Kelly the Culinarian: August 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Inside a London Grocery Store

I'm enjoying working in London this week, even if it means I spend an hour out of every day lost. At least it takes me to cool places. I popped into a grocery store today on one of my clandestine journeys and thought I'd share a few things that are different in a British grocery store. First, eggs are not refrigerated. You'll find them next to the bread.

Cocktails, however, are available premixed and canned for your convenience.

I don't know what these Reese's donuts are, but I'm sure I would approve.

Also, healthy foods are inexpensive and pre-packaged. There were salads, sandwiches, snack packs and all manner of protein-rich snacks ready to go, for $1-$5 a piece.

I had to buy these - you can't get them stateside because American children keep eating the prize inside. It's like Easter every day because each treat has a toy inside.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Oh the Places I Go

It's been a crazy, lovely weekend. If you follow me on Instagram, you already know I've been all over the place in the past few days. I enjoyed a relaxing #PureMichigan roadtrip:

Complete with open-water swimming

And Napoleon's first boat trip. He was very brave. Except in a doggie lifejacket. We don't need to talk about that.

Then I busted out my brand-new passport for a work-related adventure. I got an exit row for the long flight.

And arrived in London this morning.

Keep following me for photos of this amazing adventure!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Five Friday Things

It's been an incredibly crazy and stressful week, and I've got another one right around the corner. So I bring you a few things that have made me smile this week.

1. Sunflower guy: Did you read about the guy who planted miles of sunflowers in memory of his late wife? This one made me misty. It's a beautify story about how everyone grieves differently.

2. My garden is doing exceptionally well. I had tomato salad with dinner last night to try and use some up. My only regret is that I planted roma tomatoes. They're not that good. Next year, double the cherry tomatoes and zero of the romas, please.

3. I had a great time going to the Tigers v. Cubs game Wednesday, even though it was unexpectedly cold. Great seats, great company, great game. Who could ask for more?

4. Josh Duggar: Not only has the guy been disgraced for molesting his sisters, it now turns out he had an account on the infamous Ashley Madison website, and some claim to have found his OK Cupid profile, too. The speed at which he released a statement admitting to his hypocrisy makes me wonder what else he's hiding, and how I can fund the campaign to free his wife. Also, the data from the Ashley Madison hack is fascinating stuff.

5. I'm going on a very cool adventure next week to a far away land. Follow me on Instagram to see where!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Training Tuesday: What's next?

Not another triathlon. Not for a long time. I'm traumatized over Sunday's Pigman Long Distance Triathlon. It was terrible. I packed up my wetsuit and hung my bike in the garage.

I want nothing to do with these things in the coming weeks. I have decided I want to tackle the USAT National Championship in Sprint Triathlon. I don't want a life of "what ifs."

But in order to do this, I need to buckle down. I need to take off the weight I gained through my divorce and build back my speed. I need to get stronger, mentally and physically. I need to focus on eating clean and lifting heavy things.

So I'm going back to CrossFit. I have a work trip next week and will go back to WODs and weights and box jumps after that. I've frozen my gym membership and rearranged my schedule so I can dedicate three months to building myself up before a nine months of sprints and speed workouts and long runs.  I would like to continue to do the Circular Logic Marathon forever, perhaps adding another spring marathon, then train for Nationals and Ironman Wisconsin.

Basically, being a badass is what's next.

Monday, August 17, 2015

2015 Pigman Long Course Triathlon Race Recap

Six-word recap: This course and race are terrible.

Ugh, this race. I don't even know where to start. I am struggling to find nice things to say about it. I signed up for the Pigman Long Course triathlon because where else could I do a half-Ironman triathlon for $87? I've done cheap races before. In fact, Circular Logic is my favorite marathon, and at $45, it's one of the cheapest events I participate in. And it's a million times better than Pigman, for reasons that will become evident.

I feel bad. I understand this race was totally different this year because they changed the course to be more spectator friendly. And indeed, if I had a support team traveling to see me, this would have been ideal. They had a VIP viewing area for $19 that would have been worth it for spectators.

But for athletes, this course was miserable. Let me paint a picture for you: It's an incredibly complicated swim course with five turns, followed by four loops on a bike that included crossing rough train tracks eight times, closing out with a four-loop run through a campground. In 91-degree heat. With a total of three aid stations. One on the bike, two on the run. Oh, and they ran out of ice on the first loop of the run.

At least the race packet was loaded
This was the first race I considered quitting multiple times. Backing up, I picked up my packet Saturday afternoon at the race hotel, which is where we stayed the night before race day. That process was a nonissue, but we all knew it was a new course and tried to study the maps, just to get more confused. We rolled out to the state park Sunday morning and parked right next to transition without issue. It was already hot and steam was rising from the Iowa farmlands.

The alarm bells started going off as soon as I hit transition. The racks were rickety and not numbered, leaving athletes to DIY. There wasn't any water anywhere at the start, and it was already well above 80 degrees. I went back to the truck to fill my bottles and hoped my bike didn't topple over. My group went down to the beach by 7:15 a.m. and I started to full on panic. The water was HOT and the "meeting" failed to actually explain the course. From what I surmised, we would be swimming out and making two left turns, keeping the buoys on our right. The microphone kept cutting out, and it was so poorly explained that 1/3 of the elites got it wrong on the way out. I did enjoy the time trial swim start, and the water was as smooth as glass. I knew the swim was going to be a challenge by two things: the lack of buoys and the color of the men's swim cap. Who sends a bunch of swimmers out to open water in a black swim cap sans and marking at all?

Can you see this? Neither could the lifeguards
So I took to the water and swam like an idiot. I felt like I was doing well, but there weren't enough buoys to sight from, especially between the last turn and the turn around flag. I ran into swimmers going the opposite way more than once, and added an extra 1/10 of a mile to my swim in the process. The lifeguard situation was lacking, at that the race was very lucky the water was calm or else the scant staff they had in the water would have been insufficient to quell any legitimate safety concerns.

The swim course - what would you even call this shape?

I got out of the lake and found zero water to rehydrate, so I just got on my bike and hoped to suck down an entire gatorade immediately. There was no mount line, just get on whenever. The pavement for the bike was incredibly smooth, but the course was not. It was hilly and shade less. It was also not a closed course, despite what the website advertised, and I saw a handful of cars driving like their wives were in labor.

There was one aid station, which you reached at the end of the loop (so about every 13 miles). That was the only place to drop bottles without a penalty - I ended up having a spectator take one of my bottles. It was virtually impossible to NOT litter as there weren't trashcans on the beach and very few on the run and bike, too. The aid stations only had water or AdvoCare, which was straight garbage. It was strawberry flavored and had nothing in the form of electrolytes or salt. After I ran out of my own-gatorade, I switched to water and relied upon the SaltStick I brought to get me through. Yet another safety concern in the heat, for sure. There was one toilet on the bike course.

I felt great coming off the bike, despite the sweltering heat, but that changed quickly. I grabbed my handheld in transition and the water I filled it with might as well have been boiling. There was no sunscreen to be found anywhere and it was full sun. In the first two miles of the run, I lost it. My water was hot, I didn't get enough ice at the first aid station and I realized the run was another set of infuriating loops. In fact, there were four 3.3-mile loops ... and I didn't realize
there was a fourth loop until I set out onto my third (and what I thought was final) loop because the signage was unclear, at which point I got murderously angry.

You see, there were two aid stations. Both ran out of ice. On the first loop. It nearly 100-degree "real feel" weather. And I've had a resurgence of plantar facitiis in both feet.
An aid station at the orange star would have been amazing

I feel bad for the volunteers. In addition to toiling in ridiculous heat, it was clear they were not adequately prepared and trained for this. It seems easy, handing out water to athletes. Except there wasn't enough supplies or manpower, to the point that Alyssa's husband ended up in charge of the second aid station.

The run course left transition and went to the right to a turn around, then back down and to the left through a campground. We had lungs full of campground smoke and the campers couldn't leave, but were surprisingly cool about it. One campsite set up their kids with super soakers and offered coolers of ice, which meant they were better prepared than the race was to deal with the heat. If I hadn't taken my handheld, I would have been in a world of pain. The spacing of the aid stations meant that for quite a long stretch, there was nothing. I was empty by the time I got to each. If they had added one more at the turn around loop in the camp station, it would have made a big difference. There were toilets in transition, at the second aid station and one in the campground, plus two of the campground toilets, so I did wait for a port-o-potty at one point.

I caught up to Alyssa in the last loop of the run and we agreed on the spot we are never doing this again. Like I don't even want to think about doing a triathlon again after this.

We crossed the finish line at the same time, I got into the lake to cool off and hit the food tent hard. They had all-you-can-eat spaghetti, pizza, cookies, watermelon, bananas, pretzels, granola bars, beer and soda. It was easily the best thing about the race. I chowed down, then took an ice-cold open air shower and changed behind the bathrooms building because alas, the bathrooms at the park were locked.

I wanted this race to be awesome. I wanted a sub-six finished. I trained all summer for this moment. But the day and the course did not cooperate. I get the race was trying for a new concept in racing, but it could have been executed so much better. When you try something novel, you have to do it top-notch or else you won't get the support you need to keep doing it. Double the aid stations and you'd have a totally different day. Increase the lifeguards and the number of buoys on the swim. Add misters or sprinklers and more kids with water guns. Unlock the bathrooms at the post-race party. And for all things holy, do not use dark-colored swim caps in murky water.

Time: 6:22:10 for a half ironman (6th in my age group)
Cost: $87
Pros: Wave swim start, smooth pavement for the bike
Cons: Literally everything else, just read above
Would I do this race again? No, nope, never.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Three Things Thursday

1. National Smores Day was Monday, did you celebrate? I sure did. I love burn-y tasting things, so of course mine was extra crisp. Any excuse to light food on fire and then consume it, naturally.


2. When I went out to Verona last month to bike the Ironman Wisconsin course, I got this shirt at Rocket Bike Studio for $10. I love it because the front has the elevation profile of the course. If you've ever done the loop, you know it's basically a roller coaster at some points. I've clocked 35+ miles per hour on the downhills at times. On Saturday's two-loop ride, my max was 37.8 MPH. Not at all terrifying ...

3. Google photos is replacing Picasa, and so far, I really like the changes. It makes photos easier to find by date, subject, venue and person. The facial recognition is a little screwy - it doesn't recognize that me dressed up is the same person as me running. But it does make it easy to delete entire people and subjects from your photographic history. Another quirk of the new recognition software is that I have a whole folder of cats. I own zero cats. Apparently, Google knows Napoleon has cat-like tendencies, such as hiding under furniture and napping in the sun. Google knows all.

Here kitty, kitty .... 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Win it Wednesday: $75 at Allied Medal Hangers

My medals are sacred to me. That may sound silly - they're just cheap ribbons and chains and pieces of aluminum. They probably cost all of 90 cents to make and are valued at virtually nothing, but they mean far more to me than that. They symbolize sacrifice and discipline and pain and triumph. They are part of what makes me different and reminders of things I've seen and times in my life. I have a medal holder in my pain cave and it's a nice to look at when I'm pushing through a terrible bike interval workout at 5 a.m. in my basement doubting my life choices.

That's why I love my Allied Medal Hanger, which reads: Always Earned, Never Given. It's a powerful message about the lives we build and the choices we make. Because in the end, everything around us is the life we earned.

Allied recently redid its website and it's something to behold. In addition to an interactive design that gives you a better idea of how many medals each will hold and what it looks like, the custom design feature is awesome. You can pick your phrase and fonts, along with design elements like sport-specific logos or silhouettes, as well as how many bars to add.

Get started on your own custom hanger, or pick from the site's array of pre-made products with a $75 account credit. Enter below via RaffleCopter, and it will select a winner on Aug. 20. Good luck, athletes!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Training Tuesday: Nationals?

When I first took up triathlon, I had no idea about anything. I saw a video on YouTube and thought it looked cool, so I started with buying a road bike on Craigslist and google transitions and triathlon gear. I knew vaguely that there was an association that governed triathlons and took $12 at each tri that I registered for. I didn't know anything about the USAT National Age Group Championships and when I got an e-mail from them after the first Iron Girl event I completed saying I qualified, I didn't think it was worth noting.

As I awaited the results of Sunday's Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie, I was talking with a friend about Nationals. She said if she'd ever qualify, she would definitely register. It's $95 and would give you a ranking in the field of all sprint triathletes in America. Plus the past three years have been in Milwaukee. When I learned that my third-place Iron Girl finish qualified me, the wheel started turning. After a little research, I learned I was seven minutes behind the top female sprint triathlete. Now, my head is spinning. Could I repeat my performance again on a national scale? Do I want to train my ass off to try and cut more time? Is there even more to cut? Can I do all of this while training for Ironman Wisconsin in 2016?

The 2016 USAT Age Group Nationals will be Aug. 14 in Omaha. I'm not sure if it will work scheduling wise or if I want to commit to it, but my imagination does wander to what could be. Could I be a top age group triathlete?

In the meantime, I have one more race to tackle this year. Pigman Long Course is Sunday, and will be my last 70.3 half iron-distance tri of the season. It's my last attempt at a sub-six-hour finish. However, in addition to pushing myself to my limit Sunday at Iron Girl, I biked 85 miles on the Ironman Wisconsin course Saturday, so my legs are tired. And it's predicted to be 91 degrees and sunny in Iowa this weekend, so not exactly favorable conditions.

Here's to giving it the old college tri.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cooking with Kelly: Plum Blueberry Summer Cake Recipe

Cool whip and blueberry-stuffed plum cake recipe
Summer is in full swing now - I get sunburned in 20 minutes outside and my tomatoes are finally starting to turn as red as I am. It's glorious, not just because the lingering sunset make for great running weather and I love lightning bugs. Some of my favorite fruits are in their peak, readily available for super cheap. ALDI had peaches, plums and nectarines for $1.68 a bag, along with blueberries for $.99 a pint. I bought one of each and was trying to figure out what to do with it all at the same time I was get ready to head out of town for Iron Girl. I'm not much on social graces, but I do recognize house guests should not come empty handed. I had a box of cake mix, cool whip and pudding on hand, so I decided to make what I could with what I had.
Cool whip and blueberry-stuffed plum cake recipe

I'm pleased to report my hodgepodge cake did so well that the recipe was requested more than once. I mixed the sugar-free vanilla pudding and cool whip together to create a bit of stability for the icing, and threw in more blueberries during layering for a bit of a surprise.  If you have a cake saw, this would be a good time to use it to level out the bottoms on the cake. This way, you don't get slip sliding layers all over.

I chose plums that were firm but ripe, and sliced them uniformly for the best results. I would also recommend refrigerating this cake so it keeps its form. Also, cut it with a sharp knife so you can preserve the fruit pattern on top.

Plum Blueberry Summer Cake Recipe 

3 plums, pitted and thinly sliced
1/2 blueberries
1 box yellow cake mix (and the ingredients to make it)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 16-ounce tub of cool whip
1 package of sugar-free vanilla pudding

Start by preheating the oven to 350. Place the butter and sugar in the bottom of a 9-inch cake round and place in the oven until melted and bubbly. Meanwhile, make the yellow cake according to the instructions.

Remove from the oven and arrange the plums, then layer blueberries across the plums. Gently spoon the cake batter over the plums, then divide the rest of the batter into another greased 9-inch cake pan. Bake both pans for 35 minutes or until cooked.

Remove pans from the oven and allow to cool completely. Level the cakes with a cake saw or a sharp knife. Mix the cool whip and the pudding together. Place the not-plum cake layer on a cake stand first, then top with 1/3 of the cool whip mixture. Level and add berries or more plums or both, then place the plum cake on top. Use the remaining cool whip to "ice" the cake. I found it easiest to put a thin layer on, then refrigerate it for 20 minutes before placing the remaining mixture on it. Cover and refrigerate until consuming. This cake just gets better over time, and I would say you have three days to eat it while it's still awesome.

Cool whip and blueberry-stuffed plum cake recipe

Sunday, August 9, 2015

2015 Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

Six-word recap: Winning third overall feels damn amazing.

I got this bib for free from Iron Girl Events, but the opinions are all mine. I showed up to the expo at the Pleasant Prairie RecPlex at like 4:45 p.m. Saturday ... and we were supposed to rack our bikes by 5 p.m. After some minor confusion about my bib number, I picked up my packet, shirt and stickers and road my bike into the transition area to rack it with like four seconds to spare. The bikes weren't in numerical order and being the opportunist I am, I chose the spot closest to the exit and called it a night.

Sunday morning, I got to transition at about 6:10, and it closed at 6:30. I didn't get too worked up because a) it's a sprint and b) I had more than an hour before my wave went off. I set up all my junk, then went in search of water because my bottle were empty and I couldn't find a fill station. Luckily, I keep a case of water in my truck.

I checked my transition bag, peed a bunch of times and then started walking around the lake to the start. This race is pretty simply - you swim straight across a spring-fed, 79-degree lake, bike 12 miles with two turn arounds and then run a 5K with one turn around at mile 2.

I did a short warm up in the water and thought this was going to be my day. The water was smooth as glass, it was overcast and there was only a gentle breeze. Also, I speculated that my age group must be small, because it was combined with the 19 and under group for the swim start. I had hoped to win my age group from the outset and focused on competing in such a fashion.

The swim start waves felt like they took forever. I stood on the beach all the way to the left, which is what they asked the stronger swimmers to do so the lifeguards on the right could focus. When the horn went off, it was a scramble for the first 50 feet or so. Then I settled into a rhythm, but elect to breath off of every stroke so I could push through as hard as possible.  I caught up to the previous wave and felt like I was really cruising, but I saw a few people from my wave get out of the water before me.

I transitioned quickly and focused on pushing hard in the first five miles. This allowed me to burn off the people who bested me in the swim, but also boosted my confidence. I kept passing people to the point that I felt like I had a comfortable lead on my age group. I had to keep in mind I still had a run in front of me, so I couldn't go all out. My strategy was simple - can I pass another five people before the next mile marker/end/corner/etc. It gave me something to focus on and an achievable goal.

I only got passed once, and that was on the way into the dismount line. Oh well. I shoved my feet into my running shoes and took off for the last of it. The run was really flat and pleasant, and I started focusing in on passing people where I could. It was a good game to distract myself.  My first mile was 7:36, which I knew I couldn't maintain, so I dialed it back. Right before the 2-mile marker, the first and only person to pass me came in hot. She flew past me and I had zero hope of catching up. She would finish 40 seconds in front of me to take the number two spot.

When I crossed the finish line, I was spent. I knew I couldn't have pushed any harder and was satisfied with my time. I waited for a few friends to cross the finish line, and had a bite to eat before checking out my finish time. I was chatting away and not paying much attention when I heard "You're third." I assumed in my age group and was kind of sad, since I went so hard, until it was explained that that was overall. As in, only two other people that day were faster than me.

It was an incredible feeling.

I have no idea how this happened, but I am tickled pink. I have a ticket to Nationals now, and a finish that put me at the top of the top. We stayed for the award ceremony and I was bummed they did first overall and then age groups, but I still took second in my age group and got a certificate and a Top Finisher pint glass.

I am sore and will likely feel worse tomorrow, but damn, you can't beat this feeling.

Time: 1:14:42 (Swim: 14:03, T1: 1:24, Bike: 33:04, T2: 56, Run: 25:14)
Pros: Flat and fast race, very beginner friendly, approachable swim, better than average post-race party, medal for all finishers, lots of free on-site parking, lots of port o potties
Cons: You have to rack your bike the night before, filling stations for water was hard to find at the start
Would I do this race again? Yes, indeed. Winning feels good.

Friday, August 7, 2015

#CabotFit Trip to Maine: What I Did

Catch up on What I Ate in Maine, along with my Beach to Beacon 10K race report, which is what brought me to New England to begin with.

My time with #CabotFit this year was amazing - we saw the beach and farms and the country and the coast. It was incredible how much we experienced in a single long weekend.

After a late-night arrival and a delicious breakfast at the inn, the team headed out to Pineland Farms. I was really looking forward to the tour, because it's the Cabot farmers who are part of the coop that make this trip possible, and they're the heart of the organization. All of the profits go back to them, and they are the start of the delicious cheese I enjoy so very much.

So we took to the farm! It was a short drive from our hotel, but a world away from Portland. It was expansive, sweeping and bucolic; basically everything you think of when you think country.

We started our day in the building dedicated to collecting milk from the dairies, pasteurizing the milk and then making it into delicious, delicious cheese. We had a rousing discussion on the value of raw milk consumption and cheeses, the consensus being it's only damaging if you're immune compromised and not careful with handling it, or it came from a questionable supplier. Also, raw milk doesn't make for the best cheese when creating things like baby swiss, which rely upon not having competing bacterial in order to create the holes in the cheese we all recognize. I also learned there are five regional variances of cheddar cheese. Who knew?

After that, we went out to the dairy barn to meet the ladies working hard at making the ingredients for our favorite cheeses. Fun fact - dairy cows get milked perhaps 20 minutes per day. The rest of the farmers' time is spent securing the comfort of the animal to ensure they're not stressed. That includes keeping them cool, dry, hydrated and fed.

Then, I got to meet some cows :)

The barn was incredibly clean and the cows were rather chill. They let us pet them and take selfies without much incident. I did get licked, more than once, but I'm going to take that as a compliment.

Next up, we met Hemi, an award-winning Holstein dairy cow that produced 165 pounds of milk per day and is one of only a handful of such remarkable animals in the world.

 Next up was the calf barn! There were baby cows birthed just two days before. They were adorable and very friendly.

It turns out they like getting scratches, just like Napoleon.

That afternoon, I walked around downtown Portland before our beer and cheese tasting at the Cabot Annex and enjoyed some local flare:

Before watching the moon rise over Cape Elizabeth just steps from our hotel.

After all the joy that was Beach to Beacon and my delicious Lobstah roll lunch, I finally visited Candace and her baby yorkie. Her house was incredible:

As was her yorkie, Murphy:

I then went in search of wifi and found myself at Allagash Brewing, which was one of the strangest brewery experiences I've ever been on. It's a massive, impressively appointed brew pub with indoor and outdoor seating alike and taps filled with rare beers ... that you can't buy. All visitors are invited to a free tasting, but after that, no more. You can buy beer to take home with you, along with merchandise, but nothing more than that. So I had my tasting flight and left. Truthfully, I did not particularly enjoy the beverages. The Allagash White is why I came - it's a standard brew that you can get nearly anywhere at home. The other three were strange flavors - for example, the Fluxus boasted 700 pounds of maple syrup. I tasted none of that. One of the dark beers tasted like blue cheese. No thanks.

Whitney was straight 'gramming this moment
So instead, I walked across the street to Foundation Brewing, which was seriously a hidden gem. Whitney and I followed the crowds over to a parking lot in an industrial area. I got us each a flight of four beers, which was $16 was a steal. And it was amazing, delicious beer. From the Wanderlust to the Epiphany, it was hard to believe the place had only been operating a year. Every beer was well-balanced and satisfying. I would have stayed for a pint if we didn't have somewhere to be.

As you can imagine, I only want to see more. Thanks for an awesome trip, Cabot Creamery!