Monday, July 25, 2011

Seven Links

You've seen this around blogs recently, right?  I think things like this are fun and Victoria over at Running Peanut tagged me to join in!  I have only been blogging for a year, but I had a hard time picking these (go figure).

To unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.

1) Blogger is nominated to take part
2) Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category.
3) Blogger nominates up to 5 more bloggers to take part.
4) These bloggers publish their 7 links and nominate another 5 more bloggers
5) And so it goes on!
6) They’ll be sharing the best posts from participating bloggers on Trip Base and everyday on Facebook and Twitter at #My7Links.

Most Beautiful: Girls on the Run Final Celebration
The final 5K race for Girls on the Run was a fabulous day.  I loved coaching the girls during the season and seeing the joy and pride on each of their faces after finishing the 5K.  GOTR is an amazing program and I am so glad I have been able to be apart of it in a small way.

Most Popular: Taste of Chicago - WIAW 
The Taste of Chicago Post was only done a few weeks ago, but it is my most viewed post, partly from WIAW and just Google searches about Taste of Chicago. 

Most Controversial: Reading and Running at the Same Time 
I'm not sure I really write "controversial" posts here, but with this post there was some discussion about books, some people who wanted to try it, and others who said it wasn't for them.  I was unsure about listening to a book while running, but I love doing it now.  I usually save my music for races or short runs.

Most Helpful: WDW Half Marathon Training: Week Six - Knee Pain
During training for my first half, I talked about the knee pain I was experiencing while running and what has worked for me to help lessen and practically get rid of the pain including links to some helpful sites.  I hope it has helped someone.  (Thinking about this again makes me think I could write an update on my knees...)

Surprise Success: Sports Enthusiast for Disney Princess Half Marathon
My mom and I had a wonderful time volunteering at the Princess Half in February.  It was so neat to be on the other side of a race event!  I am happy that it has been a successful post

Not Enough Attention: A Positive Something is Better Than A Negative Nothing
This post was inspired after a WW meeting I attended before the holidays.  The idea was simple and positive and I wanted to share it.  Sometimes this weight loss journey seems impossible, but by taking a step back and setting small goals, you realize that big goals are attainable.   

Most Proud: WDW Half Marathon Race Recap: Part OnePart Two
This was a hard one to choose but I decided to go with my recaps for my very first half marathon.  The whole event was quite an experience both physically and emotionally, but I finished the race and am so glad I did.  That race will always be a reminder of how far I have come and that you can do things that sometimes seem impossible.

And so I pass it on to these fellow bloggers:  (I think a few of you may already have been nominated, but here you go again!)
Kelley at Moments That Make A Life
Sara at Sara Runs
Allie at The Picky Eating RD
Kara at It's A Dog Lick Baby World
Diana at Veggie Next Door

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tastebud Tours: Taste Chicago Tour -WIAW

Last weekend my sister, Caroline, came to visit me here in Chicago.  She is currently working in Atlanta as nanny and had some free time to see me.  
We had a fun and busy weekend!  I have a few of our adventures to share, but since it is What I Ate Wednesday again I thought it would be best to tell you all about the fabulous food tour we went on.    

My first experience with a food tour was during my 21st birthday trip to Seattle and I loved it.  With so many restaurants in Chicago (over 7,700, a little fact I learned from our tour!) I knew we would taste some good food.  We signed up with the Tastebud Tours Chicago group to do the Taste Chicago tour.  It was a nice small group of people in our tour which took us around the Loop area downtown and Millennium Park.  We at a lot of food.  We pretty much got full servings of the food at every restaurant we visited.  And we got to sit down at every restaurant.

The tour started at Pizano's Pizzeria, where of course we had deep dish pizza.  The guy who came up with deep dish pizza actually started this restaurant.  This pizza was the real deal and   definitely one of the best deep dish pizzas I have had so far.  I had two small slices of the pie that was topped with lots of melty cheese, fresh sausage, and tomato sauce.  

We then headed outside where our tour guide Lynn gave us some history about the area.  Our next stop was inside Macy's at a little sweet shop called Sarah's Pastries & Candies.  She makes some of the best brownies in town.  Did you know that the first brownies made and served for the First World's Fair in Chicago 1893?  This brownie was unbelievably delicious, I am not sure my description will do it justice.  It was super rich and was almost fudge like in consistency.  It just melted in your mouth.  
Perfectly delicious.
We walked over to the famous Palmer House next.  It is a beautiful, old hotel that was one of the first that had elevators and electricity in it.  
We even got a chance to walk into the famous Empire Room.  Lots of famous performers, like Frank Sinatra and Carol Channing, have performed in there.  For good luck, before going on stage, the performers would rub the nose of the goat on the urn outside the dressing rooms.  Of course we had to see if any good luck could come our way from rubbing the nose!
Hoping for some good luck!
We then headed out to Millennium Park and check out Cloud Gate, or what most people call it, The Bean.  We spent some time taking pictures (it is the most photographed landmark in Chicago) before checking out the Chicago Cultural Center.  

Outside we stopped to take pictures with one of the Cows on Parade.  Caroline loves cows and had to get a pic!  

The Cultural Center used to be the old library and it is a beautiful building.  Someone was actually setting up a wedding reception in one of the rooms while we were there. The ceilings were done by Tiffany's and are gorgeous.  Plus since it used to be the library there were some great quotes about reading and books engraved in the walls.  

Then it was time for a Chicago hot dog.  We walked into a small little restaurant called Gold Coast Dogs and got a whole hot dog.  Caroline is a vegetarian so she had it minus the hot dog, because the place didn't have veggie dogs.  I thought it was OK, the flavors were there but it needed a bigger pickle and evenly distributed tomatoes.  I have better versions of a Chicago dog other places in the city.  

Sugar Bliss was our next stop.  Can you guess what we got there?  A mini cupcake!  I have passed by the small shop before and remember stopping to stare at the beautiful treats.  Besides looking so pretty, these cupcakes were wonderful and the frosting might be the best I have ever had.  In fact, they sell little shots of just the frosting for a dollar.  We tried a Black & White cupcake with dark chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream frosting.  The creator of the shop and cupcakes used to work in finance, but decided to go to the pastry school in Paris.  When she came back to Chicago she spent months testing and creating cupcake recipes.  They use some of the best, natural ingredients in the cupcakes and you can tell because they are so good!

We continued the tour by walking down State St and passing the Chicago Theater.  And the food wasn't over yet.  We sat down at the Halsted Street Deli to try a real Italian Beef sandwich.  We were served a big roll full of thinly sliced beef with mozzarella and peppers.  It was pretty spicy and left my lips tingling.  I am not sure the sandwich was really my thing, so I only had a few bites.  Caroline got a veggie sandwich, that was just OK too.

Looking up from the 7th floor
For our final stop we headed back to the old Marshall Fields' building, where the giant Macy's now is, and went up to the 7th floor to try something at The Walnut Room.  Marshall Fields became the first department store to serve lunch when the Walnut Room opened in 1907.  It ended up being a big success because the ladies who would shop there could eat and then shop some more.  The place gets really busy during the holiday season and many families come every year to eat there.  They put up a giant Christmas tree in the middle of the room that has a different theme each year.  (It sounds like I will have to visit again to check it out, because I LOVE everything about Christmas!)  
We sat in the bar area at a dark wooden table where we got a big piece of Frango Mint Pie, which is a mint chocolate ice cream pie.  We had already had a lot to eat, but this pie was too darn good to pass up.  I ate the whole thing!  It was cool, creamy, and had the perfect mint chocolate flavor.    

Caroline and I had a great time on the Tastebud Tour!  The company was great with a well organized tour set up and awesome food to taste.  They offer two other tours and are going to have an all dessert tour coming up in the next month or so.  If you are in Chicago you should definitely check them out!  I have a feeling that I will be trying those other tours out when more family comes to visit.  

We definitely got our money's worth for the tour and probably two meals worth of food, plus dessert!  With all that food we were pretty much satisfied for the rest of the day although we did munch on some broccoli and cherries (not mixed together) in the evening.

Have you ever been on food tour?

Monday, July 18, 2011

My First Race in Chicago - Fleet Feet Sports Women's 10K Race Recap

I finished my first road race here in Chicago and it was a good one!  I mentioned last week that I had been contemplating this race for awhile and after finishing it, I am so glad I did.
Wednesday I went over to Fleet Feet to pick up my race packet.  Since the race was sponsored by New Balance we got an awesome NB sleeveless tech tank with the race logo on it.  We also received a nice reusable shopping tote that can actually fold up into a small ball so it is easy to take with you.  
Most of the races I have done use the D-Tag timing where you get the orange tab to put around your shoe.  This race was timed using a B-Tag, which are two strips already attached to the back of your race bib, so no worries about remembering to put something on your shoe.  

Race morning started early when my alarm went off at six.  I got my race outfit on and double checked that I had all my gear before heading out the door.  I made sure to bring my usual pre race fuel of a blueberry Clif bar and a big bottle of water.  It was a warm morning, so hydration was important!  I rode the bus over to Montrose Harbor and walked the half a mile to the staging area.  I was kind of nervous on the ride over.  This was my first race in the city and I was a little anxious about going by myself.  At all my other races my family has been with me, so it is kind of different.  As soon as I got there I jumped in the port-o-potty line, but it was pretty quick moving, so I didn't wait long.  I then headed over to the start corrals.  The race start was scheduled for 7:30 AM and by the time I was in the corral it was already around 80 degrees.  I knew it was going to be a warm run.  The national anthem played and soon the race had begun!  
My goal for this race was to beat my previous 10K time.  I did that race in November of last year, so I have grown a lot in my running.  I took into account the heat and made sure to stay in tune with how I was feeling throughout the race.  

The race path was around the harbor and nearby parks.  It was essentially a big loop, with some turns throughout.  Because of that I got to see the faster and slower runners ahead and behind me on turns.  We did get to run by the lake for awhile which is always nice.  Another plus for the course were the shaded areas.  I tried to plan my short walk breaks so I could be in the shade and run through the sunny spots. 
The race started with a few small hills and I really got to see how many women were running the race: a lot, over 2600!  Around mile 2.5 the 5K and 10K runners path split.  I kept a relatively steady pace the first three miles with one or two 30 second walk breaks per mile.  Then mile four came and the heat hit me.  It was a difficult mile to get through at points, but I pushed through.  I carried my water bottle of half gatorade half water with me, and also had some energy chews during the run.  I felt a bit of surge after some chews and kept chugging along.  There were hydration stations every mile and half too.  The race volunteers were great at cheering everyone along.  Also since most of the race was on the Lakefront Trail we ran by and with other runners and bikers, some even stopped and cheered after their workout!  

Finally, the last mile approached and I was set to push it till the end.  In my last few races after the finish I felt like I could have given a little more.  I pushed through the difficult parts of this race so I would know I did my best crossing the finish line.  After a final run through the "Lunabar Tunnel" (as the announcer called it) the finish line was in sight.  I gave it all I had and crossed through, relieved to be finished.  As I stopped and checked my Garmin I found the race to be about .1 miles over the 10K, but I finished in good time.  I met my goal, by beating my previous 10K time and achieving a new PR of 1:19:32!  That is almost two minutes faster than my last time!  I am really happy with the results especially since it was a hot run.    
Post race we were given the obligatory water bottle along with an ice cold popsicle, banana, and mini bagel.  I just had a few bites of the bagel and a quarter of the popsicle, but chugged the water. 
After the finish I got a chance to meet Sara, from Sara Runs, and Mana, another local runner. We have communicated a few times through Twitter and it was nice to meet both of them in person.  We sat and chatted for a few minutes.  (forgot to take a picture! :/)  Both Mana and Sara are members of the FF Cheer team.  It is essentially a group of runners that support running in the community.  Pretty cool, huh?  They were both super friendly and hopefully we will get together again!  Unfortunately I had to leave early because of work that afternoon, but made sure to grab some free Lunabar samples and the free gift from New Balance. 
Kind of messy, but delicious!
When I go home I enjoyed a tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich on this great whole wheat bread I got at the market Saturday.  After a shower and some stretching I made sure to ice my knees as well.  I only had about an hour and then I was off to work.  I stand up the whole time for my job so when I got home seven hours later my legs were definitely sore.  I plan to get some more stretching in today to work out some of the tightness.  

And remember that lucy giftcard I won from Self Workout in the Park?  Well, I finally got it in the mail two weeks ago and bought a cute running skirt with capris.   That's what I wore for the race yesterday.  It was really comfortable, breathable, and had three secret pockets!  I still have a little more money left on the card, so I will certainly be getting something else.

Although it was a long day it was a good one!  Running a race again felt great.  There is always such wonderful energy at organized races.  Everyone is there to have fun and run!  I am happy I achieved a new PR and met some new people as well.  Fleet Feet put on a great event and I cannot wait for the next one!

Congrats to everyone else who competed in a race this weekend as well!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Figuring out a Workout Schedule

I feel like I have neglected mentioning my workouts recently.  (I have been tasting a lot of good food recently though and had to share!)  I haven't really been training for any upcoming races.  Instead I am working on keeping a regular workout routine and trying to maintain my running fitness.  I wasn't sure how good I would be at just working out without a set schedule or big race to train for.  
When I started running, about a year ago, I had a weekly plan of how long I was supposed to run and on which days.  Once I finished that I signed up for the Disney Half Marathon and used a training plan from Marathoning for Mortals for the following fourteen weeks.  And shortly after that I signed up for my second half, the Iron Girl in Clearwater.  With the move to Chicago I decided it was probably best to take a short break, but I didn't want to lose the endurance and strength I had gained. 
From my previous training plans I found that three days of running and two or three days of cross training has worked for me.  I pretty much stick to that every week, but I am flexible and if I feel like changing it up I do.  I wasn't sure I would keep up with the schedule without a big goal, but I really like exercising now, so why skip something that makes me feel good?  
I have also been logging my workouts in this nifty free training log we got from Runner's World.  I track the miles I ran or workout I did and how it went.  My Garmin tracks my runs as well, but the I like to write it out too.  Plus it is nice for cross training.  It is useful to have something to look back at to see if I have improved or what worked for me in the past.  

The whole process of figuring out this schedule was pretty much trial and error.  For running I aim for an easy run, a speed workout, and a long run.  My speed workouts are usually in the middle of the week because they coincide with the Chick's Night runs.  I have found that running with other people makes me push myself more so I usually end up with a faster run.  If for some reason I can't make it to Fleet Feet, I go out by myself.  My long runs right now are usually five or six miles.  I take this time on the weekends to explore new areas of Chicago.  With my CTA pass I can run any direction and when I hit a good distance just take a train or bus back to the apartment, it is super convenient!  That way I don't have to do a loop or out and back course.  My easy runs are usually after the weekend and I try to make this a fun and comfortable workout.  

Cross training has been a little different since moving.  At home I had access to a bike, the gym, a pool, and tons of workouts on Exercise TV.  I don't have that anymore.  I have a couple Jillian Michaels' DVDs that I use and more recently I have been doing my own circuit workout with free weights and a mat.  I was quite lucky to have all of those things and now having access to them now is hard.  I really miss going for a bike ride or swim in the pool.  

I feel good with the routine I have set for now.  One of the great things though about making your own schedule is you can switch it up whenever you want, to adjust for vacation time or upcoming races.  
And speaking of races...for the last month or so I have been eyeing the Fleet Feet Sports Women's 5K & 10K presented by New Balance race.  Now that I finally have a job I thought why not go for it, so I am planned to run the 10K this weekend!  Since I have been considering the race I have made sure to get in some good training runs, just in case I decided to sign up.  I am really excited!  This will be my first race in Chicago and out of the state of Florida.

Do you have workout schedule or plan you stick to?  What does it look like?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Taste of Chicago - WIAW

Every year in Grant Park the city of Chicago holds a huge outdoor food festival where tons of local restaurants set up booths.  This is known as the Taste of Chicago and I got the opportunity to attend this year.  The festival has been happening since 1980 and it was huge!  After work Friday I met, my roommate Kristin, at the park.  The sky was a bit ominous, with dark clouds in the distance, but luckily the rain stayed away.  The place was really crowded, but the smell of delicious food was a good enough reason to stay and check things out.  We each purchased 24 tickets and set off to taste some food.  All of the booths offered about four meals and then two "taste" options.  I wanted to try a lot of different food so we went for the "tastes."  For this week's edition of What I Ate Wednesday I thought I would share some of the foods we tried at Taste of Chicago.

There were 59 restaurant booths so we just kind of scanned the booths and stopped if something interested us.  We spent about an hour exploring and tasting.  It was a bit warm out and really busy, but otherwise it was good experience.  The festival also includes, games, a kid's fun center, cooking demonstrations, and live music.     
First was half a Chicago hot dog.  If you haven't had one of these, boy are you missing out!

Next was some of Eli's Cheesecake Company's famous cheesecake.  It may not look super special but their cheesecake is some of the best I have ever had.  It is the ideal cheesecake, with just right flavor and creaminess. 

I decided to try a roasted veggie taco, I don't remember where from, but I was disappointed.  I wanted more flavor and the salsa tasted like it was from a jar.  

We were looking for something to drink and ran into the Ocean Spray tent where they were handing out free samples of  sparkling cranberry juice. This bubbly cranberry drink was refreshing.  Plus I got a coupon to buy some more.  

We then headed over to Connie's Pizza.  One of their "tastes" was gluten-free pizza.  Kristin and I were curious how it would taste and decided to split a piece.  It didn't blow me away, but it was decent pizza.  The crust was a bit different, since it was gluten-free, but it tasted like pizza.

Then I tried a yummy mini pulled pork sandwich from Smoke Daddy.  The pork is the best part of the sandwich and there was a little too much bun so took off the top and enjoyed the rest.  

Seasoned fries from Tutto Italiano was next.  They could have used stronger seasoning, but were good enough.  

Finally, I decided to grab a quarter slice of fresh watermelon from Dominick's.  It was a warm afternoon and after the previous eats I figured some fresh fruit would be a good idea.      

Some of the food was just OK, but it was a good opportunity to try some different restaurants.  If I go again I would definitely have more of plan of what booths to hit up.

Have you been to Taste of Chicago before?  What is one of the best food you have had at a food festival?

*And just a reminder, I had my first guest post over at Then Heather Said this weekend, so go check it out if you haven't already!