Kelly the Culinarian: September 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cabot Virtual Race Series: I Run for Bling with #CabotFit

I have many reasons for running, a lot of them have to do with food: chocolate, peanut butter, beer, to name a few. I'm also a big fan of cheese and even PRed the Vermont City Marathon as part of Cabot Fit Team (the most amazing race of my life and experience through blogging ever). But another benefit of racing is the bling. I have no shame in saying that I love medals, so so much. I was actually bummed out when I saw the medal for Ironman Wisconsin - it looks like a ball of spaghetti.

I'm lucky dogface didn't lick this

However, I have redemption gleaming in the distance now in the shape of a glittery, shiny accolade thanks to Cabot's new virtual race. It's to celebrate 95 years "running" of the Cabot operation, and also as an extension of the company's commitment to wellness. Even more, the series benefits Feeding America and local food banks. As a Team Leader, Cabot is making a $100 donation in my name to the food bank of my choice - I picked out the Northern Illinois Food Bank because I've volunteered there before and it's a great operation. Last time I was there, I stuffed backpacks for kids who receive free lunches to take home for the weekend.

So - awesome bling, cheap registration, your choice of distance and a charity component. What's not to love? To seal the deal, Cabot is giving the first 100 registered racers a Cabot Fit shirt. Don't I look adorbs in mine?

I'm going for a half this October and hope you'll join me to benefit Feeding America. And my medal rack. Both of which need stocking.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sister Brunch and Brew Tour

 It's great that both of my sisters live so close and have similar interests ... or can be easily swayed by the allure of witty banter, delicious carbs and free-flowing adult beverages. One of those things.

We all met up for brunch in anticipation of a tour at Finch Brewing. I bought a groupon for the tour, so it was $24 for four people and included four pint glasses and endless tastings. I mean, I'm sure there was an end and all, but I didn't find it.

First stop was Waffles ...again, a groupon find, which scored us an entree of our choice and two drinks for $19. Yes, please. I got huevoes ranchers verde and every one else at the table got bacon waffles with fried chicken. I was saving myself for the beer.

Sadness: We found out AFTER we arrived it was BYOB. Because I really needed to drink before I drink.
We then headed over to the brewery and parked around the corner for free. Pro tip: Get there early. You're given a colored wrist band based on the time of your tour and the tasting starts immediately. Brewery employees explain a little bit about each brew and pour generous samples upon samples. Generously.

The tour starts with talking about how beer is made, then they take you around the plant to see the process in motion. The coolest thing about this plant is how they put the beer in cans. Lots of breweries use cans, but I'm far more used to seeing homemade bottling solutions at smaller breweries. It was really cool and something I typically don't think about when I'm finding peace the bottom of a cold one.

I enjoyed learning more about their beers and was super bummed they were out of Secret Stache Stout. While I enjoyed the Fascist Pig the most, we were able to sweet talk our way into a tasting to the Hardcore Chimeria, which is the clear winner in the race to win my beer loving favor.
In all, this is a great value. The pint glass alone is worth more than the $6 I paid per person, not to mention all the tastings and entertainment.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What No One Tells You About Your First Ironman

It's been a stretch since I crossed the finish line at Ironman Wisconsin, my first 140.6-mile journey. I've been obsessing over this race for years. Thinking about it in quiet moments, pivoting my life around training for this seemingly impossible feat. I still can't believe I did it.

In honor of **finally** cutting the bracelet off my wrist, I thought I'd gather the facts that surprised me about my first journey to the Ironman finish.

Nakedness. I am not an overly modest person. I rock a bikini, run in a sports bra, blog about my IUD and post half-naked selfies. But. Even I was surprised with the blatant and abundant nudity in T1 and T2. Volunteers dump out your stuff, help you out of your clothes and get your dressed again, fast. But it's so much naked.

Aid station buffets. I've never seen aid stations as well-stocked as on the Ironman run. Someone said they were catered aid stations and I truly understood that on the course. At every station, there was: water, Perform, Bonk Breaker bars, chews, chomps, GU, oranges, bananas, cookies, chips, pretzel and flat coke. And I might be forgetting something.

Silly support. There are so many witty signs on the course, along with hilariously attired spectators. Drag queens, speedos, superheros, they're all out there. A lot of the signs were too inappropriate to share, but believe me, they helped.

M-dot obsession. I now own two finisher's jackets (thanks mom!), a pint glass, two hats, a backpack and a trailer hitch, all with the Ironman logo. Without the paraphernalia, how will anyone ever ask me about my Ironman?

Announcement. There is nothing more exhilarating than hearing Mike Reilly say "You Are An Ironman." Watch the videos on YouTube and you'll know what I mean. Don't be bummed when your name is announced wrong. You're still an Ironman.

Blues. I have post-race depression, no doubt. It's not a "I can't get out of bed thing" but more of a nagging "what do I do now" sensation. Don't get my wrong, I'm THRILLED that I was able to finish. But now my schedule is far more open and I wonder what the hell normal people do at 5 a.m. (I'm guessing it isn't bike on a trainer in the garage while watching trashy TV on Amazon prime .... )

Addiction. Once is not enough. Not nearly enough. I want to do all the Ironmans now. I lost an hour of time because of technical errors. I will do the Ironman and I will rock it. I won't be able to afford to do this again anytime soon, but one day, I'll be back. And I'll be awesome.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. I've been a not great blogger lately. Not sorry. It's because I've been a stellar employee lately. Because this happened on Sunday:
And the Society of Women Engineers is my client. It's like watching your kid take her first steps, graduate and get married, all in the same moment. I've never been busier/prouder/happier. Because then I got quoted in the Chicago Tribune, which got picked up the AV Club and Jezebel and a million other places. Feels, I have them. All of them. Did I mention the SWE's collected more than $40k in four days? Yeah.

2. So you know what's the best thing to do in the face of the largest public relations swell ever and the biggest traffic day to your client website on record? Leave town. I'm traveling again to give social media instruction for one of my clients. I love my job, I love Texas, I love travel, but timing is everything.

3. My sister got me the sweetest present for finishing Ironman Wisconsin. I can't wait to hang up the medal holder. Guess I need to do more triathlons ... She told me she found it on Etsy and it's handmade by a guy who's also an Ironman.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Motivation Monday

We are all out there on the same course, heading the same way, whatever our speed.

A member of my run club told me a few weeks ago told me something that has stuck with me. Runners do something very hard for fun. We push ourselves. We sacrifice. We make decisions. We have fun in the challenge, not because we will win something or be rewarded extravagantly. Instead, we find the motivation and the satisfaction within.

And that is why a runner is a runner, no matter how fast or old or new to the sport. We get it. We get each other.

Welcome to the clan of runners.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. BRF (best running friend) MacKenna is running her first marathon! I'm so excited for her, and happy to support her and her running cause. She's running in support of Girls on the Run, which is an awesome cause to begin with. I think often how different my life would be if someone introduced me to running at an early age. She has to raise $400 in the next two weeks, and every little bit counts.
Donate here now!

2. I finally got new goggles. After the near-disaster of snapping my goggles at the start of my 140-mile journey to become an Ironman, I was not looking forward to getting back in the water. But, the only way to get better is get back on it, I suppose.

Bees like sprite 
3. My run club had a victory party for me and it was a blast! Most of the club ran 13 miles and I could only muster 10. I walked back to our start point and we barbecued and enjoyed brews ... at 9 a.m. Don't judge! The bees were insane and one stung my face, but it was an otherwise super fun time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cooking with Kelly: The Best Crock Pot Ribs Recipe

As previously stated, crock pot recipes are my kitchen's secret weapon. Throw a bunch of stuff in there and hours later, you've faked dinner. It's nearly foolproof, you can't really burn stuff and all the mess is contained in a single place. So much to love.

Anyhow, ribs were on sale at ALDI recently (related: How to shop at ALDI), and I have my brand-new grill, so I figured why the hell not. Except it was roughly 483 degrees when I wanted to make the ribs and I knew I had to pre-cook them low and slow in the oven to get them tender. And ain't nobody got time for that in the heat of the summer.

Instead, I chopped these ribs up into manageable portions and let them cook low and slow in the crock pot. It's funny, between marinated these in vinegar, letting the rub settle overnight, cooking them in beer in the crock pot and grilling them off with barbecue sauce, this was a 24-hour affair ... that took roughly one hour of actual work. And this, folks, is how I feed five people for $10, with leftovers.
Marvel at my cooking, time management and fiscal prowess. 

Perfect Crock Pot Ribs Recipe
1 rack of baby back ribs
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 can of cheap beer (don't use the Zombie Dust for this one)
Your favorite pork rub, or:
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 thinly sliced onion
1 bottle barbecue sauce

Trim the fat from the ribs and cut into two- to three-rib portions. Soak in the vinegar for a half hour, the remove and pat dry.

Mix the dry ingredients for the pork rub together or liberally apply your favorite rub to all surfaces of the ribs. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered overnight - this helps set the flavors and seal everything in.

In the morning, pour 1/2 of the beer into the bottom of your crock pot. Top with a layer of ribs, and cover those with the onion slices. Repeat the rib-onion layering and top the concoction with the remaining beer. Cook on low for seven hours.

At the end of the crock pot cook time, remove and place on a baking sheet and allow to rest and dry for a half hour.

During that time, preheat your grill to as hot as it goes. Once the ribs are cool, brush with the barbecue sauce liberally.

To finish these off, grill 5 minutes on each side or until a delicious crust forms.

Remove from the grill and cover with more sauce, if any remains, and seal in tinfoil for at least 30 minutes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Motivation Monday

It's pretty easy to think of could haves and would haves and should haves. Hindsight is a distinctly human trait that gets the best of me at times. Like what would have happened at Ironman Wisconsin if I had fresh goggles, more training and the knowledge to change my own flats?  Conversely, what would have happened with that flat if I wasn't able to make that sharp left at 30 miles an hour? My day could have ended a lot differently.

My goal for this week is to let goal of the second guessing. It is what it is, and fretting over how different choices along the way could have changed my path doesn't change where I sit today.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Seven Ways I'm Spending Time Without Ironman Training

Have you ever heard of post-race blues? It's a strange little phenomena. When I crossed the finish line of Ironman Wisconsin, I was ecstatic. Absolutely overjoyed that I had 140 miles in me. But then, the week comes. The routine starts again. Except this routine doesn't include three-hour morning trainer rides, lunch time runs and evening pool sessions. Time is not filled with endless laundry, meal prep and eating anything I damn well please. Instead, there's routine and chores and work and repetition. No one cares about your race as much as you do, and after a few days, it feels like it never even happened.  But a busy mind is a happy mind, so here's what I'm doing with my hours these days.

1. Throwing myself into work. My job is very important to me and I'm logging big hours lately.
Work, now with an Ironman bracelet
2. Updating my house. I moved back into my townhouse and am enjoying painting and redecorating the place. Spoiler alert, it's super girly.

Anyone want to see more of my girly style?
3. Processing my divorce. Because that shit is tough. I have some work to do on me.
4. Getting strong. I stopped doing Crossfit when I moved and need to get back into lifting heavy things, squatting deep and moving fast.
5. Running and spinning for fun. I like running and am psyched to not have to go XX miles today at such and such pace. Time to enjoy chatting and going as far as I feel like or time allows.
Spin, spin, spin
6. Being social! It's funny how much opportunity opens up when you're not training twice a day.
Yelp it up

7. Spending time in my kitchen. My meals in the past few weeks have been ridiculous, ugly and random. Time to get serious about eating real food in reasonable amounts at the right times (as in, no oatmeal at 7 p.m. calling it dinner).
All this for me?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Three Things Thursday

1. The official Ironman photos are out! I might not be 100 percent solid with how I look these days, but no matter. This is what a badass looks likes.

2. I've been in DC for two days for work. Ask me how many monuments I've seen - zero. I went from the airport to the hotel to the airport, from which I'm reporting LIVE. Exciting, right? (No)

3.My parents have been busy back at my townhouse while I was gone hanging shelves and stocking my bar because I'm spoiled and don't have a Costco membership. I now have Costco-sized hard liquor. Who's ready for a party?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Post-Ironman Survey of Damage

This post is going to be exceedingly short because a) it's late, b) I'm a tired girl, and c) there's actually very little to report.

"Take us out, Kelly!"
I feel awesome.

I could have ran yesterday night if I wasn't so damn busy at work. I will run tomorrow because I'm getting all sorts of bent out of shape without a little bit of dopamine release in my life.

When I finished Ironman Wisconsin, I was tired (but not exhausted) and sore (but not in pain). Getting up the stairs of our apartment was a struggle, and getting into bed was really hard. I had to work Monday night and shoving my fat little swollen feet into heels was most unpleasant, but I survived. I have a bit of pain behind my knees. It feels a bit like I'm hyperextending them when I stand, then like stretched tight rubber bands when I try to bend them all the way.

I also have a slight amount of sunburn around my bike jersey where it shifted while riding. And the chafing is actually quite minimal. No blisters, and my toenails all appear to be intact.
This counts as jewelry, right?

My mother even told me I looked better at the Ironman than I did after my first marathon. Sunday night I was able to hobble around on my own, hold down food and felt in high enough spirits to laugh and have conversations. I cried happy tears, not ohmygodithurtssomuch tears.

Emotionally, I'm a little mixed up. I'm so overwhelmed that I was able to do this. I'm also over the moon at the outpouring of support I've experienced in the past two weeks. I still pull the medal out of my purse and marvel that I earned it, and used my Ironman backpack as my carry on for this business trip. I haven't cut the security bracelet off yet, either - I still look at it to remind myself this all happened. I'm overjoyed I accomplished this, but feeling a little bit lost, too. Post-race blues are real.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to take a nap, lounge on the couch, get a sports massage and spend the day at a Korean spa, but alas, life awaits. And I'm ready to tackle it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

2014 Ironman Wisconsin Race Report

Six-word recap: Rough start, strong finish for Ironbitch
Where do I even start? This race is the culmination of years of work, sacrifice, expense, worry, triumph, tears and turmoil. I had no idea when I squeezed into my wetsuit in the dark Sunday morning if I'd be ending the night with a medal. My life has been filled with unexpected turns. I would have never guessed what my life would look like today when I began this journey.

The journey that ended with a title that will forever be mine: Ironman.

Business item first: The biggest thank you in the world to everyone who made this day possible. Thank you to the random Internet strangers who sent me well wishes. Thank you to my family for driving up and supporting me during the past few months, which have been harder on all of us than I could have ever foreseen. Thank you to my friends for waking up at an ungodly hour to yell at me and run with me and hold goofy signs. Thank you to the volunteers who saved my day more than once.

It takes a village to become an Ironman.

Backing up: Alyssa and I rolled out of our apartment at 5:30 a.m. and walked over to transition. I stood for a minute on Monona Terrace staring at the finish line, the capitol lit up in the background in the stillness that sharply contrasted the pandemonium that would ensue hours later. I was about to start the Ironman. I would be a different person at the end of the day, finish or not.
Transition, early morning, $10 million in bikes, easy
I tried to find my family with no avail, so I filled up my water bottles on my bike, stuffed two sandwiches into my bike bag and got my body markings. Alyssa and I reunited to stuff ourselves into our wetsuits, drop off our bags and dip into the water. We shared one last hug before getting down to business. I swam out to the first buoy and stared back at the water. There were spectators as far as I could see. Every terrace, every balcony, every shore was absolutely packed. Random strangers were there before sunrise to watch a group of random strangers from around the world do the impossible. I savored every damn minute before watching the pros take off. I went to adjust my goggles, because they leaked the day before, and they snapped right off my head. I was staring at my irreparably damaged goggles, dumbfounded, when the cannon go off.

I felt the panic welling up worse than the churn of 3,000 people taking off in the same water
Every swimmer left, leaving me in the dust. I tried to hold onto my goggles and swim to the first buoy, but I couldn't grasp on.

The panic was surfacing.

I yelled for help, and the closest guard paddled over. I couldn't breathe and tried to get out of my wetsuit. I was beyond myself at that point. I tied my goggles back together and got them back on my face, but realized the anxiety was making me cough. This guard, whoever she may be, saved my day. She zipped my suit back up and followed me from the start to the first turn buoy. I would swim a bit, have to cough, grab onto her board and rest until I could go more. After that turn buoy, she asked if I would be OK, and told me I was going to finish if I just kept going.

So that's what I did - my breathing was so bad I had to breath off every stroke. I already had the pint glass, I had to do this damn race. How would I explain DNFing in the first 20 minutes? I've had enough failure in my life lately. I was not going to fail at this.

I did the backstroke when it got really bad, reasoning that at least I was moving forward and had a chance of making the cut off. When I emerged 1:40 later, I felt like I'd been through a war. I said in the days leading up to it that if I could make it through the swim, I'd finish the race. I never knew how true that was until I stood on the beach, throwing my goggles off in disgust, knowing that I could have swam 20 minutes faster if it wasn't for that meltdown.

I got my wetsuit stripped and made the long walk up the helix to transition. Side note: I tweeted Mike Reilly the pronunciation of my name. I did not train this long to have my name bumbled. And yet, it was not quite my name that I heard getting out of the water. Thanks, bro.

T1 was crazy - a volunteer handed me a bag, another volunteer dumped it out in front of a chair and helped me get out of my swim bottoms. I wore a tri top for the swim and bike, just swapping out the shorts. I was naked, then dressed again, faster than I ever thought possible. I stopped at the sunscreen tent and was slathered by a team of volunteers. I ran out to my bike in socks and sat on the ground next to my bike to put on my shoes, then off I went on the bike.

I had biked the course and knew what to expect - arduous uphills followed by terrifying downhills. The hills, often referred to as The Three Sisters or The Three Bitches, depending on your persuasion, did not disappoint. There were huge crowds leading up every hill and I saw friends along the way, which helped break up the day and boost my spirits.

You know what's surreal? Spending hours on a bike and thinking, holy crap, I am biking an Ironman. This is the moment I've imagined in quiet moments, been waiting for, working for, struggle for for years.

I stopped to use the port o potties twice, but my stomach stayed calm. I ate whatever appealed to me on the course - my nutrition has been absolute shit this summer, so I did what I could to keep moving forward.

Which is really hard with a flat tire. That's right, folks, broken goggles were not the only issue I faced Sunday. Some asshole, and I don't use that lightly, placed thousands of tacks at the top of the hill at mile 47. That hill ends in a long downhill punctuated by a sharp left turn. Which is nearly impossible to navigate with a flat front tire. This sophomoric move not only could have cost me my race, it could have cost me my life. So I hope this future parolee is happy with himself.

I sat on the side of the road and cried until the Trek truck came and changed my tire. It was the second time that day my day was saved by volunteers. It wasn't long, but I was more than a little concerned the time spent "resting" would make me miss the bike cut off.

When I made it to this hill:

I realized I had two+ hours to make it 25 miles. I could make it. Head down, power through.
I saw my family right before I made it up the helix and was exhilarated to see a friendly face. I ran into T2 to change, add fresh lube and hit the bathroom. I saw more friendly faces coming out of transition and got ready to become an Ironman. I knew I would make it - I had more than six hours to finish a marathon. What's a marathon when you've already been working out for hours upon hours?

10ish miles into the run
The run was actually awesome. I jogged a bit, walked up anything that even looked like an incline and walked through much of the aid stations.

Let's talk a minute about these aid stations: holy food batman. There's Perform, water, flat cola, ice, cookies, chips, chomps, bars, bananas, oranges, grapes and Gus AT EVERY AID STATION. And there are 14 aid stations on the half-marathon loop. So much snackage.

My favorite part of the run was running on the Badgers field, twice. It was just surreal. Once the sun went down, I really enjoyed running in the dark, watching the lights catch the reflective materials off all of my fellow Ironman finishers-to be. I ran (see what I did there?) into more friends and it made the run go by pleasantly enough. I didn't need a single bathroom break and just kept chipping away mile after mile.

When I hit the square for the last time, I couldn't even process it all. I felt great. Not just OK or manageable. I felt awesome. I was about to become a fucking Ironman.

I saw my dad as I rounded the last corner and my mom on a bench nearby. I hit the finisher's shoot and distanced myself from the other athletes so I could enjoy the moment and hear my name announced (pronounced incorrectly, of course). I was astonished it wasn't even 10 p.m. Undertrained, overweight, not at all how I wanted to start the race. No matter. I was going to finish the race.

I hit the arch and knew I was a different person.


It was the best thing I've heard in months. I can barely articulate how I felt. I was high. Exhilarated. Never more alive. I rose above all my own shit, my problems and my drama to finish something greater than me.

Two volunteers grabbed me immediately and walked me over to get my medal, my hat and my shirt. They got me a chocolate milk, which I downed immediately. I got my photo taken and walked over to the barriers to talk to friends and Alyssa - that little speed demon finished so far ahead of me she could have been showered and resting comfortably before I came through. What a champ!

After I finished, I found my parents and cried when my mom gave me a finisher's jacket that she ordered in advance. She told me she never had a doubt I would finish. It's amazing that through all of what I've been through, I feel so incredibly loved. This race showed me just how many supportive people I have in my life. I am a lucky, lucky girl.

My dad helped me into my sweats and presented me with the carefully and hard-won beer my sister acquired earlier in the week. We all enjoyed a beer before my parents went on their merry way and I devoured a burger and beer. We circled back to the finish line just before midnight and watched some of the last Ironman finishers come through. That's when all the emotions really hit me. I did this. With time to spare. I could smile. I could walk. In fact, I could have dominated if it wasn't for my technical issues.

I cried a lot, then took myself back home and cried some more trying to walk up three flights of stairs to fling myself into bed.

I woke up anxious and went to bed victorious. I was sore but smiling knowing that I did, in fact, have an Ironbitch at my core.

Thank you, dear readers, for coming along this crazy ride with me. I'm typing this in my Ironman Finisher jacket, which it's not even cold enough to wear, but I don't give a damn. I will never ever forget Sept. 7, 2014. It's the day I found out that I am more than just the sum of my fears. There's more in here than bravado and stubbornness. Inside me is a reservoir of will and grit that I never knew existed.
Cost: $700, but who's counting now
Time: 14:48:55
Swim: 1:40:20
Bike: 7:47:40
Run: 5:03:03
Pros: A million volunteers, an established brand, they have this race down to a science, 75,000 people come to watch it, great course support and aid stations
Cons: The bike course is hilly, transitions are massive, this is expensive and training for 140.6 miles takes over your entire life
Would I do this race again? Yes