Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mexican Street Corn Salad

Memorial Day is the kickoff to the summer season and few things say summer to me like grilled corn, especially combined with some of my favorite ingredients like cilantro, lime and contija cheese!

In the past, I've made Mexican Grilled Corn for summer gatherings. It's always a hit and especially delicious when corn is in season late summer. This Mexican Street Corn Salad is a great alternative and is sure to be a hit at your cookout, picnic or beach party. And since it's simple to make you'll have extra time to enjoy outside!

Mexican Street Corn Salad
Recipe from The Kitchn (slightly modified)

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cups corn, fresh or frozen (thawed if frozen)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
3 Tbsp cotija cheese + more for garnish
2 Tbsp mayo
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro + more for garnish
1-2 tsp Mexican Chili Powder
Juice from one lime
Salt, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large grill pan on medium high until hot. Add corn and cook 15-20 minutes (less if using thawed frozen corn), stirring occasionally until corn is toasted with a bit of char. Add minced garlic and jalapeno and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow corn mixture to cool for a few minutes. 

Add cooled corn mixture to a large bowl and stir in contija cheese, mayo, chopped cilantro, chili powder and lime juice. Salt to taste. 

Serve at room temperature with extra contija cheese and cilantro.

I hope everyone has a fantastic Memorial Day weekend!

- ST

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Training & Diet Updates + Recent Highlights

Hey everyone! I hope your week is off to a good start. If you live in the MKE area ... how wonderful is the weather we've been having lately? I would be more than okay if it stayed this way for the rest of the summer. Warm, sunny days and cool, breezy nights. Perfection :)

Can you believe it's already practically Memorial Day weekend? I feel like we just finished up with winter ... what happened to spring?? And because I almost always have running on my mind, I can't believe there's less than three weeks til Bellin 10k! Gulp.

Seeing as how my goal spring (summer?) race is just around the corner, these past few weeks have been heavier training with lots of miles, although not a lot of gym action. A few highlights:

  • 7 mile ladder workout - Hit all my paces spot-on or faster. I was still a bit tired from Kings & Queens Half Marathon when I did this workout so I know I could have run even faster on fresh legs. 
  • 6 glue miles - I normally leave my watch at home unless I'm doing speedwork or a long run. But decided to wear my watch for this one just to see what type of pace I'm running for glue mile effort these days. Ended up with 8:46, 8:16, 8:05, 7:54, 7:48. You know you're getting fitter when the paces get faster but you still feel pretty comfortable!

  • 9 mile run - Another sign fitness is improving. My splits for this one were: 8:47, 8:14, 8:08, 8:13, 8:18, 8:13, 7:53, 7:39, 7:19. Super happy to finish this one up in the 7s.

After a few bigger training weeks, I'm more than ready for a down week - even one that finishes up with a 5k race! Here's the plan from Coach Matt:

Monday: 4 glue miles + Y-Blitz
Tuesday: 4 glue miles w/strides + Y-Blitz
Wednesday: 6 mile workout, inc. 5 min 5k pace intervals + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Thursday: 4 glue miles w/strides
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 3 glue miles w/strides
Sunday: 5k Race!

Total: 28 miles

The Sunday 5k race should be interesting - I know I'm fitter than I was just a few weeks ago when I did Door County. Although not a goal race, I'm still going to give this one a good effort to see how things are coming along for Bellin. 

I'm doing decently with training but diet has been a bit hit or miss lately. As you'll see later in this post, I totes indulged in a huge BBQ feast recently along with extra cheesy tacos with friends. I'm about 10 pounds heavier than I'd like to be at this point so I really need to start putting as much focus on diet as I do on training. 

So here's a sample day of food this week:

Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled w/salsa + Tart cherry juice
Snack: Greek yogurt + Raw veggies
Lunch: Chicken taco salad (greens, grilled chicken, black beans, corn, salsa, contija cheese) + Banana
Snack: Picky Bar
Dinner: Flat Out pizza (Flat Out pizza crust, pizza sauce, 1/4 cup provolone cheese (2 percent), 1 serving turkey pepperoni, 2 Tbsp black olives) + Spinach salad + Blackberries

I've also been taking Hammer Nutrition Phytolean, hoping it really does work! Anything for a little extra edge ;) 

Finally, to wrap things up, a few highlights from this past week:

New Oiselle Graphic T-Shirts - One of my first purchases when I discovered Oiselle back in 2012 was a 13.1 t-shirt. I still love the brand's t-shirts and was thrilled to see they restocked the selection with some new styles. The American Runner tank immediately went in my cart!

Dinner at Maxie's Southern - It's no secret that I absolutely adore southern food, especially southern BBQ. So it's always a treat to hit up Maxie's Southern for dinner. The special of the evening was Rack n Mac so the meal was a true indulgence. I ordered a side of veggies to keep things somewhat balanced ;)

Trying new recipes - I had a few friends over for dinner on Saturday so decided to try a few new recipes: Loaded Baked Chicken Tacos and Mexican Street Corn Salad. Both turned out fantastic and I can't wait to share the recipes with you later this week. 

Fresh reading material - Through my participation on the Rock 'n' Blog Team, I recently received a few books from VeloPress. I'm currently reading How Bad Do You Want It, by Matt Fitzgerald - one of my very favorite endurance sports authors. So far the book is great - it's all about achieving maximum performance by developing the tools to mentally push through the pain and discomfort during racing and training.

Well, this post ended up being way longer and way more about me than expected! So now it's your turn to tell me what's new with you:
  • Do you run with a watch? Why or why not?
  • What are you eating this week? Have you tried any new recipes lately?
  • What are you currently reading?

Happy Tuesday!

- ST

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Kings & Queens Half Marathon Race Recap

Normally when looking at potential races, I pass over anything that's longer than a 10k. I'm just not that interested in doing longer distances. But for some reason when I looked at the website for Kings & Queens Half Marathon I was intrigued. Judging by the location of the race, I knew it would be hilly and I liked the idea of getting a glass of champagne, rose and cookies at the finish line. So I decided to sign up!

A gorgeous finisher's medal was another race perk!

This was back in December. Since my back injury took me out of quality training for two months, I knew I would end up using this race as a long run, rather than a race. I think it was totally the right decision. 

During a typical Saturday morning long run, I start around 9:25-9:30 pace. I am not a morning runner and my legs never want to get going in the AM. It's also like they sense I'm going to make them run something in the double digits so they purposely refuse to move any faster. Since this is the norm for me I don't really stress it - I know I'll be at a sub-8 min pace by the time I'm done. 

So given my mega slow morning legs, Coach Matt told me I could start the race around 9:30 pace since I wasn't racing this one. I ended up starting with the 9 minute pace group because I saw my friend Megan leading the group. So I lined up next to her and soon enough we were off!

I stayed with the group for about a mile before moving ahead on my own. I just kept on running at a super easy but steady pace and soon found myself with the 8:30 pace group. I figured I could run with them for the rest of the race but was forced to move ahead when I kept getting pushed into the road area (the streets were not closed during the race) and I was worried about getting clipped by one of the cars zooming past. So I surged a bit til I was in front of the group then kept on going. 

Miles 1-6 went by pretty fast and I felt great. For someone who is used to running 5k or 10k pace, running even slower than marathon pace during a half marathon race felt super easy. I was having a lot of run taking in the pretty trail scenery and all the birdies I saw flying around - cardinals, finches, robins, etc. I didn't even mind all the hills - in fact, I looked at them as a fun challenge. After all, taking on the hills was one of the main reasons I decided to do the race!

I was all smiles during the majority of this race!

But shortly after I hit the 6 mile marker I began feeling a bit sluggish. More than anything I chalk it up to a mental block. I couldn't believe I still had more than half the race to go and just wanted to finish up and be done. I kept thinking that if I was racing a 10k, I'd be kicking it in to the finish! I tucked in with a group of about six women and ran with them for a bit. This helped a bit but I ended up losing the group when I decided to walk through a water station and drink a cup of Gatorade and a cup of water. 

It also seemed like the hills were never ending by this point. My friend Christina summed it up pretty well by commenting after the race that it seemed like there were five uphills for every downhill. I even remember stopping at the bottom of a hill and looking up and saying out loud "You've got to be kidding me!" 

You would think the flat sections would be a welcome reprieve but they were their own challenge. One flat stretch was super sunny and I remember feeling like I was majorly overheating. Other sections were straight into a strong headwind (winds were gusting up to 25 mph during the race).

Fortunately once I hit Mile 10 things took a turn for the better. At this point I told myself there is only a 5k race left. That sure helped a lot! Instead of plodding along like I had been for the past few miles I picked up the pace a bit and focused on chasing down people in front of me. And finally it was the last mile. Then the last half mile. Then the last quarter mile and I picked it up to about 5k pace and kicked it into the finish line. 

Finish line in sight!

I was really happy with how this race went. I knew I wanted to keep the effort pretty easy since I'm in the middle of a bigger training segment and I think I succeeded. It helped to start with the 9 minute pace group and then slowly work my way up. It was also great to get to run a hillier course than anything I would run by the lakefront. A change of scenery is always welcome :)

Post-race with friends Bettina, Richard and Christina!

Up next is a 5k in two weeks, then the big one, Bellin 10k, in a month!

My questions for you:
  • Do you prefer flat or hilly races? Do you ever seek out races specifically for a challenging course?
  • How do you work through mentally tough moments during a race?
  • What's your favorite way to celebrate after a race?

Even though I technically didn't race this one, I still indulged in a post-race mimosa and a delicious breakfast including an egg scramble, hash brown casserole, a biscuit and gravy, and plenty of coffee!

- ST

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nicolet Bay 5k Race Recap

I really love Door County. If you've never been, I highly recommend visiting, especially for the Door County Half Marathon & Nicolet Bay 5k race weekend.

This year's race weekend started with dinner at Julie's Park Cafe in Fish Creek. The food is nothing to write home about but the restaurant has a spaghetti special for runners. It's pretty basic food, which is just what I like before a race.

One of the nice things about the Door County race is that there is a late start time - 10:15am for the 5k! - which means Mom and I actually got to sleep in quite a bit. About 2.5 hours before the race start I ate a Picky Bar and a banana, which is a pretty standard race day breakfast for me.

I had been worried about the weather during the week leading up to the race but it turns out I had nothing to worry about. It was a gorgeous morning for running with temps in the low 50s and plenty of sunshine. While we waited for the race to start, Mom and I walked over to the beach and as we got ready to take a selfie, one of my former coworkers, Dan, appeared! It turns out he was racing the 5k, too, and was kind enough to take a nice pic of Mom and me.

I felt pretty relaxed lining up at the start since my only real goal for the race was to run faster than I did a few weeks ago. I wasn't worried about racing anyone around me so imagine my surprise when I found myself the first female about one mile in. I figured it wouldn't be long before another woman would get past me so I enjoyed it while it lasted. And sure enough, shortly after I was passed! At this race, though, it wasn't a big deal and I decided to stay calm and keep running my own race.

Before I knew it, we were at the halfway point and soon were heading back toward the finish area. I love this part of the race because you get to see everyone else who is running. Although I must have been in a bit of a fog for a bit because I didn't see Dan until he was pretty much past me. I saw Mom, however, and waved hello!

I actually felt pretty good during the last mile of the race. I know the course pretty well so knew about when the finish line would appear. My legs also felt like they were finally hitting their stride and I was able to pick up the pace into the finish line.

I achieved my race goal of running faster than I did a few weeks ago! Although it still wasn't a good time for me, I'm making progress toward getting my speed back. The paces for the mile splits weren't great but still a step in the right direction - I like that I was able to get faster each mile of the race!

As always I ran back on the course to run Mom into the finish line. She was doing great and really picked up the pace during the last half mile of the race. Way to go, Mom!

After the race, Mom and I went back to our hotel, showered, then headed over to Fish Creek for lunch, shopping and walking around. We ate lunch at the White Gull Inn, which is so cute. I had chicken noodle soup and a cheeseburger, which totally hit the spot!

Looking back, I think the rest of the trip highlights involve eating. Haha. Mom and I went to The Chef's Hat later that evening to share appetizers and dessert. Everything was super delicious, especially the Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bar. I forgot to take a pic, but it was sooo good. It had a graham cracker crust, peanut butter filling and chocolate topping. Amazing!

Possibly my very favorite place we ate during the trip was Mother's Day brunch at Alexander's. There were so many delicious-looking options on the buffet. Mom and I both started with a salad plate and then moved on to the hot food. The salads were really good - my favorite one was Broccoli Waldorf Salad. The hot entrees were also great - my favorite things were Eggs Benedict, a Seafood Stew and, of course, bacon :)

On the drive out of town, Mom and I stopped at a shop to buy Dad a cherry pie for watching Eddie, as well as jugs of tart cherry juice, a few jars of cherry salsa, bottles of cherry wine, etc. Basically everything cherry since that is one of the things Door County is known for!

It was such a great weekend that I'm already thinking about how I'd like to get back to Door County again this year. I definitely recommend adding this race to your calendar and also staying an extra day so you can take in all Door County has to offer!

My questions for you:
  • Have you been to Door County? If so, what places do you recommend to dine/shop/visit/etc.?
  • Do you tend to negative or positive split 5k races?
  • Where are you racing/traveling in the upcoming season?

I'm doing Kings & Queens Half Marathon this weekend, Bellin 10k in June and Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 10k in July!

- ST

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

May Racing

When looking at my calendar the other day, I realized the next few weeks will be super busy with running and racing.

Here's the upcoming lineup:
  • Nicolet Bay 5k
  • Kings & Queens Half Marathon
  • Chocoholic 5k
  • Bellin 10k

Although I'm not feeling race ready yet, I'm hoping I'll get there in time to really race the Bellin 10k. So the next three races will really be opportunities to run hard and once again get used to the pain that's unique to racing. For the 5k races, my goal is to get progressively faster. I wasn't too happy with my time at the recent Adrenaline 5k so I would love to shave a bit off at the Nicolet Bay 5k this upcoming weekend. I think it's doable but a bit dependent on if I can shake my current sickness off by race day. 

After last year's Nicolet Bay 5k!

If it doesn't happen this weekend, I'm confident I'll be able to race hard in time for the Chocoholic 5k. I do have a few reservations about this one though, mainly that I don't know much about the race and hope it is not one with a short course or mainly walkers.

I signed up for the Kings & Queens Half Marathon on a bit of a whim. It's not a distance I get along with but I thought the race sounds like a lot of fun. I mean, really, what girl doesn't love getting a rose and glass of champagne at the finish line? ;) I'm totes not in shape to race this distance so I'm planning to take it easy and treat it like a typical long run. And it will be way more fun than a typical long run because I'll get to run in a different area and with other runners! 

And then there's the Bellin 10k. When I signed up for this race, I intended it to be my 10k PR attempt for the year. Last year's race had 13,185 participants, including pro running stars like Meb and Kellyn Taylor. The competition will be top-notch so I would consider myself lucky to place within the top 100 women. Since the race is still six weeks away, there's time to get in shape to make this a fast one. I know being able to race with so many fast people around me will also be a major benefit. I race my best when there are others running a similar pace so this is a great opportunity to PR. 

So in between the races it will be work, work and more work. Glue miles, recovery miles, speedwork and hill work. Plus, I'm now able to do my favorite classes at the gym again so strength, plyo, core and more are back on the table. I have a feeling these next few weeks are going to fly! 

My questions for you:
  • What are your training and race plans in May?
  • Do you ever sign up for a race with no intention of "racing" it?
  • Do you prefer small races or large races?

- ST