

Six-word recap: A lovely weekend run, with medals.

I won a race entry to the sixth-annual F^3 Half Marathon from Emily. I had thought about doing this race last year because it fits in so well with my training for Circular Logic. Alas, the weather is really unpredictable this time of year and I didn't want to commit.  Who would have known it would be 40 degrees and sunny on Saturday? It was really an ideal day, but I just couldn't pull it together for a PR.

I carpooled with the run club, so I rolled out of the house at 7:15 to meet up and drive in. We decided to split parking at Soldier Field and it was the best possible call. We parked steps from the United Club, walked in and that was it - $22 well-spent, especially when split five ways.

There were indoor restrooms that we all used, as well as gear check that we declined and left items with our colleagues instead (thanks Erika!). The race is in its sixth year and they have it down to a science - runners warm up indoors and then all walk out to the start line together at the last possible second. The start line was rather congested, but once we all got into the chute, it moved along.

The first two miles were not fun for me. I don't know if anything was wrong as much as I was just not feeling it. After three miles, I started to settle in and rebound. I actually really enjoyed the course. Runners go north from Soldier Field, then south past Burnham Harbor towards the South Shore Cultural Center, then loop back. I liked this because with the turn around, you see everyone who's racing. I saw a ton of familiar faces, which was a nice distraction as I was running alone without music. I don't know what I was thinking with the music thing, but it was a hectic morning.

I took a gel at eight, and somewhere around the nine-mile mark my left calf started to bother me. It felt really tight and sore, and I stopped at one point to stretch it out. It's still sore today, and I'm guessing it's from running on snow and ice.

I crossed the finish line in 1:54:02, so it's three or four minutes slower than my PR. I'm a little disappointed since conditions were perfect, but hey, they can't all be diamonds. It was a free race for me, after all.

In the finisher's chute, there was hot cocoa, water, organic protein drink and KIND bars. I found my group and we cheered on our remaining runners, then headed inside. I took advantage of the indoor restrooms and changed into warm clothes, then snagged my free beer.

The medals were these fantastic fully colored bottle openers on a ribbon that featured the Chicago skyline. I liked that instead of another shirt, runners got a nice hat and running gloves in a little nylon drawstring bag.

In all, I thought this was a well-coordinated race that had a nice course and good swag. I don't know if I would pay $70 to run on the Lakefront Path, and I'm not sure how I'd feel about this race if it was -30 instead of 40 degrees. Any way you slice it, I had a great day and it was fun, even if I wasn't fast.

Cost: $70, free for me
Time: 1:54:02
Pros: Nice course, great swag, lovely medal, all the festivities were indoors
Cons: It's expensive for a half, and the weather is unpredictable

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Favorites: A Helpful Mishmash of Stuff

I've had this task filled with interesting things to share all week, but no real way to tie it together in a manner a journalist should. But, time's a wasting, so a list shall have to do.

1. I'm running the F^3 Half Marathon tomorrow and it's going to be 41 degrees outside. That's practically perfect. We'll see what I can pull together tomorrow.
Almost exactly one year ago at the
S-no-w Fun 5 Miler

2. Cyclists, please note, the Pearl Izumi Factory Store in South Barrington is closing on Jan. 26. I made the trek out there this week and looked around. I'm ambivalent. It's 50 percent off the regular price, so it's not that stellar, but bike stuff is pricey any way you slice it. I got a pair of nice padded shorts for $30, but that's not write your grandma great.
This came from there last year

3. I drink beer. A lot. I'm a beer snob and enjoy hunting rare, delicious and otherwise snooty beers. If you're like me, bookmark this 2015 craft beer schedule page immediately. It has charts for tons of the popular craft beer places showing what's available when. If you ever find yourself trying to buy my favor, I drink porters and stouts and enjoy a hoppy, fresh IPA.
Like this one. Nom.

4. This might be my favorite sports clip, ever. At the very least, it's the most redeeming quality of football.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. I'm still going strong with my goal of logging my running and biking miles. I've been logging on Garmin and then adding them to a spreadsheet for the Chicago South Suburban Moms Run This Town Challenge (fur moms count, I guess). I'm up to 125 miles ran and 150 miles biked. I hope I can keep it up!
2. I shut down my kombucha production this summer but would like to get back at it. I just need a SCOBY. Anyone have one for me?

3. At the suggestion of Erica, I entered a soup recipe contest Artizone is putting on this month. Please oh please vote for my sausage kale soup here:

Please and thank you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Working for the Weekend: Birthday Shenanigans Weekend

Happy Birthday to my baby sister! Mandy celebrated another commemorative anniversary of her 21st year in this world again this year, with much fanfare as a result. But first, miles are required, because my training for the Circular Logic Marathon is well underway. I've been searching for a safe place to run during the winter, and I finally found Mecca in the form of the Morton Arboretum. How have I lived 12 minutes from this place for six years without knowing it's existence? For shame. It made 17 miles almost pleasant. It's never easy, but running is fun for me again.
#Selfie with the beauty filter. We're beautiful now
 Then, it was time to pick up cake. Mandy requested something girl with pink icing. This counts, right?
I want it noted that this crocodile/ alligator/ dragon has teeth and they are red
 After getting into town, we fueled up at Snarf's, which is right by Oz Park where my sister lives. I got a rotisserie chicken sandwich on wheat, and was as impressed by it as I was the comedic styling of this location's staff.

 The night began at the Lincoln Park Binny's tasting room, which is an amazing space if you haven't been. It's the world's largest liquor store and a beautiful place to grab a pint. Or a $2,700 bottle of champagne. Your call.

We started the night with a goofy photo. Mandy's boyfriend's family and I were trying our best Brady Bunch impression. How did we do?
"I'm Katie, I'm Mandy, I'm Kelly and we're *CLAP* the Mahoneys!"
Next up, we took a party bus. Yep, just like in college. It was a blast, even if we were quite scrunched in.
We stopped at Lagunitas, which I don't think I have a photo of, because we arrived 15 minutes before last call. I mean, last call at 8:15 on a Saturday night? Come on! It was a total bummer to get the bum rush at 9 p.m. I'd like to go back for the tour, but not for the beverages. Next up, we had to go to Mahoney's. Just because. At our namesake bar we received free shots, so it was worth it.

I think Bowie the Pomeranian had the best night, actually. He slept well, got lots of cuddles and inevitably a bunch of treats.
Happy Birthday, Mandy!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

New Traditions: Sunday Family Dinner

I've mentioned it in the blog before, but since I returned to Illinois, I've settled into a new normal filled with new routines. One of my favorite new rituals is a weekly open-house dinner. I started doing it for a number of reasons, including one of my post-divorce goals of wanting to be closer with my family. I also enjoy being social and cooking for my friends. When I keep things casual, it's easy and it's cheap, too. Here's how:

  • I keep it a regular thing - I make dinner at around the same time every Sunday night.
  • I keep it casual - the same guest list shows up most weeks, so I just shoot a text and let them know when food will be ready. 
  • I keep it scaleable - I either make a casserole or a crock pot recipe. If more people show up, I've got enough, and if some people are busy, I'll have leftovers for lunches for the week.
  • I keep it cheap - This is how I bulk cook for the week, as well as use up leftovers. If chicken is on sale, I'll make peanut Thai chicken. If I just made a turkey, I'll make a Tex-Mex turkey soup.
  • I keep it clean - I use crock pot liners, so there's no clean up, and I don't even have matching dishes, so you get what you get here.
  • I keep it potluck - if anyone asks me what they can bring, I always have ideas of things we can add - salad or rolls or tortilla chips or something. Never turn down an offer!  
Right now, I have my famous crock pot pulled pork sandwiches slowly simmering away in the kitchen (it smells awesome), but last week, we had lasagna courtesy of Red Gold Tomatoes. It's a family-owned company that has a whole campaign focusing on the idea of "Food Brings People Together." They sent me a lasagna kit, which I put to work making a veggie and Laura's Lean Beef lasagna for a complete meal in one. I fed probably eight people that night, then ate leftovers for another few days.

Red Gold is hosting a simple gourmet lasagna party on Facebook until Feb. 3 and will give away 750 aprons and six gourmet lasagna party prize packs, which include a Le Creuset lasagna pan (if you win, please share with me, I want one of those!).