Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Tough Mudder Race Recap

Last year I was really into mud runs and obstacle course races. I participated in a string of really good ones. Then, I participated in some crappy ones and I kind of got over mud runs. The problem is that in the middle of my mud run love I signed us up for Tough Mudder, the granddaddy of all mud runs. I was really excited about the challenge and excited about doing Tough Mudder because it was the first mud run I had ever heard about.

Fast forward to last week and I was not looking forward to doing Tough Mudder. I was thinking of every excuse possible to not do it: it's too far, we don't have a babysitter, I just ran a million miles the weekend before. It didn't help that Alex's motivation was even lower than my own. Thankfully, we were doing this run with a big group of friends and I didn't want to let them down. I lined up a babysitter at the last minute and Sunday morning we woke up early and drove the two hours to the race location.

In many ways, I knew what to expect because this wasn't my first mud run. The distance (10.2 ) miles wasn't even scary for me because Superhero Scramble was 9.5 miles. What surprised me the most was the camaraderie of Tough Mudder. While we were waiting to start the run, the MC kept saying how it was more important to help your fellow runners than to race to the finish line. Sure enough, there were plenty of people on the course there to help one another and there were plenty of spectators on the course cheering runners on.

The obstacles were what I expected, but the running was not. Most of the run was through sand and mud and just plain hard. But I like to run and running is the one thing about these mud runs that I know I can definitely do so I pushed myself to run every chance I got. For me, the running was truly the hardest part of the run. There was enough support from my teammates to help me through the obstacles, but the running was something else.

While it was pretty awful, I think my favorite obstacle was the Arctic Enema. That was a complete shock to the system and it was hilarious watching people's reactions as they went in and came out of the tank. My least favorite obstacle was the Monkey Bars; I couldn't even get to the second bar before I fell in the water.

I was so happy to finish this run and was even happier about how much stronger I have gotten in the last year. The best part of the run, however, was doing it with Alex and having him say, "I think I'd rather do a half marathon than this." He may fight it, but I think he's a runner after all.

What I liked:

  • Camaraderie of other runners and my teammates. 
  • Water every 2 miles, electrolyte gummies at mile 6, and protein bars at mile 8. 
  • Challenging run. 
  • Fun obstacles. 
  • Feeling like a badass at the end. 
  • Huge lake to wash off in after the run. 
  • Changing tents. 
  • Getting that headband!
  • Lots of photographers on the course.

What I didn't like:

  •  The location was too far for me. 
  • Too much running. I'm a weirdo and like a lot of obstacles. We had to run about a mile and a half before we got to the first obstacle. 
  • The bibs barely lasted the entire race. 
Next race recap will be July's Rock n Roll Chicago, but I am thinking about signing up for a few 5Ks between now and then. 

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Stephanie
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Chi Town Half Marathon Race Recap

The Chi Town Half Marathon was race #2 of my birthday weekend races. The first was the Chicago Quarter Marathon on April 5th and I made sure to take it easy on that run so I wouldn't be burned out come Sunday. I had this little idea in my head that maybe this half marathon (#10) would be a personal best for me. I didn't want to commit to going for my best time because I didn't want to deal with whatever disappointment I might experience if I didn't break my best time of 02:09 (Fort Myers Beach Half Marathon in November 2013).

The morning of the race, I woke up early and took a cab to the start line. My right calf was sore and cramped from all the walking and running of the previous day so I was praying that it cooperated enough to get me through the race. I got a free massage before the race and eyed the 9:32/mile pace group. I knew that the 9:32/mile pace group had an estimated finish time of 2:05. I kind of hovered around them until I decided that my goal for this race would be to simply keep them within sight.

I continued to hover around them as I did my run-walk-run thing. (Which, by the way, does anyone in Chicago do the run-walk-run method?) Even with the end and a new personal record within reach, I never introduced myself. They noticed me (it was hard not to with all my beeping) and did an amazing job at encouraging me along the way. About half a mile away from the finish line, I passed the pacers and even told one of them I would be the person crying at the finish line because she got a new PR.

When I finished I wanted to jump out of myself. My unofficial time was 02:04:10 (official time was 02:04:04). That time was almost 6 minutes faster than my previous time! There were times during the race I didn't think I was going to make it to the end or would be able to keep up with the pacers. Every time a negative thought came up, I told myself to stop. I knew that the minute my brain broke down, my body would quickly follow. The race feels like a blur now that I try to think back to it and all the emotions I felt along the way. I still can't believe I ran it in 02:04 and now my dreams of running a half marathon in two hours feels within reach.
Source: IG @according2kelly
What I liked:

  • A new PR!
  • Flat course along the lakefront and park. 
  • Medal. 
  • Free massages. 
  • Water and snacks at the finish line. 
  • Water throughout the course. 
  • Clean bathrooms. 
  • Long-sleeve shirt. 
  • Fast packet pick-up at Road Runner Sports. 
  • Friendly pacers. 
  • Small race. 
  • Personalized bib. 


What I didn't like:

  • I felt lonely being the only interval runner around. 
  • It was cold! 
  • Course got a little boring in the park area and there wasn't much to see. 

Next Race Recap is April 13th's TOUGH MUDDER! I have no other races scheduled until Rock n Roll Chicago in July. However, I know myself enough to know that I will probably sign up for something before then. 

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Stephanie

Monday, April 14, 2014

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Chicago Quarter Marathon Race Recap

For my 30th birthday I wanted to go to Chicago and run. We were going to go anyway to check out the city and look for potential areas to live in, but it just so happens that the weekend of my birthday there were two races: a quarter marathon on April 5th and a half marathon on April 6th. I signed up as quickly as I could and was so excited about being able to run in the city and discover it in a way that I knew I wouldn't be able to by car or walking around.

The first race was the Chicago Quarter Marathon. I will admit that my favorite thing about this race was that they mailed me my race packet. It was so convenient and made our first day in the city less stressful because I didn't have to rush us around to two different packet pick-ups.

For some reason, it didn't occur to me that it would still be cold in April so I packed away all our winter clothes. This really hit me when I realized that I would be running in 30- to 40-degree weather. I had no clue what to wear! I ended up layering up with two long sleeve shirts and a light running jacket. The run itself was just as interesting as I couldn't even feel my legs the first mile because of how cold it was and it hurt to breathe in the cold air. As usual though, I hit my groove at around mile 3 and the rest of the run was easy and enjoyable. Because of the half marathon the next day, I tried to run at a conservative pace and finished in 1:04:19.

Not only was this my first run in the city I will be calling home in 3 months, but this run also happened on my birthday. When I was 20, I don't think running and moving to Chicago with my family were something I thought I would be doing, but this life of mine has taken me on one heck of a journey. 

What I Liked:

  • Beautiful course along the lakefront. 
  • My favorite part of the course was seeing the Chicago skyline. 
  • Marching band mid-way. 
  • Fleece jacket with the Chicago Quarter Marathon logo embroidered on it. 
  • They mailed out a packet with the jacket and race bib. Best idea ever!
  • Race started on time. 
  • Plenty of water throughout the course and at the end. 


What I Didn't Like:

  • The cold! I had no clue how many layers to put on before the race. 
  • This has nothing to do with the race itself, but I didn't like the religious signs that were near the finish line. One sign said something to the effect of "Goad hates all sinners."
  • I love the bling, so I was disappointed there were no medals. 

Next Race Recap is April 6th's Chi Town Half Marathon and then TOUGH MUDDER!!

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Stephanie

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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Shamrock Run 4-Miler Race Recap

I can't believe it's been almost a month since this race, the inaugural Shamrock Run 4-Miler. I think it took so long because I still haven't gotten over how hard that run was for me. I did this race with one of my best girlfriends and my girls in their stroller. The race started at 3:00pm and I anticipated taking around an hour because of the stroller and the start time, but there was still a point during the run that I thought I wasn't going to be able to make it. The girls were well-behaved, thankfully, but it was brutally hot and I felt every bit of pushing 70-lbs of children and stroller, especially up two not-so-fun bridges. Those were probably the longest 45-minutes of my life.



This race reminded me that no two runs are alike and that what's easy one day, might be hard the next day. The best parts of this run were running it with my friend, seeing the girls dance it up at the end, and watching Cati complete another kids dash.



What I liked:

  • The theme of the run was fun with green beer and green eggs and ham at the end. 
  • I've never run in Fort Lauderdale, so I liked the change of scenery. 
  • Running with my friend and catching up with my Galloway running group. 
  • Cute medals. 
  • Nice shirts. 
  • Bag pipes at the start line. 
  • Cati running. 



What I didn't like:
  • Start time of the race was brutal. 
  • The corral was all funky and people were entering it in the direction you were supposed to run in. 
  • They didn't announce when the kids races were starting. 
  • Bartenders were showing priority to those people who had cash even if you went up to the var with your beer ticket. 
  • Water dyed to the color blue. Yuck. 
  • Parking was not cheap where I parked. 
  • Course could have been nicer if we ran down Las Olas instead of the neighborhoods. 
Next Race Recap is the Chicago Quarter Marathon done on my birthday, April 5th! 

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Stephanie

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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Celebrate April with Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

It's April! I'm happy it's April because it's my birthday month. I'm so excited about turning 30 that I am going to be celebrating each day this month with one of my favorite foods or drinks (follow along on my Facebook page). I made a list of my favorites and almost half of the list has chocolate as an ingredient. I never realized how much of a chocolate lover I was until I made this list. To celebrate, I'm sharing one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes. I first made this recipe back in January of 2012, but a good recipe is always worth sharing multiple times. This time around, I made a cake and topped it with fudge frosting and sprinkles.


Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes
Source: Jill O'Connor's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey
Half of this recipe yields 1-8x8 cake

2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mayonnaise (not low-fat)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups boiling water

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour baking pan and set aside. 

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the sugar and eggs and beat with an electric mixer set at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in mayonnaise and vanilla just until combined. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in half of the flour mixture just until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half of the boiling water and beat at a very low speed just until the batter is smooth, 5 to 10 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat just until combined, 5 to 10 seconds longer. Beat in the remaining water. The batter will be somewhat thin.

Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Frost once the cake has cooled. 

Fudge Icing
Source: Jill O'Connor's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Combine the chocolate, butter, and buttermilk in a saucepan and cook, stirring over medium heat, until the chocolate is melted. 

Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla, salt, and 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar. 

Add remaining sugar if you like a sweeter and thicker icing. 

Frost cake, serve, and enjoy.

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Stephanie

Thursday, March 27, 2014

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Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

I have had the worst craving for chocolate. I'm thinking it might have something to do with me eating healthier and trying to reduce my sugar intake. Whatever it is, it has left me with this insatiable desire to eat something very chocolaty. I had this particular recipe saved for a very long time because I love what sour cream does in cakes. This cake was good and everyone else in the family liked it, but it wasn't chocolaty enough for me. I will take the blame for that because I didn't add the frosting that Two Peas and Their Pod did in the original recipe. I thought I could get away with some chocolate sauce and was very wrong. Don't make the same mistake!


Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
Source: Two Peas and Their Pod
Half the recipe yields an 8x8 cake.

1 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1/3 cup cocoa powder (we use Dutch processed)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal flour, plus more for the pan
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract



 Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a cake pan and set aside. 
In a small saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa powder, salt, and water and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, just until melted and combined. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and baking soda. Add half of the melted butter mixture and whisk until completely blended. The mixture will be thick. Add the remaining butter mixture and whisk until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until completely blended. Whisk in the sour cream and the vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes depending on your pan size. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then invert onto a rack.


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Stephanie

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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Down 2 Earth Trail Run Recap


Congratulations to MASH Up Conditioning winner Kalynn Carter! 

I tried trail running and I loved it! This race was runner's serendipity. I was supposed to run six miles March 8th and didn't manage to wake up Saturday morning to run (running alone is hard!). Sunday night, before dinner, I logged onto Facebook and saw that Run South Florida had posted a listing of the weekend's races. One of the races was for Down 2 Earth Trail Run. The distances were 5K, 10K, and half marathon. I sent my friend a text message asking if she would run the 10K with me and she responded with "yes!" I signed up that night while Alex was bathing the girls and went to sleep very nervous about the trails. I had run trails before during the obstacle course races, but for some reason, just running the trails scared me.


I don't know why I was scared because I had the best time on the run. It was disorienting and exhilarating at the same time. I was so focused on the path directly in front of me and keeping an eye out for markers that the miles flew by. Nature took care of the intervals and I found myself running most of the 6.2 miles. This race challenged me and pushed my limits. I wondered out loud at least ten times whether we were lost, slipped twice, and fell twice. The best part of the run really was sharing it with my friend and having her love it so much that she said she couldn't wait to run the trails again. Coming from someone who used to always say she didn't like the outdoors, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this race. I guess this just shows me that I love running so much I can do it anywhere and still love it.



What I liked:

  • Even though we did two loops, it didn't feel that way because nothing on the trails was recognizable the second time around. 
  • Sufficient signage. 
  • We unleashed our inner Katniss Everdeen. 
  • Trails felt great on my knees. 
  • Race director was hilarious and personable. You can tell he loves organizing these races. 
  • Small race. 
  • Oleta National Park: beautiful trails. 
  • The company. 
  • Sufficient water on the course. 
  • No need for an interval timer. 

What I didn't like:

  • I love race medals and this race gave us beads instead. 
Next Race Recap is March 16th's Shamrock Run 4-miler. My next two races are in Chicago and I'm praying it's not snowing or too cold!

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Stephanie

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

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Michelob Ultra Miami Beach 13.1 Recap


It's test week! I can't wait for Saturday to be here so I can be done with this test. I feel like there is always something I am waiting for to pass so that I can back to "normal." I'm not sure what normal is because as soon as this test passes, I need to start focusing on getting the house organized and packed up so we can hopefully sell it quickly. I can't believe Chicago is less than four months away.

Before that, however, there is running to talk about. Running has officially become a part of my life; it is probably the only thing that I have consistently kept up with over the past few weeks of studying. I have half marathon #9 on March 2nd and this marathon also happens to be my favorite half marathon. I first participated in this race last year and loved everything about it: the company, the course, and the weather. The race did not disappoint this year.
 I ran this year's half with my running friend and it was 13.1 miles of talking, laughing, and enjoying the run. I've had a mantra the past few races of "my race, my pace" because my goal hasn't been to get a personal best, it's been to really enjoy the act of running and the sense of freedom running gives me. The course was beautiful as usual and you really can't beat the backdrop of cruise ships.

The only thing I didn't like about this race was the emotions it brought up for me about leaving Miami and all the amazing running friends I have made in Miami. This is my last half marathon in Miami, unless I fly down for one next year or we move back to the area so finishing this race was bittersweet. My goal is to run with all those great people as much as I can over the next four months.

What I liked:

  • The course: it takes you down Ocean Drive and two of the most beautiful and scenic bridges in Miami. 
  • Plenty of water and entertainment on the course. 
  • The company. 
  • Smaller race. 
  • Meeting other runners like Dr. Dribble and Instagram friends. 
  • Location of race (Miami Beach). 
  • Energy gummies passed out at mile 8. 

What I didn't like:

  • My last big Miami race. 
  • The medal was OK. I liked last year's medal with the rotating detail better. At least this one has a bottle opener, right?
Next Race Recap is March 9th's trail run (so much fun!). I think I need to find a race for March 22 and March 30th just so that I can say I raced every weekend in March. 

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Stephanie

Thursday, March 6, 2014

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Recipe Revisited: Beer Cheese Dip


I am in the middle of studying for my graduate school comprehensive exam. I started this journey of going back to school to become a marriage and family therapist back in 2010 and it's hard to believe that I am two months shy of graduation. The only thing standing in my way is taking and passing this exam. I'm working on cases, timing myself, and studying intensely with one of school friends (future colleague!). I am ready for this test to be done with so that I can give my brain a rest for a little bit. I am already thinking of going to Disney to celebrate passing this exam (I will pass it. I will pass it. I will pass it.).

Because it has been too quiet on here, I am sharing a recipe that also dates back to 2010. I remember when I first made this Beer Cheese Dip and how much I loved the recipe. This has become my go-to appetizer recipe and I make it whenever we have people over. I love the simplicity of ingredients and how quickly it comes together. The last time I made it, I made half of the recipe and that was enough for eight people to snack on before the real meal.

Beer Cheese Dip
Source: Jodi Zyvith on Allrecipes.com 

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 (8 ounce) packages shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup beer
1 (1 pound) loaf round bread

Place cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, garlic powder and beer in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, blend until smooth.

Remove and reserve top of round bread. Hollow out the loaf, reserving removed bread pieces.

Spoon cream cheese mixture into the hollowed loaf. Replace bread top between servings. Use the reserved removed bread pieces for dipping.


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Friday, February 28, 2014

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Disney's Glass Slipper Challenge Race Recap

Before I get into my recap, I wanted to say "thank you" to everyone who helped make my weekend in Disney possible. I signed up for the Glass Slipper Challenge through a charity (Give Kids The World) and had the goal of raising $3,000 for the charity. Without all the donors and support I received in my six months of fundraising, I would have never met that goal and been able to run last weekend. So, thank you!!

The Glass Slipper Challenge was to run 10K (6.2 miles) Saturday and a half marathon (13.1 miles) Sunday. Having done the Princess Half Marathon last year, I knew these weren't the types of races you did for time. For me, these races were training runs with lots of stops for pictures. Trust me, I stopped a lot along the way during both runs and my watch almost died on me during the half. I don't think I have enjoyed a race as much as I did these two races. I especially loved the medals and knowing that I worked so hard to get them made these medals even more meaningful for me.

The 10K run started and ended in Epcot. The course itself took me out to the highways, into the park, and on the boardwalk. I was in corral A so I was in the first group of runners to start. For people outside of Florida, it was hot and humid, but for me it was perfect running weather. The first three miles of any run are usually my hardest so I wasn't surprised that I felt like I was running on air during the last three miles. The highlight for me was probably seeing Jeff Galloway running along the course. I finished the 10k in about 1:10.


The half marathon also started and ended in Epcot but the course took me out onto the highways, through Magic Kingdom and Cinderella's castle, highways again, and then through Epcot. I was in corral D so I didn't have to wait too long to start running. It was foggy morning and humid again, but the weather was perfect for running for me. I waited in all the lines of the characters the girls' knew and in the lines of the characters that would make for fun stories to tell the girls. I really, really, really enjoyed having this last stress-free run to focus on having fun without all the self-imposed stress of gaining a new personal record. I finished the half in 2:52 and was so thankful my watch didn't die!

Disney races are expensive, but the experience is worth the price. I said it last year and I will say it again, but I think Disney races are great races for first timers because the races are such productions. There is so  much entertainment on the course that the miles don't feel as long. I'll be in Chicago next year, but I am hoping to be able to participate in this challenge again next February.


What I liked:
  • Another running vacation!
  • Loved running through the parks and the castle. 
  • Great characters on the course for pictures. 
  • Plenty of entertainment on course to distract you from thinking about mileage.
  • All the costumes!
  • Fireworks at the start line send-off for half marathoners. 

What I didn't like:
  • The price of the races!
  • Having my race entry tied to my fundraising goal. 
  • Weather was fine for me, but I know others didn't like the heat or humidity. 
  • Again, not an issue for me, but these races are extremely walker-friendly. Not ideal if you are running for time. 
  • Long wait times for the other corrals. 
  • Some of the lines for the characters were too long. 

Next Race Recap is this weekend's Michelob Ultra 13.1. This race might solidify my craziness and I hope to survive back-to-back half marathons!


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Stephanie