Monday, July 30, 2012

Tasty Meals from Home

I mentioned in last weeks training recap that I got to go home to Orlando last weekend.  When I saw had four days off I knew it could work out perfectly.  I haven't been there since Christmas time.  I love being home with my family and this visit was no exception.  It was just a really relaxed weekend at home.  We spent time hanging out, shopping, working out, and eating good food.  We had some great meals that I thought I'd share.

I flew in early Saturday morning and after picking me up from the airport my mom made some tasty from scratch pancakes for breakfast.  (I forgot to take a picture because I was so hungry.)

After putting my bags upstairs I had to find and say hello to the cats.  I really miss seeing their furry faces everyday. 
Marbles, Daisy, and Callie (clockwise from top)
For dinner that night mom made alfredo.  It was delicious and good fuel for my long run the next morning.  

The week before my mom had made and told me about some homemade chocolate peanut butter cookie dough ice cream she had made.  There was still a good bit left over so I enjoyed a bowl of it later.  The ratio of cookie dough to ice cream was off, it just need more ice cream to balance all of the cookie dough, but that didn't stop me from eating it all.  In fact through out the weekend I think I had some of this ice cream everyday I was there.  A really great flavor combination.  (She just wrote a post about where she got the recipe and some other great cookie dough recipes she tried.)

Sunday night we tried something new for dinner.  Andy grilled some chicken thighs with Carolina barbecue sauce and romaine lettuce.  We then made a salad with that and some fresh toppings.  He also made some homemade french fries, which are awesome.  It was a really tasty meal.  I don't get to have grilled food that often, so I requested we make something on the grill and then we all just bounced around some ideas and came up with this meal.  I have seen a few mentions of grilled romaine and am glad we tried it, because it was really good.

Since the grill was fired up we decided to put some peaches on.  This was something else new to us.  Grilling the fruit created a layer of caramelization and really accentuated the sweetness of the peach.  I made some fresh whipped cream to go with it too.  It needed some crunch so I tossed some granola on top.  It was a sweet and simple summer dessert.  If you haven't tried it you should!

I was in Orlando and couldn't miss out on a chance to get some Jeremiah's Italian Ice.  I've mentioned before that this place is one of my favorites.  After a little shopping Monday we stopped by the small stand and I picked up a small gelati with cookies and cream ice and swirl soft serve ice cream.  Every time I finish my cup I always want more, it is just so good!
Just looking at this picture makes me want some!
Monday, my last night there, we decided to go to Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza.  Mom and Andy have been there before, but it was a new place for me.  We split an order of chicken wings first.  They are not your traditional wings and are served with sauteed onions and seasoned pita bread.  

When looking at the menu the Broccoli Rabe and Sausage pizza caught my eye.  Mom and Andy said it was something they had never tried, so we decided to order it.  The crust was well done and had a great crunch to it.  The broccoli rabe had a slight bitter taste, but with the spicy sausage, melty cheese, and red sauce it was really good.

My visits home always go by too fast.  It was nice to hang out at home, relax, and spend time with my mom, stepdad, and the cats.  Mom and Andy will be visiting me next in October for the Chicago Marathon!

What is a meal your family makes or a restaurant you enjoy when you visit home?  Have you tried grilled fruit before?      

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicago Marathon Training: Week Six - A 12 Miler in Florida

From here on out I will be tackling new distances and going past my usual 15 -20 miles per week.  This week I ran about 23 miles! 

Monday: 50 minute Easy Run - 3.71 miles
Tuesday: 35 minute Cross Training - Yoga Meltdown L1
Wednesday: 40 minute Tempo Run w/ Four Stride Drills - 3.87 miles
Thursday: 45 minute Run - 3.36 miles
Friday: 30 minute Cross Training - Yoga Meltdown L2
Saturday: REST
Sunday: 12 Mile Long Run

Wednesday I happened to be free to head to Fleet Feet for their Chick's Night Run.  I am more of a morning runner, but knew I would have a good time if I ran with the group so waited until 6:30pm to head out.  This weeks run was also sponsored by one of my favorite companies, Moving Comfort which was another reason to go.  I had a tempo run planned and have found the group running environment makes me run with a little more pep in my step.  I ran the designated out and back route and then ended with four stride drills.  It was warm out, but I felt good throughout most of the run.  I did notice some tightness in my upper back during mile three, but I think it was just stress related and went away after some arms shakes and a back stretch.  I also ran without my iPod which was a nice change.  Since the evening was sponsored by Moving Comfort we got to see the new Fall line, which is really cute.  Everyone also walked away with a goodie bag.
I went out to run again Thursday morning before work around the neighborhood and went without headphones again.  I decided to run without my usual knee straps, which was OK.  I felt a little soreness when I stopped, but otherwise the run was good.  

My back was still a little sore Friday so I did the Yoga Meltdown DVD, which helped stretched some of my muscles and it felt better afterwards.

At work this week while looking at next week's schedule I noticed that I was going to have four days off in a row and decided to check out flights to visit home in Florida.  The prices were a bit more expensive than I have paid in the past, but I had it set in my mind that wanted to go home and bought the tickets.  I had to get up at 3:30am on Saturday to get the early flight out of Chicago and back to Orlando.  I slept a little on the plane, but was still pretty tired when I arrived.  My long run is usually on Saturday, but it was already 90 degrees when I landed and I was tired so decided to push it to Sunday morning.  

I got up around 5:20am Sunday to try and beat the heat since I had such a long run planned.  I ate a small PBJ sandwich with crunchy peanut butter, which was pretty good, and cherry jam, which was just alright, and a glass of water.  
As soon as I walked out of the door the humidity surrounded me.  I started off slow and pretty much stayed slow the entire run.  The combination of the heat, humidity, and my lack of sleep made for a very long and slow run.  Since it was early I did get to see some creatures on my way out of the neighborhood including a large raccoon, a beagle, an opossum, a large owl, a hawk, a black cat, a fawn, two deer, cows, and two armadillos.  The owl in particular was pretty cool to see up close.  
The trail I took was pretty quiet and only saw about five other runners and some bikers while I was out.  I brought along a bottle of G2 with some water mixed in, Honey Stinger chews, and a mini water bottle.  I wish I would have brought more plain water because that is what I really wanted about halfway through as the temperature rose.  It was just a really long run; it almost took me three hours.  I was ready to be finished so when I had two miles left I picked up the pace a bit so I could just be finished.  It wasn't my best run, but I was so happy to be done.

I also finished listening to We Bought a Zoo on my run.  It was interesting to learn about how the Mee family ended up with the zoo and how they got it up and running.  I think I liked the movie more, although the stories are a bit different.  
Instead of having to run an out and back route I just ran out 12 miles and called my mom to pick me up after.  I chugged a huge bottle of water as soon as she picked me up.  I was so thirsty!  After some stretching I sat in an ice bath to help my sore leg muscles.  For breakfast I enjoyed a ton of raspberries and grapes, a toasted english muffin with butter, and spinach, cheese, tomato, scrambled eggs.
Tired, but glad to have finished 12 miles.
Do you ever see any cute or interesting animals on your runs? 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chicago Marathon Training: Week Five - Running Routine

Five weeks in and training has definitely become a part of my routine now.  Before this training program I kind of just ran however long I felt and at whatever pace.  I could skip a day and it wasn't a huge deal.  With my program being all laid out I feel responsible for getting out there everyday.  I feel like I have gotten into a good training groove.  I know that I am going to run three or four days a week and what effort, time, and distance to expect.  My internal clock has definitely made a shift as well, because I find myself wanting to go to bed earlier and waking up a few minutes before my alarm most days.  I like knowing what my training for each week is going to be.  It streamlines the process.

So here's the breakdown of this week's workouts:

Monday: 50 minute Easy Run - 3.65mi
Tuesday: 40 minute Cross Training - Yoga Meltdown L1 + extra
Wednesday: Tempo C w/ Stride Drills - 3.70mi 
Thursday: REST

Friday: 30 minute Cross Training - Yoga Meltdown L2

Saturday: 10 mile Long Run 
Sunday: REST

This was pretty similar to last week except for the 10 mile long run.  Whenever I see ten miles I am always a bit intimidated at first.  I have run that distance plus some more several times, but something about seeing that double digit number makes me second guess myself.  I just have to remind myself that I can do it.  
I got up around 5:30am Saturday morning to run along the lakeshore.  I should have gone to bed a little earlier the night before, because I had a hard time getting up.  Before leaving the apartment I fueled with half an oatmeal raisin Clif bar, water, and a handful of pretzels.  I forgot to get more Honey Stingers this week (my favorite long distance running fuel) and decided to bring pretzels, a fruit strip, and G2 this time.  I decided to just run from my apartment to the trail, run north to the top of the trail and then turn around and head south to the city. 
Long runs are supposed to be slow, but those first three miles seemed to take forever.  After that though I felt a bit more comfortable and that I could cover those ten miles.  The G2 and pretzels were OK fuel for the run, but the Honey Stingers or a fig bar usually work better for me.  But that's what training is for to learn what fuel works best for longer distances.  I ate some around mile four, six, and eight.  Around mile 7.5 I got a bad stomach cramp.  This usually doesn't happen to me, but it lasted about a mile and was quite uncomfortable.  I slowed my pace down to help ease the pain, but it didn't help that much.
I also started a new audiobook this week, We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee.  I saw the movie a few weeks ago and it was such a great story that I wanted to learn some more about how this family ended up running a zoo.  

I like to end my runs by the Green City Market so I ended up doing a the last two mile around Lincoln Park.  After some stretching I grabbed a Seedling raspberry/blueberry smoothie and sausage and cheese bread from Crumb.  

After a shower I was still hungry and made a mexican omelet and then proceeded to fall asleep.  I was tired and ended up taking a two hour nap.  When I woke up from my nap I had hunger pains again.  I decided to walk to Lincoln Square and grab some dinner.  I ate al fresco at Cafe Selmarie.  I got the Grilled Chicken Caesar salad, which was good.  There was a little too much dressing.  I wish there were more veggies in a caesar salad though.  Carrots and tomatoes would have made it perfect.  
Since I was nearby I decided to grab a small cup of gelato at Paciugo.  This place is awesome and they have some unique and rich flavors.  I got the Sea Salt Caramel, Pistachio Almond, and Chocolate Cookies and Milk.  Gelato is pretty decadent, but I like how they serve it to you with a mini spoon in a small cup.  When taking small bites it makes it seem like the serving is actually bigger.  It was oh so good.
This week I have four days of running on the schedule which includes a big 12 mile run for Saturday.  Here's to an awesome week!

Do you have a schedule for running when you are not training for something?  Any tips for what to do when you get a cramp while running?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Chobani Boka Dinner

Wednesday night I was given a great opportunity to attend a dinner put together by Chobani.  A couple weeks ago I received a save the date and was quite surprised and excited to be invited to the event.  The event was to enjoy a Chobani inspired dinner at the local restaurant Boka.  I had never heard of the restaurant before, but after doing a quick Google search found that the chef has received a Michelin Star the past two years and tons of great reviews.  It looked like it was going to be good.  

The restaurant is located in Lincoln Park on North Halsted, which isn't too far from downtown, where I work.  The timing ended up being perfect for me to make it to the event after work Wednesday.  The day before we got an email letting us know what other bloggers would be there and a reminder to dress up since Boka was more upscale.  Trying to find something to wear was a challenge.  I had a couple dresses, but I haven't worn them in awhile and when I went to try them on found they were too big for me now and weren't that flattering.  I didn't have time to shop for something new so decided to belt one of the dresses which I think helped.  

After work I took the El straight over and walked into the restaurant just past 7pm to find all the ladies drinking and chatting.  I am always a bit intimidated and shy meeting new people, but I walked over and introduced myself.  There were about four Chobani representatives, Emily, Jackie, Mariana, and Amy, and nine bloggers attending.  After a few appetizers and introductions we sat down to a large table.  I think I chose a good side of the table because I got to sit near Katie, Marissa, Lindsay, and Kelsey.  These ladies were awesome!  We had great time chatting about everything from food, blogs, tv, music, and books.  

The other bloggers in attendance were Carly, Jessica, Megan, Molly, and Joelen.  It was long table so I didn't get a chance to chat long with the other ladies, but it was so nice to meet them and hopefully we get together again soon.

As we sat down a menu of the evening meals was presented and we were promptly given pieces of warm bread.  I knew a big meal was coming, but it is so hard to resist fresh bread and this stuff was perfect. 
Our kind and attentive server, Stu, then came around to ask everyone if they had any dietary restrictions.  (My only one was that I won't eat lamb, I just can't get past it.)  I have to say they were really great about making substitutions for the vegetarians and those who are gluten free. 

The first course: Hay Roasted Baby Beets, Blueberries, Chobani Greek Yogurt, Fir Tree Honey, Pepper Wheat Cracker.
I only recently tried beets about two weeks ago, when some friends and I from work went out to celebrate a birthday.  I didn't really care for it then, but I thought I'd give them a second chance.  I am so glad I did!  This dish was so good.  The combination of flavors was perfect.  This might have been my favorite dish of the evening.  I was really quite surprised I liked it so much.  I could have done without the crackers though.

The second course: Soft Shell Crab, Grilled Prawns, Chobani Greek Yogurt Grits, Morel Mushrooms, Beet Braised Kohlrabi, Mache.
Something new for me again, soft shell crab.  I wasn't quite sure how to eat it.  I have only had blue crab and snow crab before, so I didn't know you could actually eat the whole crab. I kind of picked the meat out of them.  I tried to eat the soft shell, but couldn't get past the soft shell thing.  However the shrimp and Chobani grits with the mushrooms and beets were delicious!  I have had my fair share of shrimp and grits and I have to say Boka's was great.  Very creamy and awesome flavor.  I think the Chobani really made those grits.  The mushrooms and beets were a great compliment as well.  Besides the crab, this was a close second for my favorite dish.

The final savory course: Lamb Rack, Roobios, Bulgur Wheat, Roasted Baby Vegetables, Purple Fingerling Potatoes, Fava Beans, Roasted Eggplant, Chobani Greek Yogurt Sauce.  I didn't want the lamb, so they subbed beef tenderloin for me.
I haven't had steak in forever and this one was cooked perfectly.  The best bites were when I got some of everything on the plate on it.  I was starting to get full at this point, but everything was just so good.  

Finally was dessert: Chobani Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta, Plums, Honey, Streusel.
This was a great dish to end the evening.  I wish there was a little bit more of the the red sauce on the plate, but the plums were tasty with the panna cotta.  

By the time we had finished the amazing four course menu Boka had put together for us it was almost 10pm and everyone on my side of the table usually gets up early, so we figured it was time to say our goodbyes.  

We all left with a bag of Chobani themed goodies.  Including a water bottle, magnet, and a super cute lunch bag that I can't wait to use.
Chobani has only been around five years and have come quite a long way.  This year they are an Official Sponsor of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team and six athletes.  (I have to say I am super excited for the Olympics to start!) 
I had a such a nice evening meeting and spending time with all the ladies there and eating some super delicious food.  A big thank you to Chobani for inviting me!  

Have you cooked with Chobani before?  Are you excited for the Olympics?  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Chicago Marathon Training - Week Four: A Cutback Week

I have been going, going, going the last few weeks with work and training so I was happy for a cutback week in my training.  A cutback week is exactly what it sounds like, a small decrease in the milage for the week so your body can recover from the work it has been doing.  This helps prepare you for the next weeks of training and can help prevent overtraining.  These come every three weeks or so in my training plan.

In case you didn't know already from all the articles and reports it was crazy hot pretty much everywhere last week.  I got up early to run, but it was already over 85 degrees at 7am every morning!

Here is the breakdown of the weeks workouts:
Monday: Easy Run 50 minutes -3.65 mi
Tuesday: XT 40 minutes - Yoga Meltdown Level Two
Wednesday: Tempo C Workout and Four Stride Drills-  3.62 mi Run easy 10 mins, run at tempo 5 mins, walk 1 min, repeat three times, run easy 10 minutes 
Thursday: REST
Friday: XT 40 minutes - 45 minutes Core Power Ryder
Saturday: Long Run 6 miles 
Sunday: REST

Even though it was a cutback week I definitely got some good workouts in.  The duration of all my workouts increased by ten minutes.  
To get in the 40 minutes on Tuesday I extended the warm-up and cool down portions of the  Yoga Meltdown DVD.  
Wednesday was my first tempo run in this training.  Marathoning for Mortals has three different tempo workouts.  Since I am running by effort and heart rate tempo in these workouts means reaching between 80-85% of heart rate for the designated time which for me is around 158-163 bpm.  Tempo runs are always a good challenge.  They can be tough in the moment, but I have found that when I consistently do them I definitely notice that my pace gets faster and I feel stronger.  They can be taxing on the body so I don't think you are supposed to do them more than once a week.  
Before Core Power Ryder class one day.

Friday I decided to switch up my cross training and went to Core Power Yoga for the Ryder class.  It is essentially a spin class that is done on bikes that can move side to side, which allows you to work more of your core.  The one I attended was moderately full and everything from the music, instructor, other people, and the workout itself were high energy.  We incorporated lots of arm and core work, did many team sprints, and a few climbs.  Everyone was dripping in sweat by the time we finished.  I'm not sure I have every sweat that much during a workout!  
Saturday I had to be at work at 10am so decided to get in my six miles before.  I started around 5:30am and it was already 80 degrees and very humid.  Although it was early and hot, the roads and trail were quiet which was nice.  Pre-run I ate half an oatmeal raisin Clif bar and water.  During the run I had 3/4 of a fig bar, water, and G2.  I only took about three short walk breaks.  The outside of my right calf felt tight for the first part of the run, but gradually felt better as I went along.  
I've been enjoying the Raspberry Strawberry Smoothies from Seedling at the market after my long runs.

I ran to the farmer's market and picked up a few things before heading back home to get ready for work.  Near the end of the day I noticed some pain on the inside part of my left knee and made sure to ice it when I got home.  Everything felt OK today though.   

The weather has finally cooled down some so this week should be more comfortable for running.  I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chicago Marathon Training - Week Three: Furniture, A/C, and Tacos

This was another busy week both work and training wise.  I covered someone's shift at work and ended up with a six day work week.  Training this week was four days of running, two cross training, and one rest.  For my weekday runs I have been running around my new neighborhood.  There is a small park nearby that I can run through, but otherwise I have just been exploring the neighborhood streets and the more I explore the more I love my neighborhood.  
Here is the breakdown:
Monday: 45 minutes Easy Run- 3.36 mi
Tuesday: 30 minutes XT
Wednesday: 40 minutes plus 4 stride drills- 3.63 mi
Thursday: 45 minutes Easy - I ended up doing 41 minutes 3.01 mi
Friday: 30 minutes XT - I ended up 10 minutes of stretching, because I was so sore from carrying home a 50lb A/C unit they day before, which was not the best idea...
Saturday: 9 mile Long Run 
Sunday: Rest

I wasn't necessarily looking forward to nine miles especially because the weather has been warm here, but my long run went really well this week.  I got up around 6:15am had a mini Chocolate Chip Clif bar, a handful of pretzels, and a glass of water before I went out.  I decided to just run from my apartment to the lake and down the path to the Green City Market.  I usually run to the Market Saturday's, but just change where I start depending on the distance planned that week.  I decided to carry a 20oz water bottle and wore my iFitness belt with a G2 and more water.  I think I got started early enough that I avoided too much heat.  
On the North end of the trail.  I ran all the way to those tall building in the distance.
As you may recall I love to listen to books while running and am currently listening to the second book in the Divergent Series called Insurgent.  It might be considered Young Adult, but I don't care, it is good.  Listening to the story helps pass the time when I'm running especially if it is a long workout.  I still people watch and admire the skyline and lake, but I love listening to a book.  For nine miles it felt like the run went by pretty fast when it really took me just over two hours.  I think part of the reason was also because I wasn't constantly looking at my Garmin to see my pace or what time it was.  I only looked at it to make sure I was in the right heart rate zone and when it beeped at each mile to check my mile splits.  I took about five mini walk breaks throughout to either help my heart rate come down a bit or fuel.  I ate a fig bar, two honey stingers, my G2, and all the water to fuel throughout the run.  

After my run I headed to the Employee Warehouse Sale the hotel, where I work, was having.  We recently remodeled so all the olds chairs, dressers, pictures, mirrors, tables, etc were up for sale at super discounted prices.  I only own a bed and dresser so I figured it was worth a look.  I ended up getting two arm chairs and a small kitchen table for only $50, you can't beat a deal like that!  I belong to a car sharing program and rented an SUV to get all the stuff back to the apartment.  I finally have somewhere to sit besides my bed!  I also finally purchased a window unit for my room and have air conditioning.  My wonderful grandparents offered to buy it for me and I am so grateful.  I can now be comfortable and cool in my apartment for the summer.

I had to return the car and ended up near Bucktown/Wicker Park and decided to try Big Star for lunch.  I have heard lots of people talk about this taco place and since I was nearby stopped by the to-go section.  The place has a great atmosphere with a large outside seating area, big bar, and music playing. I ended up trying the chicken taco, pork belly taco, and some chips and salsa.  The chicken taco was just ok, but the pork belly one was tasty.  Plus the chips and salsa were perfect.  (The food was little messy since I got it to go, so my pictures didn't turn out great.)  I will definitely be back to try the queso and guacamole and maybe a dessert, but it was just me so I couldn't try them all then.  

How do you stay cool in the summer?  What are your favorite type of tacos?