Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k Recap

Warning: A very long post follows this message ... 

During the days leading up to this year's Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k, I had a lot of mixed feelings. I was pretty unexcited about the weather forecast - upper 80s and stormy - and also wasn't feeling the race given my fitness has been a bit touch and go lately. Some days are fantastic and others the absolute worst. But I also knew that a race like RNR CHI could be just the thing to snap me out of this training funk. 

Turns out I was right! Everything aligned for this race. The weather was as good as it gets for a July race in Chicago and the course was lovely. I had the most fun racing and it was a total confidence booster as I continue to increase mileage for a fall half marathon. I can honestly say this was, in my opinion, the best RNR CHI yet.   

Before the Race
At most races I skip the expo. But at Rock 'n' Roll races they are a must-attend event. I ended up buying a bunch of stuff at this year's expo. My haul included four tanks, a baseball-style 3/4 sleeve t-shirt, three shoe charms, two Sparkly Soul headbands, a Rock 'n' Roll Chicago magnet, a pair of sunglasses (prize) and, of course, the race t-shirt. 

After the expo, Mom and I headed over to Pizano's Pizza and Pasta for some pre-race carbs. On the way back to the hotel, Mom pointed out a little coffee shop/bakery that had a bunch of cakes and pastries in the window. Of course I was not about to walk past a bunch of desserts so we went inside. This was a total mistake. Mom and I each got a slice of Rainbow Cake. I told myself it would give me an extra boost of energy during the race. Instead I'm pretty sure it led to feeling a bit heavy/sluggish at the start. Oh well - live and learn!

The Race
So ... the race. After several days of worrying about the weather it turned out to be the best weather I've ever experienced at a RNR CHI race. It was about 69 degrees and overcast with a bit of a headwind.  Although the weather was much better than expected, I decided to stick with my race plan from Coach Matt

My corral was packed so I was excited when we were finally able to get moving. I ended up getting stuck behind people a few times during the first mile so didn't really get into a good rhythm until the 10k runners separated from the half marathoners. Once the 10k turned onto the Lakeshore Path it was all good and I was able to settle in. Nothing too crazy - more like a nice and steady pace that felt more like half marathon effort. 

Since I usually think of RNR CHI as having a pancake-flat course, I was pleasantly surprised that this year's new course featured a few small hills. These were great for changing things up a bit plus I like having a few hills during a race for variety. They are also a really great opportunity for catching and passing other runners ;)

I felt really good during the miles and soaked up the race experience - I loved the on-course music and all the friendly volunteers at the water stations. There was also a band toward the end that totes made me giggle with a silly song about donuts at the finish line. If only there really were donuts at the finish! 

I picked up the pace a bit during the final two miles and kicked in the final 0.2 (really 0.33 for me since I didn't run the tangents!). I haven't had a big sprint finish at the end of a race in awhile so it felt great to be able to really get after it

My race results:

Time: 48:01
Pace: 7:44 min/mile
Gender Place: 16/1,710
AG Place: 2/241

Although my time was not too impressive - in fact it's a personal worst for me for the 10k distance! - I still feel good about the race. I felt good enough during the miles that I know I could have kept with the pace for a few more miles which puts me on track for a nice half marathon race this fall.      
VIP Experience
After walking through the finish area and picking up my gear check bag, I headed over to the VIP section to rest up while waiting for Mom. This was my first Rock 'n' Roll VIP race experience and it surpassed my expectations.

The first thing I did was wash my hands at one of the sinks. I don't know about you but I always feel kind of grimy after finishing a race. So it felt great to wash up a bit. Then I hit the hosted bar area for a Diet Coke with extra ice. There were tons of empty tables so I made myself comfortable and sipped my soda while people watching. I noticed a massage area not too far from where I was sitting but decided to skip it even though there wasn't a line. There was also a changing area which I will definitely take advantage of next time. 

After awhile I decided to get a cup of coffee and saw a bunch of people were getting food. So I decided to check it out and found an amazing spread. Eggs, breakfast potatoes, bacon, sausage, pasta salad, mini sandwiches, tons of fresh veggies & fruit, hummus, cookies and brownies were just some of the items on the tables. I loaded up a plate with bacon, veggies and fruit. It hit the spot! I definitely recommend adding on the VIP Experience if doing a RNR race.

I was sorry to have to leave the lovely VIP area but needed to get back to the finish line area to find Mom. So after eating I headed toward the finish line and then walked along the course a bit til I saw Mom running. I jumped in the race and ran with her a bit and then hopped back over to the spectator area to wait for her at the end of the finisher's chute. As you can see, she looked fantastic and finished strong!

Fun in Chicago

After the race, Mom and I enjoyed Chicago. We shopped along Michigan Avenue and indulged in several delicious eats and drinks. A few of my favorites:

Brunch at Mercadito

Dinner at Chicago Q

Deep Dish at Gino's East (with Bucky!)

Macarons from Alliance Patisserie

So that was my race weekend! I highly recommend adding Rock 'n' Roll Chicago to your 2017 race calendar. I'm already looking forward to next year's race :)

My questions for you:
  • Have you raced a Rock 'n' Roll race? If so, what was your experience?
  • A night-before-the-race treat - do or don't?
  • Where are your favorite places to eat in Chicago? 

- ST    

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

All The Updates!

Hey Everyone! Are you all feeling rested after a long holiday weekend? Having an extra day or two off always makes me think ... all weekends should be long weekends ;)

Anyhow, after a few days of partaking in all things a holiday weekend should include, I'm ready to get back to the usual routine. Coach Matt sent me a new training plan over the weekend and I'm ready to dig in! 

This week includes:

Monday: 6 glue miles w/strides 4 glue miles - I indulged too much on the 3rd
Tuesday: 8 mile workout, inc. 5 miles w/pickups + Y-Blitz
Wednesday: 5 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 5 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz + Core Work
Friday: 10 mile run
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: 5 glue miles + Core Work

Total: 37 miles

These past few weeks I've been tweaking my diet a bit after noticing I'm consistently low on several nutrients, particularly potassium, iron and sodium. I believe this deficiency is playing a role in the awful calf cramps I get every Wednesday evening after Y-Fuse. These cramps are the worst - my leg (it varies which one) seizes up at an odd angle and won't move or bend until I can manually work out the cramp. Mega painful, not to mention inconvenient since it usually happens in the middle of core class.

I've been trying to get in more potassium by adding sweet potato to my meals and eating other potassium-rich foods like bananas, leafy greens and yogurt. However, I'm still way short on potassium pretty much every day. Anyone have tips for getting more in my diet?

Breakfast: Protein Oatmeal* + Plain Kefir
Snack: 6oz Greek Yogurt + 2 cups raw veggies
Lunch: Light & Delicious Tuna Salad + Banana + Nuun All Day Tablet
Snack: Popcorn + BeFit PreWorkout Drink
Dinner: Chicken Chorizo Tostada** + Spinach Salad + Blueberries

*1/3 cup old fashioned oats + 2/3 cup unsweetened plain almond milk + 1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice + dash of cinnamon + sprinkle of sliced almonds and dried cherries

**1 whole wheat tortilla, baked + 1 cup arugula + 1 AmyLu Chicken Chorizo link, cooked and sliced + 1/3 cup diced and roasted sweet potato + 1-2 Tbsp fresh salsa + 1 Tbsp contija cheese

That's how I'm training and eating this week! To wrap up this post, I'll share a few recent favorites/obsessions. Here's what I'm loving lately:

Walks along the Milwaukee Lakefront - Lately the weather in MKE has been nothing but gorgeous. I've been taking full advantage of it with plenty of walks along the Lakefront. It's been wonderful - I hope things stay this way all summer!

All the treats - These past few days have been pretty treat heavy. It started with a batch of Chocolate PB Cup Cupcakes. I immediately put half in the freezer and packaged up a few to give to my parents. But I did end up eating three cupcakes over the course of four days. I also did quite a bit of indulging at Summerfest, Milwaukee's big annual outdoor music festival. It's tough to say which treat I enjoyed most - it's a three-way tie between bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, a chicken & waffle cone and a triple scoop of Cedar Crest ice cream!

Track & Field Olympic Trials - I've been super excited to watch America's best runners take to the track to see who will get to represent our country in Rio. My favorite moments so far have been Galen Rupp winning the 10,000 and Allyson Felix winning the 400.

But enough about me! How about you tell me:
  • What have you been up to lately? Any recent or upcoming races? 
  • Have you ever dealt with mid-workout cramping? What are your tips for preventing it?
  • Have you been following the Track and Field Olympic Trials? If so, who are your favorites to make the team and/or what are your favorite Trials moments so far?

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

- ST

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Simple Summer Salads

During the summer, salads are my go-to lunch. I love the freshness of the produce and how you can put ingredients together to create an unlimited number of combos. They're also ultra easy to throw together, especially when you prep all of your ingredients in advance. 

Here are a few of my recent favorites. Try the recipes as they are or change them up to suit your own likes/dislikes!

Chicken Taco Salad
Serves 1

2 cups mixed greens
3oz grilled chicken, diced
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup corn
2-3 Tbsp fresh pico de gallo
1 Tbsp contija chese, crumbled
1/4 avocado, sliced
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Power Salad
Serves 1

2 cups arugula/spinach blend
3oz grilled chicken, diced
1/2 medium sweet potato, diced and roasted
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 zucchini, sliced and grilled
5 spiced pecan halves
1-2 Tbsp Honey Lime Vinaigrette (1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, 1/2 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp olive oil, ground cumin to taste, salt to taste)

Light & Delicious Tuna Salad
Serves 1

2 cups arugula/spinach blend
10 snap peas, chopped
1/2 medium sweet potato, diced and roasted
1 serving Tuna Chickpea Salad (recipe below)
1-2 Tbsp Italian Vinaigrette (optional)

Tuna Chickpea Salad
Serves 4

1 can light or albacore tuna in water, drained
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dried dill
Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Serve chilled or at room temp. 

I'd love to know: What's your favorite summer salad?

- ST

Friday, June 17, 2016

Orange Juiciest Smoothie

Summertime heat requires something cold to drink. In other words, smoothie season is here! 

I usually like to keep things simple after a workout - chocolate milk is my go-to during the summer because it's quick and easy. But when the mood for something fruity strikes, a smoothie is the way to go. 

Bob's Red Mill recently sent me a box of goodies to try and in the box was a delightful bag of Vanilla Protein Powder, along with a booklet of smoothie recipes. So I decided to give one a try earlier in the week and voila - I was sipping a delicious smoothie in no time!

Orange Juiciest Smoothie
From Bob's Red Mill website

1/3 cup Bob's Red Mill Vanilla Protein Powder (or another vanilla protein powder)
1 cup orange juice
6oz vanilla yogurt 
1/2 cup ice, about 3-4 standard-size cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a tall glass. Relax while sipping your smoothie, knowing you're giving your body just what it needs post workout.

Tell me: What's your favorite smoothie recipe?

- ST

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bellin 10k Recap + On to the Next Race!

2016 was supposed to be The Year of the 10k. But so far I'm 0/2.

I ended up not racing last weekend's Bellin 10k. At the start of the year, I thought this race would be my time to shine and knock down my 10k PR. I run my best at large races with a competitive field so Bellin 10k seemed like an ideal opportunity to run fast.

Photo from Bellin Run's Facebook Page

But when race week rolled around, Coach Matt and I began discussing my options. With the forecast showing super hot temps, we knew I would at the very least need to run conservatively to avoid a midrace meltdown! There was also my plantar fasciitis to contend with. I felt pretty optimistic about racing on my foot earlier in the week but when pain/discomfort popped up again on Wednesday, I started to question if I should race. Coach Matt said if it was him in the situation he would not race.

But I waffled back and forth on the decision all the way up until packet pick up on Friday afternoon. Until that point, I was still planning to race, but as soon as I got to the outdoor expo I knew it wasn't going to happen. I was sweating and overheating after just walking three blocks from the car to the expo. I knew race day would be similar conditions so decided Coach Matt was right - there was no point in trying to race in miserable conditions, especially with the added stress of a foot injury.

I was super disappointed but deep down I knew it was the right decision. Over dinner, Mom and I talked things over. I knew I wasn't going to run and Mom decided she also didn't want to run because of the weather. But we were already in Green Bay so we would walk the race. I decided this way I'd still get in some exercise and also I could see the course since I now plan on racing this one next year.

I drowned my sorrows in a slice of gluten free salted caramel cheesecake ;)

On race morning, Mom and I lined up toward the back. It was cool at the start but things quickly heated up within the first mile. Throughout the race, I found myself seeking out every sprinkler and misting station I could find along the course. My feet were on fire by the end of the race - I think it was due to being in contact with the hot pavement for the nearly two hours and 20 minutes it took me to walk the course. Ouch. Fortunately no blisters. However, my injured foot scolded me for the rest of the day. 

Mom and I at the race start!

After experiencing the race, I'm excited to race Bellin 10k next year. With a proper build up and better weather conditions I know this will be a great race for me. The event seemed well organized with a competitive field, there were plenty of on-course water/aid stations, lots of downhills and fun extras like an opportunity to race with elites (Meb, Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Joan Samuelson, etc.), a pre-race pasta dinner, awesome on-course bands/music, etc.

This year's finisher's medal

So what's next? Well, most important is getting my foot back to full health. I'm also working toward my next race, Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k. I'm excited about this one because it's another 10k opportunity + there's a brand-new course this year. It's also my 5th year racing a Rock 'n' Roll Chicago event so kind of a milestone of sorts. Even though the weather will likely be hot (it's hot pretty much every year) the race starts early - 6:30am - and the atmosphere helps make up for it with thousands of runners, spectators, on-course bands and an awesome post-race party. I consider this a must-race event!

This year's bling!

 On that note, let's get into the part where you tell me more about you! Today's questions:

  • Do you have any must-race events? If so, what are they and what makes them awesome?
  • Have you ever backed out of a race at the last minute? If so, what made you decide not to race?
  • Now that it's hot outside - what do you love most about summer?

I love lazy days at the park or beach, summer festivals, icy drinks and cookouts galore! 

- ST

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Loaded Baked Chicken Tacos

Who here loves tacos??

Tacos are one of my favorite foods - they're basically foolproof and taste great no matter how you prepare them. You can keep it simple with ground beef, traditional taco seasoning and cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Or, you can get a bit more creative with different types of meats, seasonings, cheese and toppings. 

I usually opt for soft corn tortillas but decided to give Loaded Baked Chicken Tacos a try after seeing the recipe on Pinterest. They did not disappoint! The tacos are ultra easy to prepare and serve. And they're perfect for any gathering - set out the dish of tacos along with a variety of toppings. So simple. So delicious!

These tacos are ready to be dressed up with a few toppings!
Loaded Baked Chicken Tacos
Recipe from The Cookie Rookie

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 lb cooked chicken, shredded
1 packet taco seasoning (I used 4 Tbsp Penzey's Bold Taco Seasoning)
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, drained of all excess juice
1 4.5oz can diced green chilies
10 stand and stuff taco shells
1-1.5 cups refried beans (I used vegetarian)
2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese (I used 2 percent)

Topping Ideas:
Diced avocado
Sliced black olives
Chopped cilantro
Sour cream/Plain Greek yogurt
Sliced jalapenos

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until soft and translucent. Stir in the shredded chicken, taco seasoning, diced tomatoes and diced green chilies. Simmer for 5-8 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Remove from heat.

Place taco shells in a 9x13 casserole dish. Spread 1-1.5 Tbsp beans to the bottom of each shell. This keeps the shells from getting soggy! After adding the beans, top with the chicken mixture, almost to the top of each shell. Sprinkle each shell generously with shredded cheese. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the edges of the taco shells are lightly browned. 

Remove from the oven, then add your favorite taco toppings! 

Tell me: What are your favorite taco toppings?

- ST

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bellin 10k Race Week + Fun Runs & Good Eats!

At the start of 2016, I had high hopes this would be the year for a big 10k PR. And I planned on Bellin 10k as the race I'd get it done. 

Sometimes plans change! It's Bellin 10k race week - but I have a feeling that I'll be pushing off my PR attempt til later this year. A few reasons:
I've recently struggled with minor plantar fasciitis. It's an issue that came on fast - I actually thought I had bruised foot for a few days. So I've been icing, massaging, stretching, etc. in hopes of getting things in a good enough spot to race decently on Saturday. Miles over the weekend and at the start of this week went well with minimal pain so fingers crossed ... 

My last race and workout got a two thumbs down. During both I struggled through but still couldn't hit my paces. I felt flat and sluggish which is the opposite of how I want to feel going into a goal race.  

Running slug style!

The weather forecast shows a high of 89 degrees on race day. Granted things will be a bit cooler at the start of the race but still far from ideal. I know I don't race well in the heat so this is an extra struggle to brace for in the upcoming days. 

Coach Matt has been very supportive, especially with the PF issue. His most recent instructions were to go back to a simple plan of having fun with the race. So while I would really like to race well, I'm approaching this as a fun opportunity to run faster (hopefully!) with 13,000+ people.

Here's this week's lead up to the race:

Monday: 4 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz
Tuesday: 5 mile workout, inc. 400, 1600, 400
Wednesday: 4 recovery miles + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 3 glue miles w/strides
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: Bellin 10k
Sunday: 5 recovery miles

Total: 30ish miles

Despite the training/race issues, last week was still a pretty awesome. A few splendid happenings:

Milwaukee Running Day - This is a new holiday in MKE and was celebrated with a 4.14 (Milwaukee's area code is 414) mile fun run. It was hosted by the Milwaukee Running Festival and Running in the USA. I met up with a few Oiselle teammates (Sheila, Bettina, Annie and Laura) and also got to hang out with my PRO teammate, Kassandra, and even chatted with Coach Matt for a bit! It was a wonderful evening for the MKE running community to come together. 

I had a blast with these ladies!

Downtown Dining Week - This is one of my favorite weeks during the year and it's a great time to try someplace new - or visit an old favorite! How it works is several restaurants around the Downtown Milwaukee area have special three-course lunch and dinner menus. Some of the menus feature items normally on the restaurant menu but some include things that are only offered for Downtown Dining Week. So far, I have Brown Bottle, Kil@wat, Onesto and Hinterland on my list. 

A delicious lunch at Kil@wat!

New Oiselle Graphic T-shirts - Five years ago, when I first discovered Oiselle, one of my first purchases was a graphic t-shirt. Over the years the shirts have evolved and the newest ones are some of the best yet. I absolutely love the new tri-blend material and the fit is spot on. These t-shirts are perfect for one the run or relaxing after a run!

One of my recent purchases!

A fantastic vet visit for Eddie! At his Tuesday appointment, his vet told me that he is looking great, his kidney levels are good and he has gained nearly a half pound - this is major for a kitty who was around 7.5 pounds. The heart condition is chronic and can't be cured but I was so happy to hear he's doing well right now. I'll continue to do whatever he needs to stay as healthy as possible. 

Such a pretty boy :)

That's my update for the week! Time for you to tell me about your week :)

My questions for you:
  • Do you race well in the heat? What's the hottest you've raced in?
  • Have you ever had plantar fasciitis? If so, how did you treat it?
  • If you're in MKE - where are you eating during Downtown Dining Week?
  • What are a few things that made you happy last week?

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

- ST