Thursday, May 30, 2013

2013 Soldier Field 10 Mile: Race Recap

This past weekend I ran the Solider Field 10 Mile Race with 12,500 other people.  It was another fabulous race put together by Fleet Feet Chicago - these guys know how to organize a race!  
This was my second time running this race.  I have only run races once before (except for maybe the Orlando Turkey Trot) so it was neat to run a specific race again.  This was also my biggest race since the Chicago Marathon last year.  I made a training plan and have been better about getting cross training into my schedule.  The day leading up to the race I felt really anxious for some reason... I knew this race was coming up I had been promoting it, training for it, and had signed up months ago, but all of sudden race day was tomorrow!  After a short night's sleep, most of the anxiety had subsided and I was feeling better about the race.

The race starts at Soldier Field which is about an hour away from my place via the el.  After my 4:55am alarm I got changed, packed a pb&j sandwich, and headed to the train.  It was kind of chilly outside, mid 40s or so.  I kept going back and forth on what to wear, but finally decided on my favorite Moving Comfort capris and a New Balance long sleeve shirt.  I was cold waiting for the start, but otherwise it was a good choice.  
Getting to a race in Chicago early in the morning is always fun.  It is early and the trains are packed with runners getting down to the starting area.  On the ride I drank some water and ate my sandwich.  

Everyone filed off the train at the Roosevelt stop and made the walk over to Soldier Field.  I checked my bag, made a quick stop at the port-a-potty and got into my corral.  The race started at 7am.  Just before there was the National Anthem, a moment of silence for those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings, and recognition of all the service men and women who have fought for country and were running the race that day.  Soon after the first corral went off and they played some great music while the rest of us waited to get going.  The course is a little skinny in the start so the waves went off every five minutes or so to help with crowding on the course, which is smart, but makes the wait for slower runners like me in the back very long.  I chatted with another girl and her boyfriend in my corral.  This was her first race, a 10-miler!  She was also signed up for the Chicago Marathon.  We chatted about training and the races.  It was nice to have someone to pass the waiting time with.  

When our corral finally made it to the starting line I wished them good luck before we went off.   My main goal for this race was to beat last years time of 2:03, I really wanted to get under two hour though.  To do this I needed to maintain around a 12 minute pace.  With all the anticipation and energy at the beginning I started off strong.  I knew I had miles to go though and saved some energy for later on.  

Around mile two I started to pass a lady who seemed to be walking a little strangely.  All of sudden she started to slow down and then fell to the ground.  All of the runners around began to shout for help from a nearby course marshall.  He didn't seem to understand why we were all shouting, so we had to yell "Help - Run!"  He finally ran over and I kept going ahead.  A little while later we saw a fire truck and ambulance make their way down the course to help the woman.  I am assuming she was ok, because I didn't hear anything about it, but it was kind of scary.  

For the course we got to run on Lakeshore Drive and had all four lanes to ourselves, which was a nice change from last year when we only had two and cars going past us.  Somewhere in the first half Christina (from blogger book club) caught up with me.  We ran together for a bit before going our separate ways.  
I was maintaining a good pace and knew that if I kept it up I would get that PR.  I only walked through the five aid stations, but otherwise ran the whole way.  I think I had some Honey Stinger chews at mile three, five, and eight and some Gatorade at two of the aid stations.  The turnaround came around mile five and we then got on to the lakefront trail.  Running North to the city on the trail is really pretty, because there is a wonderful view of the whole Chicago skyline.  

It was a nice change of scenery, because I usually don't run down there.   The trail is much smaller than four lane highway, but it wasn't too crowded.  

Soon Soldier Field came into view.  There were a few supporters out there as we got closer to the stadium.  A group around mile eight and half had picture of celebrities with chat bubbles.  One of my favorites was one of Daniel Radcliff as Harry Potter saying "Accio Finish Line!"  ("Accio" is the summoning charm for non HP fans)  It made me laugh and smile.  
the sign looked something like this
I really picked up my speed the last three miles of the race and even clocked a ten minute mile!  The final stretch of the race is one of the best.  You make a turn to enter the tunnels into the stadium and then appear on the other end on Soldier Field.  Crossing the finish line in the middle of the stadium with your picture on the big screen is so neat!  
As we made the final turn to go in a lady next to me was looking tired and started to walk and I encouragingly said to her, "We're really almost there -you can do it!"  After I had crossed the finish line she came up from behind me and said thank you.  We each snapped a picture of our finish line glory for each other!
I crossed the finish line in 1:56:47 which was under two hours and new PR!  Yay!  

After some pictures inside the stadium I went out to stretch and collect my medal.  They were given to us by members of the military which was great.  Solider Field was dedicated as a remembrance of those who have died in service of our country and the race was done on Memorial Day weekend - so this was such a nice touch.  

I thanked the soldier that placed my medal around my neck.  This was the tenth anniversary for the race so the medals were awesome!  

I grabbed my cute goodie bag that had Popchips, banana, and whole Clif bar inside and then made my way to the after party.  It was pretty chilly once I got out there so I didn't stay very long.  As I walked back to the train I started have a bad pain in my upper left leg.  It hurt to walk a bit.  I tried to go somewhere to eat, but everything was packed so I had the banana from the goodie bag and went back home.  Later that day after book club as I was walking home my leg started to hurt again and I started to limp.  It hurt to walk and climb the stairs.  I thought maybe I pulled a muscle so I took some pain medicine and iced it when I got home.  It was still bugging me the next few days and I was worried so I went to my sports doctor.  Thankfully it isn't anything too serious - I sprained my hip flexor.  She suggested I go back to physical therapy.  I have been good about cross training, but have not been keeping up with my hip strengthening exercises, so it's my own fault.  I'm just glad it wasn't anything worse.  I can still run I just have to be mindful of any pain.  So strengthen those hips people - they're important for running!  

Soldier Field 10 Mile is such an awesome race!  I like the course, the volunteers, the cause, the swag, and medal.  Running ten miles is fun distance too - a challenge, but doable with the right training.  If you want a good ten mile race, Soldier Field is the one to do!  
Have you ever run a race you really liked more than once?  Ever seen a race sign that made you laugh during a race?  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jillian Michaels Maximize Your Life Tour

I am a big Jillian Michael's fan.  I've watched her shows on TV, done several of her workout DVDs, and love listening to her podcast.  She tells it like it is and truly wants to help people figure out how to live their best life and do what they want.  
When I heard she was going to do a speaking tour and would be making a stop in Chicago I was really interested in seeing her.  I waffled back and forth on whether or not to purchase a ticket.  I asked some friends, but everyone was either out of town or busy.  I finally decided to just go.  Why not right?  I was interested in seeing her speak and I don't go out a ton, so this was reason to get out and do something.  
About a week after purchasing my ticket I saw that PopChips Chicago was hosting a giveaway on Twitter for a pair of tickets to her show.  I thought why not and retweeted the post to enter.  I didn't hear anything after a few days, so I figured I hadn't won which was fine since I already had a ticket.  
The day of the show Friday, May 10th I get a direct message on Twitter from PopChips Chicago telling me I won a pair of tickets to see Jillian Michael's that night and a supply of PopChips!  I couldn't believe it.  

Since I had an extra ticket I tweeted if anyone would like to join me and my fellow #RunChi teammate Shawna accepted!  
After work we met at the theater where I picked up the tickets at will call.  Inside was a message to get my prize at the PopChips booth in the lobby.  When I told them I had won the tickets via Twitter the PopChips people were super excited for me and handed me a large bag full of PopChips, two pens, and chip clips!  Shawna snapped a picture to document my winnings before we made our way to our seats. 

The Auditorium Theater is a lovely theater and we had good seats to see the show. 

Just before Jillian came out her two kids Lou and Phoneix walked on stage and waved at the audience and danced to the music.  They were very cute!
After a video, Jillian came out to big applause.  (Danni Allen, the recent winner of the Biggest Loser also walked on stage for a moment to say hello.)  The show was just her a microphone, a stool, and a big LED screen for about two and a half hours.  It was divided into three sections: Science, Sweat, and Self.  The first half was about diet, exercise, and nutrition.  I knew most of this information already from my own research and her podcasts.  She stressed the importance of eating quality food, reading food labels, figuring out your BMR, dynamic workouts, etc.  

After a 15 minute intermission Jillian came back out to talk about the Self.  This section was all about realizing that you have it within you to make a change, go after something, or achieve a goal.  This goes for every facet of your life, not just weight loss.  
That's Jillian in the center there -my iPhone could not get a good shot of her...
The general public knows of Jillian Michaels as the intense trainer from TV, but that is just one side of her brand to share great workouts and nutrition information with us.  It's not just about that though.  Those are just steps you can take to lose weight, get happy, fall in love, work your dream job, or travel new places.  It's about figuring out what you really want from life and realizing that you deserve it.  The last half of her show was all about that.  She emphasized that it's not just a matter of wishing it would happen, but taking responsibility for yourself and doing the work to get there.  You have to figure out what is preventing you from achieving that goal, which mean answering difficult questions and dealing with emotional issues.  You have to learn to be present so you can "maximize your life" and live the best life you can!

Overall I really enjoyed the show and it was cool to get to see and listen to Jillian Michaels speak in person.  The show has made me think about my life and what I want from it.  It can be hard to think about some of the things she asked us to think about or dive into, but (as she said) the pain of being unhappy or unhealthy has to be greater than that fear so you can make a change.  

Are you a Jillian Michaels fan?  What motivates you to be healthy, exercise, and go after your goals?  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Colorado Part Three - Two Amazing Breakfasts and Garden of the Gods

Ok, last post about my trip to Colorado.  There was just too much to share in one post!

After our adventures on Saturday I was excited for more fun.  We started the day with a super delicious breakfast at Snooze, an AM Eatery.  It was about a mile from the hotel, so instead of driving we decided to walk down Larimer Street to get there.  We were there relatively early, but there was already a line and wait list started.  We waited about 15 minutes before we were seated and handed a menu full of yummy sounding food.  
The restaurant itself was very cute with cool round tables and booths, unique silverware and mugs, and a friendly staff.  We decided to share four different things at the table for breakfast.  The Breakfast Pot Pie which was a puff pastry topped with sausage gravy and an egg, Snooze Spuds Deluxe had hash browns with melted cheese, bacon, sausage gravy, and topped with eggs, Corned Beef Hash, a housemade biscuit, and the Pancake Flight with the OMG French Toast, PB Cup Pancake, and Buttermilk Pancake.

Everything was so darn good.  The puff pastry and sausage gravy were perfect together, I couldn't stop going back for that.  The Spuds Deluxe was really rich and full of flavor.  The corned beef was perfect.  That OMG French Toast did make me say "oh my gosh" after taking a bite.  It was brioche stuffed with mascarpone and topped with vanilla creme, salted caramel, and agave soaked strawberries and coconut.  OMG, right?!  I wish we had gotten a whole order of that instead of the flight. We all agreed it was one of the best breakfasts we had ever had. 
On the walk back to the hotel we decided to make a day trip to Colorado Springs to explore the Garden of the Gods.  Katie has blogged about hiking there and how beautiful it is, and I wanted to check it out myself.  It was about an hour ride to get there and we stopped by the visitor center to find out which trails we should explore.  I asked a guide and he directed us to one of his favorite trails which was around 3.5 miles long.  

This trail was definitely more of hike than our one the previous day.  We were actually hiking up the mountainside on uneven terrain.  The only downside about the trail is that it is shared with horses, so there was quite a lot of horse droppings on the trail, but that's nature, right?  Other than that it was really cool to walk amongst all the rocks.  The rock formations are so interesting and there were some spectacular views on our hike.  
Pikes Peak in the background

In front of the Siamese Twins
We were out there for awhile and quite hungry after our excursion.  We drove around Colorado Springs a bit and then headed back to Denver for some food.  Since it was Cinco de Mayo we found a small local Mexican restaurant and had dinner.  The food was kind of ok, but they had some amazing tortillas.  There was a window to see into the kitchen where an older woman was busy making them.  They were so fresh and the best tortillas I've ever had -that lady was making them right!

After dinner we headed back to the hotel and Mom and I hung out at the spa for a little while before settling in.  

Our last day we just had the morning left before our flights out of town and hit up another delicious breakfast spot in Denver.  This place was called Sassafras American Eatery.  
The restaurant was adorable.  It is in the historic William J Dunwoody House which was built in 1889.  There were wood tables and benches and cute knick-knacks all around.  Each table had a unique set of salt and pepper shakers and the silverware was wrapped in different printed cloths.  
Once again everything on the menu sounded good.  We got a few different things to try.  We started with the Elvis Beignets which were banana beignets filled with peanut butter mousse and served with bacon molasses jam.  It was an interesting combination.  I'm not really a bacon fan, but the jam was pretty tasty - sweet with just a hint of salty bacon flavor.  The peanut butter mousse inside the beignets was really good too.  We also had some of their fresh squeezed orange juice which was perfection.  

For our meals we got a Breakfast Slider, Biscuits and Gravies, and Southern Sunrise.  I know I keep saying this, but the food was so, so good.  
The Breakfast Slider was egg and cheese on their buttermilk biscuit.  The Biscuits and Gravies were the perfect combination.  Their biscuits were buttery, soft, and fresh.  The Southern Sunrise was a bowl of cheese grits with pulled pork, fried onions, pico de gallo, and an egg on top.  It had the right balance of spice and the pork and grits combo was a winner.  If this place wasn't halfway across the country I'd be there all the time!

After breakfast we stopped by Happy Cakes to grab some cupcakes for the trip home and then had to head back to the airport.
I agree!
I had such a wonderful time on my trip to Colorado.  I have wanted to visit for long time and I'm glad I made the plans to do just that.  It was fun exploring and spending time with my mom and step-dad for a long weekend.  The beauty of Colorado is hard to put into words.  The scenery, food, and people there are great!  I want to go back!

What is one of the best breakfasts you've ever had?  Have you ever been to Colorado?  What location is on your to visit list?   

Monday, May 13, 2013

Colorado Part Two - Zip Lining & Exploring the Red Rocks

In Part One I told you about our first afternoon in Denver so on to the next day! 

Saturday we started early with a 6:15am alarm.  We grabbed a quick breakfast at The Market in Larimer Square before hitting the road to make our way to Idaho Springs for a zip lining tour.  As we were riding down the highway more mountains came into view. It was beautiful.  

Mom and Andy had been zip lining before, but this was my first experience.  I suggested we go zip lining, but I was a bit nervous about the whole thing.  After checking in with the AVA Colorado Zip Line shop we got outfitted with a helmet, gloves, and harness with the other four people in our group and met our two guides Shane and Austin.  After a short demo about where to place our hands and what we would be doing we all piled into a van and took a short ride up to the side of nearby mountain.  

Once we reached the staring point the guides gave us some information about the area and pointed out to us a nearby gold mine and that the mountains we saw on our drive in were the Continental Divide - so cool!  

Being high up from the ground and knowing that I had to zip across to get down was a bit nerve racking.  I was the probably the fourth person to go across and as I got hooked up to the line my heart started to race a bit.  Shane gave me the go ahead and all of a sudden I was sliding off and zipping down the mountain.  It was exhilarating!  I was still a bit cautious and used my hand to break some so I wasn't going at full speed.  

We ended up zipping down six different lines to get to the bottom of the mountain.  I got more comfortable with each zip and ended up having a really good time.  Shane and Austin were really funny and joked around with us which made the experience even better.  The views zipping down the mountain were pretty too.  
Mom, me, & Andy
After our tour we headed to the downtown street of small Idaho Springs.  It was one road full of shops and small restaurants.  We walked down the street and stopped at the local Morning Gold Bakery and picked up some fresh doughnuts and a sausage breakfast pocket.  They were just made that morning and tasted so good.  
We moseyed down the street and checked out some other stores and spent some time looking around and chatting with the residents.  Everyone we met in this town were incredibly friendly and helpful.  Seriously, so, so nice.

I was interested in going for a hike so we decided to check out the nearby St. Mary's Mountain.  We slowly made our way up a winding mountain side road to reach 10,000 ft.  
So pretty!  Just behind us there is actually a frozen lake covered in snow.
It had snowed the day before so the hiking trail was covered in snow and since we weren't really prepared for that we stopped to enjoy the views at the mountain instead.  It was absolutely gorgeous!  

I got a few recommendation to check out the Red Rocks so we headed there next.  The Red Rocks are exactly what they sound like these huge red rocks just sticking out of the ground.  There is also a really awesome amphitheatre in the middle of the rocks were lots of famous people and bands have played.  There weren't any groups we were interested playing in town, but I bet it would be awesome to attend a concert there.  

We went midday and the park was pretty busy.  The amphitheatre was full of people exercising on the steps, in the stadium, and hiking the trails.  
At the top of the amphitheater.
We decided to take the Trading Post Trail to explore more of the rocks.  It was about a 1.4 mile hike through the rocks.  It may have only been a short distance but the combination of the terrain, steps, and altitude made for a pretty decent workout.  We had to climb the amphitheatre steps after the hike, which was a good challenge.  We even saw some Mule Deer up close and Magpie birds on our hike.  I loved hiking through such a pretty place.

After our exploring we were ready to eat some more good food and made our way back to the city and headed to Russell's Smokehouse for some barbecue.  We decided to split the baby back ribs, macaroni and cheese, spinach, and the combo plate of chicken, brisket, and pulled pork with dinner rolls.  All of their meat is slow roasted in the restaurant daily and the waitress informed us that they take pride in how flavorful their meat is.  

The combo plate was our favorite.  All three meats were perfectly cooked and very flavorful!  They didn't need any bbq sauce on them, but their house made sauces were too good, so I had a little bit with mine.  The ribs were ok, but could have been better.  

After our meal we stopped by the Tattered Cover Book Store in Historic LoDo.  This place is so wonderful.  It is in an historic two story brick building and full of books.  You could easily spend hours in this bookstore.  There were new books, used books, a coffee shop, nice kids section, and great book displays with recommendations from the staff.  
The place was pretty busy too.  Mom and I both wished there were more bookstores like this around. 
I love this Reader's Bill of Rights!
Our final stop for the evening was walk to Little Man Ice Cream.  

We had read some good reviews for this place online and knew we had to check it out.  It was a bit chilly outside, but we didn't care, and honestly neither did anyone else.  The shop is a giant milk can with little tables and chairs outside.  We sampled a few different flavors before each getting a small cup.  All of their ice cream is made in small batches and they source local ingredients to make their flavors.
Andy got Oatmeal Cookie and Chocolate, Mom got Salted Oreo and Chocolate, and I got Salted Oreo and Coconut Almond Fudge.  I loved all the flavors so it was really hard to choose.  The ice cream was nice and creamy.  It was a great way to end an awesome day!

Have you ever been zip lining?  Do you have a favorite local bookstore?  What's your favorite kind of ice cream?   

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Colorado Part One - Food Tour & Osteria Marco

This past weekend I got to visit Denver, Colorado for a mini vacation.  Through work I get comp nights at other hotels in the company and decided to plan a trip to Denver and use some of them.  I invited my mom and step dad, Andy, to come along with me and we had a wonderful trip!  This was my first time to Colorado and I had been looking forward to this trip since I booked it.  We were there for about four days so I have a lot to share and decided to break up the posts.

We arrived to Denver late Friday morning and after a long wait for the rental car made it into the city just in time for our walking food tour with Denver Gourmet.  This tour was pretty different from other food tours I have done.  Usually the tour guide gives you some history or information about the city, area, food, etc.  For this tour however the guide just took us around to different food trucks and restaurants and only gave us information about the food.  I missed the history aspect of the tour, but we did get to try some pretty tasty food.  
First up was the Little India food truck.  I don't really eat a lot of Indian food and was pleasantly surprised with the food we were served.  I chose the Saag Paneer to try which was like creamed spinach with chunks of cheese and Indian spices.  It came with basmati rice and piece of naan.  This was only our first stop, but it was huge serving.  It didn't photograph very well, but I really enjoyed the food.  

Next we headed over to Caveman Cafeteria which serves Paleo style food.  It was 100% grass fed meat, organic, and gluten free.  We got small little cups filled with tastes of several items from their menu.  This included sauteed kale, sausage and peppers, zucchini salad, short ribs, and a beef slider.  Everything was delicious.  I loved the zucchini salad and the short ribs best.  The two guys who run the stand also do catering in the Denver area too.  They actually started their business using Kickstarter which is pretty amazing.  

After a short stroll down 16th Street we stopped at Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs.  They don't serve your average hot dogs at this stand.  All of the dogs are served with cream cheese and onions that are sauteed with Coke.  They offer an all beef hot dog but also served Wild Boar, Alaska reindeer, Elk Jalapeno Cheddar, and Rattlesnake.  We got to try bites of all of those.  I think I tried all of them except the rattlesnake.  I just had no desire to try that.  I didn't really care for any of them.  I wouldn't mind trying an all beef dog with the cream cheese and onions, but I just couldn't get behind the other types.  

Then we made our way to Black Crow which was an outdoor taco stand.  The group grabbed seats while the owner and chef came out to tell us about the food.  Mom, Andy, and I tried the barbocoa, shrimp, and chicken tacos.  The barbocoa had a wine flavor to it that I didn't care for and the chicken was little too spicy.  The shrimp was the definitely the best one.  It was fried Gulf shrimp with pico de gallo, lettuce, and spicy chipotle cream sauce.  

Our final stop was EVOO Marketplace.  This shop was the first in Colorado to offer tastings of real olive oil and flavored vinegars.  The couple that owns and operates the shop described how the shop works and how you create your own oil and vinegar combinations to use on savory and sweet foods as marinades, dressings, or toppings.  We then got to walk around the shop creating and sampling our own combinations.  We tried raspberry, coconut and sesame, butter and lime, and a few others.  Mom and Andy ended up purchasing a few bottles to have shipped home.  I can't wait to see what they use them for!

After the tour we walked some more around the downtown area know as LoDo before making our way to the hotel to check in.  I got a free upgrade and we ended up in a lovely top floor room with a view of the city.  I also took the chance to check out the rest of the hotel including the spa and fitness center.  It's interesting to compare the hotel I work at and other hotels in the company!

Later we walked to Lamier Square and had dinner at Osteria Marco for some Italian food.  The dining area was in the basement and had brick walls and lots of dark wood.  There was a nice bar area, panini station, pizza making in the back kitchen and cheese coming from upstairs.  

Lots of things on the menu sounded good.  We ended up splitting the Chicken Parmesan Panini, Tomato Salad, and Bianco Pizza.  The restaurant makes all their cheese in house and it was so fresh and delicious!  The sandwich included focaccia, mozzarella, and fontina and was super rich and flavorful.  The pizza crust had slight crunch and had rich, buttery flavor.  It was comprised of garlic, sliced zucchini, robiola, pecornio, and ricotta.  I couldn't stop eating it!  

The tomato salad, which was their version of caprese, included mozzarella, micro basil, shaved asparagus, diced tomatoes, and a balsamic reduction, it was fabulous!   

Have you ever been on a food tour?  Is there some type of food you wouldn't try?  Do you have a favorite type of cuisine?  Ever been to an oil tasting store?