Monday, June 29, 2015

Hard Workouts; Menu Planning - June 28 ; Summer Fun Randomness

At the moment, I have no "next" race on the horizon - though I do have my eye on a 5K at the end of July. Until then, I would like to keep up the training. Last week I did a couple stroller runs - Tuesday might have been four and Saturday was 3.5. Thursday was my hard workout, which I did on the treadmill. I picked 1200s. After a mile warm up, here is what went down:

1200 @ 7:30 pace -- quarter mile recovery
1200 @ 7:18 pace -- quarter mile recovery
1200 @ 7:13 pace --quarter mile recovery
800 @ 7:04 pace; 400 @ 7:30 pace
mile cool down. 

It started out good - and I guess it ended well. I was pushing, but trying to hold onto some energy for the end. That last quarter at 7:30 felt easy, which is what I wanted to experience. Run til 7:30 feels "easy." 

Today's workout was an outdoor five miler with 12 x 1 minute sprints. I really tried to give those 60 second bursts my all. Inbetween each one was a minute recovery (admittedly, sometimes 45 seconds of that recovery time was spent walking (with lots of huffing and puffing). I felt pretty much dead at the end of this. Like wiped. 

Onto menus - 

The tail end of last week held some serious deliciousness. Thursday was a tagliatelle with fava beans that were cooked in butter, thyme, spring onions and wine. There was crispy panchetta on top along with some thinly shaved pecorino cheese and fresh parsley. Duckhorn chardonnay made for the perfect pairing. There was also a simple green salad with butter lettuce and mizuna (a type of lettuce). 

salad and spring pasta

Friday was another round of simple summer goodness. We started with thinly sliced radish on soft bread with triple cream. There was also a side dish of english shelling peas (cooked with lemon, wine, butter, and shallots) and topped with fresh mint. We also had lamb chops with a rosemary balsamic reduction (we have a rosemary plant so we are really taking advantage of it!). A Oregon Pinot Noir completed the meal.

lamb chops and peas

We spent the weekend with cousins having all kinds of fun. There was lots of swimming and fun in the sun and an outdoor music event. Lots of wine rounded things out.

Baby J steals my fedora at the pool

cousins taking a break from swimming

Saturday night's dinner was another gem. We put the cousins to work chopping herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers - whatever kitchen jobs we had. Big Girl mixed up a nice tzatziki for us too. We marinated chicken in various herb mixtures and grilled them up. One had a mild summer flavor (lemon, garlic, rosemary) and the other had a bit more of a kick with cumin, pimenton, cayenne We also did a spatchcocked chicken that ended up being extraneous so we served it for lunch the next day in lettuce wraps with rice and thai chili sauce. All turned out fabulous. 

Our weekend ended with an outrageous patio roof top party that offered stunning views of the city. There was plenty of room for the kids to run around and play - and they even had a little swimming pool! The food theme was Korean Barbecue, and it was just outstanding. Coupled with good friends, good wine and good conversation - this evening was priceless.

driving in their car

So for the week's menu: 

Monday - tonight was leftover chicken in sandwiches (lettuce, tomato, mayo)

Tuesday - standard panzanella (stale bread, vinegared onions, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, homemade vinaigrette) and a side of rosemary chicken (store bought - we are cheating a little)

Wednesday - Sunday - out for holiday weekend.

I'll end with this recipe for refreshing, hydrating popsicles that I am eager to make. They seem like the perfect post summer run treat! If we ever experience real summer weather, these will be perfect.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Climbing for "Work"

I mentioned briefly like 5 months ago that I had a paid part time job - something that I've always wanted to do. I was going to share more about it but wasn't sure how. Anyway, I'm a staff writer for a local newspaper. Writing has always been a terrific hobby for me, and when I saw an opportunity to write for pay, I jumped on it. (Well, in truth, I waited a while to "jump on it" because "jumping on it" meant updating a resume that was over ten years old and included no journalism experience at all. Plus I was in newborn jail, which means I had a head filled with fog and that does not make for good writing.) But when the timing was right I went ahead and applied and found out I got the job! It's really perfect for me because I get to write several articles every couple months - and I can bring up topics of my choice. Our last issue allowed me to write about running - in two ways. One, a little tribute to our awesome Lakefront path, and, two, an article about a big race held in our neighborhood that meant I got to talk with race directors and PR managers for fitness companies. For this issue, I wanted to write an experience-focused piece on the new downtown climbing wall in Chicago. In reality, I was itching to climb it and doing it for "work" was a good way to justify the price tag and negate my fears of being so high off the ground. 

The whole experience was amazing! I encouraged a friend to join me and we each had private instructors to teach us a bit about climbing. Once they found out I was writing an article, they were extra accommodating and answered every question I had and then some. They even let us climb the "big" wall so we could get pics with city skyline views in the background (I was pretty sure my editor wasn't going to go with a pic of yours truly for the article, but you never know - plus there is Facebook and instagram which are arguably more important media outlets than our newspaper.) Anyway, I learned so much about climbing (I knew nothing to begin with) and enjoyed a serious tough workout that included four climbs, the highest being 40 feet! 

It was really exhilarating and fun! My friend and I were basically high as kites after climbing (pun intended). We spent the rest of the day giddy with excitement, but we secretly wondered when our muscles would be healed enough to consider doing it again. 

My climbing article is coming out in a couple weeks - I don't always know what final changes the editors make to the articles, but I hope they keep my introductory paragraph that seeks to let readers visualize and experience climbing for themselves without their feet ever leaving the ground. 

Until it is published, here are a few of my favorite climbing pics from that day - 

like spiderman

this one is like art

can you tell I was "resting" up there? 

at the top!

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Profile of the Emergent Eaters .. and Menu Planning June 21

I usually have both little ones to myself on Fridays - and we had a rather lax day this past Friday, so I decided to document their meals. I did this once before, and it has always been fun to look back and see how their palates are developing. 

Friday's breakfast was a favorite : steel cut oats with fresh strawberries and chia seeds. Also whole milk mixed in. They LOVE this meal and usually each finish a huge bowl. That morning was no exception. 


We joined some friends at the climbing wall that morning and our only snack was homemade pumpkin muffins. No pics of the snack though. Or the climbing.

Lunch was a homemade chicken noodle soup (I should add, it was CHILLY on Friday). I had leftover chicken from our avocado/chicken wraps last week, so I crumbled some into some boiling homemade stock and added frozen veggies. I also had whole wheat linguini from a pasta dish last week and added that as well. It was a pretty decent hit with Baby J. Big Girl took a few bites..


Anyway, Big Girl's lunch was really two cheese sticks eaten on the couch while watching the Sound of Music DVD. #Reality.


They didn't have too many snacks that afternoon - maybe a few grapes and a lollipop in the duallie while I ran a few miles. Dinner was homemade pizza with spinach and pepperoni. Big Girl didn't like the "tomatoes" which were really the pepperoni. But she ate a decent amount. Baby J almost always eats a decent amount.


I have to add that our dinner that night was pretty awesome. Last week I found fresh figs at our local market. I bought like 100. Earlier in the week I baked figs with balsamic reduction, rosemary, olive oil and blue cheese. They were awesome! But I really wanted to make a fig tart. I debated using a store-bought puff pastry - but it contained HFCS among other things I didn't want mucking up my figs. I wanted a pure, homemade "real" fig tart. So I made my own curst, which wasn't exactly puff pastry - but did include flour, yeast, butter, an egg, water and a touch of sugar. It worked out pretty well! The toppings were mostly the same as the stuffed figs - balsamic, honey, rosemary infused olive oil, and blue cheese.

homemade fig tart

The tart complemented our other picnic goodies very nicely - fresh fruit, procuitto, olives, macadamia nuts, cheese and wine. The only downside was the 50 degree weather - not ideal for outdoor concerting. But we managed with extra blankets and full glasses of wine ;)

picnic plate

This week of menu planning is still in progress: 

Monday - tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwiches with a balsamic vinaigrette. Probably chips or crunchy carrots on the side. 

Tuesday - cheesy vegan quinoa bites with eggs  (topped with fresno peppers, these might really sing..) 

Wednesday - not sure as may be hosting some family for dinner 

Thursday - ? not sure yet. (Edit: farmers market fava beans in fresh tagliatelle, with a wine/butter/thyme/farmer market spring onion sauce and thinly shaved pecorino cheese gracing the top; also a side salad of various farmer market greens)

Friday - not sure yet. (Edit: English shelling peas, a fresh farmer market green salad, farmer market radishes sliced hella thin and served with triple cream on fresh baguette, lamb chops with an herb dressing (parsley, rosemary, lemon, garlic type thing). Definitely rosé. 

Ideas will come to be. I may or may not update. But we've decided to go full on summer with our menu ideas - the season is fleeting and we might only get one or two days of actual summer weather before it's winter again.

Edit: When in doubt, go to the farmers market. Ideas will present themselves. Big time.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

YOUth Make a Difference 5K

Another 5K performance occurred today - probably the last of the spring/summer season? Temps are heating up, the sun is gaining strength, and humidity has blanketed the city. What might make for perfect pool or beach weather does not do a runner justice. At least not this yet-to-be-heat-acclimated runner. 

But I wanted to get another race under my belt, even if it meant running in "summer" conditions. So I signed up for a local 5K that my old softball coach told me about. Coach C headed up our girls travel softball team for many years when I was a teen - and we are currently not only neighbors now, but also coworkers. He's very plugged into the sports world as an announcer and coach and umpire - so it's no surprise he knew about this small local 5K in our hometown burb. He was the emcee as well, so that made it doubly fun! 

The morning wasn't stifling or anything, but it was warm - with temps around 72 and a dew point kissing 70. And I'm not used to it (yet). Also, I enjoyed a complete Superdawg lunch yesterday (hot dog, fries AND chocolate shake - the latter split with Big Girl), so I did not properly prepare nutritionally. No matter, I just wanted to run semi-fast and possibly pick up more hardware. 

My dad came with me for the race - which started at 8a. We hung out, chatted with Coach, and I did a half-assed warmup (like 2-3 strides and maybe a quarter mile total). I was already sweating. 

race tents

with dad

I knew it was going to be rough when the sun was blazing and the breeze was negligible. I also knew I'd start out too fast and crash. I was right about both. 

Mile one was on residential streets - wide roads with a hint of shade. If only the course stayed on tree lined streets, things might have been less abysmal. I hit mile one in like 7:05. While that was good, I could not maintain (duh). I saw my dad just past the one mile marker and squeezed a smile. He's a GREAT spectator! 

Mile two was trash. It was pretty, I'll give it that. Winding around on little paved paths with views of a small lake and some bridges. But it was subject to the elements - harsh sun overhead and the trees blocking any wind that dared to cool us off. I charged on trying not to look at the garmin too much. I was still under 15 min for two miles - but I put on almost 45 seconds up from mile one. 

I'm sure I grimaced but there wasn't much time to sulk because a nice steep hill lay right at the beginning of mile three. Lovely. Up I climbed knowing my pace was fading - and knowing I still had over a mile to go. There's not much you can do but keep calm and carry on. I kept the legs turning and tried to smile - maybe I'd trick myself into thinking I was having fun?! Why do I do these, after all? 

Mile three was slow to arrive (literally) - I was a second or two below 8 minutes. Yuck. But there was the finish so I surged. Final time was 23:46. (7:37 avg). 

The nice thing is that it was an incredibly small race so I did "well" compared to others. I was sixth woman overall. And first in my age group! So yay for that! Coach C was announcing awards but we had to skip out before he got to my old lady age group - the family was going to church. 


I don't know if you get medals you aren't present to receive, but maybe I can check in with Coach and see if he saved mine. 

In any case, here are a few reflections: 
* I want to work harder toward this goal (sub 22). Ever since Ravenswood, I've let summer fun, travel, and partying hijack my training efforts. It hasn't been as consistent. I also think I can put more effort into planning my workouts. 
* My time was *not* bad. I have done (far) worse. So I need to understand that not all races will be my *best*. 
* Summer conditions pollute effort - with cooler, dryer air I might have shed plenty of seconds with the same amount of effort. 
* Perhaps I pushed too hard with Thursday's workout - doing 7 x 400s at 6:50 pace? I know my legs were a bit fatigued after that - and I ran twice last week with the duallie, including on Friday. 
* There are clearly some issues with pacing - I am able to easily hold mile one at 7:00 pace - but it dies fast after that. Something to work on. 
* PRing is a better feeling than placing in an Age Group - though it would be nice to have both :) 

We went on to have a lovely Father's Day weekend - we were blessed to have two wonderful dads in our lives to celebrate with today. 

family photo

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Menu Planning - June 14

I'm actually on time this week with my menu plan! I'm posting to help me remember my thoughts at the end of a pretty packed weekend that, unfortunately, included far less running that I would have wanted. But that's another story. Here's the week's plan and a few dishes from last week I want to include because they got lost in the busyness.

Here's last week's fare -

Tuesday - Big Girl and I arrived late after our travel day home from nyc. The hub made tacos, but since we had already mostly eaten, we had plenty leftover.

Wednesday - I made this beet potato salad to accompany an herb omelette (parsley, tarragon, scallion)

Thursday - leftover tacos

Friday - Big Girl and I had an evening party to attend, so I made meatballs to bring as a main dish. I also left whole wheat pasta and sauce for everyone at home.

Saturday - steelhead trout with a provence inspired tomato/caper/olive sauce and a side of farmers market spinach with garlic, olives, and capers (with rose…or beer if you had waaaaayyyyy too much rose the previous night..)

So onto this week:

Monday - leftover homemade provence inspired red sauce over leftover pasta with additions of chicken and spinach and probably fresh parmesan

Tuesday - baked fresh figs with balsamic reduction, honey, olive oil, rosemary, salt and topped with blue cheese (I'm practicing..) along with an herb omelette (parsley, tarragon and scallion again)

Wednesday - chicken and avocado wraps with shredded carrots, cilantro, celery, and scallion. Chips too.

Thursday - panzanella (I could eat panzanella all summer long - and I just might.) This one will have (vinegar soaked) vidalia onions, greenhouse tomatoes, peas, mint and feta

Friday - outdoor picnic that will include a fig, blue cheese, honey, and balsamic tart (god willing!) along with fresh bread, cheese, fresh fruit and (lots of) wine.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

NYC 2015

Big Girl and I just returned from a phenomenal visit to nyc! We originally went to surprise my coworker, who is retiring from a long teaching career to pursue an advisory position at the same school, but we ended up packing in the fun with lots of visits with friends and spending time in a city I love.

We were lucky to have short, smooth flights both ways. So upon arrival Saturday morning, we immediately headed to Central Park to enjoy a picnic lunch in the beauty of the best park on earth. Big Girl took to it well, and broke into a run as soon as we entered the park. She clearly knows what to do here!

We lunched on a bench overlooking the pond - with tons of runners going by on the loop and lots of visitors/park goers walking around. Big Girl made up games that included running back and forth when there was a clear path and/or collecting sticks for a pretend fire.

lunching by the pond


running in CP

After lunch we met up with a friend and her daughter so the two four year olds could enjoy the playground together and we could chat. They loved the tire swing!

who doesn't love a tire swing?!

And then we were off to a friend's house to order in dinner and let the kids enjoy a playdate.

on CPW

It was a great time for all! Reconnecting with friends, sharing a meal, drinking delicious wine and knowing our kids were happily playing with each other. Big Girl took this pic of the group.

 group patio pic

kids rocking out

Sunday morning, after iced coffee and a quick breakfast, we headed back to my friend's house so we could run and kids could play again. The walking part got a bit much for Big Girl, and she was constantly switching up her strategy (in the stroller, pushing the stroller, walking next to me, holding hands, checking out a storefront, back in the stroller, etc). I took this pic of her in front of the Super Runners Shop, which I know she was in as an infant at least once, if not more.

walking the city streets

Our run was nothing short of fantastic! Arguably my best run in years. The weather was perfect - sunny but crisp and cool. The conversation was awesome - LOVED chatting with you, JH!! I felt we could go on and on. My legs hardly noticed the hills and that light feeling of just bouncing over the pavement was priceless. It was really a chart-topper in terms of distance for me lately, as well as the fact that all the stars aligned for the most perfect run.

with JH by a unique looking tree by the rez

on the loop
finishing strong
Post run we grabbed water and snacks and headed to the playground - the kids were eager to get outside and enjoy the gorgeous weather too.

outside fun

I was also able to meet up with a couple ex Flyers who are still friends but no longer teammates. It was nice to catch up in person. I don't have pics but it's probably best seeing as how I was still in my running clothes. 

Dinner that evening was spent at a trendy sushi place downtown. I wanted Big Girl to get the feel for riding the subway (it was too loud for her liking) but I also wanted her to visit another part of the city. We dined with a bestie from my teaching days - excellent sake and sashimi, and a whole bunch of other unique offerings as well as superb conversation! Big Girl did her best to demonstrate restaurant-appropriate behavior.

bond st

my little dining partner

As I said, our main reason for coming to nyc was to surprise my ex coworker at school. Of course I had to write and sing a fun song as well as share a trivia game that I created. Overall it was a big success! He loved it! And Big Girl was fascinated by the big kid school.

surprising H
Big Girl also got to try out the experience of being a first grader! She joined a first grade classroom for story time and practiced her letters too. She will be attending a "big kid" school in the fall, so this was good practice.
in first grade :)

We finished up our visit with a lovely dinner and enjoyed a fantastic rooftop view of nyc!

central park in there too
looking northeast from the upper west side

We couldn't pass up the opportunity for some mother/daughter photos with that view in the background - silly or not, these are great!

sweet view with my sweetheart

silly girls 

We had a great visit and really felt like we were welcomed back by family! As much as I love chicago and all the friends and family we have here, it is nice to keep new york in our hearts. My big girl is a born (but not raised) new yorker, so she will always have a connection to the big apple. I'm so glad we were able to see so many friends and have so much fun together. Can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

National Running Day 2015

Today was year seven for National Running Day. I think we are getting the hang of this deal! Before setting out on this afternoon's gorgeous fiver, my friend S and I had already coordinated outfits and picked a start time with very little effort. It was a GORGEOUS most perfect day with shiny sun and cool breeze. The turquoise lake dazzled as did we in our matching all over dye swirlgear tanks and bright pink hats. Our passengers were adorable and sweet, though Baby J was more vocal than usual (I suspect bc she needed a diaper change??..TMI?). 

So we ran about five and stopped for some pics along the way. It was too beautiful to pass up.

with my little passenger

great skyline shot
I love this next one! The whole group strutting our stuff in front of the stunning lake and eye-catching skyline. I love our bright colors - and the engaged looks on our kids' faces. They really wanted to be a part of this photo! Among the comments we heard along this run were "are you twins?" multiple times and "megamoms" with a cheer as we whizzed by. Love it.

running group

When we finished, the little ones came out to exercise their legs on a walk to the coffee shop. After all, refreshing iced coffees were in order! (#MatchingPinkTutus)

little cuties

And that's a wrap for Natn'l Running Day oh fifteen!