Sunday, January 18, 2015

Charlotte Running Company Trail Race

US National Whitewater Center
Charlotte, NC 

I can count on one hand the number of times that I've done any trail running.  A few weeks ago several friends were mentioning their plans to sign up for the 9 mile race.  A quick check of my calendar revealed a rare free Saturday, and so without hesitation, I decided I'd join them in the trail running fun.  Online registration revealed 4, 9, and 13 mile options, and filled with New Year's resolutions and ambition, I opted for the 13 miler.

Race morning brought temperatures in the upper 20s with bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky.  I dressed in my favorite Sugoi compression tights, layered shirts, gloves, and a hat, knowing that I'd rather be a little warm than frozen.  The 9 and 13 mile runners started together and made a three-quarter mile loop prior to entering the trail head.  We were packed tightly for the first mile on the trail which led to lots of stop and go as we navigated the technical trails.  Between miles two and three I settled into a better rhythm with others who were running a similar pace.  The trails themselves were still wet from the rains earlier in the week and with low temperatures resulted in slick frozen sections, particularly when covered with leaves.  Just past mile three there was a steep descent that I slowed to navigate.  Unfortunately the guy behind me wasn't so cautious and slipped, falling directly into me, and next thing I knew I was on the ground with knees and hands covered in mud.  Fortunately I wasn't injured and hopped right back up.  At that point, all I really wanted was to enjoy the run, exercise some caution, and finish uninjured.

Miles 3-7 were the most technical and featured numerous sharp turns, rocks and tree roots, and ascents/descents.  I never realized how mentally exhausting trail running can be, as I was afraid to ever take my eyes off the ground and potential obstacles ahead.  My Garmin dropped signal intermittently and so my mile splits were inaccurate from the start, but I took a Gu at the one hour mark.  The 13 milers broke away from the 9 milers for a mile before rejoining them just prior to the turn off for the 9 mile finish.  My quads were feeling the impact of the uneven terrain, but overall I was feeling good and was happy I had chosen the 13 mile distance.  Fortunately, the last four miles of the race were the easiest, as it was on the lake loop which is wider and much less technical (with the exception of areas of deep mud).

Nearly two hours after I entered the woods, I began to hear the music and announcers at the parking area and knew the finish was within reach.  The toughest hill of the day was a steep incline over the last 100 meters prior to the finish, and with the last bit of quad strength I could muster, I crossed the finish line of my first trail race.  I covered 13 slick and muddy miles with 1580 feet of elevation change in 2:02:46, a pace of 9:46/mile.

2 / 10   F 30-34
9 / 94   Females
69 / 258 Overall
My quads cramped almost immediately after I finished, but fortunately the therapists from Carolina Sports Clinic were there to provide some stretching and massage.  Although I was a bit nervous about the injury potential associated with a trail run, I ended up truly enjoying myself and would definitely do this race again in future years.  My only complaint was the limited selection of post-race food (bananas, oranges, and stale bagels), so I hung around briefly for the awards and to chat with friends and then headed towards home for lunch and a warm shower.

Saturday afternoon turned out to be a rare picture perfect winter day with a high temperature nearing 60 degrees and bright sunshine.  After what has seemingly been a record stretch of cold, grey skies, and rain, I had started to think I'd never see the sunshine or warmth until April.  I slathered on some sun screen, gathered my lunch and magazines, and didn't budge from the lounge chair for three hours.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Recent Eats

With the business of the holidays and recent interview travel, it's been a while since I've done a post strictly about food.  So without further delay, here's a glimpse of the things that have been coming out of the kitchen lately.

This breakfast sandwich was especially delicious thanks to the whole wheat garlic-studded roll I discovered at Whole Foods.  The crisp exterior paired with the chewy interior paired flawlessly with scrambled eggs with spinach and tomato.

Oatmeal has made a return to the weekend breakfast rotation.  This bowl of cinnamon raisin oats was topped with cranberry sauce and sunflower seeds.

Lunch in Philadelphia at Amino Juice Bar included a kale salad and vegan butternut squash bisque.

Breakfast in Philadelphia one morning included this cranberry apple scone from Reading Terminal Market.

Liquid Earth in Baltimore was a warm spot for lunch on a cold and blustery day.  The "Picnic" sandwich included a wheat baguette, honey mustard, melted brie, apple and pear slices, red onion, and walnuts.

Two hours on the bike required a protein packed lunch to recover, including scrambled veggie-filled eggs and toast (one slice with cranberry sauce and another with hummus).

Dinner at home over my Christmas vacation featured grilled salmon and pineapple over a bed of spinach with an avocado dressing and a homemade stuffing roll.

After an afternoon at Top Golf in Alpharetta, we dined at Foundation Social Eatery.  Their Yelp reviews are overwhelmingly positive and so we were excited for a great farm-to-table style dinner.  Unfortunately, the dishes were far from outstanding and we were all disappointed compared to the hype we anticipated.  It wasn't a bad meal, but certainly not a restaurant we would return to any time soon.
Baby Arugula Salad with Ricotta Salata, Figs, and Walnuts
The Crisp Spanish Octopus was incredibly tender and our favorite dish of the night
Seasonal Vegetable Plate
Can someone please explain what part of a pile of corn over a pea puree and topped with arugula is considered either "seasonal" or entree-sized?

One of my favorite easy weeknight meals is a "roasted plate."  This one included tofu, zucchini, and sweet potato all tossed with coconut oil and seasonings.
New Year's Day dinner was enjoyed while watching college football.
Black-eyed peas over collard greens, roasted carrots, avocado slices, and a corn muffin.
An "empty the fridge" kale salad topped with avocado, corn, black beans, tomato, tofu, and balsamic vinaigrette.
Pancakes are the perfect Sunday morning post-call breakfast .
This stack of pumpkin pancakes was topped with cinnamon raisin peanut butter, banana slices, blackberries, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and syrup.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Vacation

Christmas vacation has officially come and gone in record time and I'm still in denial.  There's nothing like a 4am alarm clock on a Sunday morning to abruptly force my return to work.  Aside from being too short, I had a fantastic holiday week.  Here's a brief glimpse at the friends, family, fun, and good eats that I enjoyed.

Just prior to making the trip to Atlanta, I hosted a group of triathlon friends for a Christmas light run followed by a cookie exchange.  After a 6+ mile run, we warmed up with a bowl of soup and then proceeded to eat our weight in cookies.  

The cookies included peanut butter, chocolate chip, snowflakes, espresso chocolate chip, ginger molasses, bacon chocolate chip, shortbread, and vegan chocolate cupcakes.  My freezer is now stocked with an assortment of goodies to grab when my sweet tooth strikes.  This has created a major battle that I am loosing between my willpower and cookies calling my name.

Our family has developed a tradition the Saturday prior to Christmas.  Each year we run the Atlanta Christmas 5k and then enjoy breakfast at Highland Bakery.  Despite a cold and rainy start to the race, the weather cleared just in time for the start.  Bailey took top honors as the 1st place dog - helping to pace me to a 22 minute finish.  Dad, Royce, Erin, and Mom were all shortly behind.  My Ironman pace has become quite comfortable and this was a reality check that it's time to find some speed again.

While I was excited for the 5k, the majority were in it for the breakfast alone.  We started with mini sweet potato biscuits and then moved on to various plates including a BLT, crab cake benedict, omelets, and cilantro corn pancakes.  Our stomachs left full and happy.

One of my favorite moments of vacation was curling up on the couch - fireplace roaring and tree lit - and watching classic Christmas movies.  Home Alone is equally as good now as it was when I was a kid!  I also watched the entire 4th season of Homeland over a few days.

We had an early "Christmas Eve" celebration with my grandparents on Sunday.  Our buffet style meal including beef tenderloin sandwiches ( SO GOOD!), quinoa pizza bites, coconut shrimp, kale salad, veggies and hummus, and an assortment of cookies.

Tuesday was family night and included a friendly golf competition at Top Golf  in Alpharetta.  Imagine golf meets bowling alley.  It's a great concept and tons of fun for beginners to professionals alike.  They currently have just 12 US locations, but several more are coming soon.  I wish they had a Charlotte location.

Our golfing abilities varied greatly, but paired with some drinks and snacks, we all hit some good shots, had a great time, and discussed planning our return visit.

Christmas Eve commenced with baking and cooking several Christmas dishes, included a 12 mile run, and concluded with a great home-cooked meal.

Creamy Vegetable Soup is a vegan recipe that uses pureed cauliflower for the creamy texture and pairs a variety of winter vegetables (brussel sprouts, turnips, sweet potato, rutabaga) with hints of dijon and fresh herbs in the broth.  This will definitely be a recipe that I make again.  Along side we had a pomegranate waldorf salad and pumpkin cornbread muffins.

Royce and Erin joined us after dinner for our traditional Christmas Eve gift - PAJAMAS!  We all curled up in our new cozy pjs and watched Home Alone 2 - some of us doing more watching the back of our eyelids rather than the movie.

I'm pretty sure Mom and Dad loved having both kids home for Christmas.  I think it's pretty incredible that both Royce and I have been home on Christmas Day to celebrate all together for every year of our lives.  31 years and counting!

Christmas morning has changed slightly over the years, mainly starting a little later than the 6am present opening time of our childhood.  Everyone opened stockings and then were drawn into the kitchen by the smells of breakfast.

Sweet rolls stuffed with cream cheese and rolled in cinnamon sugar and pecans, grits casserole, and grapefruit and orange segments paired to create our traditional Christmas breakfast.

Santa was quite generous for yet another year, with great gifts that included an Ironman Chattanooga memory frame, boots, home decor, cooking classes, pancake, mix, a purse, lotion, and many stocking stuffers.

This little gem has the potential to be one of the most exciting gifts.  Royce and Erin gave me an entry into the drawing for an Ironman World Championships drawing.  I'll have fingers crossed on New Year's Day that the name pulled is mine!

Last year we all enjoyed an Italian dinner so much that we requested the same for this year.  Vegetable lasagna, caesar salad, and homemade garlic wheat rolls made for a very satisfying dinner.  If there's one thing our family does really well, it's cooking and eating delicious meals.

Lastly, my contribution to our Christmas meal was a banana cake with praline filling and a white chocolate ganache icing.  We ate our cake while bundled up with blankets in front of the outdoor fire pit.  It was the perfect conclusion to a fantastic family holiday.

The remainder of the week seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and then I was on the road back to Charlotte to work on Sunday.  I'm so thankful that I was able to spend the week in Atlanta with my favorite people savoring the Christmas holiday.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 5, 2014


If Thanksgiving is all about being thankful and spending time with those that we love, then our family's holiday was perfect.  Thursday morning began with an early 6 miles of speedwork on the treadmill followed by a 4 mile run outside with Dad.  

We had a healthy breakfast of green smoothies and pumpkin swirl bread, and then proceeded to enjoy a lazy morning in front of the fireplace watching the Macy's parade and reading the newspaper.

As you can see, Bailey was quite content to spend the morning sleeping next to the fireplace.

My grandparents and uncle arrived in the early afternoon, and we grazed on smoked salmon rolls, beet crudités, rosemary roasted nuts, apple slices with brie cheese, wasabi crab bites, and cheese and crackers.  The wasabi crab bites and salmon rolls were the favorites, but I couldn't keep my hand out of the roasted nuts.

Bailey made sure to stay right by my side, reinforcing her love for my short visits.

Much of the meal was prepared in the couple of days prior to Thanksgiving Day, but Mom had a few last minute dishes to finish.  She always prepares a delicious feast, and this year was no exception.

Keeping with annual tradition, Dad was put in charge of the turkey.  The bird was stuffed with oranges and apples, rubbed in an herb mixture, and roasted on the Green Egg for 8 hours.  The result was a perfectly cooked turkey.

Our meal consisted of smoked turkey and gravy, cranberry walnut stuffing, oyster stuffing, mashed parsnips and rutabaga, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, celery salad, and homemade dinner rolls.

A little bit (or a lot) of everything rounded out my plate.  There's just something about that traditional Thanksgiving meal that keeps me craving the combination of flavors.  If only I had a plate of leftovers in the freezer . . .

We spent our meal playing a game of question and answer, reminiscing over family memories, accomplishments, favorite foods, dream vacations, and many other random topics.  

Family is most certainly at the top of my list of things that I am thankful for, and I couldn't be happier to call them my own and to be able to make the trip home to celebrate together.

The remainder of the holiday weekend included more mornings of sleeping in and lounging by the fire, watching the newest Hunger Games movie, hikes in the woods, and a brother and sister bike adventure.

Happy Thanksgiving!