Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ooops! (Or How I Made Life Harder on Myself!)

In the past week I've made 3 attempts to get in speedwork or a tempo run. I failed twice at the speedwork and once at the tempo. Tonight, I set out to get the speedwork done or bust. I was afraid I would lose all running momentum if I didn't get in a good workout and that was my main motivation for pushing myself hard.

I was a little concerned about why the speedwork seemed so hard in the first place. 5 x1000m @ 7:29 pace should be challenging but not impossible for me based on previous workouts. Have I lost that much fitness? I've been working out pretty consistently, why would I lose fitness??

But tonight was the night. I set the 'mill on 8.2 mph, popped on some new music (Blow by Kesha, Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga and Rolling in the Deep by Adele) and pushed myself. It was tough, tough, tough. The first interval was HARD, the second was tolerable, the third was AWFUL, the fourth pushed me right up to the puke threshold and the fifth? The fifth interval just made me laugh. So I set the treadmill to 8.2 for my 5th interval and I see 7:18 min/mile. What????? I was supposed to be doing 7:29 min/miles!!! How did I do 4 intervals 11s per mile TOO FAST???

So what did I do? I wasted some oxygen laughing out loud at myself and finished the 5th interval at 7:18 pace. Whew!

Well, I guess I'm back on track. No fitness lost here, folks. Maybe just some brain cells:)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bachelorette Par-tay!

A few weeks ago, my dear dear dear friend Bonnie had her final celebration as a single woman here in Chi-town- her Bachelorette party!! The weekend was perfect- a great representation of Bonnie as a person. The activities were diverse from high tea to a sweaty run to spa night to late night drinking. And that's Bonnie, always up to something, always up for anything, never sitting still. I so enjoyed meeting her friends from undergrad. They are a great group of girls. And of course her wonderful sisters: Sabrina who I've loved spending time with over the past few years and her older sister who I met for the first time.

The weekend started w/ Lou Malnati's pizza at the hotel. It was a relaxing and fun way for everyone to get to know each other. The next morning, most of the ladies got spa treatments and massages. Bonnie (aka I-can't-sit-still-even-after-a-relaxing-massage) and Sabrina joined me for a run right after their massage which was so great. Bonnie was my first ever running partner. I love running with her. As an example, when Bonnie sent me an email w/ the subject line "Marathon?" before I even read the rest, I thought to myself "sure, why not?".  Doesn't matter where, doesn't matter when, I'm in!

Our private room for tea at the Four Seasons

Next up after the run... high tea! Many of the nice hotels downtown offer high tea complete w/ finger foods, biscuits and high heels. It's really fun to get all gussied up and spend time getting pampered in the middle of the day. I've been to high tea at many places including The Drake, The Peninsula, and The Four Seasons. My favorite tea w/ a group, like at the B-party, is at The Four Seasons. They put us in a beautiful private room. My favorite for a smaller group (2-4) is The Peninsula; with the 2 story floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall ceiling windows, the natural light can't be beat.

A timer was provided to help steep the tea perfectly.

Delicious finger food, esp after a run!

The dessert tower in all its glory!

After tea, we headed down to Millennium Park to hear the orchestra play w/ wine and even more tasty snacks. What a perfect day and night!

Thanks to the ladies who planned this amazing weekend! And to my wonderful friend, Bonnie! I can't wait for the wedding!!!

The girls! The bride-to-be is right in the middle:)
(Thanks to LVW for the last picture.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Black Sheep

 Here in Chicago, we have an enviable problem. There are too many great restaurants and not enough time (to go to them or to work off the calories!). Sometimes, this makes choosing a restaurant tough. So many good options! Adam and I solved this problem last week by going to a new restaurant that he saw on his bus route to work. We hadn't heard anything about the place but a quick glance at the menu looked promising so we decided to go out on a limb and give it a shot.

Oddly, the place didn't open until 6, which was hard for us early birds to adapt to, but we grabbed a drink 2 blocks over at The Twisted Spoke beforehand. We certainly debated going elsewhere- I was HUNGRY and didn't want to be up too late- but we both had become interested in seeing this random restaurant pic so we stuck around.

Bottom line: The Black Sheep is amazing, soon to be one of the most raved about restaurants in Chicago, so you should go there now before the secret gets out!!

The interior is really cute and quirky. Dimly lit w/ fun furnishings and interesting, offbeat colorful paintings. The bathroom is cute too, so make sure you stop in:) The combination of the music, the ambiance and the very attentive, eager-to-please waitstaff clad in full suits w/ sneakers sets a great tone for the evening.

The food is American Cuisine "albeit twisted and disoriented" per the sign, and the twists are really fun and unexpected! For example, the wine list. I had never heard of any of the wines by the glass offered so was "forced" to try something new. I ended up with a nice white Quattro Mani from Slovenia. Yes, Slovenia. And it was good. For my red w/ dinner, I choose an Arizona Cab Sauvignon. Did any of you know that Arizona has a wine maker? Let alone a really good one??

In terms of food, each menu option was carefully planned, creative, made w/ the best ingredients and cooked to perfection. I have nothing bad to say about any of the dishes we had. And, like the wine list, most of the food offerings are unusual, so no matter what you choose you are likely trying something that you've never had before. Our choices:

Seafood appetizer (clockwise from 12- little neck clam, octupus, anchoive, shrimp)
Little Neck Clams / sardines / octopus / shrimp- I LOVED the clams and sardines and I usually don't like clams. The octopus was cooked properly, which isn't always the case.

Illinois beef w/ scallion. All of the garnishes were delicious especially the mushrooms.
Illinois Beef / scallop / onion pudding / bergamot- All excellent and the scallop was perfectly cooked. The beef came in 2 cuts: 4 medallions and an oxtail (tail of cattle, usually stewed). The medallions were great. My only critique would be that the oxtail didn't need to be fried, the meat was fine w/o the fried shell.

Red Fish w/ pork rillette. Look at that egg!
Red Fish / pork rillette / bacon royal / chicken egg- Very tasty. The egg was soft boiled and tasted as perfect as it looked!

For dessert, we had  the
smoked brioche beignet / malt semi freddo /sour beer carmel / marshmallow / pickled apples at our waiter's recommendation and it was amazing. We also had the Dante cheese plate and Adam had 13 yr Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

We weren't planning on going out to dinner this evening, so I didn't have my camera (just my iphone), so sorry the pictures are dim!

For the local foodies, I'd say The Black Sheep's menu ('unusual' selections like sweetbreads, snails, mutton as well as more typical mussels, skate, etc) and vibe is similar to that of Leopold, but The Black Sheep does things better than Leopold:
                       Black Sheep                           Leopold
waitstaff             eager to please                                    too cool for school
ambiance           dark, quiet, spacious but still hip        nice looking but cramped and loud
menu offerings  combo of heavy and light                   you-better-bring-your-Lipitor heavy
food plating       garnishes=creative and delicious       what's a garnish again?
beer                    multiple goose island selections         good except for the absence of goose!

All comparisons aside, I highly recommend a stop at The Black Sheep over on 1132 West Grand. You won't be disappointed!

Monday, July 4, 2011

I Am Thankful For Eyebrows

I've started my own little 4th of July tradition of doing a long run in the morning before heading to our afternoon BBQ. Usually I have the day off (though not always), the path is a bit less crowded than the weekend, and I can build a calorie debt to be deliciously filled later in the day.

It was a hot one- 80 degrees w/ 50% humidity. Not unbearable, actually quite nice in the shade, but the long open stretches were brutal! So I made a mental list of the things I was thankful for, things that helped me deal w/ the heat. And the first thing I thought of was eyebrows. Thank god for eyebrows! Without them, the gallons and gallons of sweat that poured from my head over the past 2.5 hours would all be in my eyes! I've definitely not given my eyebrows the credit they deserve. I usually find them to be pretty annoying because they require me to go through the painful process of getting them threaded every month or so to keep them shapely. I'll try to respect them more in the future;)

The run went pretty well. My goal was 17 miles near 9:40 pace w/ no walking and I came pretty close to achieving just that. I took 2 short (<20s) walk breaks after mile 14, which I'm okay with. I ran 17.16 in 2:41:43 for an overall pace of 9:25. Slowest mile was 9:58, fastest was 8:55 and the vast majority were b/t 9:15-9:30.

Okay, I'm off to eat my weight in hot dogs!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

2011 Goals Post Update

I've seen a few of my favorite bloggers write 'goals update' posts, fitting since it's 1/2 way through the year. So I'm going to shamelessly copy them:)

Here are my 2011 Goals (original post here) and my progress report for each.

1. Sub 25 minute 5K (current PR 26:19 in very slick, snowy conditions)
--In progress. I'm pretty sure I can do this, I just need to find a small to medium sized 5k (some of the ones in Chicago are so big that you can lose literally minutes ducking and dodging). As my work schedule materializes, I'll get this done.

2. Sub 2 hr half-marathon (current PR 2:00:19)
--In progress. I have no doubt that I can do this. In fact, my 1/2 split for the Rockford Marathon was sub-2. I just need to find a 1/2 marathon that I can complete to make it official. Honestly I'm not sure if this will work out scheduling-wise this year; it's not the highest priority.

3. Sub 4:15 marathon (let's not talk about my current PR, I'm not very proud of it)
--DONE! Woo-hoo! 4:05 and change at Rockford in May. So, I'm going to change this goal to a sub-4:00. This might not happen, but I gotta shoot high, right?

4. Complete marathons in at least 2 new states working towards my 50 marathons in 50 states goal.
--DONE! Hawai'i and Wisconsin.

5. Qualify for Marathon Maniacs (MM).
--DONE! Rockford and Madison in 2 weeks in May. So I met the goal, I qualified. But I decided to not actually join MM. After reviewing the website, I'm not entirely sure what the entry fee goes to beyond the annual meetings at Hooters (which I think is absurd, btw). So I qualified, but I'm not a member.

6. Weights (a challenging routine) 2 times a week.
--Total and utter FAIL. Thus far. But I have 6 months to go so there's still hope. I wish I could find a way to make weights more rewarding and fun.

7. Do 1 triathlon- can be short or long, big or small, just get that first one done!
--FAIL. I kinda wrote this one off, but then I had a good swim work-out where I covered 0.3 miles and I realized I could probably do a sprint tri this summer or fall. Therefore this is still on the table.

Since I berate myself for goals not achieved, it's only fair that give I give myself some 'extra credit' for add'l achievements that weren't on my goals list. For example, today is the 183rd day in a row that I've ran at least 1 mile. 183 days of streaking! I never thought I would do such a thing but I'm doing it and I think it's awesome:)

Happy 4th of July everyone!!!