Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Race Preview: Run/Walk to Milwaukee Irish Fest

Today's post is dedicated to one of my favorite 5k races - Run/Walk to Milwaukee Irish Fest

I'll admit, I'm a teensy bit biased as I'm on the race planning committee, but I do believe it's a great event and the money raised goes to the Arthritis Foundation - a fantastic nonprofit that supports more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions.

While not super competitive, it's the perfect event to bring your family and friends and everyone will have a great time. 

Midway through last year's 5k

 Running in my niece, Kyley, at last year's race

Here's the scoop:

What: Run/Walk to Milwaukee Irish Fest

When: Saturday, August 17 @ 10am
Where: Milwaukee Lakefront - North Gate of Milwaukee Irish Fest Grounds
Cost: $30 for adults; $15 for youth under age 12
Sign Up: Online or Day of Event
Details, Details: This year's event will feature a KidZone, pre-race warmup and stretching, live music by The Pubby's, free post-race Sprecher Beer for participants, free entrance to Irish Fest, overall and age group awards and more.

It's going to be a blast and I'd love to see some of you at the race. If you decide to sign up, join Team Olallie and you'll get to race with me, Sheila, Michelle, Kat and a few others!

So get out your best Irish-themed running outfits and who knows, maybe you'll get lucky and win one of the overall or age group awards ;)

See you at the race!

- ST

Monday, July 29, 2013

SLS3 Compression Sock Review + Giveaway!

Hey everyone! Remember that giveaway I mentioned last week? Well, today seems like the perfect day :)

You all know how much I love compression socks. I wear them while traveling and during workouts, long runs and races. I wear them to recover. In my mind, there's no such thing as owning too many pairs of socks!

I was recently asked by SLS3 to review a pair of their socks and I jumped on the opportunity. I love trying new products and this is a brand I didn't know a lot about. They sent me a pair of their Butterfly Compression Socks and I immediately fell in love with the style. I'm a sucker for anything bright colored and girly. These socks are both :)

Here's what SLS3 has to say about their compression socks:

SLS3 Butterfly compression socks boost bloodflow by about 34%. This increases oxygen delivery to the working muscles to enhance their performance. The circulation improvements also help the body eliminate metabolic waste products like lactic acid more easily. The combination of these effects allows you to work longer and harder, delaying the onset of fatigue.

The SLS3 Butterfly compression socks offer more targeted, significant support to the achilles tendons, tibias, calves and ankles, thus boosting the ability to reduce common ankle and foot injuries.

They are recommended for running, cycling, walking, triathlon, skiing, traveling and lots of other uses.
The supportive effect and compression of SLS3 Butterfly compression socks reduce muscle vibration drastically, which leads to less soft tissue damage and less sore muscles. Your recovery time will be significantly reduced.

Here are my thoughts: I put them to the test during a workout, a long run and recovery after a race and they held up great for each! I really like the way the socks fit - and actually forgot I had them on while running, which is ideal in my mind. I never want to be thinking about the apparel I have on when I'm trying to focus on running. They stay up perfectly without any slipping or bunching - two of my pet peeves. 

The one thing I will note is that these socks are a bit shorter in calf length than other socks I have tried. Maybe I have a long calf, but I felt like an extra inch of sock might have been nice. 

How would you like to win a pair of these awesome socks for yourself? I'm giving away one pair of pink Butterfly Compression Socks, size small/medium. These socks are geared toward women, but guys, I won't judge if you decide to enter to win a pair. You can always give them to the lady in your life as a gift ;)
a Rafflecopter giveaway Hope everyone's week is off to a great start! Let's chat again soon :)

- ST

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon Recap

Sometimes race success isn't just about the clock at the finish line.

Although my time at the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon wasn't great, I still consider the race a good one because I felt great throughout. This alone makes it a huge success in my book :)

All smiles after the race!

Half marathons have been my problem distance for awhile. Last year, I raced four consecutive bad half marathons that included massive cramping, dehydration, injury and worst of all, a DNF.

Even though I was assigned to Corral 3, I decided to move back a few corrals to start at a slower pace. I think it ended up being a smart strategy. I felt great throughout the first five miles - even breathing, strong legs and good form.

As we turned back on to Michigan Avenue, I felt a bit nervous because this is where my race really started to deteriorate last year. This year, however, I couldn't believe how relaxed I felt! I considered pushing harder but held back in fear of falling apart. It's funny, I'm not afraid to go all out during a 5k but when it comes to half marathons, my confidence just isn't there yet.

I decided to kick in the last mile so it was fun counting down the miles til it was time to go. I focused on increasing turnover during the last mile and was looking forward to seeing the finish line. I ended up launching the last bit of my kick a tad too early and was really struggling in the final bit of the race. Ouch. But it was well worth it :)

My confidence is still a bit shaky it comes to racing half marathons, but I'm feeling better about the distance. I know I can run faster with more consistent training (read: no injuries!) and am actually excited to see what types of times I'll be able to post for this distance in the future.

As for the rest of the trip? It included plenty of eating, shopping and more eating! A few highlights:
Enjoying the lovely weather
Believe it or not, this was the petite frites cone!
Finally got my macaron fix at the French Market!
Mom and I can't stop shopping!
Lots of deliciousness at Frontera Grill
So now a few questions for you:
1.      Has your running confidence ever been shaken? If so, how did you get it back?
2.      What's your favorite distance to race and why?

I think a giveaway to celebrate is in order! Stay tuned for the details next week!

- ST

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cajun Polenta

The last time I went to Trader Joe's, I bought a tube of polenta. Although I hadn't ever made it myself, I've ordered it at restaurants and love the texture and how it can be used in place of pasta in a lot of recipes. I originally thought I would slice it up and top with Mom's Spaghetti Sauce, but instead decided to create a new recipe. 

Awhile back, I won an Amylu gourmet chicken sausage giveaway from Food n' Focus. My prize included several varieties of sausage, including Andouille. So, I decided instead of going Italian, I'd instead spice things up a bit and voila, Cajun Polenta!

Only 100 calories per link!

The finished dish

As always, this recipe is very simple to prepare - perfect for the kitchen challenged and time pressed (read: impatient and don't like waiting for food to cook). It's also pretty healthy - polenta is one of the healthier grains and if you use a sausage like Amylu (FYI, they can be found at Whole Foods), your dish won't be weighed down with fat, nitrates and preservatives.

Cajun Polenta
Serves 5

1 tube polenta, sliced into 15 slices
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
3-4 small cloves garlic, diced
1 package Amylu Andouille sausages (4 links), sliced
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup corn (I used frozen)
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning

In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil then add the polenta slices. Cook 4-5 minutes each side or until golden brown. Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in another large skillet, then add the diced onion, celery, green pepper and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes before adding the sliced sausage. After the vegetables are soft, add the diced tomatoes, corn and Cajun seasoning to the pan. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

To serve, place three slices of polenta on each plate and top with the sauce. You can also serve the polenta and sauce on top a bed of spinach - my favorite way to eat pretty much any dish :)

Now that I know how easy it is to prepare polenta, I'm sure I'll cook with it a lot more. Which brings me to my question for you:  

How do you like to prepare polenta? 

Recipes and tips are much appreciated!

- ST

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I'm Okay With Not Knowing What to Expect

I've been in a bit of denial the past few weeks but can no longer ignore it - the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon is just a few days away!

This is a race that I don't really know what to expect as far as performance. I haven't been able to run as many miles or do as many workouts as I would have liked due to spring/early summer injuries, however my legs are feeling reasonably fresh since my workload has been significantly less than normal.

I feel kind of weird saying that I don't really have a goal time in mind for this one other than I hope I can beat last year's terrible time. As I've been doing lately, I'll leave my watch at home and run purely by effort, whatever that pace may be on Sunday. I don't want to limit myself by saying I'll run an easy training pace but I also don't want to get all worked up over trying to hit splits that I may not be ready to hit at this point in training. 

Last year's race - The heat and cramps just about killed me!

Although flat courses are not my favorite, the crowd support and enthusiasm from other runners can really help a girl along. Also, I have bird power on my side! I'm sporting my Oiselle singlet, buns and Wings Out necklace for this race. I truly believe that a cute outfit helps me run faster ;) To up the ante, I'm pairing the Oiselle gear with my new Saucony Kinvaras. Flashy feet = Fast feet.

My beautiful Oiselle Team singlet - love wearing this at every race :)

No matter how I race, it will be fun to spend a few days in Chicago. I can't wait to shop and eat plenty of macarons ;)

As a side note, I launched a new blog earlier this week called Keep Running MKE. It is focused on the Milwaukee running scene, including upcoming races, race recaps, runner profiles and running tips. So even if you're not from Milwaukee, check it out if you have a few minutes. Right now, the blog is running a giveaway for an entry to the upcoming Race for the Bacon!

Now it's your turn to tell me:
  • About a time you felt unprepared for a race - what was your strategy going in?
  • The best places to find macarons in Chicago - I'm on the hunt!

Stay cool, friends - it's going to stay HOT for the next few days!

- ST

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Favorites + An Offer From PRO Compression!

In honor of a Favorite Things party I'm hosting tomorrow evening (recap next week!), I thought I'd do a little round-up that includes some of my current running favorites! Here's what makes today's list:

Saucony Kinvaras - I've worn them on a few runs now and I love the way they feel on my feet -  lighter than my usual trainers but more substantial than my racing flats. The perfect shoe for my upcoming half marathons!

Oiselle Stellar Stripe Tank - Light as air and super stylish. I highly recommend getting this tank! I have the light blue version and it looks really cute paired with my orange Oiselle Lori Shorts. Sadly these shorts are no longer available, but you'll find a similar fit with the Distance Shorts

Grape Nuun - This just might be my new favorite flavor of Nuun. It reminds me of grape bubblegum, which I loved as a kid. I've even started bringing my handheld on runs again just so I can sip Nuun during the miles ;)

Eat & Run by Scott Jurek- Although I don't see myself ever running an ultra or going vegan, I can't put this book down. I'm in awe of the type of endurance it takes to race distances like 100 miles and find it fascinating the types of changes Jurek sees in his running as he cleans up his diet. A good read for any runner!

PRO Compression Marathon Retro Sock - I saw these socks in an email earlier this week and it was immediate love. I think the blue, yellow and red stripes are just the cutest and add that extra bit of flair to make a running outfit stand out, which is a must on race day! 

To end this post, I have a special summer savings offer from PRO Compression to share with readers:

Get 40 percent off all merchandise at, including their brand NEW Neon Calf Sleeves and Team PC Gear such as hats and running visors! Simply enter coupon code JULY at checkout. You'll save 40% and get free US shipping. Hurry, coupon code JULY expires August 4, 2013.

Click here to stock up today:

And with that, here's my question for you: What are your current favorites?

- ST

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Mom's Spaghetti Sauce

Some people think spaghetti should be reserved for the cold weather months. But, I have to disagree. Spaghetti is great year round and after all, the summer months are when you can find the best basil to pile on top of your pasta - and that's really one of the best parts of the dish!

Growing up, my mom often made spaghetti once a week - and that was fine by me because it was my favorite thing to eat. I recently had my mom teach me how to make her sauce and it's surprisingly simple. Just a few ingredients with minimal prep and cooking - my favorite type of recipe ;)

As an adult, I like to eat my spaghetti atop a large pile of spinach and topped with lots of basil. If you want to get fancy, you can chiffonade the basil, but since I was feeling lazy, I just tore it by hand.

Yes, that is green AND purple basil on my spaghetti!

Mom's Spaghetti Sauce

3/4 pound ground beef (I used 85 percent lean and skimmed off the fat)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large can tomato sauce
1-2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning

Add the ground beef to a large pot and cook over medium heat. Add the diced onions and garlic and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Drain off any excess fat.

Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and Italian Seasoning. Simmer over low heat for 30-45 minutes.

So there you have it - the simplest spaghetti sauce recipe. The only thing easier is opening a jar of pre-made sauce, but I can guarantee it won't taste nearly as delicious!

My questions for you:

  • What was your favorite meal growing up?
  • Do you have a favorite recipe for spagehtti?

Happy hump day, everyone!

- ST

Monday, July 8, 2013

Firecracker Four Race Recap

My two main takeaways from the Firecracker Four: A four mile race is NOT the same as a 5k and I'm really out of shape.

Thursday was perfect for racing. The temps were about as nice as one could hope for in July, the race was well organized and the course was relatively flat with just a few hills.

With Sheila and Laura before the race (Pic from Laura!)

Going into the race, I hoped to run 29:XX. I knew I wasn't in the best racing shape since I haven't done any recent speedwork - recovery from a string of injuries this spring/early summer has taken a toll on my running! However, one thing I can usually count on though is being able to use race day excitement and adrenaline to push myself to run faster than I ever can during training by myself.

But on Thursday, a fast 4 miler just wasn't in the cards. I didn't wear a watch, but I knew I was running too slow to get my goal time. And even worse, I couldn't seem to make my legs go any faster. The effort felt harder than usual and walking just a bit was quite tempting throughout. During a 5k race, hitting the two mile mark means the race is two thirds of the way done. But with a four mile race, it means . . . you're only halfway done. And as for the last 0.9 - the difference between a 5k and four miler - it was kind of brutal.

Here are my race results:

Time: 30:55
Pace: 7:44
Age Group Place: 15/78
Gender Place: 66/502
Overall Place: 284/1,081

Considering I recently ran a 10k at a 7:23 pace, I am not impressed with these results. However, I guess it just shows that there are both good and bad races - and when you have a bad one the only thing to do is work harder so the next one is better!

Ironically, this time is a PR since it was my first four mile race. There's definitely room to improve the next time I race this distance :)

Relaxing at Summerfest after the race! (Pic from Sheila!)

 My questions for you:

  • Have you ever raced a four miler? If so, how did you approach the distance?
  • Do you ever give in and walk during races?
  • How do you deal with a bad race time? Take a few days to bounce back? Or, hit the road/track to get faster?

I hope everyone had a fantastic 4th of July weekend!

- ST

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cold Sesame Noodle Salad

As much as I love fatty summer sides, such as potato salad and coleslaw, sometimes it's nice to pair your burger with something a bit lighter.

I've made this recipe for Cold Sesame Noodle Salad for two recent gatherings and it was a hit at each one. Simple ingredients and easy to prepare - my favorite combo!

Cold Sesame Noodle Salad
Recipe from The Daily Meal

8 oz whole-wheat spaghetti
2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani 0%)
2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
1 cucumber, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cups spinach, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Once cooked, drain and rinse with cold water.

While the spaghetti is cooking, whisk together Greek yogurt, soy sauce, peanut butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger and chili sauce.

Combine the noodles and cucumber, pepper and spinach. Pour the sauce over the top and gently mix until the noodles and vegetables are evenly coated. Top with the scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

My questions for you:
  1. What is your favorite summer salad?
  2. How do you lighten up your favorite recipes?
Enjoy the 4th of July holiday!

- ST