Archive for July 2013

Door County Race Report

July 31st, 2013 — 10:05am

doorcountyAfter taking last season off from triathlons, I felt re-energized and ready to get back to racing. The Door County Triathlon (half-ironman) seemed like the perfect race to kick off this season and test my training leading up to September’s Ironman Wisconsin.

Door County is a race I know and love in a setting that can’t be beat. Going in, I felt fit and ready to race. I considered it my “A” race of the season, especially since I already know the conditions leading up to this year’s Ironman Wisconsin won’t be ideal. My biggest work event of the year is the same weekend, so I’ll be putting in 12-14 hour days on my feet the three days leading up to the race. I have no idea what that is going to look or feel like (probably not good?), so I decided earlier this season that Door County would be my highest priority race.

We arrived to Door County on Friday evening and checked in at our camp site at Egg Harbor Campground, located close to the race site. I love camping, but I was also little apprehensive about how my body would feel after sleeping on a thin mattress pad. Despite the fact that I also forgot a pillow and we had noisy neighbors, I slept better that weekend than I did all week. I was fortunate that the temperatures cooled down significantly from earlier in the week, a fleece jacket can double as a pillow, and that Larry had the foresight to pack ear plugs. It was also refreshing to hang out with several friends who were staying at the same campground.

Race morning went smoothly. We woke up at 5am and I made coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. It was the first time I had to make my race breakfast using just a camp stove! We arrived to the race site by 6am, I picked up my timing chip, set up my transition area, and then did a short warm up bike and run. I had a few minutes to sit with Larry before he helped me zip up my wetsuit and I headed out for a short  swim before the start.

Just before 8am, I lined up with the first swim wave made up of elite men and women. I’ve done the race in previous years, and there had always been separate waves for elite men and women. But this time it was just one wave of mostly men, which made for a notably aggressive start. It was immediately clear that I couldn’t hang with the lead pack, so I settled into my own pace. I ended up on my own the entire swim—no one in sight ahead or behind me. It was a lonely place, and I kept second guessing whether or not I was actually on course. It was a bummer having no draft whatsoever. At one point I realized it was raining, which was very surprising. The swim seemed to go on forever, but eventually I rounded the final turn. On the way back to shore, there was one big orange buoy notably out of line with the rest, but it felt great to see the shore and sense the end of the swim.

When I ran out of the water, someone yelled to me that I was the second female. Volunteers helped me peel out of my wetsuit, and then I was off to find my bike. I was thankful I had taken the time earlier in the morning to observe my surroundings and plot an exact path to my bike, since they all now looked exactly the same. When I got to my transition area, I threw down my wetsuit and put on my helmet, sunglasses and bike shoes, before grabbing my bike and running with it to the bike start.

The first part of the 56-mile bike course is flat and fast. I tried to ease into the bike, while simultaneously taking advantage of the opportunity for high speeds. The truth is, I never felt great on the bike course. My legs were achy and unresponsive. It was disappointing, especially since I’ve spent so much time this season on the bike, in an attempt to work my weakness. Still, I tried to keep my head in the game. I think there were two women who passed me during the bike, and I passed one. Thankfully, because of the way the start waves were structured, I didn’t have to deal with hundreds of men buzzing past me—which is my typical triathlon experience. I ate a Power Bar and a few Power Gels, but drank ridiculously little. The temperatures were cool enough that it was easy to disregard my fluid intake. But that would come back to bite me in the end!

Coming off the bike, I felt depleted and as if my eyes were rolling back into my head. But as soon as I started running, I felt like a new person. Other than some very uncomfortable pain in the ball of my foot (which has been a nuisance since cyclocross season), I felt energized and not at all like I had just biked 56 miles. Larry told me there was one woman a minute or two ahead, and another woman 8 minutes up. I thought the first woman might be within reach, but seriously doubted I’d catch the second. Within the first mile, I passed the first woman. And then a few friends who were spectating along the course let me that the other woman ahead of me was part of a relay. I was surprised and excited to know that I was in the lead and feeling good.

Halfway through the run I felt my left calf seize up in a cramp and immediately knew I was in trouble. It’s something I’ve dealt with before—a sign of dangerously low electrolyte levels. I learned my lesson the hard way during my very first Ironman Wisconsin in 2003 when my entire body seized up in one big cramp and never recovered. Nowadays I’m usually able to bounce back by popping salt tablets and downing Gatorade as soon as I feel the cramps begin (and ideally before they even begin). This time, I was able to keep the cramps from getting worse, but they stuck with me (at the same intensity and frequency) for the rest of the race. Anytime I tried to pick up the pace, I was instantly brought back to reality with a sharp cramp that warned me that I had better back off if I wanted to get to the finish line on two feet.

Eventually I came to the giant descent into the finish line and knew I was going to make it. I let my body fall forward, my legs nearly uncontrollable under me. As I approached the finish line, I realized volunteers were holding up a tape for me to break through. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t want to lift up my arms dramatically, so I just sort of shuffled through. Larry said that seemed to cause some confusion from race officials—was that our first female finisher? or not?  I was immediately whisked off by a reporter from a Green Bay newspaper for a quick interview. I was excited, but also very, very cognizant of the fact that there were more than a dozen waves behind me, and anyone could still win the race. Friends came up to congratulate me and asked if I had won, and I explained that I wasn’t sure. I was in the lead for now, but that could all change.

Afterwards I kept busy watching friends finish the race, getting changed, and picking up my gear from the transition area. When I finally checked the results an hour or two later, I saw that I came in second overall. Admittedly, I was disappointed—I’d come so close. But I was okay. I was glad to see that the woman who won beat me by more than 5 minutes (I think I would have been frustrated had it been really close, especially since she wasn’t in the elite wave), and honestly, I also found some comfort in knowing that she was older than me. It’s inspiring to know that women in their late 30’s and 40’s dominate endurance sports and that I’m still growing as an athlete.

In the end, it’s a race effort I’m happy with. I finished in 4 hours and 58 minutes—my second best time on the course, and my second second place finish at the Door County Triathlon. There’s a lot to think about now in terms of things that went well and not so well, and what I can improve upon for the future, but I also now know I’m on track with Ironman training. It took a lot of time to recover from this race (hence the delay of this race report), but I’m now feeling good and ready to tackle the last phase of Ironman training.

1 comment » | Racing and Training

It’s Race Time!

July 18th, 2013 — 11:24am

kandmAfter several weeks of Ironman training, it felt great last week to switch over to race mode and test my fitness leading up to this weekend’s Door County half-ironman triathlon. It was also a week of firsts: my first race of the season, first aquathon in two years, first open water swim in a Madison lake this season, and my first ever-road race. It was also the first time I crossed a finish line in first, but ended up third.

The interesting catch to last Thursday’s aquathon (1000m swim followed by a 5k run) was that participants had the opportunity to take time off their overall time by consuming food in transition. Each tray of wings, can of beer, or cupcake consumed was good for two minutes off a participant’s race time (up to 8 minutes). It’s a fun idea, but I had doubts about my ability to consume wings and cupcakes and then run a hard 5k. And I figured the time it would take me to eat a cupcake would probably cancel out any kind of advantage gained. So I bypassed the food table. And in the end, although I finished first, two women moved ahead of me in the final standings due to their iron stomachs.  I guess I have some work to do on my cupcake transitions!

I still had a great time and it was wonderful to see and catch up with so many friends. Race-wise, I felt especially good during the swim. Although I’ve been training exclusively in the pool, I felt really comfortable navigating the open water. And the run went relatively well, too. There were definitely people gaining on me, and my legs were not comfortable nor happy running fast, but I was able to gut it out and finish. And after the race, I enjoyed a few of those transition snacks.DSC00303

Saturday’s Bluemounds Classic was my very first road race, put on by my team, MadCity Velo. I volunteered my time before the race serving as the co-cookie coordinator—meaning that I helped coordinate the efforts of 8 bakers and more than 200 cookies for the post-race celebration. Sounds like my kind of job, eh? At the last minute, I decided to participate in the race, figuring it was a great opportunity to get in some very challenging hill training. The course is 24 miles, includes 2 laps of a beautiful 9-mile loop in the unglaciated region of western Dane County near Brigham Park, and finishes with an infamous four-mile climb up County Highway F to a summit finish. There were about a dozen or so women who started the race. I felt lucky to have a teammate who was generous enough to show me the ropes. We took turns pulling and she clued me in on race strategy tactics. In the end, we finished 3rd and 4th. My legs definitely felt the burn afterward. And I’ll also admit to indulging in more than my fair share of  cookie sampling post race.

This weekend I’m off to Door County to participate in the Door County half-ironman triathlon on Sunday. It’s one of my favorite races—it’s really well run and in such a beautiful spot. I see this as my “A” race of the season (more so than Ironman Wisconsin in September), so I’m going to give it my all. It’s also my first triathlon in almost two years. I feel ready and excited…not only to race, but also for a weekend away in one my favorite places.

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Iron Chef Baby/Miniature Recap

July 18th, 2013 — 9:37am

DSC00372When we learned that two members of our Iron Chef group were expecting a baby, we figured there was no better way than to celebrate Iron Chef style. That’s how July’s Iron chef came to be a miniature/baby-themed baby shower. At first I had no idea what to make, but after a bit of research, I had a long list of possibilities that included mini BLTs, mini banana splits, mini blueberry pancakes, and mini chicken and waffles. Ultimately, I decided to make mini spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce, and Larry took off running with the BLT and banana split idea. The baby/miniature theme inspired a lot of creativity in the whole group. There were baby back ribs, a watermelon baby carriage, mini strawberry shortcakes, and more. It was the perfect way to celebrate the new addition to our Iron Chef family.DSC00358


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Iron Chef Baby/Miniature

July 16th, 2013 — 10:14am

From left to right, top to bottom: mini spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce; mini BLTs; Baby Ruths; mini cupcakes; watermelon baby carriage; cherry tomato, mozzarella & basil skewers; mini banana splits; baby back ribs; mini strawberry shortcakes; mac and cheese bites; mini potato salad (not pictured); inside out burgers with “bib” lettuce; and baby carrots and mini peppers.

1 comment » | Iron Chef Dinners

A Visit to Melly Mell’s

July 12th, 2013 — 4:40am

melle mell09I put aside my healthy eating habits last week to fully indulge in the ultimate soul food during my first visit to Melly’s Mell’s. All the reviews I’ve ever read, including this one by Isthmus food reviewer Andre Darlington, have been glowing. But I also knew that Melly Mell’s is notoriously hard to find. Luckily I had my expert navigator along for the ride. And honestly, it wasn’t too bad. Just take the Rimrock exit off the beltline, a right onto Badger Road, and Melly Mell’s is in the Genesis complex next to the building housing EZ Pawn and Pitchers Pub. The entrance is a nondescript metal door with very little signage on the left side of the building.

Once we made it in the door and down a flight of stairs, we were in soul food paradise. The expansive seating area is decorated with eclectic artwork and proudly-hung family photographs. A Luther Vandross CD was playing on the stereo. There were just two other diners there during our visit (also for their first visit), and Larry overheard them calling Melly Mell’s a “mythical place,” and a “pot of gold.” They struck up a conversation with us, and immediately began gushing about the fried chicken they had just devoured. In fact, it was so good, they had just placed a second order to take home.

Now I was really getting excited.

Melly Mell herself then pulled up a chair at our table. It’s difficult to find the right words to describe Melly Mell. She’s the kind of person whose presence fills a room.  She’s a gifted storyteller, and sat and talked with us for at least 45 minutes over the course of the evening, sharing stories about her family, growing up in a military family, and her past work mentoring underprivileged kids. Family obviously means the world to her, and her children and grandchildren popped in and out during the evening. Melly Mell proudly introduced us to all of them. As Larry guessed, Melly Mell got her nickname during high school from the rapper in Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. She’s the kind of person who can’t go anywhere without running into people she knows—and her conversations are rarely brief, something she admits drives her kids nuts.

Soul food is what Melly Mell does best, although she admits she can only eat it once a week these days. Although we were tempted to try the specials (tacos and enchiladas on Tuesday nights), we decided to stick with soul food for our first visit. We ordered the fried chicken and waffles, a catfish filet, and sides of black eyed peas, mac & cheese, greens, and yams. Everything was excellent. But the fried chicken was other-worldly—crispy and perfectly seasoned. Served next to a fluffy waffle dripping in maple syrup and melted butter put it over the top. It’s the kind of meal I now dream about. We were great eaters. Melly Mell admitted that we had ordered quite a lot of food and joked that the only way she was going to get us out was by rolling us out.

Melly Mell’s is the kind of gem I can’t wait to share with my family and friends. I just want to scream it from the rooftops—if you haven’t been to Melly Mell’s, then you haven’t truly lived! melle mell15

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2 comments » | Restaurant Reviews

Concerts on the Square

July 12th, 2013 — 4:31am


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Wheatberry Salad with Orange Ginger Dressing

July 11th, 2013 — 8:23am

June 2013 259I love when my friends send me recipes—either their personal favorites, or ones they find and think I might enjoy. My friend Erin (one of my best friends who I met the first week of high school) recently sent me one of her favorite salad recipes from a popular vegan blog she follows. I tried the recipe a few weeks ago, and really enjoyed it. It’s based on a salad from Whole Foods. The orange ginger dressing makes the salad—it gives the grains a wonderful citrus-y flavor. Although the mason jar layering idea from the original blog post is cute and visually appealing, I skipped that part in favor of efficiency and threw everything together in one big bowl. I also doubled the recipe (the original quantities are below), which made enough lunches for two for a week.

Wheatberry Salad with Orange Ginger Dressing (slightly adapted from Oh She Glows; makes 4-6 servings)

1 cup uncooked wheatberries
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup edamame
1 cup diced carrots (about 2)
1.5 cups diced red pepper (1 large)
1.5 cups diced green pepper (1 large)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
kosher salt, to taste

For the dressing:
2/3 cup 100% pure orange juice (or use freshly squeezed)
1/3 cup 100% pure apple juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
kosher salt, to taste (about 1/4 tsp)

In a medium pot, add quinoa and 1.5 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, until fluffy, about 15 minutes. Do the same for the wheatberries, in another pot, but add 2 cups of water and cook until tender and chewy, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the vegetables. In a bowl or jar, whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.

Mix the salad together into a big bowl along with the dressing. The salad will keep in the fridge for 5-6 days.

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1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

DIY Energy Bars

July 8th, 2013 — 11:36am


I made my most recent batch of energy bars with a recipe from the magazine EatingWell.  The bars turned out great. I love the addition of pumpkin seeds, peanuts, dried blueberries and mini chocolate chips. The recipe makes 12 bars, which I packed in a plastic container in between sheets of waxed paper. They’ll serve me well through the next phase of Ironman training. I’ll tell you one thing—I look forward to my DIY energy bars so much more than I ever looked forward to a Clif Bar or PowerBar. And it’s important to have something to look forward to during those especially long efforts!

DIY Enery Bars (from EatingWell, July/August 2013; makes 12 bars)

1 cup lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crispy brown rice cereal
1/2 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried blueberries
6 dried apricots, diced
3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
5 tablespoons brown rice syrup or light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.

Combine peanuts, rice cereal, oats, pumpkin (or sunflower) seeds, blueberries, apricots and chocolate chips in a large bowl. Drizzle with syrup and gently stir until thoroughly combined. Spread in the prepared baking pan. Coat another piece of foil with cooking spray and place on the bar mixture, sprayed-side down. Place another pan on top and press firmly to compress the mixture. (Pressing before baking helps the bars hold together after baking.) Remove top pan and foil.

Bake until just beginning to turn golden at the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Carefully lift the baked square out of the pan by holding the edges of the foil and place on a cutting board, leaving the foil underneath. Cut in half, then cut each half crosswise into 6 bars. Let cool completely before lifting the bars off the foil.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Father-Daughter Weekend Up North

July 5th, 2013 — 10:52am

Last week my dad and I spent a long-overdue weekend together—just the two of us—at my parent’s cabin in northern Wisconsin. It all started around Christmastime. My dad is not an easy person to shop for, so when I found out that he wanted nothing more than to spend a weekend at the lake with me, it seemed like the perfect idea. The last time I can remember spending extended one-on-one time with just my dad was when we traveled to Colorado my senior year of high school to visit colleges. I remember really connecting during that trip and I have an especially fond memory of my dad telling me about the moment he realized my mom was “the one.”

Our weekend at the lake was equally special. My dad put a lot of thought into choosing activities we could enjoy together—a fish fry at Al-Gen, antique shopping, an ice cream outing, and several outdoor activities like biking, running, and kayaking. We kept very busy and had great conversation. My dad said it perfectly when he described how we had the chance to reflect on life, family memories and dreams for the future. It’s a weekend I’ll always treasure.

Comment » | Family Fun

Fourteenth Annual Giro de Six Lakes

July 5th, 2013 — 5:43am

July 2013 001Yesterday I participated in the Fourteenth Annual Giro de Six Lakes, a brisk-paced group ride from Madison to Poynette and back, that takes place each Fourth of July. The group included more than 50 Madison cyclists. I’d never done the ride before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had a great time—the ride was challenging and fun, and had a great Fourth of July twist.

I find that my effort varies drastically when riding in huge peloton—one minute I’m floating along in a cloud benefiting from the draft, and the next moment I’m barely holding on and my legs and lungs are on fire. It was the perfect ride for Ironman training—a great endurance effort with several built in intervals. And thankfully, whenever I did come close to falling off the group, one of the riders from Brazen Dropouts helped pace me back to the front.

My favorite part of the ride was when the ride organizer loaded up on candy at our gas station rest stop in Poynette and distributed bags to all of the riders. Then, on our way back to Madison, we rode through Token Creek, where the entire community was parked on blankets along the street waiting for the Fourth of July Parade to begin in another hour. We rolled through and tossed candy to the kids. The announcer cried, and here come our annual bike riders! July 2013 002

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