Archive for March 2010

5-7 Business Days

March 31st, 2010 — 6:32pm


Five to seven business days…that’s when my new bike is scheduled to arrive.

Yes, you heard right. The moment has finally come. Today, I officially ordered my new bike—a 2010 Kestrel Airfoil Pro SL. [insert me jumping up and down]

Many of you know how long and patiently I’ve waited for this moment. I’ve had my current bike, a Cervelo One, for eight years. I saved for it during the summer after my junior year in college. I remember driving to Chicago with my dad to purchase it from a bike store there. It was just a bottom-of-the-line triathlon bike (Shimano 105 components), but it was shiny and beautiful. Love at first sight. Walking out of that store, I couldn’t have been more proud and excited.

But over the course of eight seasons, I’ve likely put more than 25,000 miles on the thing. I’ve crashed on it twice (once completely breaking the fork in half). Needless to say, there’s not much life left. My friends make fun of it. I’m embarrassed of the thing. Especially at Kona last fall. I wanted to hide in a corner while all of these great athletes sported their fancy bikes all over town.

I wanted so badly to be irresponsible and purchase a bike I couldn’t afford. You’re doing Kona…you need a good bike, I tried to convince myself. But there were also all of the expenses associated with my trip—flights, accommodations for two weeks, race fee, food, etc. Not to mention the $700 it cost me to ship my bike to Hawaii and back. But we won’t go there. My budget was tight as it was; there was simply no room in the equation for a new bike. Responsible Kristin put her foot down.

So instead I waited. And I rode Kona on the “horse that got me there.” It was fine. But I promised myself that I would find a way to get a new bike for next season. I assured myself I would do whatever it took to make that happen. So I started saving. And I got a part-time job at a triathlon store. And with a little hard work and patience, I’ll have my new bike by the start of the season. My little carbon rocket is on it’s way!

2 comments » | Racing and Training

Trailbreaker Marathon

March 31st, 2010 — 7:45am

0086j_1725As detailed in my previous post, I signed up for last Saturday’s marathon on a complete whim. I’ve never done that before. But I needed to get the mileage in regardless, and the race sounded like a lot of fun.

I drove to Waukesha (the Schuetze Recreation Center served as race headquarters) with my new friend Scott, whom I met through Dailymile. He lives in Madison and occasionally joins our weekly runs around Lake Monona. I didn’t know anyone else doing the race, so I was thankful for Scott’s offer to let me tag along for the ride to Waukesha. We set off from Madison at 6am so we could comfortably arrive in Waukesha with enough time to check-in and get settled before the 8am start time.

In the few days leading up to the race, I seriously contemplated wardrobe options. Pants or shorts? Long sleeves or short sleeves? Layers? Compression socks? It’s always tough to make a call this time of year—certainly the day’s high temps are climbing, but it’s still pretty chilly first thing in the morning. In the end, I opted for a long and short sleeve shirt combo and pants over compression socks. With temperatures in the 30’s and overcast skies throughout, it was a good decision. 0086j_1724

A small group of marathoners (just over 100) gathered around the start line shortly before 8am. It was the smallest marathon field I’ve experienced. I’m used to the big city marathons like Chicago, Twin Cities, Boston, and Detroit. Even the much smaller Madison Marathon boasts 2,500 runners. After a lovely rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, we were off. Scott and I ran together and eased into the race very gradually. Anxiously, I watched all of the race leaders quickly peel away. But as hard as it was to hold back, I needed to stay focused on my goals and the idea of using the race for training miles…not an opportunity to compete. Because if I ran it like a race, I’d surely pay for it later. And as I often like to say, eyes on the prize. Which is, in my case, the Ice Age 50 mile race on May 8.

Going into the event, I didn’t think Scott and I would run together—mostly because he’s faster. But we ended up sticking together for the entire marathon. The first ten miles were relatively uneventful—we kept an easy pace as we ran through downtown Waukesha and then along the Glacial Drumlin Trail (which is essentially a flat, asphalt bike path that winds through the countryside). You learn a lot about someone by running 26.2 miles side-by-side. Scott and I talked about his family, religion, upcoming races, our college experiences, etc. The conversation definitely made the miles go by much faster.128559485172188014

After ten miles on the asphalt path, we veered onto the Ice Age Trail. A volunteer directing race traffic gave us an ominous grin and wished us luck. The first mile or two on the trail was relatively flat and grassy. Although it wasn’t too muddy, the ground was still damp and porous. Getting acclimated to a new surface and pace was challenging. All of my energy immediately became fixated on the trail and the obstacles at my feet. There were tree roots and large stones littering the trail. One wrong footfall could mean a disastrous tumble. A few of the climbs were so steep that our pace slowed to a walk. We began to see runners heading back towards the Glacial Drumlin Trail. We knew then that we were getting close to the turnaround point.

Finally we were able to make out the 40′ Lapham Peak Tower through the thick forest branches. But there were hundreds of stairs to climb before we’d reach the top. First was a daunting set of stairs that climbed to ground level. Then we started on the tower—round and round we climbed. When we reached the top (the designtaed half-way point of the race), a volunteer offered us an opportunity to ring a bell. And then we were off again, with only a fleeting opportunity to enjoy the far-reaching scenery below.lapham_peak_tower1

The way back was much of the same—three miles of intense trail running followed by ten miles of asphalt. I thought the asphalt would be a welcome change after the trails, but it was again difficult to adjust to a new surface. The asphalt felt hard and unforgiving. By that point, the runners had greatly dispersed. So much so, that Scott and I later observed that we only saw one other competitor until we hit the turn-around point for the half-marathon at mile 6. It would have been pretty lonely had I been out there running alone.

The last few miles of the race were particularly challenging for me personally. My stomach was revolting against the vanilla gel and occasional cups of fruit punch Gatorade I had taken in. I stopped to use the Porta Potty twice. And with Scott’s help and the promise of the finish line in site, I gutted it out for the last few miles. In the end, we finished in three hours and 53 minutes. A very solid marathon effort. I was the 9th female and the 2nd in my age group (of course there were only three people in my age group!). Back in the Schuetze Recreation Center, Scott and I celebrated over cinnamon rolls and beers. march-008

I really enjoyed the Trailbreaker Marathon. It was well-organized, unique, and challenging. And certainly the price was right. Although some people complained about an  inadequate number of aid stations and inaccurate mile markers, I didn’t find those to be a problem. Seven aid stations over the course of a marathon (particularly a spring marathon) were plenty for me. I didn’t have my Garmin to track mileage, but didn’t notice (nor would I really care) if the markers were off a bit. It is what it is. If you’re looking for a unique challenge and a small spring marathon, the Trailbreaker Marathon is a great option. It definitely served my purpose—to get out and enjoy the day, try something new, amass mileage, and experience the Ice Age Trail.

Comment » | Racing and Training

Bite Hard into that Sandwich

March 26th, 2010 — 1:45pm

untitled1Tomorrow morning I’m running the Trailbreaker Marathon. The race begins in downtown Waukesha and then hits the trails (including the Glacial Drumlin and Ice Age trails) for some off-road adventure. Uniquely, the turn-around point is the top of the 40′ Lapham Peak tower, the highest point in Waukesha county.

I actually signed up for the race less than a week ago, after hearing about it from a fellow Dailymiler (Scott B.) during a long run last Saturday. Instantly, I was intrigued by the race—specifically the trails, the tower, and the distance. I knew right then that I was going to sign up for the race if I wasn’t busy this Saturday. Luckily my calendar was wide open. I figured I had nothing better to do. So I signed up. I’m quite certain I’ve never signed up for a marathon on a whim like that.lapham_peak_tower

I guess I should preface that by explaining that I also recently signed up for my first 50-mile ultramarathon—The Ice Age Trail 50 on May 8. I mentioned previously that my biggest goal this year is to run my first ultramarathon (something I can’t quite explain is pulling me in that direction). I hadn’t yet decided on a race when I came to learn about the Ice Age Trail 50 in May. I was intrigued—the timing seemed right, but could I really run that kind of distance? After attending an ultramarathon seminar a few weeks ago (which included the Ice Age 50 race director), I found the confidence and inspiration I needed. I decided that I could, and would run 50 miles. I signed up for the race and immediately dove headfirst into an ultramarathon training plan. Although I started the plan a little late in the game,  I think I’m pretty well caught up and in good shape to run my first ultramarathon on May 8. iceage50mk

The training is intense. I’m running mileage like never before. The staple of my training plan is “sandwich runs,” which are essentially back-to-back long, slowish runs on successive days. So for example, this weekend I’ll be running a marathon on Saturday (all in the name of training), and then hopefully another 3 or 4 hours on Sunday morning (Hal Higdon’s plan explains that at this point, I’m going to need to “bite hard into that sandwich”). I also took the day off work this past Monday to run four hours (I finished 26.5 miles). So if all goes well this weekend, by the end of the week I will have run two full marathons and shattered my previous weekly running mileage record.

I never thought I was capable of running this kind of mileage, but it goes to show that sometimes your body is capable of more than you think. I’ve always been overly cautious about mileage increases for fear of injury. But after several years of consistent running, it seems like my body (and mind) are finally ready to tackle this challenge. While many people encouraged me to sign up for a 50 kilometer race, as opposed to 50 miles, my heart was set on the challenge of running 50 miles. The reality is that I know I can run 50 kilometers. I honestly don’t know if I can run 50 miles. The one person who pushed me towards the 50 mile distance was my brother. Without hesitation, he told me to go for it—that the adventure is in taking a chance. That coming from a guy who ran his first 100-mile race before attempting a full marathon or 50-mile race. Nonetheless, I took his advice. It should be an adventure alright.

5 comments » | Racing and Training

Everyday Cycling Chic

March 25th, 2010 — 3:12pm

I have a thing for all things cycling—especially for small accessories that I can incorporate into my life when I’m not on my bike. There’s great beauty and intricacy in the the geometry and gearing of bicycles. And small accessories in my everyday life of course make me think of riding my bike—and there’s pretty much nothing I’d rather be doing than that. So I’ve gathered a collection of my favorites—everything from fun note cards to fine jewelry. All kinds of things to help keep cycling top of mind always—as it should be. Let me know if you have others to add to the mix! (left-right)

1. “i just want to ride bikes with you” T-shirt ($28)
2. Road Bike Business Card Holder ($12)
3. Bicycle Chain Bracelet ($15)
4. RIDE Letterpress Cards, set of 8 ($18.50)
5. Sterling Silver Bicycle Chain Plate Necklace ($42)
6. Let’s Rub Tires Card ($3.50)
7. Bottle Opener Key Chain ($7.50)
8. Timbuk2 Anna Tote Bag ($30)
9. Gold Bicycle Checkbook Wallet ($38)

1 comment » | Crafts & Design

Salmon with brown butter, almonds, and green beans

March 25th, 2010 — 9:42am

february-029This is another great recipe I found in the March issue of Real Simple magazine. I’ve made this meal for dinner at least three times in the last few weeks—so it must be a keeper. Tried and proven. It’s so simple, healthy, and gourmet-tasting. I will continue to break out this recipe over the next few months as I begin to really step up my Ironman training. It’s really the perfect recovery dinner. Can’t get enough of those omega-3 fatty acids!

Salmon with brown butter, almonds, and green beans
Real Simple, March 2010

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/4 lbs. skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and halved crosswise
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tbsp. capers

Heat 1 tbsp. of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Season the salmon with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side; transfer to plates.

Meanwhile, fill a second skillet with 1/2 inch of water, bring to a boil, and add 1/4 tsp. salt. Add the green beans, cover, and steam until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes; drain and transfer to plates.

Wipe the green bean skillet and heat the remaining 3 tbsp. of butter over medium heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until the almonds and butter are golden brown (but not burned), 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the capers. Spoon over the fish and green beans.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Iron Chef March: Irish Fest

March 21st, 2010 — 5:34pm

Matt and Julie hosted the March edition of the Iron Chef dinner series this past Saturday night. It was an Irish-themed event in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Instead of a single ingredient, we expanded this month’s challenge to include all Irish foods (or those that could be interpreted as such). Above is a sampling of the contributions—which included Irish soda bread, colcannon, pork sausages, potato pancakes, Irish cream, Lucky Charms, and a pot o’ gold cake, just to name a few. More details soon.

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners

Pasta with Bacon and Cauliflower

March 17th, 2010 — 1:47pm

february-0271I recently made another great recipe from the March 2010 edition of Real Simple magazine—Pasta with Bacon and Cauliflower. The recipe is specifically designed for people who do not like to shop—hence it’s limited to only five ingredients. Meaning that you can get in and out of the grocery store in a flash. So if you don’t enjoy navigating endless aisles while battling impatient cart pushers, this recipe is for you. Preparation is straightforward. Again, only five steps. It’s a great option for a week night meal—easy, fast, and flavorful. Simple gourmet that leaves you satisfied…with plenty of time to spare. And you know how much I like me some bacon.

Pasta with Bacon and Cauliflower
Real Simple, March 2010

12 ounces spaghetti (3/4 box)
6 slices bacon
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into small florets
kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup grated pecorino (3 ounces)

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ¾ cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to a paper towel–lined plate. Crumble.

3. Add the sage to the bacon drippings in the skillet and cook over medium heat, turning once, until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to the paper towel–lined plate.

4. Add the cauliflower, ¼ cup water, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper to the bacon drippings in the skillet and cook, covered, for 2 minutes. Uncover and cook, tossing frequently, until golden and tender, 3 to 4 minutes more.

5. Add the reserved pasta water and ½ cup of the pecorino to the pasta and toss until creamy. Add the cauliflower, sage, and bacon and toss. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of pecorino. Serves 4.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Point Bock Run 2010

March 15th, 2010 — 6:13am

february-003Last Saturday morning, my friends Karen, Emily, and I road tripped to Stevens Point (about 2 hours north of Madison) for the Point Bock Run. It’s a 5-mile road race that takes place at the Stevens Point Brewery every year in early March.

I’ve done the race several times and it’s always one of my favorites. You may remember my post from the race in 2008. I love the small town, grassroots race vibe. Plus it’s fun to make a day out of it and road trip there with friends. And you can’t beat the $15 early registration fee—which includes a long sleeve t-shirt, light post-race food (bagels, cookies, etc.), and two hours of all-you-can-drink beer and root beer at the finish line tent. february-008You better believe I take advantage of the root beer and cookies.

Each year I’ve watched the race grow bigger and bigger. This year the race reached capacity (2000 runners) a week beforehand. I registered two months out, after my friend Karen repeatedly asked, “have you registered yet?” [insert snooty tone]. Procrastinator Emily didn’t register until the week of the race. Emily happened to check the online list of registered runners a few days before the race, only to notice that Karen’s name wasn’t on it. That’s how we came to figure out that despite repeated reminders to both Emily and I, Karen had failed to actually register herself for the race. But being the good sport that she is, Karen opted to come along anyways and do a training run while we raced. But I don’t think she’ll live that one down anytime soon.february-0311

Amazingly, the Point Bock Run always seems to fall on the most spectacular late winter day—with warm temperatures, sunny skies, and the promise of spring lingering on the horizon. This year was no exception. The snow was literally melting all around us. Some people were eagerly sporting tank tops and shorts, while others were still bundled up in hats and gloves. It was as if people didn’t know what season to make of it.

While in past years I’ve treated this race as a fun run, this year I decided to give it my all and see what I could do. I haven’t been incorporating much speed work into my training as of yet, so I knew it would hurt. One motivator was a girl ahead of me in a pink running skirt. Nothing against running skirts, but I wasn’t about to let a girl in a pink running skirt beat me without a fight. I kicked it in at the half-way point and made my move. I finished the race in 35:17, which equates to a 7:03 minute/mile pace. Just a few seconds ahead of pink skirt girl. It was a PR for me by more than 4 minutes. Thank you pink skirt girl.february-0142

After several cups of root beer and post-race cookies, Emily, Karen, and I headed to lunch at Big Apple Bagels before returning to Madison. The stop brought me back to my high school days when my friends and I would routinely spend our lunch hour at Big Apple Bagels gorging on chocolate chip bagels with chocolate chip cream cheese. There’s nothing like a little piece of chocolate chip heaven to speed post-race recovery. Uh…and I also bought a dozen bagels and a tub of chocolate chip cream cheese for the road. For memory’s sake.

3 comments » | Racing and Training

Indulgence Wine & Chocolate

March 8th, 2010 — 7:47pm

february-0241I’m pretty sure I consumed my body weight in chocolate last Saturday night. My friend Julie and I (along with our very intoxicated friend Kurt), attended a wine and chocolate tasting event at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. It was definitely my kind of event—$25 all-you-can eat/drink. And you know how much I like to take advantage of those kind of deals.

Julie’s husband Matt was originally scheduled to attend the event as well. But that was before he received free tickets to Bock Fest, an all-day drinking event at the Capital Brewery in Middleton that very same day. Julie adamantly warned Matt beforehand not to drink too much. I kept my mouth shut, but seriously doubted Matt’s ability to keep his sobriety in tact at Bock Fest. With all that beer, testosterone, and peer pressure. It was a lost cause. Sorry, Julie. february-025

So as to be expected, upon pick up at the brewery, Julie decided that Matt was in no suitable condition to attend the wine and chocolate tasting event that night. But to my absolute disbelief, Julie reasoned that Matt’s best friend Kurt (who also attended Bock Fest) would be a suitable replacement. But once again I kept my mouth shut.

Kurt. Where to begin? Kurt is a friend of mine from college. He’s quite the character. A former Bucky Badger. You may also remember him as the star of the recent indie flick “Go West Happy Cow.” Kurt’s a great guy. Always a good laugh. But Kurt most certainly would not come to mind as a sober replacement for a refined wine and chocolate tasting event. february-028

I think Julie and I both knew we were in trouble when Kurt started giving out high fives while we were waiting in line to enter the event. Kurt, this isn’t a sporting event, Julie sneered. We were definitely among the youngest people there. It was mostly a dignified crowd of gray-haired professorial types. What was most interesting to me was watching the older women react to Kurt’s antics—some were visibly appalled (I’m embarrassed for you, one snidely remarked). Others doted on Kurt like a long-lost grandson (oh…honeyyy). But when Kurt said “fuck” for the third time, Julie had had enough. At that point, we parted ways. And so while Julie and I started in on our second loop of wine and chocolate, Kurt wandered off in search of new lady friends.february-027

The event featured wineries and chocolatiers from the surrounding Madison area. Offerings included espresso truffles, cherry port, lemon cardamom-infused chocolate, Lakeshore fume, pecan caramel clusters, chocolate dipped dried Door County cherries, pinot noir, and chocolate chili gelato—just to name a few. All you can eat. And drink. To say I was in heaven would be an understatement. february-031

It was hard to pick favorites among the samples. David Bacco Chocolats and Wollersheim Winery are already among my top picks. Others that I really enjoyed included the liqueurs from AEppel Treow Winery, the balsamic-infused dark chocolate truffles from Maurie’s Fine Chocolate, pomegranate white tea infusion chocolate from TerraSource Gourmet Chocolates, and toffee from James J. Chocolates. We also all really enjoyed the guy from AEppel Treow Winery (pictured, above, appropriately sporting and kilt and silver flask). There were good laughs with that one.

Despite the evening’s rough start, Julie and I persevered for three hours of nonstop chocolate and wine tasting. Because that’s the kind of ironwomen we are. By the end of the night, we were giddy and content with bellies full of wine and chocolate. And Kurt made some new friends. All of which has made for a great story among our friends.

1 comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Hot Pink Compression

March 4th, 2010 — 2:54pm

february-035Over the last few years, compression socks have gained immense popularity among runners and triathletes. It took me a while to decipher the phenomenon. When I first saw several athletes sporting knee-high socks at Ironman Wisconsin two years ago, I thought it was just a strange and unfortunate fashion statement. Eventually, I learned that many runners and triathletes use compression socks to help speed recovery after strenuous workouts and also to optimize performance during races.

Obviously those are grandiose claims. And for a while, I was skeptical. You mean to tell me that you can just slip on a pair of knee-high, Brittany Spears-esque socks and suddenly you’re Chrissie Wellington? I think not. Yet there are many studies that suggest real and notable gains can be realized by wearing compression socks.  comp-socks-704762

So how do they work? According to CEP, a leading producer of compression socks, the goal of wearing the socks is to enhance blood circulation, which delivers more oxygen to the heart and improves the process of metabolizing lactic acid. Another article explains that compression socks use strong elastics to create significant pressure on the legs, ankles and feet. By compressing the surface veins, arteries, and muscles, the circulating blood is forced through narrower channels. The arterial pressure is increased, causing more blood to return to the heart and less blood to pool in the feet.

So far only a handful of studies have been conducted to test these claims. Results have been largely inconclusive; but on the whole, encouraging:

  • According to a study conducted at Stellenbosch University,  athletes who wore compression socks after exercise showed a faster lactate recovery rate. The same study, however, showed no statistically significant improvements (oxygen consumption, heart rate, etc.)  for athletes who wore the socks during exercise.
  • Another study at the University of Dresden showed that compression can increase arterial blood flow up to 40% during activity and 30% during recovery. As a result, athletes benefit from more oxygen and nutrients, gaining power, recovering more quickly, and improving performance.
  • According to a study at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, runners using compression socks had 5% faster running times while using 6% less energy.

All of that medical/science mumbo jumbo seems to suggest to me that compression socks are at least worth a shot. When I raced at the Ironman World Championships this past October, many elite athletes wore compression socks during the race. I almost felt a little naked without them. The knee-high socks have always looked funny to me; but admittedly, the style has grown on me over time. As some of you know, I recently took on a new part-time job at a local triathlon shop (more on this later). This, of course, has sparked a new-found interest in trying and testing the latest rage in triathlon and running gear. Last week, I caved and purchased my first pair of compression socks. I tried them on after a long run last Sunday. They felt nice—the pressure seemed to soothe my weary legs. Even if the benefits are entirely psychological, I’ll take it.

Now let’s address the obvious question. You may be scratching your head at my color seelction. Certainly I’ve made it pretty clear in prior posts that I hate the color pink. Especially when it comes to athletic gear. But what can I say—there was something about this particular pair of compression socks that drew me in. They seemed different. special. They are not just pink (oh, no)—they are obnoxiously pink. And obnoxious pink I can do.

6 comments » | Racing and Training

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