Kelly the Culinarian: March 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pinkies Up for High Tea

After my disappointing half marathon yesterday, Jenny whisked me away to a wonderful afternoon to lessen the blow of such a poor race. We went to Gourmet Junction in Plainfield for afternoon tea. Jenny is an expat from Yorkshire, England, so she was prepared to give me the full report on if this place was authentic.

First thing's first, the Brits do not have afternoon tea in this manner at all, but we dressed to the nines anyways. It was a great excuse to wear a hat I found at the thrift shop, which also hid my nasty post-race hair. The Groupon Jenny bought included tea for two and pastries. It promised clotted cream and lemon curd, but that was nowhere to be found, unfortunately. In addition, we sprung for sandwiches because I was starving. I went with a turkey and provolone sandwich on a pretzel roll and Jenny got the tuna salad on French bread. My sandwich was good, but needed some spicy mustard or something. Also, it probably tasted awesome to me because I was starving after the race.

I tried three different types of tea, because I was thirsty by then. The strawberry vanilla tea was my favorite.  It was so tasty that I'll have to buy a box for later. The pastries included chocolates, brownies, pieces of a nutty/flakey pastries, blueberry scones, sugar cookies and cupcakes. There were two of each option on the dessert tray so we could each try one.

It was a cute outing, but Jenny and I both agreed we could do it better at home. While the pastries were adorable, they were definitely store bought. We recognized the cookies and cupcakes from Target, the blueberry scone was from a mix and the brownies were unremarkable.

The tea room itself was a bit odd, too, as it was part cafe and part deli counter. We had fun, but we'll have high tea at home next time!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 Egg Shell Shuffle Half Marathon Race Recap

I greatly debated exactly how honest I wanted to be with this race report. I had some humiliating moments today, so please take this as you may.

It was a beautiful day for a PR, but it didn't happen for me. I PRed by exactly 1 second.
This all started yesterday when I picked up my packet and picked out my outfit. This race had shorts instead of a shirt, which I think is awesome. I need another shirt like a hole in the head. As far as my outfit, I was going for loud. I wore the same tank top from Zooma, shorts I picked up at the Indy Marathon expo, arm warmers and buff from Tri-eva and kick-ass socks I won from a raffle Maggie put on. Loud = achieved. It's easier to find myself in photos that way anyhow.

Jenny picked me up after I ate my standard breakfast of toast, peanut butter and a banana. I also ate some pretzels and drank water.

Side note: How awesome is Jenny? She chauffeured me around, encouraged me, took photos, held my gear and waited for me to finish. What a friend. Plus, she's still hobbling around in a walking boot, so we got VIP parking ... also known as handicap parking.
We met up with some blogging buddies before the race, then hung around waiting to get moving. I realized a little too late there were no pacers, but I've got my trusty Garmin to keep me on pace. I was hoping for a 1:50 finish, which would be a six-minute PR, so I needed to hit 8:34 every mile to get there.
We started running through a parking lot, then turned around and swung back through grass and onto my beloved Busse Woods path around mile two. Look at how strong and relaxed I look there at mile two:

And honestly, I was feeling awesome for a long time. I took a Clif chocolate gel at mile 3.5 and PowerBar Latte shot in the seventh mile. I felt perfect, and knew I was going to make 1:50. Then, shit got real.

My stomach got upset and I needed a bathroom. Except, there weren't any bathrooms anywhere at all ever. There were plenty of real toilets, but they were locked. It's too early in the season for bathrooms. The race didn't rent a single port-o-potty for the course. I nearly cried when I tried to get into one of the forest preserve toilets and found it locked. I saw Bobbi at the 11 mile and she yelled "looking strong!" I told her I felt terrible. My splits show the real tale.

This all pisses me off for a number of reasons. My legs were fine. My breathing was fine. My body felt great. My endurance is there. My stomach is not.

I finished in 1:56:12, 17th in my age group. That means I was one second faster than the HeatBreaker Indoor half and a little less than a minute faster than my first half marathon.

Jenny and I stuck around and did the egg hunt, which was a much-hyped bonus of this race. Alas, I didn't win anything cool. I collected probably eight eggs that contained nothing but candy (and not event chocolate!).

However, for a small race, the post-race food and expo was fantastic.  I stocked up on running fuel and fruit, as well as tried some new bar things.

I wanted to love this race, but I can't help but wonder what would have happened if there were bathrooms on the course. Could I have made a quick stop and PRed? Everything else was in my favor, from the weather to the familiar-to-me course. So now I have a chip on my shoulder and something to prove.

Time: 1:56:12

Pros: Familiar course, great swag of Nike shorts, local race supporting my running community, a good amount of food and fuel available on site, perfect weather, cute medal, post-race egg hunt, nice photo opportunities for the whole family with the Easter bunny and this random PowerBar chick

Cons: No bathrooms open on the course. No port-o-potties on the course. It could have used more water stations, too, since it was in the 60s by the time we finished. Also, parking would have been dicey without Jenny's handicap spot.

Would I race this again: No. There are so many other races that I feel like I could rock. And now I have a bad taste in my mouth with this, too.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. I saw this thing earlier in the week and sent it to Kim with the caption "I think Data needs a friend. May I suggest a solar cat?" Agree?
Hey there, my solar glasses see you have a treat, 3 football fields away
2. I'm trying to cement my status as best wife ever. Tim really likes these chips from ALDI. They're sweet chili flavored brown rice chips and they're clearanced out at $.99 a bag.  So naturally, I had to buy like six bags. I buy him chip flavors I don't like so I won't nom them all before he gets the chance.
Fancy food from ALDI
3. I think my one-piece trisuit might be stretched out and too big.  It bunches up around my waist in a way that I think might cause chafing in an actual race scenario. It seems to fit well enough when wet, but when I was driving to the gym this week, I noticed this very unpleasant sight. I have a two-piece tri kit, but it might be time to look at other one-piece options.
Saggy/Baggy tri suit with blindingly bright white sweats FTW

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Look Inside a Runner's Car

I've talked before about how my car is the perfect triathlon wagon: the seats easily remove for toting my bike and there's plenty of storage. But storage for what? So here's a guide to all the goodies I've got stashed in my car at any given time.
Lots of liquids. Water, coffee and sports drinks are never far from my car.

Pre- and post-run food. I have a few different types of fuel and a package of rice crackers in case I get famished.

Nail files and hair ties. I like to be prepared. I have hair ties stashed everywhere - at my desk, at the kitchen sink, in the laundry room and of course, in the triathlon wagon.
Literature for the races I'm working with. You never know when someone might ask about a cool race.

Hot hands and hand sanitizer. It's cold out there, so hot hands makes me a bit more comfortable. And there are lots of port o potties in running, not all of which have hand sanitizer.

Well this looks chaotic ...
One of the things I like about the triathlon wagon are these little hooks built into the wall of the trunk. They're perfect for hanging up a wet swimsuit, goggles and swim cap.

Also, I did the math, I have four pairs of shoes in my car: old shoes for CrossFit, current shoes for running, spinning shoes from Jenny and boots that I wear to and from the gym. You'll also see I keep towels in my trunk because my gym isn't all fancy and does not have towel service. Sad.
In addition to my gym bag, I also have a bag of swim gear, reusable shopping bags (because I'm a hippie and ALDI doesn't provide bags) and my emergency provisions bag.
Please make me feel better - do you also have four pairs of shoes in your car? What's always in your car?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Training Tuesday: I Have a Race Saturday

Today has been a rough day, workout wise. I started at CrossFit Rise this morning with tons of upper-body work, then a benchmark workout. We did Christine, which is a 500-meter row, 12 deadlift of a weight equal to your body weight and then 21 box jumps. I didn't quite lift my body weight, going with 105 pounds. It still took me 15:51, so I'd like to do this again in a few months and see if I can improve.

Anyhow, after that, I went for my final run before my race Saturday. I had to knock out Run With Jess's Jelly Bean 5K. Last year, I did this in 24:10, so this year's 24:47 was not a PR.  My running lunch 5K PR of 24:00 stands!
Fun fact: during last year's Jelly Bean virtual race, I wore a light top and shorts. I'm still rocking my Purple Rain running tights and a pull over. Spring, Y U not here?
I have another big training day tomorrow morning, but then I'll be resting up for the Egg Shell Shuffle on Saturday. Initially, I was gunning for a PR here. I outlandishly thought I'd strive for a 1:50:00, which would be a six-minute PR.
What I have going for me:
  • My sister and I at last year's family egg hunt
    I'm the fittest I've ever been. My upper body and core are well-developed, thanks to CrossFit.
  • I've worked on mental toughness at CrossFit and have that sharpness I can rely upon.
  • I think my weight is back down into my pre-marathon range. I stopped weighing myself a few weeks ago because I was feeling good and my clothes were fitting well.
  • I have cross trained hardcore. I train five to six days per week, incorporating weight lifting, swimming, cycling/spinning and walking.
  • I've set a new 5K PR recently, which has bolstered my confidence.
  • The weather is going to be ideal on Saturday.
What might hurt me:
  • I've been running less, focusing on getting two runs in per week.
  • I haven't been foam rolling, outside of CrossFit.
  • I need to hydrate more, but there's still time here.
  • I could use more sleep, but couldn't we all?
  • It's been a very cold winter, preventing me from getting outside as much as I would like.
My strategy for the balance of the week is to hydrate, rest and foam roll. On race day, I plan to start with the 1:50:00 pacers and see if I can hold on. Otherwise, I'm going to PR that Easter egg hunt like a boss.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What I Learned at the Chicago Bloggers Workshop

As I mentioned yesterday, I hosted a fun get together Sunday morning for the Chicago Running Bloggers network. Erica brought up the idea of getting together to swap ideas a few weeks ago and I'm so excited I had the chance to entertain as a result. I do love having parties and I don't seem to have nearly as many as I used to.
So first, the eats!
We had brunch, which means I prepared an epic oatmeal bar. I started with a pot of overnight crock pot oats, then laid out every possible topping: chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, sliced almonds, walnuts, pecans, raisins, dates, strawberries, bananas, apples, peanut butter, brown sugar, jam, cinnamon and PB2. I also made my crock pot French toast casserole, but I should have added more liquid. Add a side of mimosas, coffee, fruit salad and croissants, and we were off to a wonderful start. Alissa also brought these heavenly gluten-free cinnamon banana muffins that were very popular and Marcia brought some protein peanut butter eggs that were delicious, too.

After we noshed, we sat down to talk blogging. It was great to hear about everyone's reasons for getting into blogging and how they increase blogging traffic. Here are a few ideas that came up that resonated with me.
Erica brought raffle prizes and I won big!

  • Be genuine. And be genuinely helpful. This is my number one rule of blogging. I am me, this is my space. You get me all the time. I only blog for me.
  • Participate in link ups. It's a great way to work your connections and learn more about your fellow bloggers.
  • Comment, comment, comment. And follow back comments, too. It's all about community and community start when you provide useful, relevant feedback.
  • Work expos. This is your chance to get in front of potential sponsors. Give your feedback on their products. ASK for giveaway items. The worst that can happen is they say no.
  • Guest post. Accept relevant guest posts and write them for others bloggers you admire. This exposes you to new readers and gets your name out there.
  • Tweet out every new post. More eyeballs on your work!
  • Reach out to brands you like. Sponsorships grow our of relationships. Contact your favorite brands and tell them what you think about their products. Post about things you love (see the first bullet).
  • Join in on photo a day challenges. These are great ways to try something new, flex your creative muscles and again, be part of another community.
  • Work your brand contacts regularly. If you haven't heard from a brand contact lately, follow up and see if they have anything new going on or any new initiatives.
  • Focus on your community and the journey. Alissa brought up a good point about the journey - while running and celiac's disease doesn't have a direct tie in, people follow our respective blogs for the same reason. They want to hear about your journey. They want to hear about the triumphs and the struggles, the tears and the elation. And that's what blogging is: your journey through life and what makes YOU unique.
Thank you, ladies! 
From left: Marcia, Emily, Maggie, Erica, and Katie. Then me/Napoleon and Lauren. Alissa snapped this photo. 
This was refreshing and enlightening. It's great to meet bloggers in real life, and I loved their perspectives. I really need to do this more often.

Motivational Monday

Here are a few things that really got me going in the past week.
This video:

How cool is that? She's right, no one would have blamed her if she sat on the couch and cried for a year. That's what I would have done. But she found solace in running and running together.

  • This guy, who won a marathon while pushing a stroller, so when brain cancer stole his memories, his daughter could look back at the race in his absence.
  • This post from my blogging friend Katie of Run for Cookies, where a guest poster shares her strategies for weight maintenance. I suck at this, so her tips are interesting.

What about you? Did you read/see anything awesome that fired your engines?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Running and Running Around

Sorry neglected little blog, I've been too busy out there living life.  Saturday, I got up bright and early to meet Christina at Waterfall Glen. She and I did two miles and we had a great chat. I forget how much I love the social aspect of running. Then I set out to complete another 10 on my own, getting lapped by a bunch of high school boys clipping off sub-7 miles. I didn't quite make it to the 12 mark because my stomach and left IT band were bothering me, so I just ran for the car. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and Waterfall Glen is so gorgeous to begin with. It has little streams and lots of wildlife, which helped distract me from the task at hand.

Once I got home and showered, I tried a new-to-me coffee that I picked up on a whim at Ultra Foods. I think it was $1 for this sample. I was skeptical - how can a coffee delivered the flavors of German chocolate cake? I was so pleasantly surprised that I want to try the other Steep n Brew flavors and get a full-sized bag of this brew.  It was certainly chocolately with a vague hint of coconut and cream. I drank this latte style with almond milk.

Then, I was off to the city for a meeting with my friend Caylei. We had a wonderful brunch at Frog n Snail, splitting the house mimosas, a salad lyonnaise and the pear mushroom crepe. Sounds weird, but it was lovely - a nice sweet and savory balance. The decor in this place is also awesome and very chic. I'd like to live there, I believe.

After that, we stopped in NoMI for a beverage with a view. It was lovely.

We also made a pit stop at Ralph Lauren ... before we got kicked out for taking photos. That awkward moment you get kicked out of a fancy store. Also, Oprah shops here, so perhaps they detected I was not one of them.
The photo in question
Then, we capped on the afternoon with appetizers at The Purple Pig.  The broccoli there is amazing and unexpected. Who knew broccoli could be so scrumptious?

Alas, I got home really late and stayed up even later cleaning and prepping because this morning, I hosted the Chicago Blogging Workshop. An amazing group of ladies came over for brunch and blog talk, and it was lovely. Tomorrow, I'll go over the interesting tidbits I learned today at the workshop, along with all the awesome eats! However, I just finished biking 25 miles on the indoor trainer, so I'm spent and hungry.

See you tomorrow, Internet world!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cheating on My Rest Day

Anyone else get antsy on rest day? Perhaps it's a manifestation of my overall training anxiety, but taking a day off makes me cranky. Especially since I had a crappy first training week.

I tried to make the best of my rest day by sleeping like a boss. I got nine solid hours of sleep last night, then did grocery shopping during my lunch break for a fun blogger workshop I'm hosting this Sunday. After work, I took our furriest family member on a long walk. It was quite a nice night and a lovely walk, especially for someone whose legs are only eight inches tall.

I then scrubbed and sanitized my house to prep for the blogger get together and made a great pre-long run dinner to get me fueled up for tomorrow's run.

I still want to go hop on the bike and spin for a while, though. I'm fighting the urge and will likely go to bed early as a result.

Do you like rest days? Am I the only freak that gets anxious from resting?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Three Things Thursday

1. I did not blog last night for the same reason my first week of training has sucked. Margaritas on a weeknight were a very bad idea.  Also, my stomach can't take chain restaurants anymore. My first workout today at CrossFit went fine, but when I tried to run during lunch, my stomach was all like, "Sure, you can eat 5,000 calories at once. You'll pay the price, though."
Bad choices caught on film
2. Yeah, the first week of training has been rough. The gym closest to our home closed. My other gym choice near work closed its pool for cleaning until Saturday. On the upside, they opened an interim gym while they're rebuilding the gym closest to our home. The interim location is 1 mile from my office. No pool, but it's new and empty. I'm terrified that this poor start will leave me in a lurch in the future when it comes to the half Ironman. I keep telling myself I've already run half marathons and biked 60 miles, so I can certainly do these distances if I get in as many of the training sessions each week that I can. I have to train twice a day, but I am committed to one rest day per week.
3. I used the first of our share of grassfed beef. We got a mixed share and I used one pound of the ground beef for burgers. They were delicious, and I'm looking forward to trying the other items in our share.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I'm a Cute Pincushion

I can't believe I'm writing a blog post about acupuncture. Just add this to the list of hipster/hippie qualities I've acquired through the years. Side note: my sister called me a hipster recently and I was all up in arms about it. Don't you have to live in the city to be a hipster? The evidence is mounting against me:

And now, doctors are just too mainstream for me. Sort of. You see, I've been on a quest to fix my hand since the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. My pinkie and ring finger on my left hand have been numb ever since. I saw a chiropractor, who was upfront when it wasn't better after three visits. Then, I saw Jenny's neurologist twice. Both agreed that I had nerve entrapment in my wrist, and the neurologist said he could give me an injection, but he thought it was a bit aggressive as I'm not in pain. He recommended acupuncture as a potential course of treatment.

So off to the acupuncturist I went yesterday.  It was a weird experience. Not weird uncomfortable or bad, just outside of my regular realm of experience.

The acupuncturist took a lot of notes about my condition and asked questions that I she said wouldn't seem relevant, like if I'm generally cold, if I sleep soundly, if I crave salt (hello salted breakfast), if I drink water, and if I had normal cycles. She also took my vitals (my resting heart rate was 36. I win, Lance Armstrong). 

She explained that acupuncture is based on the flow of chi, or energy in the body, and that Chinese medicine believes illness is caused by blockage of this energy. She also said that everyone has a balance of yin and yang energy, and I have more yang, which is categorized by a low heart rate, a calm disposition and a cool body temp.  Since my numbness began during extreme cold and my body tends to stay cool, she said she would burn moxa as part of my treatment.

In the end, she used six needles in my hands, feet and head, then I hung out for a while and she burned moxa. That's right ... I went to get my energies balanced and breathe in incense. If it works, I'm all for it.  I'm embrancing this with an open mind simply because she was so upfront that at the end of three sessions (a package I already purchased from Groupon), she should be able to tell if this is worth pursuing.

We'll see if this results in being able to feel my wedding rings.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Introducing Motivation Monday: Ken's Racine 70.3 Story

Hi readers! Today marked my first day of training for the 70.3 Racine Ironman triathlon. It started out innocuously enough, but the swim felt hard. Some days I feel awesome, some days I feel 30 pounds heavier and like I've never run a step in my life. The joys of running: one day, you feel bad ass; the next day, you feel like ass.

To kick off the beginning of my 18-week journey to half Ironman glory (fake it 'til you make it), I'm introducing a new feature on the blog. Each week, I hope to share articles, photos and insights that are pushing me and lighting my fire that week. I've also collected some insights from Racine veterans, which I'm looking forward to sharing through the next few weeks. First up is Ken Chin, a 33-year-old rad runner dude I met through the glories of the Internet. Here's his Racine story:  
Ken at Ironman Wisconsin!

Athletic background: I didn't do anything until 2007. That year, I started to run and completed my first marathon. Seven marathons later, I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin in September 2011. I could not swim at all when I signed up!

Why did you sign up for Racine?: Last season, I built up to Ironman Wisconsin. I did a sprint (DNF due to panic in the swim), followed by an Olympic about three weeks later, then Racine two weeks after that.

How did you train for Racine?: I was very fortunate to have a solid base of cycling with Vision Quest Coaching (edit: I did baseline testing at VQ Coaching in Highland Park recently). I trained with them beginning around October of 2011. Then, I went to a week long camp with them in Solvang, Calif. There, we rode daily, including a 10-mile, never-ending, uphill trek up Mt. Fig. 

For swimming, I took a few lessons and a couple group swims. But, I just tried to get comfortable and had to figure out how to do that quickly!

For the run, I just did what my coach told me.

Speaking of coach, Mike Thomson of Fast and Fit Coaching here in Chicago trained me. He's a personal trainer, USAT Certified Coach, and also raced at the World Triathlon Championships in New Zealand in the Fall. 
Ken at the beginning of the Racine swim
What was the hardest part of training?: Aside from getting frustrated with not being able to swim, the hardest part was fitting training into a regular work day. And, I definitely realized that I'm a "group training kinda guy." Self-motivation for me is a tad lacking unless I'm REALLY in a crunch and need to get it done quickly! And, we know that we can't cram training in for events, right?

What was the hardest part of the race?: Mentally, getting through the swim was the most difficult thing to think about. But, that day, the run was the hardest for me. It was really hot. I recall being really dizzy, sweating like crazy, and having the chills, yet it was HOT! Those are symptoms of heat sickness. But, I'm one of those stubborn ones and just walked as much as I needed to so I could get to the finish line in one piece. And, yes, I ran when there were the most people watching (the finish line)
Racine victory tastes like FRS
What would you do differently, in training and on race day?: I would have committed to and had a confident nutrition plan. I hate to admit it, but I didn't have a solid plan for nutrition until about three weeks before Ironman Wisconsin. Yes, that was about a month AFTER Racine. Get the point? Dial it in NOW and try to keep it simple. I did a concentrated drink and marked the bottle so I drank a certain amount every 15 minutes. Then, I just used course water to fill my Speedfill or popped one of their bottles into one of my cages. I always grabbed a bottle at each aid station because, inevitably, the Speedfill needed refilling or the cage was empty and it could live there until I needed to refill.

Any words of wisdom to share with an incredibly scared newbie? IF I COULD DO IT, YOU COULD DO IT!!! The course isn't bad at all. The ride is rolling and the run is fairly flat except for a couple "bluffs" around the finish line, which need to be covered twice due to the two-loop run. When training in Chicago, those "bluffs" suck! Oh, and dial in that nutrition because the entire race is setting yourself up for a great run. So, that includes holding back on the effort and fueling and hydrating properly throughout the ride so you're flying on the run.

Thank you, Ken, for your thoughts and well-wishes!