Archive for May 2010

A Runner’s First Pedicure

May 28th, 2010 — 11:12am

june-2010-017I like to think I’m a pretty simple girl with simple needs. I guess that’s why I was a bit hesitant when a group of co-workers recently suggested an evening social involving pedicures. I’d never had a pedicure. Which is apparently abnormal. But I take direction on such things from my mom. And I’m pretty certain my mom has never in her life even considered a pedicure. As a result, I’ve come to think of such things as unjustifiable extravagances. Thirty dollars for someone to buff my feet and paint my nails? Why? I can paint my own damn nails. june-2010-012

But my co-workers convinced me to give it a try. They said I would enjoy the experience. That the nail polish would last forever. And that my feet needed and deserved some pampering after so much running. They did have a point there—my feet were pretty broken and bruised following my recent ultramarathon. So in an effort to heal my feet and humor my co-workers, I agreed to book an appointment with the group at NAILS 4U. And yes, that’s really what it’s called.june-2010-019

One of my co-workers who is apparently a regular at Nails 4U (which I concluded as the staff referred to her as “family”) led the charge once we arrived. The first step was to pick a nail polish color from a wall of tiny OPI bottles. There was an overwhelming array of pinks, reds, and purples. Although I usually gravitate toward darker colors, I opted for a bright orange that seemed to scream summer.

My co-worker Katie and I were up first. After filling a tub with hot water, the manicurist instructed me to submerge my feet. I soaked in the foot bath while the giant massage chair in which I sat gently kneaded my shoulders. The manicurist worked quickly and efficiently—almost robotically. She silently tapped each foot as she needed me to raise it out of the bath and onto a towel for her to work on. My friends laughed at my facial expressions throughout—which ran the gamut from apprehension to amusement to pain. The full pedicure involved the foot bath, removal of old nail polish, cuticle pushing, clipping, filing, buffing with a pumice stone, moisturizing creams and oils, a brief leg massage, and several coats of nail polish. Afterwards, I was instructed to move to a seat at the “drying table.” There, I sat back, relaxed, and caught up on trashy celebrity magazines as my two other friends began their pedicure. june-2010-022

The most painful part of the process was when the manicurist buffed my feet with a pumice stone—I grimaced in pain as she attacked calluses on my small toes caused from running. I was also amazed by how quickly she painted my toe nails—one coat on top of another with no drying time in between. It was like magic. So for $35 (including tip), I have perfectly polished toe nails and smooth, healthy feet. Would I do it again? Probably not. I can paint my own damn nails. And let’s face it, I’m a runner; my feet will never going to be smooth and flawless for long.

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Ice Age Race Report

May 25th, 2010 — 1:27pm

2323232327ffp9-9nu3239-58885wsnrcg337275398233-nu0mrj1And then we were off. I started somewhere in the middle of the pack. My goal was to conservatively ease into the pace. The first ten miles were a loop of the Nordic Trail—a wide, grassy trail with rolling hills. I was surprised how quickly the group dispersed. I fell into a pack of mostly middle-aged men, who reminisced about previous ultras and peppered me with questions about my training. I was clearly one of the youngest runners out there. Everyone else seemed experienced and confident. I felt like a wannabe ultrarunner. My pink compression socks also made me feel silly…but they kept my legs warm in the cool temperatures.

By the end of the first loop, I felt tired. My stomach was unsettled. Which was all very disconcerting, considering I still had 40 miles to go. Luckily, at that point we emerged from the forest and I was able to see my parents and Karen. I can only imagine what my crew was thinking as they read my facial expressions at various points during the race. After a few quick words, I made a beeline to the Porta Potty. Slightly re-energized, I hopped back on the trail and took off running alone. As I glimpsed at my watch, I realized I would be running for many, many more hours. 2323232327ffp-84nu3239-58885wsnrcg33727435933-nu0mrj1

The next few miles were flat and fast, winding through a beautiful pine forest that led to the start of the Ice Age Trail. That’s when the degree of difficulty increased substantially as the trail became single track, with large rocks and roots contending every footfall. From then on, the hills were brutal and incessant. Thankfully, I had run part of the Ice Age Trail with friends just a few weeks beforehand and had some idea of what to expect. And thankfully those same friends had instructed me to conserve energy and walk the hills. I knew that approach would pay off in the long run. 2323232327ffp-94nu3239-58885wsnrcg337275398333-nu0mrj1

Honestly, the hills were difficult to even walk up. Especially with the muddy trail conditions—which a friend likened to “congealed peanut butter.” I made much slower progress on the hills than others, which I like to blame on my unusually short legs. I’d be leading a small pack of runners, only to come to a hill and watch them all walk by me like I was standing still. This is what happened as we climbed a hill leading to the aid station at mile 17. I was relieved to see my crew members again as we emerged from the woods. That’s also when I ran into Paul, a friend from Dailymile who greeted me with a big hug. I made another beeline for the Porta Potty, after which I grabbed two PowerGels from my parents and also refilled my hand-held water bottle with Gatorade. My parents said I looked much stronger than the last time they’d seen me. I definitely felt stronger. And most importantly, from that point on, my stomach issues were no more.

The worst part of the course began at around mile 25. I think my friend Paul said it best: this is when nature opened up a can of whoop ass. The trail featured twisting and turning single track and 30+ degree hills populated with railroad ties, which kept you on your toes continuously like an Irish dancer. It was difficult to even take a drink of water from your bottle since your eyes had to be on the trail at all times. As soon as I gathered any kind of momentum or rhythm, I was instantly halted and forced to walk up a rock-studded hill. At that point, the race leaders also began to loop back on the trail, which meant yielding the single track to the faster runners. Some of the leaders were very friendly and encouraging, others were completely focused on the trail. Overall, the field was very supportive.  I made a point to cheer on every runner I passed along the way and to enjoy the camaraderie. 2323232327ffp-89nu3239-58885wsnrcg33727436533-nu0mrj1

Although the hills were killer, I started feeling really strong around mile 30. My pace was very consistent. That’s also when I noticed I was beginning to slowly reel in other runners, which definitely bolstered my confidence.  I was thankful for all of the Ironman races and long training runs I had under my belt, which had all taught me how to run on very tired legs. At that point, I had a revelation—not only am I going to finish this race, I think I might be able to finish well. As a result, my focus shifted a bit—from just finishing, to seeing what I was really capable of.

What stands out most to me from the later parts of the race were the drastic variations in weather patterns. For about an hour, it was literally hailing one moment, and then sunny the next. Luckily, the hail was small and painless, and the canopy of trees above helped to lessen the blows. The rain also felt cool and refreshing in between spurts of hot sun. But it was all so strange, I just had to laugh at the entire situation. This is crazy, I am running 50 miles with all of these other yahoos, and we’re being attacked by hail. Oh, but there’s the sun again. Oww…spoke too soon,  more hail. 2323232327ffp9-7nu3239-58885wsnrcg337275398633-nu0mrj

I was able to see my parents and Karen again at miles 37 and 44, at the Horse Camp aid station. The first time through, I hit the Porta Potty for what felt like the 10th time that day. Although I very much wanted to dive into the M&M’s and potato chips prominently displayed at the aid station, I thought better of it and instead grabbed a couple PB&J triangles from the table and refilled my water bottle with Gatorade. That, along with electrolyte tablets and Powergels, made up my race fuel. Realizing I only had 15 miles to go emboldened my pace. Throughout the race, I had mentally broken up the mileage into manageable segments. Compared to 50, 15 seemed like nothing.

Once again on an out-and-back trail, I passed by the entire field of runners on the way to and from the aid station at mile 40. The leader positions had changed a bit since our last loop, and those towards the back of the race seemed to be struggling a little more. As I neared the 40 mile mark, I realized I was maybe 7th among the females, and thought I could perhaps catch one or two more in the last ten miles. At that point, I experienced the only unpleasant interaction I had all day. Just as I was about to pass by another female who looked a few years younger than I, she yelled to me, which age group are you? I was too tired to even process, so I merely replied, I’m 28. She sped off and replied, Oh, you look younger than you actually are. Her actions seemed so out of place and unnecessary. Maybe she thought I was going to catch her, but she was at least a mile ahead of me—so unfortunately, that didn’t seem likely.024

It was very exciting to get closer and closer to the finish line. Climbing the hills became easier as I realized they would be among my last. Only a few miles separated me from the coveted finisher’s belt buckle and the food and beer tent. The most exciting part of my race was about a mile from the finish line, when I saw another female just ahead of me on the trail (not the same person I mentioned previously). She had been significantly ahead of me the entire race, so it was exhilarating to know I was so close to catching her. I strategized for a moment, and decided I would speed up to pass her and then try to hold the pace into the finish line. But at that point, she started walking, so I easily ran by and offered her words of encouragement. Still wanting to finish strong, I ran as hard as I could up the last two hills and to the finish line. 025

Crossing the finish line felt amazing. I ended up finishing 34th overall and the 6th female with a time of 8:53:51. It was more than I could have ever hoped for my first ultramarathon. I was so proud. After changing into some warmer clothes, I hit the post-finish buffet and celebrated with my parents over a plate of BBQ and a beer.

Without a doubt, I loved my first ultramarathon experience—the atmosphere, the competitors, the course, and just being outside in the middle of nature among the elements. I was lucky to have an amazing crew—my parents and Karen, who followed  and cheered for me for almost 9 hours. Without their help and support, I wouldn’t have been able to feel and finish so strong. So what’s next? Although my focus will shift toward triathlon training for the next few months, I’ve already begun contemplating my next ultramarathon. And I’ve had a change in heart—I’m no longer ruling out a 100 mile race from the realm of possibilities. I realized I can run a lot further and stronger than I ever thought possible.

For another take on the race, check out the article written by Tom Held of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

5 comments » | Racing and Training

Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie

May 18th, 2010 — 7:52am

derby-2010-004Well, the truth is, I’m not quite ready with my race report from Ice Age 50. Admittedly, I’ve been a huge procrastinator. I’m not sure why reflecting on and writing about my races always proves so difficult for me. What I’m asking for is a deadline extension. So for now, let’s just jump straight to the aftermath, shall we?

Luckily, my race recovery went well. After a day or two of hobbling around on blistered feet, I was able to jump back into my workout routine relatively unscathed. A big part of recovery is replenishing the body with essential fluids and nutrients. Some people drink protein-enriched recovery drinks. I much prefer pie. derby-2010-006

I was very happy to see the first signs of rhubarb at this past weekend’s Dane County Farmers’ Market. In fact, it was everywhere. I purchased about 1.5 pounds for $3. I always look for skinny stalks that are straight, crisp, and well-colored. For several weeks, I’d had my eye on a recipe from a recent issue of Real Simple Magazine for Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie. I knew as soon as fresh rhubarb popped up at the farmers’ market, it was game time.

The recipe was relatively straight forward—lots of slicing and chopping. And although the recipe calls for store-bought pie crust, I always prefer to make my own whenever possible. This time I had disc of homemade pie dough in the freezer leftover from my recent derby party, but had to rely on a store-bought crust for the top crust. It was a nice compromise. derby-2010-014

The pie came out of the oven oozing with rhubarb juices and a perfectly golden crust. I served the pie the next day with a small gathering of friends for a belated birthday celebration. The rhubarb had a nice tart kick, followed by a rush of sweetness. It was the perfect choice for a late spring evening.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie (Reader Recipe From Melanie Scherenzel)

2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
1/2 pounds strawberries, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2  large eggs
2  store-bought refrigerated rolled piecrusts

1. Heat oven to 375° F. In a large bowl, toss the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, flour, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt. Lightly beat one of the eggs, add to the fruit, and toss to combine.

2. Fit one of the piecrusts into a 9-inch pie plate. Fill with the fruit mixture, pressing it in firmly. Lay the second crust on top and press the edges of the crusts together to seal.

3. Trim the crust to a 1-inch overhang, fold the overhang underneath itself, and crimp. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon water and brush over the crust. Sprinkle with sugar and cut vents in the top.

4. Place the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until the fruit mixture is bubbling and the crust is golden brown, 1¼ to 1½ hours. Let cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Serves 8.

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Ice Age 50 Pre-Race

May 11th, 2010 — 6:38am

2323232327ffp99-nu3239-58885wsnrcg33727435733-nu0mrjIt was my first ultramarathon, but most certainly not my last. And if I can say that now, while still barely able to walk and with feet covered by blisters on top of blisters, I think that’s encouraging.

There’s only one thing I wished for in the days leading up to the race: no rain. I knew running 50 miles would be challenging enough – surely I didn’t need muddy trails as an added obstacle. Of course it rained all day Friday – and as I drove to the race on Saturday morning. Figures.

My friend Karen and I arrived at my parents’ house in Brookfield the night before the race – after packet pick-up in Whitewater and a flat tire on the highway along the way (yes, my second flat in two weeks, dammit). My mom cooked an elaborate pasta feast for dinner and I loaded up on veggie lasagna, mac n’ cheese, and chocolate cake for dessert. After catching up with my parents, and arranging my clothes and nutrition in neat piles for easy access in the morning, I hit the sack around 10 p.m. 2323232327ffp-8-nu3239-58885wsnrcg33727435233-nu0mrj

I woke up at 4 a.m. the next day to the sound of my mom’s cheerful yet urgent voice reverberating throughout the entire house—“it’s time to get up!” I suppose it’s the most efficient way to wake up a houseful of groggy sleepers, but at the time I could hardly handle my mom’s deliberately annoying morning energy. As I set to work getting dressed, my mom made me her signature breakfast burrito – crushed bananas, walnuts, peanut butter, and flax seeds, drizzled with blue agave and wrapped in a flour tortilla. As I chomped away still half asleep, Karen silently wondered what I was doing eating something new on race day. I figured it was pretty similar to what I usually eat on race day. Close enough.2323232327ffp9-7nu3239-58885wsnrcg337275397833-nu0mrj

After a 30-minute drive along dark highways and damp country roads while jamming to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”, we arrived to the trail head of the Kettle Morraine Nordic Trails, which served as the race’s start and finish line area. It was so cold, I didn’t want to get out of the car. Instead, I sat for a while and admired the license plate of the car in front of us – I run 50. I hoped that I, too, would be able to run 50.2323232327ffp-7nu3239-58885wsnrcg337275397-33-nu0mrj

I finally forced myself from the warm cocoon of the car. I brought my “drop bags” to the designated tarps. The bags would be made available at certain aid stations throughout the race. I didn’t put much in the bags – just some energy gels and Fig Newtons. I likely wouldn’t need the bags since my parents and Karen would be crewing for me, but figured I would use the option as an insurance policy of sorts. 

I was lucky to have a group of people who were willing (and seemed genuinely excited) to follow me all day and provide support. I gave them a big bag filled with the things I might need  – several bottles of Gatorade, Powerbar gels, Cliff bars, Craisins, Lifesaver gummies, extra running shoes and socks, Vaseline, Body Glide, and Aleve. According to race rules, my parents would only be able to offer me the items at designated aid stations. Of course I’d also have the support and nutrition available at the aid stations throughout the day. So I’d be pretty set with help along the way. 2323232327ffp-79nu3239-58885wsnrcg33727435533-nu0mrj

Just before 6 a.m., the runners began to gather around the start line. Race director Jeff Mallach offered some final instructions, followed by a live male rendition of the national anthem. I shivered as I contemplated the distance ahead. But with my parents and best friend at my side, I felt like I had the people I needed to get through this thing. The start of the race was very entertaining. While casually seated, Jeff was like, alright, let’s go. Nobody moved. Seriously?, asked one of the runners. Yes, Go! And with that, we were off.

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Attempting My First Ultramarathon

May 7th, 2010 — 6:56am

504625797_ff1c5a86baAt 6am tomorrow morning, I will attempt to follow in my brother’s footsteps and complete my first ultramarthon. The Ice Age 50 is a 50-mile trail run on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which is about 50 minutes southwest of Milwaukee. The race is one of the oldest and largest 50-mile trail runs in the country. This year there are about 260 runners attempting the distance. The race is part of the Montrail Ultra Cup series, a group of 11 top ultramarathons across the country that culminates at the Western States 100 in late June (at which I’ll be pacing my brother). 19261_468767945430_404046355430_10915768_4819871_n

It’s hard to say whether or not I’m prepared. I loosely followed an ultramarathon plan, culminating with the ultimate “sandwich run” about a month ago—a 30-mile trail run (on the actual race course) followed by a 25-mile run the very next day. Fifty-five miles in two days. I felt good. I actually felt like I could have kept going at the end of each effort. Luckily, I had a great pacing team during those runs that included my friend Scott, his brother in-law, my parents, and my friend Krista. It goes without saying that the miles pass much quicker when surrounded by family and friends.march-016

But after that weekend, work got crazy and running was forced to take a back burner. I also inadvertently started my taper a week early—I thought I had finished my final long runs, but it turns out my schedule had me on for one more long weekend. I missed that. I also probably didn’t do enough training on trails in general. So am I ready? I hope so. My brother assures me that come race day, I will run to the distance. Meaning that I will find a way, one way or another, to finish 50 miles. Which makes me think of the advice I heard from Ice Age race director, Jeff Mallach—when you can’t run, walk. And when you can’t walk, walk. I’m quite certain those words will become my mantra tomorrow

It’s not the distance that scares me, it’s the trail. According to the race packet, The course consists of “incessant hills” and terrain that includes “mostly single-track dirt, rocky, and tree-rooted trail that runs through pine woods, hardwood forests, and rolling prairie lands. But at the same time, I’m really most excited about the beautiful, natural landscape and the challenges I’ll find on the trail. I think that’s what makes this race so different than a standard road marathon. Even the race director touts, “We hope you enjoy our little bit of heaven.”17861_414744530430_404046355430_10533390_2457402_n

So how much time will it take me to finish all 50 miles? Honestly, I have no idea. There’s a 12-hour cut-off time, so hopefully I’ll finish before then. I’ve been warned that trails can slow your pace a full minute to a minute-and-a-half per mile. I’ve also been told that the best way to gauge your 50-mile trail time is to triple your best marathon time. Meaning that best case scenario, I’ll be running for 10.5 hours tomorrow. Luckily, I’ll have a crew of supporters, including my parents and my best friend Karen. It also sounds like the aid stations will be stocked with great volunteers and my every dietary need, including M&M’s and cookies. If I can make it all 50 miles, I’ll earn a finisher’s silver belt buckle. And I’ll have the post-race BBQ dinner to look forward to—catered by Saz’s and Milwaukee Ale House. But first, I have to finish 50 miles.

If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, walk.

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Derby Menu Revealed

May 6th, 2010 — 2:51pm

29433_579848427143_20206171_33899241_4792188_n1You might be curious as to what I served during this year’s Kentucky Derby dinner party. Essentially, my menu included the best of last year’s dishes, as well as a few new twists to keep things interesting. All of the recipes I chose originate from the South, and many incorporate a healthy dose of Bourbon. The recipes come from many sources—a Louisville native, cookbooks such as Baked:New Frontiers in Baking and The South (a regional cookbook from Williams Sonoma), as well as online sources such as Southern Living, Epicurious, and Allrecipes. Here’s the full run down:

Mint Juleps
Bourbon Slush
Endive Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Walnuts
Salt-and-Pepper Cheese Puffs (Gougeres)
Peach and Bourbon Basted Pork Chops

Sugar Snap Peas with Mint Julep Glaze
Sally Lunn Herbed Rolls
Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
Bourbon Balls

I think it’s quite obvious I take great pride in my annual Kentucky Derby party. I plan months in advance, carefully attending to the menu, and many other small details like invites, music, place cards, and horse decor. I also make the entire meal myself, from scratch. This year I probably made ten separate trips to the grocery store in the span of a week and literally cooked for 24 hours straight. Of course my friends asked what they could help with and bring, but this is the one party each year for which I insist upon doing everything myself.

I think the food turned out great. After much practice, I’ve become a master mixer of mint juleps and a professional bourbon ball maker—if I do say so myself. My pork chops and desserts in particular always receive rave reviews. My only failure was this year’s attempt at making Southern Pecan Pralines. Without a candy thermometer, I was relying on intuition alone, which obviously didn’t serve me well. I ended up with unsalvable mix of hardened sugar and pecans. Luckily, I wasn’t really lacking in the dessert department without the pralines. Even with that minor glitch, I’d say the meal was successful. Perhaps my friend Kim summed it up best—“the drinks were strong and tasty…and the food was gourmet and delicious.” Cheers to another great Derby dinner party…here’s for hoping for many more to come!

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Derby Photo Shoot

May 5th, 2010 — 1:57pm

One of my favorite parts of Derby Day was the impromptu “photo shoot” we staged in the courtyard of my building. We had so much fun taking the pictures. I love how they turned out, and I especially like how much our colorful hats and outfits pop against the cream brick background. In my mind, these are the pictures we’ll turn to, to celebrate and remember Derby Day 2010.










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Scenes From a Derby Party

May 4th, 2010 — 3:03pm
Bourbon Pecan Chocolate Pie

Bourbon Pecan Chocolate Pie

Bourbon Balls

Bourbon Balls

Mint Juleps - the official drink of the Kentucky Derby

Mint Juleps - the official drink of the Kentucky Derby

The table is set...

The table is set...

The guests have arrived...Jill & Ryan

The guests have arrived...Jill & Ryan

Lauren & Brodie

Lauren & Brodie watching the derby

Kristin attempting to cook in heels

Kristin attempting to cook in heels

Dessert is served!

Dessert is served!

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