Kelly the Culinarian: 2019

Sunday, May 19, 2019

2019 Milwaukee Half Marathon recap

Six-word race recap: New PR and at a fun race.

I originally signed up for the Milwaukee Marathon. It's the same weekend as my beloved Circular Logic Marathon, which was originally canceled for this year and then just changed hands. Before that, though, I was looking for a race around the same time to substitute in. The Milwaukee Marathon has a storied history of its own (the course came up short two years in a row) and was also sold off to a new company, which moved the race to spring to try and shake the bad rep. The new company was also offering a full marathon for $45, and the frugal side of me couldn't resist a good deal.

Alas, I downgraded to the half later after realizing my optimism might be a little overstated. I've done little more than a few long runs outside of OTF, and I didn't want to risk injuring myself for no good reason. I believe the longest I ran leading up to this was 10 and 8 milers, both on the treadmill. While I'm confident OrangeTheory is awesome cross training, I wasn't ready to say it was enough to run a marathon on (more on that later).

I also paid for on-site packet pick up so we didn't have to pay to stay in Milwaukee the night before. Instead, we stayed with friends and all carpooled up for the day. Packet pick up was easy, and changing my corral was equally easy. I guess I didn't put a projected finish time in and was relegated to the last corral. I ended up getting moved to where the party was at and started the half with Mo, Jess and Alyssa, while Mark and Brent were off for the full.

The race started on time without any issue. I didn't wear my Garmin, and didn't start any timing devices. I didn't want to put any pressure on myself besides finishing, and now I wish I had. Oh well.

I absolutely have to say something about the weather: It was perfect. It was cloudy and cool and there was nothing more than a pleasant, intermittent breeze. I started at a comfortable pace, hoping to finish around two hours. I was listening to a podcast about Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, so I got pretty engrossed and happily distracted. I would say around two miles in I started to pull away from the group and pick up the pace. I was feeling good and surprised at how good my stomach and body felt. The first few miles ticked by, and I didn't feel any need to stop. I sadly didn't bring nutrition, but just sipped water as I cruised through the plentiful aid stations.

There was exactly one major hill that annoyed the crap out of me, and there were a few out and backs that allowed me to see all my peeps and know we were still trucking. There was a tracking app that we used later to keep in touch with our marathoners that was super accurate and helpful.

We ended up running along the water as well as through Marquette, and there was a decent amount of crowd support too. I had no idea what my pace was, but there were clocks at every mile. With the corral system, I couldn't do the math on the fly. But, I made a game of catching up to and passing pacing groups. I pulled ahead of the 2 hour group early on, then passed the 1:50 and went after the 1:45.

The last two miles were predictably difficult. When you only run for a half hour daily and a little bit longer every now and then, you start to doubt your resolve. I kept reminding myself it was only XX minutes and miles more, and breaking down the distance that way helped psychologically.

Even after I finished, I had no idea my time. I had to wait to look it up online, which was mercifully nearly instantly. I waited in the finishers' chute for Mo, Jess and Alyssa, then we got snacks and water after. We also got medals and a beer. We all had a fantastic day, time and performance wise, with Jess, Alyssa and I all setting new PRs. It's nice to know we all still have it!

We grabbed starbucks and thawed out while we waited for the boys to finish. Brent ran his second-fastest marathon and the furthest he ran was 19 miles ... in November. Turns out this OTF thing might really work.

This is one of the best value races I've run, and it was well executed to boot. For $55 (on-site packet pick up was $10 more), we got a finisher's shirt, a pull over fleece, a beer, snacks and free photos, which were delivered by the afternoon. I know they had to really bring it to offset the previous years' shortcomings (literally) and I believe they delivered. I heard the race even went out and filled potholes the night before and after the winter we had, those potholes had to have been the size of the state of Texas.

Time: 1:47:57
Pros: Cheap race, easy to get to, great value, relatively flat and pleasant course
Cons: It's spring in the Midwest so the weather can be unpredictable, but we lucked out
Cost: $55
Would I do this race again? Yes, it was a great value and I had a good time

Sunday, March 24, 2019

My 8-Week Transformation Challenge Results

6-word summary: Got superhero fit, lost 15 pounds.

In case you don't follow me on Instagram, eight weeks ago I embarked on OrangeTheory La Grange's Transformation Challenge. The rules are simple; weigh in at the beginning, middle and end; go to OTF three times a week and lose the most percentage of your body weight possible. Here are my gym's before and afters. What's interesting to me is this is the same exact outfit, but these capris sure fit me differently.

I've been going to OTF for a year now, but it's only in the last two months that I've seen major results. The key? All the boring diet clinches about abs being made in the kitchen and not the gym. Proof:

I've neverrrrr had abs in my life but now they're there. In all, I lost 11.6 percent of my body weight. An inBody scan revealed that I lost 10 percentage points of fat and gained one pound of muscle to end the challenge with 16 percent body fat.

I started out this challenge fit, and feel like I got shrink wrapped in eight weeks. But it was a hell of a journey to get here. I stopped drinking, tracked my food and got at least 10k steps per day. My diet focused on protein and creating a calorie deficit. When I wasn't working out, I was meal prepping.

What's interesting about the food is that we spent the same amount on groceries (and next to nothing on meals out) but we bought much different things. We ate far more fish and revisited foods we thought we hated. I baked with more protein powder and we learned that we do not, in fact, hate quinoa or kale (tilapia is still on the no-no list despite our best good-faith efforts). Two days of average meals:

Chicken lentil quinoa bowl, kodiak cake with peanut butter and banana, apple and tuna packet, grilled chicken with kale salad, avocado salsa and steamed sweet potato, protein cake with peanut butter and one salted chocolate graham cracker.

Mega salad with rotisserie chicken and quinoa, apple with egg whites and a kodiak cake with peanut butter and bananas, blackened salmon with sweet potato and broiled brussel sprouts, protein cake with protein ice cream.

I had dessert nearly every day, but it was a protein-based concoction of either a shake or cake or bar so that I ended the day full and satisfied.

In some ways, the workouts were the easy parts. I went to OTF six times a week and everything was figured out for me. I lifted heavy and committed to pushing myself for at least the first 10 minutes of every workout, even when I was tired and sore and unmotivated. On most days, after the first 10 minutes I felt good enough to keep pushing. I believe I went to OTF 37 times during the challenge, and there might have been one class in the entire spread in which I didn't get the prescribed 12-point goal.

As tough as this was, it was helpful to think of it as an experiment. What would happen to my body if I did all the things "fitness people" say you should do for a solid two months? I can't say if it's the hydration, the lack of booze or the abundance of lean/clean food, but I almost wished the diet didn't make a huge difference in how I looked and felt because I missed the foods that were so familiar to me. The fact is, I haven't had a break out since I started this. The acne on my back has cleared up and my skin is no longer greasy. Pushups in perfect form feel easy. My wedding rings are loose. My skinny clothes are back in my closet after a five-year hiatus.

More than anything, I learned that I'm eight weeks away from being ripped at any point. I know exactly what I need to do to get to fit and that I can stick to a set of rules to fit my goal. I see that I can be fit for me as opposed to it just being another thing to do because that's what's expected of me.

So what's next? Well, I spent a day enjoying all the foods I missed.

No regrets at all. But after that I got back on track. I also learned that a cheat meal may be more effective for me than a cheat day. I've reduced my calorie deficit and plan to continue to focus on protein. I don't need to lose any more weight. What I'd like to do is see if I can put on more muscle. To do this, I'm changing my strategy at OTF to start on the floor instead of the treadmill. I also think an eight-week cut is too long for me. I'd like to experiment with doing a four-week cut and a one-week refeed to see what happens to my body at that point.

Help me write my next post - comment with any questions you have about the transformation challenge, OrangeTheory or what's next so I can write about it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cooking with Kelly: Healthy Spinach Feta Chicken Burger Recipe

I nearly cried in the grocery store this weekend.

You see, I decided many days ago I wanted to spend quite a few calories on a chicken burger from the meat counter on a super plush pretzel bun with all the fixings. I've been working hard and I needed a meal to look forward to. I headed to the store early, and wouldn't you know, they didn't have the burgers. They told me they might have them later.

Frustrated and hungry, because I'm always hungry, I bought the raw ingredients for my favorite burger and set out to make it my own damn self.

The key to these burgers, in my opinion, is getting them toasted enough on the outside to properly cook the chicken while not burning it to oblivion. I got this by using a grill pan inside initially heated to medium-high heat, then reduced to medium after searing. I also covered it with a lid in the last few minutes to capture the steam, but preserve the outer crunch.

My second pro tip is to ensure the spinach is super dry. Otherwise, the moisture will cause your burgers to fall apart while cooking. I thawed the spinach and let it drain, then rung it out with a dish towel.

Healthy Spinach Feta Chicken Burger Recipe

1 pound ground lean chicken
1 beaten egg
9ish ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly dried
1 small package of reduced fat feta (this worked out to about 2/3 cups)
1 tablespoon seasoned flour or breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the chicken and egg, then crumble the cheese and spinach over the meat. Season with spices and stir until incorporated. Take care not to over stir the mixture or it will get tough.

Divide into four patties. I like to dent the middle of the patties with my thumb so the burgers don't get domed when grilling.
Chill for an hour to allow the burgers to set. Heat a grill pan to medium high and sear the burgers for five minutes on each side. Cover with a lid and continue to cook until the internal temp reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the grill and cover with foil to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve on pretzel buns with lettuce, tomato, condiments and whatever your heart desires. I highly recommend avocado on these burgers. We had this with blistered green beans and turnip "fries." Worth every calorie.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

2019 First Look for Charity at the Chicago Auto Show

This event makes me so happy! #FLFC19 is hands down my favorite event of the year (See 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015). It's the best way to see the Chicago Auto Show while giving back to worthy causes. It supports a bevy of local charities that support the Chicagoland area in a variety of ways. And for weeks leading up to the big night, I was pumped to see the cars, drink the drinks and eat everything in sight.
This year's event did not disappoint! In fact, I feel like it was less crowded this year and had some interesting offerings, both in the cars and the food.

But first thing's first, for those who asked my dress was another Ross special and the shoes I've had forever but were originally from DSW. And yes, my mother picked out the dress, just like most of my wardrobe (you're never too old to be mothered).
First clink!

We decided against getting a hotel this year because of last year's shenanigans and instead took Lyft back and forth and got to McCormick Place with time to spare. This year, they were passing out champagne in custom glasses while you waited for the show to open, which is always an upgrade in my book.

When the doors were opened, we made a beeline to the Goose Island area, which this year included an entire CTA subway car with taps. And this year's taps were something to behold - there was a keg of Bourbon County Brand Stout that never kicked, despite me circling back for more several times. It was basically magical. It's the first time they've had it on tap in the five years I've been going to this event and it was such an awesome surprise. They also had an exclusive saison I hadn't hear of.
After selecting our drinks, we had a far more leisurely stroll around the show floor, admiring cars and making friends. Four-legged friends that I really wanted to take home (thanks Volvo and Subaru!) but alas, we are a one-dog household.

I also seriously considered this vanlife movement when I saw some of the newer vans. Social media is a great field for remote work, after all.

But let's talk food. Delicious, glorious food. I had a ton and regret nothing. This was only my second cheat meal since the beginning of the transformation challenge and I did it up right. The best thing I ate all night was this Captain Jack's Buried Treasure dessert from Miller's Ale House. I looked it up on their website and it's described as, "Triple layered vanilla ice cream cake, Oreo®cookie crust, Heath Bar® crunch crumble, caramel and hot fudge sauce."

Well worth the calories, in my opinion, dethroning Andy's as my favorite auto show treat. But another treat I really enjoy is looking at the supercar gallery up close and personal. It's always fun to ogle cars that are worth many times more than my home.

We stayed until the very end and soaked up all the show has to offer. Believe me that I got my Cadillac slippers and even built a lego truck in honor of the new movie before taking a car home and sleeping heartily with all the delightful food we consumed helping me along the way.

A huge thank you to the Chicago Auto Show for inviting me to the fabulous event year after year!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

#TransformationChallenge Two-Week Check In

After a bonkers partner workout
Short version: I'm down 4.5 pounds in exactly two weeks of working out at Orange Theory La Grange.

Long version: This. Is. Hard. Unlike the last time I lost weight using Weight Watchers and running an absurd amount, I'm not hungry all the time and I don't find myself accidentally eating peanut butter right from the jar. Instead, I'm more concerned I'm not eating enough. I've been using FitBit to track my food and aim to get as much protein as possible with the calories I'm allotted. I think the reason that I'm not ravenous is that my legs aren't hungry. The longest I run at OTF is maybe 4.5 miles, so I don't have time to ramp up to that "feed me now and no one gets hurt" level. I'mn fasting until lunchtime most days, filling up on tons of vegetables and finishing most days with a protein shake to try and head to bed with enough protein to build muscles overnight. I'm also taking BCAAs after workouts and melatonin before bed for the same reasons.

The aforementioned ahi tuna, brown rice quinoa
and blistered asparagus
What I've found delightful is that although we're spending quite a bit more on groceries, I'm enjoying trying new recipes and they've mostly turned out better than I expected. Tonight I made seared ahi tuna steaks with a balsamic reduction (best to follow me on Instagram to get the insights) and yesterday, I made chicken stuffed peppers. Next week, I'm planning to try a lentil quinoa bowl knock off based on a really satisfying lunch I had at Panera this week.

I'm also trying to not get obsessed with the scale and man is it tough. I bought a body fat scale that sends all the data to FitBit via an iPhone app. If it's to be believed, I reduced my body fat from 26.7 percent to 19.1 percent. Seems unlikely.

Make no mistake, I know how I got here
On the OTF front, I've been making it to class almost every day, save for some weather-related nonsense. I'm pretty diehard but I don't think I have it in me to leave the house when it's the coldest it's been in a generation. I am feeling less sore than I anticipated. I think it's because I'm constantly moving, and focusing on getting in at least 10,000 steps ahead and taking the BCAAs. I caught myself in the mirror the other day and my arms are already looking more defined. And maybe one day I'll be bold enough to post my two-week abs progress.

I have a planned cheat meal/outing on Friday with the First Look for Charity gala right around the corner. I'm looking forward to eating all sorts of local treats without guilt because I've been on plan and on point.

So my question is, how does one determine exactly how many calories and grams of protein you need to build muscle and lose fat? Evidently, this is a very hotly contested topic on the Internet.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Three Things Thursday

1. I've been working from home for a week now because of the weather. It's been colder than our generation has ever experienced, so I've stayed inside and become a crazy dog lady who picks up her dog to take him outside.

2. I've learned one week into the Transformation Challenge that the difference between being under and over calories is razor thin when you're 5'3". Brent regularly has more calories left at the end of the day than I consumed all day. I'm operating at a deficit, naturally, because I'm trying to lose weight. In the past week, I've created enough of a deficit that I could have had two Taco Bell Burrito Supremes. A day. Every day. On top of everything else I ate.
Missing: 2 Burrito Supremes

3. I've reached peak suburbanite in the past week by taking the wrong, identical coat home from Orange Theory. It's that time of year where every woman in this area of a certain age wears a 3/4 length black North Face puffy jacket. I got home and only several hours later when I went to walk Napoleon did I realize the jacket I was wearing was too big, and the stitching was white instead of black. I had to call the studio and go back and exchange it with the (equally bewildered) woman who took my jacket. Long story short, I now have to label my winter gear like I do for the kids.

Why hello, I'm definitely an adult, why do you ask?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Chicago Auto Show First Look For Charity 2019

First Look for Charity looks through the years
I can't believe this is going to be my fifth year working with the Chicago Auto Show! Smashmouth was right, the years start coming and they don't stop coming.

A little something for everyone
Anyhow, another year, another dress and another memorable night is right around the corner. The First Look for Charity is Feb. 8 and gives attendees a unique look at all the auto show has to offer while enjoying local treats to benefit local charities. In the past 27 years, the event has raised more than $50 million for more than 20 charities in our backyard. For some of these organizations, #FLFC19 is the only fundraiser they have to keep providing services to people in need in Chicago.

The premise is pretty awesome: get dressed up in your favorite black tie apparel, walk around and look at amazing cars with diminished crowds, eat incredible food in insane quantities, enjoy local beverages and hand-crafted cocktails, raise money for nonprofits that need it. There's also live music and a raffle for two brand-new cars (I'm not eligible but don't cry for me, I'll be just fine).

Earlier this month, I stopped by Acura McGrath, which is one of the sponsoring dealerships, for a preview of this year's food. I'm really excited because the food was much different from years past - think tiny tacos, custom-printed macaroons and expertly assembled old fashioneds.

So if you don't have plans or are looking for a great gift for Valentine's Day, consider buying #FLFC19 tickets and making the trek to the McCormick Center on Feb. 8. It's a memorable evening that has something for everyone and is for a great cause. See you there?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Welcome to my OTF #TransformationChallenge

Hi mom, I hope you like this.

Pre-Ironman me
Current me, at the #FLFC19 Preview
My fitness routine has changed significantly since my last Ironman. And if I'm being honest, I floundered for a while. I trained for and finished Circular Logic verrrry slowly in 2018 and then chilled for a few weeks, trying to decide what to do next. After my experience with Spenga, I wondered what other fitness trends might be out there that would appeal to me. And after years of steady-state cardio, I was ready to do something that made me look better in a bikini instead of a tri suit.

Enter Orange Theory La Grange.

Last April, I signed up for an intro class and got my ass handed to me. I'm a three-time Ironman finisher and I was unattractively sweating from the word "go" and got worked over in an hour. I signed a six-month contract on the spot and reasoned that the more I went, the cheaper it would be. The six-month membership was still cheaper than an Ironman entry fee and I knew my body couldn't do a third year in a row of Ironman training.

Day 1 of the #TransformationChallenge
What's kept me coming back is that in an hour, I'm done. There are tons of classes daily and they include weight lifting and cardio. The quest to get 12 minutes in the orange and red (z4/5) of your heart rate is a powerful enough incentive for me to keep pushing through the tough parts. Also, because it's constantly varied, I'm not usually that sore or worn down.

Now what's keeping me going is the Transformation Challenge. OTF La Grange invited me to participate and cover my fees in exchange for my honest opinions about the experience. It's an eight-week program in which participants have to make it to three workouts per week during six out of the eight weeks. There's a pre-, mid- and post-program weight in and the person who loses the greatest percentage of weight wins a cash prize. Mostly, it's about camaraderie and mutual suffering. OTF La Grange split us into two teams with at studio assistant monitoring us weekly with small challenges along the way. We started Monday, and the first challenge was to track our food.

My body has definitely changed since I started in the spring, but my diet has just gotten worse. I like beer and tacos and chocolate. I travel a ton for work now and my meals aren't always up to me (and if I fly 7,000 miles to a place I'm going to eat the local delicacies). So for the duration of this challenge, I'm tracking my food via FitBit and focusing on quality protein and lots of vegetables. I weighed in at 141 and my goal is to drop 10 pounds. This would put me close to my pre-Ironman weight and would go a long way in helping me fit into my dress for the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity.

Basically, I want to see what would happen to my body if I could couple a less crap-tastic diet with solid physical activity in my peak fitness zone.

Follow me on Instagram, where I'll be chronicling my workouts and meals, and check back to how far I can get on my journey to be the best me.