Tuesday, December 01, 2015


Thanksgiving 2015 did not go at all as planned. We were going to spend a quiet holiday week with my family in suburban Chicago, relaxing, enjoying each other's company, cooking, and giving thanks. Then something unthinkable happened; on Wednesday, November 18, we heard that my brother-in-law had died unexpectedly. He was 47. He has three young kids. It was unfathomable. The next couple days were a blur of making hasty travel arrangements, packing, and sharing the sad news. Our decision was to fly to Texas to be together with family and stay for Thanksgiving.

Our time spent there is difficult to sum up. We were unsure of how to comfort our grieving sister-in-law and her kids and my Mother-in-Law and her grown kids; finding the right words was pretty much impossible. Instead, we just tried to help out in any way we could. The family's close friends overdid themselves by bringing over nightly meals (to feed the 20 of us) and staying for comfort and conversation until the wee hours. It was kindness and generosity in action; people brought food, toilet paper, paper towels, disposable plates and utensils, giant gift baskets, fruit baskets, edible arrangements and more. While funeral flowers were ordered and an obituary and eulogy were drafted, we tried to focus on the beauty and light of my brother-in-law's life. We pored through thousands of photos to create several slideshows highlighting the joy, love and laughter he brought to family and friends during his short time on earth.  The cousins played games with each other and at times, it almost seemed like we were just on a regular family trip. I played frisbee in the rain with my ten year old nephew, and we talked about sports and proper batting stances, anything to take his mind off his dad. 

On Thanksgiving, we found things to be thankful for. The cousins made apple turkeys and enjoyed creating and being silly and eating their crafts.

first apple turkey

baby J is crawling away,but the rest are showing off their work!

My sister-in-law's father graciously included us in their Thanksgiving meal that night; they did everything they could to make us feel comfortable and welcome in their home. 

Life is short, and attending a wake and funeral of someone who was much too young to leave us made that abundantly clear. Things can change in a minute; and you're left with the "before" and "after." My prayers for my brother-in-law's family will never stop. It's possible they will find a "new normal," but now they are grieving and trying to come to terms with what happened. They will never "get over" what happened, but they may find some peace and comfort in the way he touched their lives and the memories he left. 

It's hard to transition back to normal, but life goes on. We are back in Chicago and have been thrown right into the bustling holiday season. Our attitude is to make the most of it; as my husband said "I'm going to Christmas the shit out of this year." You never know when it might be the last. When we returned home, we made a delicious meal of mussels and bread. Wine too. It was a quiet night, but we took comfort in the quiet and low key conversation. 

mussels / wine

Sunday night we cooked again, making veal chops with brussels sprouts and pearl onions. This one was a huge winner, and the spicy cab sauv was the perfect warming complement.

veal chop dinner

I should mention that our day time weekend activities included visiting the big Christmas tree in Millennium Park, seeing the Christkindle Market downtown, some early holiday shopping, and ice skating. Sunday gave us perfect winter weather, so it was great to take advantage and even play a bit outside. I am eternally grateful for my husband and these two shining stars..

lots to be thankful for

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Expectant Sticks Visit (and two weeks of menu planning - November 9 & November 15)

What an incredible fortune to be able to host a Three Stick Weekend here in Chicago the past few days!! The two Sticks who joined me are beautiful, glowing expectant mamas! I am thrilled for them and so blessed to have spent so much time together chatting about EVERYTHING, but mostly pregnancy, babies and being a mom. It might appear that my two littles have amped up my motherhood resume, but really I know nothing. Still, I have a tiny bit of experience, so it was fun playing "expert" and fielding questions and being a part of such great conversation. 

Mama-to-be L and Mama-to-be C arrived Friday evening and we stayed up way too late chatting because we just couldn't stop. There was so much to share and catch up on and discuss. When we finally retired it was well after midnight, but we were already looking forward to the morning's run. The three of us (two with babies on board) got to head out on a beautiful Saturday morning along the glistening and peaceful lake. I snapped some pics of their adorable and fit baby bumps as we ran. 

preggo sticks!

group shot of the runners

We also had some fun taking pics of each other with the elegant Chicago skyline in the backdrop.

C and L

Of course, I had to channel my eldest daughter by acting like a silly goofball in this pic - I think I attempted some kind of mid run leap and it was captured below.

getting silly with L

running with C

Running with these ladies was just awesome! They rocked it on the run and it was truly an honor to be able to run with them during this special time. It also made me reminisce my own preggo running days - there's so much you forget! But chatting about all of it really helped bring back memories.

We spent Saturday night out on the town. After a fun dinner and endless conversation, we continued the party at a rooftop bar. Don't let the hats fool you, it was actually a mild and gorgeous night in Chicago! We just needed a cute and fashionable way to hold our hair in place when the strong winds blew.

rooftop view

Sunday morning was another run - this time with my girls in the duallie. They came along for the fun and joined us for some post run pictures. If Saturday's weather was pleasant, Sunday's had it beat. With sunny skies and temps near 70, it was surreal for mid November.

Sticks, Sticklings, and Sticks-to-be

Though L had to head out on Sunday, C stayed for dinner. She suggested Shakshuka, which I have always wanted to make.


We served it with a dusting of fresh cilantro and sides of fresh bread and a green salad. Simple and delicious.

dinner for three (or is it four?)

C and I were able to take advantage of the mild temps and snuck in a third Stick run together Monday morning. It was a unique morning, in that Big Girl slept in til 8:30 and was almost two hours late to school (there is no "late" in preschool, I was told - she can come whenever!). Then Baby J fell asleep the last 10 minutes of our run and she only tacked on an additional 10-15 minutes of that nap in her crib before proclaiming nap to be over. She has never skipped her nap - and I'm not even sure that constituted a "skip" since she did snooze. But she carried on like a trooper, maintaining throughout the day until it was close enough to bed time. I think she was relieved that it was finally bed time.  

Anyway, it was a wonderful Stick visit - I still can't believe how it all worked out, given both mamas travelled to Chicago from the coasts. They are ROCKSTARS! I am so happy to have had the chance to share in their pregnancy and journey to motherhood. They will both make fantastic mamas - those little ones are lucky! And how fun for them to share this special time together. The Sticks are growing :) 

On a different topic - menu planning. 

I wanted to post last week's dinners, but I was too overwhelmed with the week and time got away. Here's what went down. 

Sunday - Baby J's second birthday party (spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and garlic bread...cake and champagne too!)

Monday - leftover chili

Tuesday - leftover meatball sliders (a meatball on a mini bun with mozzarella cheese, red sauce and a splash of grated parmesan) and leftover sauerkraut (this was from Saturday night's dinner that required a pilgrimage to a Polish Market in Logan Square)

Wednesday - tofu and broccoli stir fry over soba noodles

Thursday - spinach, chickpea and mushroom dish with coconut milk served with rice (I loosely followed the link but added my own spices like cumin, coriander, cinnamon and chilies, as well as garlic and ginger- it turned out great!)

Friday - homemade sausage and onion pizza 

This week looks like this: 

Monday - slow cooker Moroccan Chicken (I used a whole organic bird, doubled or tripled the spices and kind of poached it in chicken stock - turned out more like a chicken soup, but certainly was good!) cous cous too

Tuesday - big salad (greens, spinach, 6 minute eggs, blue cheese, croutons, scallions, maybe cucumber and cherry tomatoes)

Wednesday - pumpkin lasagna  - I'll create and refine this as usual

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - not sure. But maybe something fun? 

Lastly, the Big Kid's lunch situation - it continues to go well. She mostly eats what I pack for lunch on school days, but occasionally tells me she spit it out (pumpkin pancake), she doesn't like it (any kind of sandwich), or has no comment but clearly didn't touch it (the baby carrots). The biggest surprise was that she ate salad this month - spinach with a splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Never. Give. Up. On. Kids. And. Their. Nutrition. Development. #ItsAProcess

Some of the offerings this past month included: jelly sandwich on sourdough (she loves this / the jelly really sweetens the deal), yogurt, cheese cubes, ham roll ups, apple slices, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, banana slices, cucumber slices, pitted dates, spinach, tortilla chips, edamame, popcorn, avocado in a tortilla (always a winner), triscuit crackers, nut free trail mix, seaweed snacks, pumpkin muffins, and cheese sandwich. 

lunch collage

When I look at it on paper, it seems she's doing pretty well! At least there is some fruit and vegetable consumption, but mostly she is learning more about food and expanding her palate. Tonight she was eating a boiled egg and wanted to try the yolk (she typically only eats the white part). She said it was good and had a few more bites. Her sister then wanted to sample it (...but her sister is not yet there yet re: yolks). Give it time. They need time. 

That's a wrap! Can't wait to see my Sticks again - they are the best! Thanks again for coming xx

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Hot Chocolate 5K Chicago Race Report

This is going to be a fun one to write :)

Part One: The Expo. It's been a while since I've been to a big race expo. I used to associate these things with marathons and all those feelings that go along with having a marathon hanging over your head. Expos were rare back in the day and mostly reserved for the special kind of someone who got excited to run 26.2 miles in one morning. Now that running is more prevalent, big expos are way more common, even with smaller races. Besides getting my bib and goody bag, I picked up some arm warmers and a new pair of running sunglasses (I've had the same pair (Native brand) since the days when I regularly shopped at Paragon Sports and though they've been great, the nose pieces are beginning to separate from the frames). I rarely purchase merchandise from Expos, but I thought these were good purchases (and thought out ahead of time, so no impulse buying here ;))

The Expo was a success : the girls got to jump in a bouncy house, sample some chocolate, take silly pictures - and do some dancing too!
some promo thing

the stick!

i made them take a "stick picture" 

rocking out

Part Two: The early part of my weekend was spent obsessing over Sunday morning's race. The weather was right up there on my list of obsessions. The forecast looked promising, but my wardrobe was still a work in progress. I was hoping to pair a "tried and true" tank top with my new flashy arm warmers. But capris? or shorts & comp sox? Obviously this decision could make or break my race, no?

perfect race day forecast

The other issue that plagued me was my race day warm up. The corrals were slated to close 15-20 minutes before the start, so I planned to get in a mile or so jog before that, but what about strides? If I stood around for 20 minutes in 40 degree weather, I'd get all cold and stiff; you want to be loose and warm at the gun. I've been doing small neighborhood races with lax corral patrol (read: no corral patrol) so there was always plenty of time to squeeze in some last minute strides near the start. But even if there was time for strides, there wouldn't be any space for sprinting 30 second stretches anywhere near the start. And I certainly didn't want to miss my op to be in corral A, which was right behind the line (I had qualified for "A" with my Ravenswood time of 22:43). I posed thousands of wardrobe and warmup related questions to the sticks - as well as race strategy and suggestions for advice on how to run the best race. I even threw out some questions to ex Flyer LK, who recently crushed the nyc marathon with a time of 3:16. If anyone could advise me re killer race strategies, she could. 

The day before the race I headed out on a 1.5 mile jog, just to loosen up and try out my new arm warmers and sunnies. Everything was A+. I was ready. 

Part Three: Race morning started EARLY. With a 7am start time, I had to be up and at 'em in the fives. There was some coffee (soy latte), a banana, some glute activation, some pacing around, and lots of coughing (I was battling a minor cold and needed at least 15-20 minutes of coughing activity to clear my lungs). I decided to go with the tank, arm warmers and capris. Funny thing about arm warmers... back in the day, I remember hearing that you shouldn't wear arm warmers unless you could win your age group. So no one wore them - I guess they represented a special kind of fast reserved for only the worthy folk. Maybe this applied to compression socks too, but nowadays, all bets are off and you can wear whatever ridiculous accessories you think will help you rock your race. And truth be told, I wanted to wear a tank because I needed to feel free. Nothing binding the shoulders (I've realized just how much arm and shoulder action you need to maintain fast paces while 5King). But it was too cold for just a tank, so arm warmers were the perfect complement. Not to mention the bad ass component they clearly possessed. 

this was taken post race, but here's the outfit

So the race. After my warm up jog and a couple faux strides on route to line up, I hopped around in the corral waiting for the start. I was cooling off but mostly eager to get started. There were lots of comments from the announcers about the seriousness of the runners in Corral A. Like we were in it to win it. Kind of true, but everyone seemed pretty chill and laid back - we were also there to have fun! There was, after all, chocolate at the finish line. Luckily the horn blew on time. And we were off. The course started on Columbus Avenue in downtown Chicago and immediately went under Randolph to Lower Columbus and Lower Wacker. This was bad news for my garmin which immediately went MIA. No distance, no pace, no splits. Just run by feel, I told myself. And run fast. My goal was to run with my heart. Dig down deep and find the extra something to DEMAND fast turnover and necessary endurance. I was tired of mediocre. I wanted excellence. 

Chicago streets are fast! Even under ground, we cruised along the course. The first mile came quickly, and I was able to guess my split around 7:09? It was nice to enter the sunshine on Clark Street, which I knew would be a straight line til Van Buren Street. I usually fatigue between miles one and two. Typically I go out too fast and subconsciously instruct myself to "slow" so I have "energy" to take on mile three. But not Sunday. I consciously instructed myself to keep the legs turning. Don't slow. Why slow? LK had told me that she just acknowledges the fact that it will hurt for 22 minutes. Embrace the hurt. Let it propel you forward. I did just that. Expect I can't say I was hurting terribly. I expected the hurt at any moment, but soon we turned onto Van Buren and we were heading for Michigan Avenue. I know these streets well, and as Grant Park came into view, I got really excited. Mile two had me somewhere around 14:15? I can't remember, but I knew I was keeping pace. Michigan Avenue was the toughest. It seemed rather endless at times. Distracting myself with cheering and encouraging fans on the sidewalk, I kept my eyes focused in the distance. Don't let up now. Maintain. Don't save ANYTHING. When we rounded the corner to Roosevelt, the little hill appeared; the one that pisses off everyone racing in downtown Chicago. I accepted the challenge and didn't let it get to me. Up, up, up, and over. When I glanced my garmin at this point, I saw a time around 20 minutes. The finish line was almost in sight, I just had to get down Columbus.

another "gorgeous" race face action shot

This last part is hard to explain, but I realized a sub 22 wasn't out of the realm of possibility. I just had to give it everything I had. I started my final sprint way too early, but I just went with it. Yes, it hurt. A tear or two emerged from my eyes and jumped off into the cold air. It was hard to clearly see the finish line banner because of the relentless sprinting. I charged. My garmin time was fuzzy at every glance, but as I approached the finish, 21:59 became 22:00 and that part wasn't going to happen, but hell, it was going to be a HUGE PR.  I burst across that line and promptly alternated between a wheeze and a smile and a cough and a grin. 22:06. A 30 second Personal Record.

that's what I'm talking about!

It was hard to believe it was already over. I ran so well. I PRed. I was rather ecstatic. And if 22:06 was possible, then sub 22 is definitely a realistic goal. Yes I've recently been doubtful - that is a big part of my problem. I have always run "comfortably" and set "realistic" goals. I shied away from competing with myself because I don't want to fail. But failure is part of the process. And so is believing in yourself. And working hard to achieve your goals. I've put in the training and set the base for physical fitness. But I needed the extra something. LK, my sticks, Lauren Fleshman - they all demonstrate greatness because they go the extra mile. They work hard and don't let a little discomfort or fear of failure trip them up. They believe in themselves and accomplish because of it. I tried to channel that greatness in yesterday's race. I was going to embrace the hurt come hell or high water. 

Post race, I headed to the baggage check to get my warm clothes. Another runner was also picking up hers and mentioned that she'd seen me on the course and said I looked strong. She said she tried, but there was no way was she going to catch me (was it the arm warmers??) That was a huge compliment. The Sticks also commented that I looked like one of those fasties they'd scope out at the start and strategize on how to beat. Perhaps it's not so much my wardrobe but my attitude? In any case, this was all so wonderful and empowering to hear. 

At the finish line party they had a link to the live results. I went there. And discovered that I was SECOND in my age group. Earlier I had stated that if I ran a solid race, I could eek my way into the top F35-39 three. So it was not impossible, but certainly not probable. But I did it and embraced the bragging rights almost as much as the hurt ;))

Final stats:

Final time: 22:06
Avg Pace: 7:07
Overall : 195 / 23,079
Female: 28 / 17,314
F35-39: 2 / 2,203

I have no splits info because of the MIA satellites. I'm guessing I ran nearish 7:07 pace and stayed consistent. But the world will never know for sure. 

Shortly after, the kids joined the finish party and took advantage of the kid zone for some bouncy house fun.

we love inflatables!
And Big Girl took this pic with me sporting these warm and cozy threads; swag for all Hot Chocolate Racing participants.
with my supportive husband ;)

The rest of our day was spent celebrating Baby J's 2nd birthday at her official birthday party. It meant a lot of cooking and hostessing for me, but it also meant popping some bubbly and celebrating all the things with the people I love most.

these two are better than PRs and AG awards

In conclusion, here's what I stated last week about this race: I'd say I nothing short of nailed it. 

* As for goals, I'd love a PR. I'd love to place in my age group (it's a big race, so this might be a stretch). But most of all, I'd love to run a solid race. It's a fast course on familiar Chicago streets, so depending on the wind factor, this may be to my advantage. At this point, I don't think that race day temperature will matter; it will all come down to the strength and direction of the wind. Let's hope for a calm and still morning. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Halloween, Baby J's Golden Birthday, Tapering Again, and Menu Planning

* Halloween oh fifteen was fun! The kids make it fun. Officer Big Girl wanted to be a police officer, b/c she "wants to help people." She picked it after seeing thousands of costume photo options on amazon. Baby J was a cat - and she loved saying "meow" as part of her adorable (homemade) costume!

Officer and Kitty Cat

* Baby J turned TWO!! on Monday. Her golden birthday. She got as much attention as a little sister can while in the presence of her big sis. We helped her celebrate with a night out for oysters and drinks along with some shopping on Michigan Avenue. The girls enjoyed the night out on the town!

on the half shell

chicago girls

* We also had some fun with friends yesterday afternoon because the November weather in Chicago is uncanny. 70s and sunshine. Whaaaaaaatt? is this Cali or Florida? We'll take it. Baby J was serenaded with song and presents and mini cupcakes. We really have some awesome friends!

happy birthday to you!
* Going back to Halloween and the candy that often accompanies the celebration... We've always been fans of peanut butter cups, and we've typically settled for Reeses peanut butter cups on Halloween. It was like our signature candy. But recently I can't help but notice how gross they taste (for lack of better description). Fake, salty and not worth it. This realization was nothing shy of devastating. What am I going to do for candy?! I came up with this great idea to combine three ingredient peanut butter fudge with dark chocolate to make my own peanut butter cups. I just melted the dark chocolate with some almond milk and layered it with the pb mixture in muffin cups to make the delectable dessert. F*cking fantastic. They are out of this world. But I have to save a few for an upcoming stick visit (C and L are both coming next weekend!!! OMG can't wait!!)

(the best) peanut butter cups

* I'm tapering again for my next 5K race, which is this Sunday. Last week I did a confidence-boosting workout of 6 x 800s at my fastest paces to date. 3 x 800 at 7:03 pace, 2 x 800 @ 6:58 pace, and 1 x 800 @ 6:53 pace. It was on the treadmill but I also felt good and like I needed to see faster results. Right now I feel all the usual yuck that I've noticed when I cut back during race week: lethargy, irritation, sore muscles for no reason, concerns about screwing it up on race day, etc. On top of that, I also feel what could be a cold coming on. Let's hope extra rest and refraining from fun drinks will help keep illness at bay!

* As for goals, I'd love a PR. I'd love to place in my age group (it's a big race, so this might be a stretch). But most of all, I'd love to run a solid race. It's a fast course on familiar Chicago streets, so depending on the wind factor, this may be to my advantage. At this point, I don't think that race day temperature will matter; it will all come down to the strength and direction of the wind. Let's hope for a calm and still morning. 

* On the menu this week: 

Monday - wedge salads and store bought soups - and birthday cupcakes in honor of Baby J

Tuesday - used up the wild rice/cranberry/toasted pecan/spinach/goat cheese mix to stuff roasted peppers. Side salad of spinach and tomatoes rounded things out

Wednesday - since it's pseudo summer (which Olaf would very much appreciate "summer in winter" lol), I'm doing eggplant dip (roasted eggplant, toasted walnuts, yogurt, dill and garlic in the food processor) with toasted pita, cucumber, and tabouli salad. 

Thursday - pulled out some leftover soup au pistou from the freezer. We can add noodles and toast the end of summer? 

Friday - chili in the slow cooker 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Menu Planning - October 25

Transitions between seasons are often hard to work with. The weather can be all over the place, which makes it hard to plan appropriate meals. But I think we are moving right into fall / so this week has been a lot of warming comfort foods. 

We hosted the K of Team Stick family the past few days. It was a pleasure to cook some invented vegan meals for them. I chose three things I thought would fit the bill - so Monday night we enjoyed:

a vegan Indian inspired cabbage dish - done in the slow cooker. It basically contained a head of cabbage, a potato, onion, and spices. We paired that with a spinach/chickpea/roasted sweet potato dish that included cinnamon, cumin, and curry powder and was topped with fresh cilantro. A winner if ever there was one. 

I also made these cheesy vegan quinoa bites that are simply fantastic, but a bit involved if you're making everything at once. They made for a nice lunch if topped with eggs or greens or both, or a fun snack. 

Last night was a made up fall inspired concoction of stuffed acorn squash - wild rice, toasted pecans, dried cranberries, spinach and goat cheese. Pretty hearty and tasty. 

stuffed acorn squash
Tonight I plan to roast some veggies (brussels sprouts and carrots) and top with eggs. Along with the quinoa bites on the side. 

Friday will be leftovers - we have plenty of good stuff to use up!

Saturday - Halloween. So our traditional chips and guac along with cheese quesadillas. And beer. For sure. 

As for the Stick visit, we spent a lot of time just chatting and catching up. There was a lovely run of 5.5 miles (the last bit in the rain!) and a cozy tea shop following that to warm up. It was great to see K and hear about all her adventures the past two years. Wishing her all the luck and happiness in the world as she embarks on this next chapter of life xx

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Trick or Treat Trot 6K and Kids Dash - 2015

We had another wonderful family race day experience this past weekend! Couldn't beat the perfect mild weather, gorgeous lakeshore scenery, and show-stealing fall foliage. And it was Baby J's very first kid's race! Here are the fun details. 

We've participated in this event for the past three years - it has an adult 6K race and a series of kid's dashes. Baby J signed up for the 100 yard dash. Big Girl was slated for the 100 yard dash and the 400 meter dash (with the big kids). And I was going to take down my 6K PR, set last year at the very beginning of my comeback from baby number two. 

My wonderful family came out to spectate, and my brother threw his hat into the ring as a 6K runner! That was pretty awesome, and he seriously rocked his race!!

To be honest, the kids dashes were nothing short of disorganized and chaotic this year. I don't remember them being so crazy in the past. I think the confused parents and kids milling around and the unclear directions coming from the microphone frightened Baby J, because she was all tears at the "start line" (wherever the hell that was supposed to be).

pre race chaos

"I scared"

No one really had any idea where to line up the kids, nor was it clear which age group was supposed to be running. I just stayed with my little one and hoped for the best. When it seemed like go time, I held her hand and we ran (tears streaming down her little face, but she kept her legs churning forward).

first race :(

this about sums in up

Meanwhile, Big Girl was nowhere to be found. We discovered later that she joined the little ones and ran the 100 yard dash too! We managed to get that on video. And if Baby J was full of tears and apprehension, Big Girl was wild, crazy and ecstatic to be on the course. I'm not sure I've seen a smile bigger than hers before. In any case, both sisters finished the race and each got a finisher ribbon and Halloween bag. Congrats, Baby J!

Next it was time for the 4 year old to dash. Big Girl took her place with the other kids in a slightly more organized racing ensemble. At least the course was cleared for this race.

ready to race

listening to directions
And she was off! Clearly having the time of her life.

on the course

about to finish

At the end of that race, Big Girl lined up with the 5-6 year olds to complete the 400 meter dash. She did this last year, so I knew she was capable of finishing this year. She ran a terrific race - going at her own pace, using a combination of run/walk strategy, and driving hard to the finish line. 

400 yard dashing

near the turnaround

high-fiving friends before the finish

celebrating her victory with her friend 

I was seriously so proud of her- she really knows the racing scene and had a blast out there on the courses! And she managed a hat trick - 3 races in one morning (even I haven't done that before!) Congrats, Big Girl! 

There was time enough for a short warm up before the 6K - I did about 3 x 30 second strides with some jogging. (But I'm also going to count escorting the kids on their races as part of my warm up too). 

My off the record goal was to run somewhere between 7:30-7:40 pace. As usual, I started out too fast. Mile one came in at 7:17. Then I developed a serious side stitch that stayed with me for the duration of the race. Ironing out this cramp demanded more energy and attention than I cared to spare. I tried the whole "breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth" strategy that I learned in college 1800 years ago. It helped a little; if anything it gave me something to focus on. But my time slowed. Mile two was 7:47. The stitch calmed down a little, in that I wasn't still considering laying down and dying. But it was definitely still there. I held on, clocking a 7:57 for mile 3. I tried to give it more effort for the last bit, pretending it was a track workout and this was the last repeat. I managed 5:32 for the nearly three quarter mile finale. My friend S snapped this action shot of me squeezing a wave with about a half mile to go.

feigning delight
And this pic was taken by my husband - the final sprint to the finish. Not too pretty, but right on par with how I was feeling inside.

game face if ever there was one
And here's a fun shot of me and my best running buddy S - super fun action shot on a gorgeous course.

My final time was 28:33, well under PR territory. Average pace was 7:40, so I managed my goal by a hair. Later I learned that this time was good enough for a 1st place finish in my age group, and it put me as 8th place woman overall. I'm always fascinated by these results because it really depends on who shows up on race day. This same time last year would've put me 8th in my age group. But I'll take it - as always, age group awards are icing on the cake. 

Post race we took some finisher pics - here's the group of fun loving mamas and daughters ;)

group pic

And Big Girl and I got to refuel with pancakes and brunch with my family. They are the BEST spectators. Ever. 

Later that night we decided some homemade udon noodle soup was the way to go. Paired with sake, this turned out to be the perfect celebratory dinner.

udon noodle soup 

A few more notes: 

* I took a barre class at Pure Barre the Thursday before this race (following a 5 mile run). It was my first experience at a barre class - so I was a bit awkward and confused. But the workout was killer and left me noticeably sore the next couple days. I wish like hell I could incorporate more of this type of strength and conditioning to my regimen. But I'm a stubborn runner who solely likes to run. 

* The positive splits are a bit disappointing. Every time I race I tell myself not to go out too fast; to keep energy in the tank for the final mile. Most of the time I blatantly disregard this suggestion, and end up with splits that slope upward. This must be worked on. I think it comes with experience (?).

* I am really learning a ton about training and the mental part of the game. My previous strategies were just to run, push it if I felt like it, and have a good time. Though I still want to have fun, I also want a glimpse at my potential, which I have always believed to be more than the results I was seeing. And putting in the hard work is just the beginning. 

* Final stats:
Mile one: 7:17
Mile two: 7:47
Mile three: 7:57
Last 0.72: 5:32
Final time: 28:33
1st in age group (F35-39) / 8th woman overall

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fall & Menu Planning Catch Up

Fall is in full swing. Don't blink, or you'll miss it. But I will recommend you close your eyes during the Cubs game.. because they are playing like crap they don't want to win (sadly, a feeling all too familiar for Chicago fans). I'll give 'em another game or two before I shake my head, curse them for playing like they deserve to lose, and get over it because that's what we do in Chicago when it comes to sports.

Come on, Cubs. Find your will to win!
Besides watching disappointing baseball games, we've been out in nature doing all things fall. Fall fest, pumpkin patches, running in the foliage. I hope for more of this soon, because fall is even more fleeting than summer. 

we pumpkin patched!

The track last week was rather pleasant (weather wise... Workout wise it was exhausting!). I did the following up and down ladder (splits are shown as well). 

workout splits

I was decently pleased with these results. Obviously, I had something left in the tank to finish strong and burn that last 200. But during the repeats, I felt like burnt toast. At times I thought I might puke. And entertained the notion that I might be getting sick. But as soon as I finished the repeat, I regained composure. Even when it felt like the interval would be a disaster, it turned out ok. I guess the track isn't a place to go if you want to feel good. In any case, it was a good workout. Over the weekend, temps dropped to the 40s but I managed a very decent 6.5 miler with negative splits (last mile was 9:19 pace). I hope to continue to increase my weekend long runs. 

As for menu plans, I forgot to include last week's - so here it is:

Monday - kale, white bean and roasted squash soup (basically did an onion/carrot/celery mix with garlic, a bay leaf, and oregano, added homemade chicken stock and water, added roasted squash that was cut into chunks and a can of white beans and let that simmer for a long while. (I think I tossed in some cinnamon and nut meg?) The last 20 min or so, I added kale until it wilted. This was a fab fall soup!

Tuesday - taco salad in bowls (ground beef, taco seasoning, scallions, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and jalepenos with lots of lettuce)

Wednesday - whole wheat pasta with broccoli, red pepper, parmesan and a jarred butternut squash sauce 

Thursday - frozen pizza

Friday - out for vegetarian indian food

This week - 

Monday - There was a lot of restaurant food over the weekend, so we are kicking off this week with a salad (greens, scallion, cherry tomato, cucumber, blue cheese) and fresh bread

Tuesday - we will celebrate my husband's birthday with BLT's (his pick) and birthday cupcakes (and beer, and hopefully a Cubs win !!!

Thursday - I have an evening event so dinner will be hummus, goat feta, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and pita

Friday - cannot think that far ahead right now - hopefully something celebratory..