Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Running with the Cows half marathon weekend.

Last year I had learned about a race south of Kansas City called Running with the Cows, from Kelsey at .  I was excited about this race that is relatively close to me. . . I am a dairy farmer's daughter/granddaughter and black and white Holsteins are my favorite (of course!). Also, I'd be able to knock Kansas off my list of states  for races (I'm just looking to do at least one race--of any distance--in each state).    Looking at race's pics and the write up of Kelsey, I figured this would be a fun event to do and my pal S and her 4 year old can do the 5K. . .there'd be stuffed cows, etc.and it'd be a good road trip for us.   That was the plan three months ago when I signed us up for the event!  
Scenic view at the first rest stop in Missouri on I-35 heading south.  
After meeting up  at a central location, we joined forces, with a new pair of sunglasses for her son (because "'cation isn't 'cation without sunglasses!").  Our first pit stop was a pit stop ;-)   The rest stop on I-35 in Missouri just south of the Iowa border has a gorgeous mural inside depicting the history of this fine state. If you're here when the visitor's center is open, it's fun to go in and gather materials and ask for a postcard from the attendant. Last year when The Mike and I came through here a friend's son was doing a "Flat Stanley" type of event and sending post cards to the child was the object of the game. . . signed by his/her "flatness". There is a small playground outside, as well as a nature trail where one can walk amongst some metal cutout bison.  
Mural inside rest stop
The (fairly) new interstate bridge  in Kansas City, MO. 

S and I missed the packet pickup on Friday night, so we headed out to Bonefish Grill and had a great late meal.  They have a lovely gluten free menu as well and the waiter was well aware of what I could/could not have on the menu.    Saturday morning we got up bright and early for the 7:30am start of the half marathon. . . in order to drive out to the rural church, find parking, and ride a bus up to the church /start line area.  We probably got there earlier than we really needed to; however, with the rain that had come that week and the night before, the organizers had to scramble for alternative parking--which came in the form of having us detour off and around gravel roads and park on varying roads.  We got to ride a school bus to the church/start and S's son loved this!   

We got our race packets and, one of the ladies handing out shirts said, "a men's?" and I said, "Yes, because I have curves and women's shirts aren't always a good fit".  Does anyone else have this problem?  Often times the women's shirts are cut for an Olympic women's figure and not for regular people, with chest, belly and hip curves ;-)   

The Moo Moo car
Since the parking and organization of the race ensures everyone is there early, they provide some food ahead of time, bananas and the like.  There was the person dressed as a Holstein, a person dressed as a Cat/Raccoon, he looked like a cross, and I could only surmise that he must have been a school or sports team mascot.  We spent time walking around and exploring.  I'm not sure why they started this race, but across the street was a farm that looked like it had been a dairy farm at one time, with the white washed building with windows, a few silos and some other structures that just reminded me of the dairy farm. 
Start corral and Smart Pacer signs.

I wasn't sure what to make of this race for my goal.  My goal was really to come in under 2:45 since I have not been running much this spring and had only been back on the plan since the beginning of April.   I ran with the Smart Pacers at the 2:35 time frame and figured I'd play it by ear, but that I'd start out with the pace team so I wouldn't go out "turbo" out there and wind up bonking.  I had not seen an elevation for the race, but from photos of the 2012 race I knew there to be some rolling hills.  For your information:  the race is entirely rolling hills.  We started out the driveway and then turned onto the street.  People kept jackrabbiting up from behind, dodging people and some near misses as they tried to get up with their fast pace groups within the first block of the race. First, I think this is pointless at this stage of the race and second, it's just dangerous.  One of the Smart Pacers was trying to yell at the folks behind to be safe with passing and she went down in a blaze of glory. . .hitting something on the course (okay, a bright orange cone), but she was fine and came up ready to go.   I've often wondered about pacers, who they are, what their normal pace is, etc. The pacers had answered questions and provided some background before the race. . . one of them was a Boston Qualifier which means basically that they are use to running about half again, if not twice as fast, as this group was going to run--no wonder they can offer words of encouragement and run at the same time!

Pavement markings in various colors for the finish line area. 
The couple hills were deeper than the rest and  we knew that we'd have them on the way back as well.  I was feeling quite good until we headed east  and into the rollers.  Rolling hills are harder, I think, than just one or two since your body just keeps taking a beating.  Several more water/aid stations and then we turned north and headed to the turn around point which seemed farther away than it should have been.  More water stops, house owners and visitors with kids and dogs at the street intersections, more back and forth passing, being passed, by the same people (which I think is nice, since you know you're really in the right pace group, and you can start your own competition in the event). The headwind from the north seemed to have come on stronger here. Several of us commented it seemed about 15-20mph and others said that is what was mentioned on the news.  Walking was no shame for me in this race, and I am not afraid to admit that I did plenty of it into the wind.  I'd run up part of a hill and then walk part and repeat. . . anything to keep the mind off the running.  

Alas, I noticed NO Holsteins in the fields--none! Actually, I noticed very few bovines around at all. There were some off in the distance that were black or dark red, huddled under the shade and windbreak of a some trees.   The area might be rural, but being 30 minutes from SW Lenexa, it really is a boom town area for commuters who want the simpler life (a/k/a urban sprawl which is everywhere).  
Cute turn around signs for the 5K and half course. 
The turn around I thought would just be some basic intersection with just a few fire/police--after all, each other intersection had so many on duty, it just seemed like they'd have to run out!  That wasn't the case though.  At the turn around we had the SWAT team mobile unit--the huge RV. COOL!  

Coming back on those hills in this area felt good. .  since the wind was at out backs and we were able to keep moving.  Up near the next turn there were the paramedics, but the regular people/visitors/cheerleaders had moved on. This was probably a good thing, as the wind changed from being a north wind to being a northwest wind and one of the giant "road closed" signs blew over.  Back on the east/west path the rollers were back and being brutal to our bodies.  More aid stations though (plenty on this course!) and the man with an accent who was doing a 1 minute run / 1 minute walk was passing me this go round.  I know people like watches that do the whole beeping thing, but when you hear someone else's watch do it, it's a bit freaky, especially when you're next to the person!  

Plenty of protection at each intersection.
This is the 5K turn around and water station area with the
flag flying  high on the ladder truck. 
After passing this aid station on my return, I knew I had it in me to keep going---just a few deeper hills--- but with the wind at the back anything is possible!   Heading into a valley /intersection, there were some cute cheerleaders out there for some mom/woman. . . 3 and 4 year old cheerleaders on the course breathe energy into all racers I believe!

More run/walk for me and then coming into the final stretch with the white washed former dairy buildings across the road from the finish line, it was coming into completion and the energy was building within again.  I saw S and her son near the turn area and was pumped into moving into the finish area.  My final time was faster than my expected goal and slower than the pace team I started with. . .but I was happy for with it being a training run, rolling hills and a wicked wind.  Surely, Hospital Hill Run 6/1/13 should be a breeze compared to this, right?  ha ha ha ha. That course is wicked and mean but so amazing to complete.  

Finish photo with apron and,
yes, my face is always bright red when I finish running!
(my head said 26.2 but it was only 13.1 this day)
After the race, there were food items inside, shirts for sale and resting, socializing. I was just aiming for the chocolate milk and then S, her son, and I loaded up on a bus to head back to the car.   

S said the 5k was good, there were plenty of walkers as well as runners.  She was hoping for a better time, but with having a small child who wanted out, then in, then out, then in, of the stroller, we think she had a very good time!  

I thought this was a great event, though I did expect to see some calves or a petting zoo. . . not sure why I thought this, but with the name I thought it'd be some fun to throw in on the race!
My sch-wag.   Race shirt, finish medal, goodie sack, race cow bell, and a Running With the Cows shirt for dressing up with in black with my Holstein pattern apron I made.  I had the fabric for some time and decided to make an apron and wear that. . . apparently you get stuff for dressing up quirky like :-D

After shopping in the city, we loaded up and headed to see my dad.  The little guy in the car wanted to ride a tractor, and my father obliged him. . . Sunday after visiting the cemetery for Mother's Day, we headed over to the farm so the lil' guy could see some real cows. Okay, these are just heifers (no breeding yet).   
A visit to the dad on the way home and seeing some real live Holsteins.  
We headed back to the city, did some shopping in that city, then had lunch at PF Chang's.   
PF Chang's only gluten free and soy free option and it is delicious!
Philip's Better Lemon Chicken

Next race:  Hospital Hill Run, Saturday June 1, the 40th running of the event and my third time doing this course!  Looking for the final piece of the puzzle:   

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Chicken, avocado/corn salad

A few months ago I had come across a recipe for Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad via Pinterest.   It sounded like a great side dish for the winter (it was) and I hoped to recreate it come warmer weather (I did). The original recipe is in the link above. However, I never make things exactly the same, often because I am missing an ingredient!   
The finished dish with my recipe, below.

From Sunday's lunch of roasted chicken, which was also used for mediterranean pizza Sunday evening  (Chebe brand pizza crust mixed per the box instructions, then topped with pizza sauce, then artichoke hearts, mushrooms, kalamata olives, chicken and sun dried tomato pieces, as well as mozzarella cheese and baked on a pizza stone brought to oven temperature).  With those two meals, I still had chicken left over!  

Yesterday I found Paleo Cupboard on Pinterest (I feel I'm rarely on that board, but when I am, I find great stuff!). I had first found a recipe for some beef meals, and then saw a photo of a fabulous looking salad. Interestingly, the photo of the salad was for the recipe of the dressing! However, I was inspired for our evening meal.  A salad with mixed greens, chicken, hard boiled egg (whites, I dislike the yolks on salads), the above Corn/Avocado salad and then topped with just a smidge of cheddar cheese. 

For the Avocado/Corn salad, I used: 
1 can of corn, drained, with 1T of cumin and 1/2 T of chili powder, sauteed in a skillet with a teaspoon of olive oil til warmed through and the spices are aromatically filling the kitchen. 

Then in a bowl, I mixed a T of apple cider vinegar, 1 T of olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt and about 1tsp of black pepper and whisked that in one a mixing bowl, which I could use to add the other ingredients to as well---I'm all for less cleanup on a work night!

I sliced the cherry tomatoes I had on hand, diced up the greens of some scallions sitting in the refrigerator, and two avocados I had purchased at lunch, before I even knew what dinner would be. [I figured we'd need them for the left over carrot/sweet potato chili from last week. Now I have to go buy more avocados!] I also diced up a small red onion I had on hand.

I added all the ingredients (except for the corn, it needed to cool some) and folded them together, being sure to get the Olive oil/vinegar dressing on all of the ingredients. 
I managed to snag a photo before I completely mixed the corn into the dish!
I chopped the rest of the chicken and heated it in a skillet with a smidge of oil on the bottom. I didn't add any spices to this, but I suppose I could have added cumin and chili powder to it as well, maybe some garlic or onion powder too.  
Nothing fancy, just some basic chicken on a board cut randomly . . . no perfection required. 
Then I washed and diced up spinach, romaine and leafy green lettuces, put that in the base of the bowls. I added the corn to the salsa mixture and put some of it on next in the bowls, then placed some chicken in the bowl, as well as the hard boiled egg whites.   

Completed meal
I was thinking that one could add more dressing (lubricant) to the dish if desired.  I think, equal parts olive oil, cider vinegar with a teaspoon of cumin and half a teaspoon of chili powder and salt would be just the thing. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Best Grinnell Run--ever

Saturday was The Mike's big race of the spring.  TransIowa version 9.  320 miles of gravel and dirt roads ("Level B") in Iowa.  Fourth year for him doing this race.  We hurry on Friday to Grinnell for the preliminary items for the race. Then try to get some sleep unnaturally early, as racers start at 4am, are suppose to be downtown at 3:30am and they all try to eat something ahead of time.  Our alarm clock was set for 2:15am (yeah?).  

Racers lined up-almost go time at 4am
After watching the cyclists depart downtown, I headed out to the north/south road to head to the hotel. One of the other cars pulled off the road at the next spot, assuming where there were police at 4am meant that the cyclists would be coming.  She was right and they had traveled a long way, from Pennsylvania for the event, she loved the quaint town of Grinnell, plus that the big city of Des Moines as not far away for exploring and shopping :-) 

Police were on hand to block vehicle traffic on a state highway, as cyclists exited Grinnell and headed towards the gravel--those lights behind the truck are ALL cyclists.
 I tried to get warmed up and back to sleep at the hotel. I finally succeeded about the time I normally awake. I slept until 8am and then awoke to a beautiful day for running and errands.  This is the first time in four years that there was beautiful weather for this event of The Mike's.   Normally it's rainy, overcast, 30mph wind, etc.  
Nature on my run. The lake in Grinnell
 I took a pause at the lake to watch the geese and ducks and then spied a turtle sunning himself. He ducked back in the water before I was able to capture his photo.   

The run takes me on the gravel shoulder up to the wide bike path which winds around to this lake. Then the trail runs out and you have the option of running streets (along the "bike path" with regular sidewalks) or running up to the cemetery (which is on the other side of the trees). There's not much difference in the end, but only on how to do the next few blocks.  I always choose to run through the cemeteries. I find they're peaceful and full of history.  This one was technically blocked off due to some repairs of the underground drainage, but I'm a farm girl and can walk through rough terrain, so I went that way (and there was a slight opening in the orange fencing, so I didn't break through anything). 

Up and around on the residential roads where I can run on the asphalt streets without much traffic instead of the hard concrete sidewalks, and then I returned the same way, but did a different loop  in the cemetery. Each time through is a new experience. I found this man's resting place. . . came from the East and settled in this town, helping to create Iowa College which is now Grinnell College and attended by many east coasters :-)   Interestingly, he married twice and both wives were named Sarah! 

As I exited the cemetery on a new road, I realized it'd be perfect for hill repeats, so I did a few. . . and then found a dime on said road, and a couple of beer cans by a few headstones, so I did some litter control as well.    This was definitely the best run I'd ever had in this town--beautiful weather, not much wind, and I found money! 

People always ask "What do you do while Mike is out riding all day?!".   I am so lucky that I'm comfortable in my own skin and can figure out what to do on my own!   After the run, eating and freshening up, I tried to get a pedicure but there were no openings. I did a bit of local shopping and then I went to the outlet mall and helped the economy :-)   I ate some more and then took a "short nap". I decided I didn't need to set the alarm since I rarely sleep that much during naps; I was very wrong.  I awoke two hours later and  just shortly before the Negro Spiritual event at the college.  I hate arriving late, but I wanted to hear this event:  "Soprano Randye Jones & pianist Marlys Grimm performing Negro spirituals. Ms Jones is working on her vocal literature doctorate" at Univ.of Iowa.  It was a great way to spend the evening, a free cultural event, and I was the youngest person in attendance by at least THIRTY years!  

Back to the room I listened to Trans Iowa radio for updates on the event from the coordinator, as well as watched Twitter for updates on racers. This year I didn't hear The Mike's name at all and figured that was good news.  I read a bit and watched Pawn Stars (we don't have cable at home, so it's  a treat to watch the History Channel) and then I waited for morning to come and hoped the phone didn't ring early in the morning from The Mike.  

Sunday morning came about with beautiful skies and gorgeous weather in the forecast. I packed my stuff in the car (less to carry out later) and headed out to the finish line.  If you're ever in Iowa, this is what our low maintenance roads look like, AVOID them if you have no idea where they end, or if it's rainy, snowy, or icy.  Most of them are gravel roads without gravel laid down for 5-30 years.  There usually are no homes along these roads and only used by farmers to get to the roads, or for critters to travel at night. 

Level B road signs. . . amazingly, people enter this race without knowing exactly what is a Level B road! 
Four years ago I walked out of the hotel at 10am for my run and there were about 20 muddy bikes on cars. There was a gent sitting on the hotel parking lot and I asked if the race was canceled (there was lightning earlier that morning).  He said no, that his race ended because of "mud on the Level B roads. Do you know that Level B means mud?" Apparently in the months leading up to this race, he had no idea that B means dirt roads. There are also C and D roads, which means the farmer basically has a key to a fence gate to keep out others. 

A Level B road in "GREAT" condition up to the farmer's barn.
I was suppose to run two miles or so on Sunday. My legs felt pretty good from Saturday, but knowing I'd be standing around waiting for the Mike and that I had parked a bit away from the barn, I knew I'd get some running in. I didn't do the run, but I did get to run back to the car and to the barn for the first aid kit (not for The Mike).

The rest of the Level B road after the barn driveway--this is good condition too, as it's grass.

The Mike's finish.
Two other gents road in with him,
but I don't have their permission to put their pic on the blog. 

We got home and took a nap after the exhaustive weekend.  Monday I got up for yoga and felt tired and thought I just overdid things this weekend. Instead, I realized later in the day that I was dehydrated and I was slow and sluggish from this!  

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!  

Kaua'i island  Spouting Horn