Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tower Trot - 5K and fun run

First, the "Fun Run" Recap - a 1K for kids or anyone else wanting to have "fun" on the run. Big Girl participated in this deal for the second year in a row. Last year, I wasn't able to accompany her or spectate her race because I was doing the "Double," so I was busy running the 10K. This year, we arrived seconds (literally) before her race, and I was able to go with her. Here we are just after the start. 

start of the fun run

shy or excited?
I can honestly say she rocked this business! She ran a lot of the .67 mile course, stopping sometimes for commentary, giggling, or rest breaks. She controlled her pace and ran smart - but really busted a move when she saw Grandma, Daddy and her sister near the finish line.

final kick

staying strong

bringing it home

my new favorite running pic of the three of us
It took her about 15 minutes to cover the 1K. Not bad, Congrats! Baby J was thrilled for her sister and shrieked for joy when she saw her running on the course - clearly the little one already grasps the spectating concept. 

Post fun run, we took some family pics and I attempted to cajole Big Girl into a Mommy/Daughter pic which she wasn't digging. 

family pic

noooooooo pictures
As for my 5K - it was my second goal race of the year. I did some warm up strides (maybe 4-5 thirty second strides) and could already feel the warm air and a bit of humidity. Nothing stifling, but a presence nonetheless. My goal was to shoot for negative splits (and I secretly wanted hardware). 

My first mile nearly dipped into the sixes - it was 7:00 on the nose. As usual, this concerned me. I didn't want to burn out too soon, but the pace didn't feel too fast. I slowed a little, as this next mile was covered mostly in sun. The course was primarily long straightaways, which were difficult to pace. Running them too fast could end in disaster, but it was also daunting to look ahead and see how far you still had to go before a turn. It's interesting how much a particular course can affect your race strategy. Mile two showed 7:29 on my garmin. I'm sure I frowned. That was not good news, but it's the second time in my life I've hit two miles in under 15 minutes (14:29 on my watch). The third mile started slow, but I did my best to pick it up like crazy. I wanted a negative split - at least one. I can honestly say I gave it my all that last half mile. My third mile hit at 7:28 on my watch (hooray!) and I think it was another 42 seconds before I crossed the line. My garmin said 22:40. However, that was kind of nowhere near my official time. 

Post race, I met up with Grandma and the kids (God Bless Grandma for her child minding so I can run races!!)). Big Girl was super psyched to see me and met me at the finish line (probably wondered why I was bent over and wheezing - but I recovered pretty quickly and was confused about how to feel about my result). If 22:40 was my time, then I had scored another PR. But I had to wait for the official results. It was also unclear as to whether or not I had placed in my age group. So we hung out at the playground, letting the kids run around and eat snacks in the gorgeous weather while they announced winners. 

My official time was 22:48 (7:21 avg). So, no PR. But, I was shocked to hear my name for FIRST place in the Female 35-39 age group! And the bronze Olympic style medallion was by far the coolest hardware I've scored in a long time! A solid chunk of trophy on a ribbon - yay!

first in AG!
I have quite a few thoughts on this race effort - and if I am to improve, I need to reflect a bit. One, the weather, while not hot, was warmer and muggier than I've seen this season. There was quite a bit of sun on the course, and that may have made a difference. I can't explain this - but I felt fast and slow at the same time. During Ravenswood, I felt light, strong and fast during most of the race. But yesterday I felt fast but heavier; like my legs were springy but fatigued. I'm wondering if I did too much this past week and did not allow enough taper? It's tough with 5K's, timing the hard workouts and the taper. Maybe I needed more rest? Also, I do not understand the 8 second difference between my garmin and the clock? I really tried to hit the buttons after I crossed the mats, but who knows. And I didn't use the satellites - so distance was not recorded, just time. I might as well have used a simple timer. But that is the official time, so that's the one I have to accept. And it was good for hardware, so I can't complain too much ;))

Lastly, I have to remember I've only been "racing" 5Ks for like two months. Running sub 23's is not something I should really take for granted, even if I do want to "go for the gold." Right now, I think I just have to be satisfied with another solid race that's helping train my legs to turn over quickly and gain strength and speed. It's a good place to be. 

My next "race" is Saturday - it will be a first for me. Details to come ;))

Monday, May 18, 2015

Menu Planning - May 17, 2015 etc.

Another week in food - first a review of some weekend eats. 

Chicago Farmer's Markets opened last week! While there isn't a lot of variety yet, there was plenty of quality spring produce. I picked up four treats: asparagus, morels, spring onions, and radishes.

a look at the morels and asparagus

The radishes went into the P. Grant inspired salad - I listed it last week, but here are the ingredients again: thinly sliced radish, toasted pine nuts, an herb medley of parsley, mint and basil, feta cheese and a lemon vinaigrette. My only suggestion for next time would be to add a hint of something sweet (honey, a splash of balsamic vinegar, maybe even garlic - just something to temper that tartness).

radish salad
And the main brought the asparagus and morel dish back: braised in butter, spring onions, and wine. No peas. But some slivers of shaved parmesan. A bit of whole grain bread. And some rosé. Yep.

sprint feast

Our next big cooking event was Saturday night's lamb chops. The weather called for grilling. So we picked chops. And asparagus. And potatoes. My favorite part of this meal was the herb butter dipping sauce. The fresh rosemary from our plant was the star. And the spicy zin was the perfect complement.

lamb chops etc

Now a picture of beautiful seasonal cherry blossoms. Because they are just gorgeous and only here for a heartbeat.

And before the week's menu, I'll recap last Thursday's track session. It was another golden one. 3 x 1200s around race pace followed by 1 x 800 at faster than race pace. It went down as follows. 

1.25 mile warm up.
1200 - 5:41 (7:34 pace)
~ 1:40 recovery jog
1200 - 5:29 (7:18 pace)
~ 1:45 recovery jog
1200 - 5:27 (7:15 pace)
~2:00 recovery jog
800 - 3:33 (7:06 pace)
1.25 mile cool down

^^^^ Negative splits. Which might be my only aspiration for this weekend's 5K goal race. Negative splits. Almost as elusive as that sub-four marathon. So I will obviously be cutting myself some slack if it takes me 10+ tries to nail it. 

Other than that workout, it was mostly short stroller runs and a solo fiver on Saturday. I'm really hoping to run tonight (solo). 

And now for the menu:

Sunday - last night my SIL visited so we (sparkling) wined and dined her at a trendy restaurant

Monday - red pepper / goat cheese omelette, side spinach salad, fresh bread

Tuesday - tofu marinated in soy sauce, oyster sauce, maybe a few other things, and served with ginger/garlic, scallions, peas and over soba noodles

Wednesday - wedge salad with five minute eggs

Thursday - spring panzanella - using leftover grilled asparagus and potatoes, white beans, cucumber, and kale. It may need something else? I'll play.

Friday - away for Memorial Day weekend. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Menu Planning - May 10, 2015

Yes, I realize the week is already underway. Here's the plan -

Sunday - my mom made several huge batches of lasagna for the crowd she hosted at her house for Mother's Day

Monday - leftover Korean food from when my family dined out Saturday night (my kids love Japchae and rice and apparently bean sprouts?)

Tuesday - tonight was leftover lasagna (you better believe I took home the lion's share of what remained)

Wednesday - homemade chicken noodle soup (defrosted from the freezer). It's still hovering around 50 degrees these days, but soup season better be on its way out soon. So we're using this up now while the weather is suited for soup.

Thursday - the farmers markets open this day. I'm hoping to find some goodies - specifically radishes and asparagus. The radishes will go in a Phyllis Grant inspired salad : "hella thinly sliced radishes", basil, mint, parsley, sheep's milk feta, toasted pine nuts, lemon vinaigrette. And the asparagus may go in an omelette or possibly be sautéed in butter, shallot, and garlic with some mushrooms. We will see. And there will definitely be some rosé.

Friday - possibly homemade pizza - if I find appropriate spring veggies to roast, I'll top with those. Otherwise it might be a standard pepperoni. Or I'll do roasted mushroom and crack eggs on top.  -OR- I will poach eggs in marinara sauce (I'll just use my homemade pizza sauce for this experiment). And then spread the mix on toasted bread or dip fresh bread in it? I have no idea, but it sounds like fun!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Today was my fifth Mother's Day celebration. I still remember my very first, in 2011. My status as a mom was still very much in question, as my Big Girl was just a month old. I hardly felt right accepting Mother's Day well wishes that year. It was all very surreal. My second Mother's Day in 2012 was fraught with challenges - health and otherwise. My first year as a mom really took a toll on me. The next year, 2013, I was pregnant with Baby J, but did a trail race over Mother's Day weekend. And last year, I remember being in the throws of #threenager drama and constant infant care (*not* a good combo). This year might have been the best yet. It probably has taken me this long to realize that celebrating mothers does not mean that the day is all about me. It is about the people I love and those who love me. My two little ones provide me with plenty of work 24/7, but the moments of joy make it worth it. The other day they held hands as we walked Big Girl to school.


And actually posed and smiled when I asked them to stand by the gorgeous tulips for a picture.

my beauties

joys of motherhood

I'd like to include that I did a pretty intense track workout last Thursday - 8 x 400s at roughly 1:44 each (give or take a second or two). They were very consistent and felt brisk. After the last one I felt some soreness in my arch, so I took it easy with my cool down 1.25 miles. I'd like to do more on the track, but I will admit, it takes some serious motivation to do these types of workouts solo!

We spent the weekend with my family, which included a little date night for me and the hub, a four mile run with my dad on his bike, the park/library with Big Girl, dinner out with the family and a fabulous Mother's Day celebration that included my MIL and some cousins. Let's just say it was the perfect boozy brunch with lots of laughs and delicious food.

the ones who made me a mother

my beautiful mom and MIL

the cousins

love my mom!

We were fortunate to spend the rest of the day together - mostly chilling and relaxing (I even snuck in a nap!). The kids played, the adults chatted and we had a great day just being together. 

I'm so thankful for the amazing role model I have for a mom - she is truly the best. And I'm lucky enough to have an awesome mother-in-law too! I only hope that I can somehow pass that awesomeness on to my own kids.

Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Weekend and Menu Planning - May 3

I've been wanting to put up a post but the weather got so nice, I don't think I spent much time indoors at all this weekend (nor did I spend any time without a glass of chilled rosé in my hand…). But I sort of have a small window of time right now - so here's a recap of things. 

First, a few more pics form the Ravenswood Kids Dash (note: my daughter was the only 4 year old who needed an escort on the course - I indulged her). 

hold my hand!


off we go
And the little one turned one and a half on Saturday - the big 1.5, if you will. She likes to run a little bit too (unescorted) ;))

all by myself

1.5 year old 

Last week was rather cold - it was pretty out, but the wind delivered a shocking chill with each gust. Even the bright sun wasn't of any help. After the fast 5K and an awesome shakeout solo fiver on Tuesday, I experienced a severe motivational deficit. On Thursday, when the air was particularly wicked and windy, I forced myself out the door with this smiley little one to bang out a few miles. It was pure suckage (especially the into-the-wind portion), but I got 'er done.

not all runs are enjoyable but I had great company

Friday was a rest day but rest assured, there was plenty of rosé. And I cooked morels. It was a last minute decision to pick up the spendy shrooms, so I opted for a small amount and paired them with asparagus. Basically cooked them in butter with shallot and garlic. Simple. Delicious. Spring.


Saturday morning we had a very early birthday party (which wraps up this year's "Birthday Season" phew!), so I wasn't sure how I'd fit in my run. And now that's it's officially spring, there is much to do in the city, so I had to be creative. One thing on our agenda was the Kite Festival. I hear about it every year, but we've never gone. It was just gorgeous out on Saturday (70s, sunny, perfect), and since it was located in Lincoln Park, I figured I could run there with Big Girl, and my husband could drive up with Baby J after her nap. 

Turns out, the exact location of Kite Fest was a good 6.5 miles away, which meant a rather long run with the stroller (what have we learned: Lincoln Park is BIG). But I made good time (about 55 minutes, which included time spent asking for directions, so some miles were at a pretty good clip). My passenger chilled in the Bob with her headphones plugged into my iPhone listening to Pandora. I officially have a teenager on my hands. But a cute one ;)

The kites were cool - they peppered the sky and added great contrast to the stunning blue backdrop. We made a paper kite and Big Girl tried her hand at kite flying.


rookie kite enthusiast

catching a breeze
I was pretty beat after running 6.5 miles pushing a stroller in the sun, making and flying a kite, and realizing we were miles from home. But we managed to make it back just in time to check out Draft Town (the NFL draft event).

That might have been a record number of activities accomplished on a Saturday! By Sunday we were ready to rock again. We picnicked all morning with friends on another gorgeous day, and finished up our weekend with a family run. The Big one logged a quarter mile or so. In sandals. Despite the fact that she has an excellent pair of running shoes. (like I said earlier about having a teenager..).

And if that isn't enough proof of her fickle ways, I wanted to take a picture with her, and she refused. Turned her back. So I snuck up on her and lovingly tackled her. She burst into giggles. Gotta love her.

playing games - I'm going to win. 

So that takes up to this week's menu. It's already off to a good start. 

Sunday - grilled chicken marinated in a blended mix of  shallot/garlic/ginger/jalepeno/basil/lime juice/soy sauce/fish sauce/ and coconut milk. And did lettuce wraps with them that included vinegared onions and fresh cilantro. I believe there were IPAs. Because, why not. 

Monday - a perfect spring dish: Braised asparagus with peas and spring onions over cheese ravioli (Deb Madison/ Local Flavors)

Tuesday - chickpea salad with coriander and cumin (another Deborah Madison recipe from her Local Flavors book) probably with fresh bread

Wednesday - potato salad (fingerlings, boiled eggs, parsley, tarragon, green onions and light mayo) with leftover chicken (served separately)

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - out for Mothers Day weekend

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Secrets to my "success" and Menu Planning _ April 26

When I told the Sticks about my massive PR on Sunday, those whom I had spared the constant minutia of my training (read: everyone but poor C), wanted to know how. What did I do avoid injury and increase speed? What was my plan? My focus? My post-baby secret to success?

Here's what I've been thinking regarding answers to those questions. One, my focus. I chose 5Ks. Only 5Ks. For the whole year. So all of my runs are short and purposeful. Even the mindless stroller runs have a purpose (fend off boredom, get some fresh air, chat with S, move the legs). So with my focus on 5Ks, I obviously needed to incorporate speed work.

So, two, my plan. Add speed work. Simple enough. One day a week, I pick a workout (usually last minute, though sometimes a day or two ahead), and do it. Since it has been winter (winter in Chicago lasts until June..), I've been doing the speed work on the treadmill. I'm lucky to have one at my disposal, and it's even luckier that I do not despise it. In fact, I rather like it. The math nerd in me loves knowing the numbers and messing with the speed.

Three, my strategy for avoiding injury. I think this one has been a direct result of my significant drop in mileage. When I'd run upwards of 40 miles per week, I'd accrue injuries. And I'd deny them. Which only led to more injuries. Or I'd fall down the stairs or trip on a piece of sidewalk and spend months shooting the crap with my physical therapist (the only silver lining to the injury component). Dropping my mileage to like 15 per week has been clutch. And manageable. Because I have more time (and energy) to devote to my family.

Lastly, my post-baby secret to success.. I think it's a combination of simply getting enough sleep and eating right. For 16 months, my little one woke at least once during the night. And I tended to her, because I felt it was the right choice. When she turned one, I attempted to let her "cry" instead of running right in there to comfort her (read: breastfeed her), and this may have worked for a few nights, but more times than not, she needed that nighttime feed. She's a peanut. Like 15 pounds. And it sucked, getting woken up, especially when her big sister conspired to wake me up more times than she did during an eight hour period. But when Baby J turned 16 months, she magically stopped the middle of the night wake ups. And now she sleeps soundly for a good twelve hours. So I think that has helped tremendously, because I am starting to feel like a person again.

And eating - though I have always fancied myself a "healthy" eater, I have learned a lot about what this truly means in recent years. It has taken a long time to really understand what is the best food for health (um, FOOD). And even though I "get it" now, I also refuse to be so strict about nutrition that life becomes depressing. I celebrate when things call for celebrations. And I keep myself happy (wine, chocolate, beer, bring it). One thing I've noticed is that since I've really pushed toward a real, whole food diet, my sugar cravings just disappeared. This was a bit bittersweet (pun!) because I like sugar!! But I also realized that I didn't *need* it and didn't even really *want* it. Also, it is probably the most unhealthy thing out there. And my process wasn't a "detox" thing because I despise that too. I just simply cut back gradually until I started to notice. I'm not even sure it was a conscious effort, because I never really set out to do that, it just happened organically. The consequences of this include practically no headaches or stomach aches, reduced mood swings, and virtually no cravings. I have no idea if I'm "healthy" right now, but it sure feels like it.

So that's about it. My focus. My plan. My strategy for injury management. My nutrition. It's a good equation to make dreams happen.

So with that out of the way - here's how this week's menu plans are looking:

Sunday - we cooked some chilean sea bass and served it with parmesan-crusted polenta that included a wild mushroom blend (rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms with fresh herbs)

Monday - tacos. Ground beef with some Frontera seasoning mix and a shallot with shredded cheese, sour cream and greenhouse tomatoes. In soft tortillas.

Tuesday - rotisserie chicken with leftover polenta and spinach greens.

Wednesday - egg salad sandwiches (seven minute boiled eggs, parsley, tarragon, shredded carrot, hella salt and pepper, squeeze of lemon, mayo, and scallions) with terra chips

Thursday - spring panzanella - using up a stale baguette with white beans, kale, roasted asparagus, and greenhouse tomatoes. I'll whip up a dressing of some sort (vinegar, oil, a shallot maybe..)

Friday - date night (!!)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ravenswood 5K

My first goal race of the season - the Ravenswood 5K - was today, and I managed a pretty significant PR! Truth be told, I have never actually trained for a 5K race in my life - I just always used the "run as fast as you can until you drop" strategy and it never served me well. Never. I always wanted to die somewhere between miles 2 and 3, but today that was not the case. I guess there is something to be said about actually doing speed work! I can't wait to do more!!

So here's the story. 

On Friday I planned to go pick up our race packets - Big Girl was running the Kids Dash, so I wanted to make this a big deal for her. But during our only window to drive there, the kids weren't interested. They just didn't want to go anywhere, so I listened. I also wanted to fit in a run that afternoon, but I wasn't sure how it would all work out. Luckily our afternoon plans were cancelled and we were able to run to the store to pick up packets with S and her daughter. Three cheers for "running errands" !! #bestuseoftime #twobirdswithonestone 

packet pickup 

So race morning - I was SOOOOOOO nervous. I have not been this on edge about a race (especially a shortie) in ages (read: ever). I had three goals:

C) sub 24
A) sub 23

These goals seemed reasonable based on my spring training thus far. I had a feeling I could hold 7:30s, and a bigger feeling I could knock a couple seconds off each mile to nail a PR. It was definitely doable. I managed to get 9 solid hours of sleep last night, but those hours were filled with racing nightmares (the course was a bouncy-house obstacle course with little ones getting in my way / I was late to the race and they had already started / I was way overdressed and trying desperately shed layers / I was running in slow motion..). I wasn't sure whether or not to peg those as good or bad omens (I remember similar nightmares pre-Philly back in '09 and we all know how that turned out). 

The morning was filled with chugging coffee, texting C of Team Stick (my unofficial "coach" for this endeavor), and frantically managing the kids, who would be joining me later for the kids dash. I arrived via taxi early enough to seamlessly check my bag and do a warm up. I have never done a real warm up for a 5k (unless you could front loading mega miles because I used to think that 3 miles was equivalent to a goose egg). Anyway, I did some jogging and strides - I felt pretty hardcore (and kind of phony at the same time - I am not running times in the teens but still…warm up is key!). 

I took my place in the start corral around the 7 minute mark and soon spotted my friend S. I was glad we got to meet up pre-race because I was full of jitters. Just chatting took my mind off my nerves. But soon it was go time - and I was ready to rock. 

The first mile was AMAZING. I felt so light and free and not even taxed. I hit it in 7:09. This was fabulous but also intimidating. I didn't think I had it in me to hold this pace. But to be honest, my legs weren't telling me otherwise. I did feel pretty good, but I think mentally I slowed because of fear. The second mile came fast in like 7:22. That was cool because I remember doing 15 minute run tests in college and wanting two miles in under 15 so badly - I never got it. But today I killed it! So suck it, 20 year old self (just kidding ;)). I'm not totally sure what mile three was - maybe 7:30? I had a little trouble with the manual splits on my garmin. But in any case, it was clear my splits were positive. I am trying not to dwell on this. Something to work on. My last .1 was 39 seconds. I was thrilled with the number I saw on my watch as I crossed the finish line : 22:XX. PERSONAL RECORD. And A-Goal in the bag. 

Post race was just exhilarating. It was so nice to achieve this, and know that I am just beginning. I didn't leave it all out on the course, but I don't think that's a bad thing. It's ok to conserve - I think it's better than crashing and burning. It's just something I can tweak re: future race strategy. I'm kind of a rookie in this respect. 

Anyway, I easily met up with the rest of the fam, since Big Girl was gearing up for her race.

beaming from my PR
Big Girl's friend was also running with her.

little runners

S and I scored a post race pic before we headed over to the kids assembly.

running buddies

all of us

Now that Big Girl is FOUR, she was able to run with the bigger kids - her race was a 50 yard dash. She lined up at the start line with other four year olds.

four year old start

Baby J was not too far away, spectating with Daddy. It must be said that these events could not be possible without the support of the whole family. Big shout out to Daddy for orchestrating the spectating while simultaneously minding the kiddos.


I have no pics of the actual dash (though maybe some will appear on my husband's phone..) but after finishing and getting medals, the kids popped up on the podium for some post race glory.

congrats, runners!

My official result online looks to be: 22:43 (7:19 avg pace). I'll take it! (previous PR was 23:18) Post race we really partied it up, wasting no time in ordering bubbly drinks to celebrate our races.


It was chilly, but an otherwise gorgeous day, and the kids couldn't resist a little outdoor fun on the giant yacht.

these kids really life the life #yachtlife

And that's a wrap. Baby J crashed for her nap on our way home and has been sleeping soundly. The rest of us are resting and/or basking in our glory :) It's really a privilege to be running like this at this point in my life. I am truly grateful for today's experience and it really boosted my confidence as to what I am capable on the roads. My next goal race is in about month. Bring it.