Sunday, October 28, 2012

Slurping Turtle

Main dining area- we were in one of the upstairs tables.
For Adam's birthday I wracked my brain to find a restaurant that was new, fun and just his style. We're taking a break from the "gastronomic Olympics" that are mutl-course extravaganzas such as Next and Goosefoot for a variety of reasons. I know he likes Asian food a lot. So when I found Slurping Turtle, nominee for best new restaurant of the year for the 2012 Time Out Eat Out Awards behind Next, I knew it had to be good. And the laid back style and reasonably priced food was just what I was looking for.

Walkway to the door.
Slurping Turtle is the brainchild of Chef Takashi (of the renewed Takashi restaurant) and his goal was to re-create the "culinary experiences" of his childhood in Japan, essentially "Japanese Comfort Food". From our sampling of the menu, he definitely succeeds.

The space is very cute- an all glass, two story front, a fun walk down a interesting hallway to get to the inner front door. The restaurant is modern and sophisticated, full of light wood and glass, yet extremely comfortable- a place where adults could go before a night out or after work or where young families could bring their (well-behaved only, please) kids for a family dinner. We were seated in one of the handful of booths upstairs that overlook either the restaurant or the street.

We started with the Duck Fat Fried Chicken and the Pork Belly Snack, both of which were wonderful. The Pork Belly Snack is a MUST HAVE. Each was garnished with delicious vegetables and sauces to create complex flavor profiles, unique with each bite. So good.

Pork Belly Snack on Rice Bun

Adam then moved on to the Takashi roll composed of Wagyu beef and the usual rice, veggies, etc with foie gras on top. It was excellent. I had the Miso Ramen Dish with miso broth, braised pork shoulder (SOO GOOD), bean sprouts and a multitude of other delicious garnishes. It was really good and HUGE. Definitely recommend splitting just 1 noodle or soup dish and trying a sampling of sides and appetizers to get the most of of your tasting experience here.

For sides we had the pickled cabbage which Adam liked (I was plus/minus) and the fried brussel sprouts which were AMAZING and another MUST HAVE. I do like brussel sprouts in general, but I don't think you have to like them usually to LOVE them in this form. They were gently fried with soy sauce making them crunchy but still light and delicious and still veggie-like. Absolutely amazing. I seriously considered ordering a second helping and our server noted that frequently people do. You can't miss out on these brussel sprouts (and how often do you hear that?).
Quail egg "shot".

We sampled three (small) desserts to round out the meal. Adam had a quail egg, which was a new (and good) experience for him. We also had a sampling of 3 macaroons and the sea salt ice cream. All were good, but no must haves in the dessert arena so go ahead and get an extra appetizer or side instead when you come!

All in all, this was a great dinner place with really excellent food in a comfortable, but still cute and urban environment. We will be back!

Happy camper.

Slurping Turtle strives to recreate for our guests Chef Takashi's childhood culinary experiences in Japan, the essence of Japanese Comfort Food. The turtle is a symbol of longevity in Japan. We invite you to join us in our quest for the Everlasting Noodle.

Slurping Turtle strives to recreate for our guests Chef Takashi's childhood culinary experiences in Japan, the essence of Japanese Comfort Food. The turtle is a symbol of longevity in Japan. We invite you to join us in our quest for the Everlasting Noodle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What am I, Chopped Liver?

After reading my blog post on the Des Moines Marathon, my husband commented that I made it sound like I run by myself ALL the time and NEVER have a running partner and he pointed out that he actually runs with me in many races when he can (when the 1/2 marathon and marathon courses are together) and goes on short runs with me from time to time at home as well. He is indeed correct. I did not mean to imply that he doesn't! He gave me such hard time about it, noting that while we run and travel to races together frequently, I made it sound like he was just my chauffeur, or worse, chopped liver. (Which made me REALLY want to find a picture of chopped liver driving a car because wouldn't that be hilarious?) So this post is dedicated to him, because indeed he is incredibly supportive of my running, does run with me with some frequency and certainly I would not be the runner I am today without him. So here is my top 5 list of what makes him such an amazingly supportive runner-spouse.

#1. The Rockford Marathon. In May 2011, I had a great race, my marathon PR of 4:05:18. I wasn't fully trained for that race and I was definitely not very excited about doing it, especially when we woke up to a windy, rainy, cold morning. To make things worse, Adam had a pretty terrible cold, fever and all. But that did not stop him from joining me for the first 8 miles of the race (he ran the half). He tends to start out much faster than I (and holds the family half marathon PR) so I did my best to stick with him. Had I been running alone, I would have moved more slowly, I am sure. After he finished his race he joined my parents to spectate for the 2nd half, bringing me M&M's and running down the final stretch with me shouting encouragement. I would not have PR'd without Adam. There is no question that his support both running during those first few miles and then spectating along with my parents on the back half were huge factors in my special day. Even if I never have a sub-4 marathon (I will!) or qualify for Boston (I will!), I will always have this perfectly respectable marathon time in my history. Thanks Adam!

#2. Daily Mile. I have run at least 1 mile a day since late December 2010. That's 22 months or >650 consecutive days of running. I wish this was my idea but it wasn' was Adams. Streaking was something I toyed with on many occasions, but I just never committed to the idea. But when Adam decided he was going to run a mile every day, my competitive side jumped in and I decided I should do it too. While running a mile a day rarely gets in the way of other life activities (I mean really, it only takes 10 minutes), occasionally we will plan activities or travel or dinner around getting our runs in. It is easier knowing we both have to do it, especially on days when we really don't want to (such as post-marathon days like today!). Committing to run a mile every day turned running and working out in general from an on-again-off-again hobby to a lifestyle. And it is a joint lifestyle choice that has made our relationship stronger. I have Adam to thank for that.

#3. 50 in 50. Ever since I completed my first marathon, Chicago, in 2006, I've wanted to run 50 marathons in 50 states. But this is obviously a huge commitment. It is a time commitment both in daily life and in terms of vacation time usage and a large financial commitment. I did out-of-state marathons when the opportunity arose (Philly with my friend Bonnie, Whidbey Island because my brother lived there), but I didn't formally plan to get x number of marathons in x states in any time period. The main reason I didn't make this commitment was because I didn't want Adam to ever become resentful of my running. Extremism in any form can become a sore point in a marriage and I didn't think it was fair to commit Adam to spending our precious vacation time spectating races nor did I want him to feel I was neglecting him on weekend long run after weekend long run in training for the races. But when he suggested he was interested in running half marathons in all 50 states I jumped on it. This was PERFECT! If we did it together than it became a marriage strength rather than a marriage point of contention. (Not that it ever was a point of contention- he was always 100% supportive- I just worried that if so much of my life was dedicated to an activity that did not involve him, one day that could become a problem.) Within days of Adam suggesting he'd be on board with focusing on more races, I had registered us for the Maui marathon.....soon after was Madison.....then Louisville (his idea, his find)....then Med City.....then Des Moines. And we have the Outer Banks coming up in 3 weeks. I've loved our trips, our pre-race dinners, our mutual soreness and exhaustion the days of races, our painful one milers for the few days after the races. I don't know what made Adam come to the conclusion that he wanted to do this crazy 50 in 50 business but I am so glad he did.

#4 The marathon that never was. I've mentioned already that Adam has always been supportive of my running no matter my goals. I'm not the fastest runner out there. I'm not improving at any rapid pace, though I am improving. I do this for fun, and mental health, and fitness. No matter how fast or slow I run, Adam is supportive in equal measures. He's even supportive when I don't run. Last June, we planned to do the Ann Arbor Marathon. We packed up the car, drive out there, had our pre-race meal, got out our race gear and went to bed. In the morning I woke up absolutely not wanting in any way to do the race. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't bear the thought of running again in the heat (Med City had been only a few weeks prior). I was EXHAUSTED (nearing the end of first year of fellowship=chronic sleep deprivation x 12 months). I didn't have the mental or physical energy. But we got up. We did our pre-race preparations. And I burst into tears and said there was no way I could run it and I didn't want to do it and I'd be happy to just spectate but I was not toeing the line that day. Adam took it all in stride. He was amazing. He didn't harass me about the fact that we drove 4 hours (each way), that we paid for a hotel room, that we paid for race registration. He just said "You know what, you've had a hard year, you don't need to do this". Which was absolutely the right thing to say, because I didn't want to do it, I didn't need to do and I still to this day don't regret skipping that race because I was EXHAUSTED. I am so lucky to have such an understanding, forgiving husband.

#5 My triathlon future. This year, I did my first two triathlons. And, as I've mentioned before, the reason I want to get into triathlons is that I want to do an Ironman. I think Adam sorta knew this was coming, that once I had a bit of free time I'd fill it with more sports and more racing. But he didn't even flinch when I started rattling off the financial (and time) commitments required. A racing bike. Swim lessons. A wetsuit. A triathlon training group. The race fees themselves. It goes on and on. I'm sure deep down he's not thrilled. But he's never expressed these reservations to me. He's just been full on supportive, booking a hotel room for me before the Lake Geneva Tri, going with me to Lake Michigan for emotional support for my first open water swim. He barely flinched when I told him the Ironman registration fee. He knows how important this is to me and I hope he knows I wouldn't (couldn't) do it without his support, so his support means the world to me. He really is an amazing guy.

So, Adam, you are not chopped liver. You are not a chauffeur. I am so thankful that you are my best friend, my favorite running partner, my travel companion and my biggest supporter. I love you!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Des Moines Marathon Race Report

What a whirlwind weekend! Definitely an example of "playing hard" part of Work Hard, Play Hard if you consider running 26.2 miles 'playing' which I do:) We started off Saturday bright and early with our 1 mile run, then hopped in the car and headed to a cute town just west of Des Moines, called Adel, home of the Westergaards!

Me with Sara, Linda, and Dean Westergaard!

We had an absolutely perfect pre-race evening with Sara and her wonderful parents. From the home cooked meal to the conversation to the great overall hospitality, it was really a special night. And I slept waaayyy better than usual in the dark and quiet of rural Iowa! I so wish I could sleep that well here in Chicago!

Sara, me and Adam.
I had absolutely no nerves about this race. Yes, it was marathon #12 so I should be a bit of a pro at this, but I still usually have a little bit of dread/excitement, some degree of restless sleep the night before and I ALWAYS have a moment race morning when I think "why do I do this to myself?". But not this time! I've not been feeling great lately- run down, tired, some mild GI issues- but all that completely vanished race morning and I felt the best I have in weeks! I attribute this to a few things. First of all, my goal for the race was to have fun and not get short of breath. So, obviously, I wasn't shooting for a PR or really any time in particular. That essentially eliminated any pre-race nerves I would otherwise have. Secondly, my last race was a bit of a nightmare. Med City was hot and unpleasant from the 0.5 mile mark on. It was really no fun at all. I don't believe I enjoyed a single minute of that race. (Do you get the point of how miserable it was?) So I KNEW I was going to finish Des Moines and I knew there would be many moments I enjoyed so I was basically guaranteed it would be a better marathon than my last one. Thirdly, I got to run with Sara! This was Sara's second marathon, and I knew it was going to be a great day for her. I mostly run by myself so running part of a race with a friend was a special treat. Fourthly (is that a word?),  I was excited to have the Westergaards as spectators and to see Jason and Anna-Lisa at the race as well. Finally, Adam got to start the race with us until he broke away at mile 2.5 for the 1/2 course. So, lots of things on my side!

Having a good time. And, yes, I realize my
outfit doesn't match. I didn't try the shirt
and shorts together before I packed. Ooops!
We timed race morning out just perfectly. We found nice indoor restrooms, proceeded outside where it was just a touch cold, but not too bad. We walked to the start toward a big sign that read "Athletes Here". Figured that meant us. But when we walked in we saw a bunch of really tall, really skinny, mostly Kenyan appearing folks and realized they meant "Elite Athletes". Ooops! So we made our way back to the commoners, found our spots, and just a couple minutes later the Star Spangled Banner was sung and we were off. So no time to sit around full of dread shivering at the start, which is a good thing.

The course was absolutely beautiful. In fact, of the 12 marathons I've completed, I'd say this was #3 in terms of scenery behind Maui (of course) and Whidbey Island. I really wasn't expecting Des Moines, Iowa to be so beautiful! But it was. The first 8 miles or so I stayed with Sara and we ran up and down hills, hills and more hills. None were too terrible, but on a few of the uphills, I got a little short of breath for just a couple minutes at a time, so took it really easy on the downhills to re-equilibrate. If I had been racing I would have FLOWN down those hills and loved doing it, but the goal of this day was a long, slow, enjoyable training run, so I kept things in check. Around Mile 8, I had to stop to pee so wished Sara luck and found a porta-potty. I thought it best that Sara and I separate at some point anyway because I knew, I just knew, she was in for a massive PR that I wouldn't be able to keep up with if my plan was to have an easy race.

Still smiling at Mile 24.

For first time spectators (or should I say "viewers"?) the Westergaards were masters! They were everywhere! I think I saw them 8+ times on the course! And that was after I made their job harder by splitting off from Sara. They were so enthusiastic! I so appreciated seeing them out there. I also got to see Anna-Lisa twice which was super-fun AND I got to cheer for Jason since part of the course was an out-and-back so he was whizzing by Mile 13 while I was near 9 or so.

The first 8 miles with Sara flew by. Miles 8-13 were fine, no big deal. Throughout the race, I ate a ton- 1.5 bags of gu chomps, probably a whole orange and multiple handfuls of twirlers and gummy bears. The course support was incredible! There were PLENTY of water/garorade stations, fully stocked. They handed out orange slices and pieces of banana at the Gu stops- I think there were 4 in total. They really raised the bar for what I'd like at a race. How wonderful to eat fruit during the run!

Sara smiles her way to a massive PR!
With awesome purple shoes!!
For just a minute at mile 15, I thought ug, I have so far to go why am I doing this? But I quickly redirected myself, reminding myself that I've done this so many times before, I will be fine, I will finish. It's too early to think about what's left, just keep going. And I did. I didn't dwell, I just re-focused back on running. Experience helps a lot in the mental game of running marathons.

Miles 16 and 17 were absolutely glorious. I don't know why. Probably a combination of endorphins kicking in (yeah, it takes 2 hours of running for me to get a runner's high), a slight downhill, seeing Sara's folks, taking off my long sleeve shirt, eating more orange, a good song ....the whole combination resulted in my running with a huge smile. I was just really grateful to be able to do this. To run for hours, comfortably. COMFORTABLY! Never would I have thought when I started running 6 years ago that running for 4 hours could be comfortable. But it can be! Yesterday I ran a marathon without getting short of breath, without really pushing myself physically. I know that sounds like a weird thing to be a proud of, maybe a dubious accomplishment to the more type A, competitive folks, but to me it says I'm in pretty good cardiovascular shape. I can truck along, doing my own thing, enjoying the experience of running through a beautiful town on a gorgeous course on what ended up being a sunny wonderful day, and feel good about it all. I really do love marathons.
Immediately after her MASSIVE PR!!

There were certainly sections- no more than 5 minutes at a time and no more than 30 minutes of the whole race- where my legs were sore and I would have preferred to stop running. But on balance, I was content.

The back half of the course was mostly through parks on paved trail. I saw a bird fly into a lake and catch a fish. I looked at the pretty fall leaves. I really loved running on a path over Gray's Lake near mile 24. Also around mile 24 I thought about how Sara must be just about finishing and how excited I was about her PR. I knew if she was in front of me, time wise that would be a PR for her and I was just thrilled:) 99% because I'm proud of her and happy for her accomplishment but I'll admit it, 1% because if she does well, maybe I'll continue to have a race and running partner in the years to come:) But bottom line, the girl ran a 4:06:07, a PR by 40 minutes!! Sara, you are awesome.

In attempts to be true to my don't get short of breath, take it easy day, for the last 6 miles or so I employed a run-to-one-or-two-songs, then walk-for-1-minute strategy. It was starting to warm up and I think if I ran straight through I might have been working too hard. When I got to mile 25 I said out loud (no one was around...I don't think), "Just one mile, you do It's NOTHING" and brought it home. A silly grin appeared on my face for the last quarter mile. I was almost done! The race felt good! It was just a good day. What a great use of 4 hours, 22 minutes and 27 seconds.

The triumphant post-race trio!

Smiling in the home stretch!
(Though I do look a bit tired, eh?)

A special thanks to Dean and Linda Westergaard. It was so kind of them to invite us into their home, to feed us, to house us, to spectate so effectively and enthusiastically! Just great folks. Thanks to Sara for being so willing to join me in marathons and triathlons....I love having her as a training partner....even if it is virtual most of the time. Thanks also to A-L and Jason for sticking around for my finish even though it was an HOUR after Jason's (yeah, he's fast). And finally, thanks to my amazing husband who had a great 1/2 marathon despite very minimal training and who happily drove to Iowa on Saturday and back on Sunday without a word of complaint. He's such a trooper and so supportive of my running no matter what my goals are. I love you, hon.

And, most importantly.....WE GOT IOWA!!! Marathon #12 and State #8, done and done:)

Immediately after the race. Felt recovered instantly.....
except for sore legs, of course!

Holding up "one" and "two" to make 12! I practiced
this for a bit to make sure I'd do it correctly (two on my left hand,
one on my right). I bet I looked crazy silly, as usual:)
(Just as a caveat, and perhaps in a weird way, motivation for people who still have trouble getting out there to run, even as I write what I think is a pretty uplifting post about my race, I'm not looking forward to my mile run tonight. Even though it's just a mile, nowhere near 26.2, sometimes running is hard, even for us goofballs who love it. So keep trying, keep getting out there, one day you too will have a series of wonderful miles that make all the training worth it. I promise!)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chicago Marathon Spectating Report and Des Moines Marathon Goals

For the second year in a row my cousin, Anna-Lisa and I "aggressively spectated" the Chicago Marathon. I say "aggressively" because you have to move QUICKLY to keep up with her boyfriend, Jason, who kicked butt with a huge PR of 3:14 and change. Way to go, Jason!

Our morning started at, well, the start (line), and sadly despite our our combined spectating and racing experience, Anna-Lisa, Adam and I failed to see Jason in the hordes of runners. A-L and I couldn't wait long to be sure we missed him though. As soon as the 'C' corral folks ran up we ran off to try to catch Jason (who was in 'B' corral) at mile 4.5. Despite speed walking to the train and SPRINTING, I mean huffing and puffing, chest hurt, cold induced coughing sprinting we missed him. When we got the text message update from the 10k though we saw why- he was averaging 6:59 pace! He was blazing fast- no way were we going to see him at mile 4.5!

We had to climb through trees, then scale a fence with a 20 foot drop to cement ground
 (that's what's in the abyss behind A-L) to secure our start line spot. That's dedication!

So we walked the few blocks over to Mile 10 and watched the wheelchair racers, then the male and female leaders and luckily had a great view of Jason who was smiling and looking great! Then we were off again, continuing our race against the clock to beat Jason to mile 16. Luckily we made it with time to spare. By this time we were getting to know his running mates. The cow. The man dressed as Minnie Mouse. Once these folks passed, we knew Jason was close behind.

Waiting for Jason at Mile 10.

We then hustled over to Mile 21.5 in Chinatown which was bursting with energy as usual- what a great bit of spectator support, so motivational! The runners looked absolutely fabulous. The cool temperatures made for a wonderful race day for so many people. Jason was all smiles as he gave A-L a quick kiss before he made the turn toward the home stretch.

Jason's all smiles:)

We then walked the 0.5 miles over the 25 mile mark, saw Jason one last time- he still looked great with a  big smile, then we realized the cops had pedestrians boxed in so we couldn't get back home or even to the lakefront path on foot. Strangely, they were letting cars through so we hailed a cab (the cabbie happened to just have finished volunteering for the marathon, which was cool) who drove us across Lake Shore to Soldier Field so we could hop out and walk over to Grant Park. He was a bit confused about our request, but 2 minutes and 5 dollars later we were where we needed to be to go meet Jason.

It was really a perfect race day and I definitely wished at multiple points that I had opted to run Chicago this year. But I was glad I was able to be the navigator for A-L to help cheer Jason on to a PR race! Congrats, Jason!!

3:14:18- Amazing time. Congrats, Jason!!

There are multiple reasons I didn't run Chicago this year, but one of them was that I'm running the Des Moines Marathon in two weeks. I'm looking forward to this race because I get to run it with my friend Sara, and visit her family and hometown. Also, Iowa is a new state for me in my 50 in 50 quest.

So what are my goals for this race? To have fun and not get short of breath. The latter goal may seem a bit odd but I do not have a time goal for Iowa, I'm doing it for fun and for fun alone and with the Outer Banks Marathon just 3 weeks later, I intentionally want to treat this as an easy long run. I intend to thank every volunteer and remain at a conversational pace (don't worry, Sara, this doesn't mean I'll talk your ear off the whole race!). If I can do this and help Sara reach her time goal, that would be amazing. But if I need to let her go ahead so I can keep running easy that's fine too, I'll cheer her on in spirit!

In preparation for this race, I've done four long runs of 15, 17, 19 and 20 miles. I had a really hard time deciding what distance to run today, two weeks out. I initially planned to run 23 but I'm really not sure what benefit a 23 miler two weeks out would have and thought it might even be detrimental. So I went out today without a real plan. I ended up running 10 miles and feeling GREAT doing it. I was going to add 6 more on the treadmill for a total of 16 but I quickly glanced through some training plans (Hal Higdon, Run Less Run Faster) and most recommended 10-13 miles two weeks out so I decided to Believe in the Taper and well, taper. So 10 it is, giving me time to write this blog post instead:) I know I'm trained enough for my Fall marathons. I just have the usual taper doubts and jitters but as I've advised so many people over the years overtraining even 10% in the last few weeks is much worse than  under training. Believe in your training, and believe in the taper, and I plan to do just that.

Congrats to all the Chicago Finishers!!!