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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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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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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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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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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