Monday, March 25, 2013

Dallas Rock & Roll Half Marathon

I haven't done a running update in a while, so it's time for a race recap!

I signed up for Rock & Roll at the Dallas Marathon Expo. I had run the race the last two years and liked the course and how well the race is organized. Michael did it last year and also enjoyed it, so I signed him up as well.

I needed to rest and recover after the marathon, but after the new year I started slowly building up my mileage. At the same time, some speed was coming back! Back in February, Michael and I ran the Too Cold to Hold 10 mile race at White Rock Lake. I finished in 1:29:24, just under a 9:00 min/mile pace. This got me thinking that I could perhaps break 2 hours in the upcoming half marathon.

Then a few weeks ago, I managed to pull an adductor (groin) muscle. I took it easy for a couple of weeks and tried to slowly add back in some mileage before Rock & Roll. The weekend before, I did 9 miles and felt pretty good but I still wasn't sure how I would feel on race day. As race day got closer, the weather turned on us. By the morning of the race, it was cold and extremely windy- 25-30 mph gusts to be exact! So I didn't have high hopes going into race weekend.

Sunday morning, our wakeup call came early at 4:30am. Brandon picked us up and we drove to Fair Park, where we would finish the race. The race actually started downtown, but because parking is very tricky, Rock & Roll had early morning shuttles running from Fair Park to the start line. I was nervous about being late (the website said shuttles only ran until 6:30am, the race started at 8:00) and traffic was very congested going into Fair Park. Luckily, once we entered the park, it was a breeze to park and get to the shuttles. We didn't have to wait long to get on a bus but while we were waiting I realized just how cold it was! The wind was crazy, the windchill had to be in the 30's. I had worn capris and a zip-up jacket but really regretted not bringing a throwaway layer or at least gloves.

Once we unloaded downtown, we made a quick stop at the Port-a-Potties (again, not much of a wait) and found Brandon's friend Aaron. We tried to find somewhere to stand out of the wind but no luck, so we just shivered while we waited! The guys had decided to start together near the 2:15 pace group around Corral 10. I was assigned to Corral 5 and normally would have started with them, but I wanted to get moving! So I made my way to my corral and once the corral was full, I warmed up a little bit. The corrals started about a minute apart, so it wasn't long before my corral was moving across the starting line.

This was my first race with a watch (I got a Forerunner 10 as an early birthday present from Michael) and I was determined not to be overly reliant on it. Instead, I just looked every time I heard a mile beep and took a mental note of my pace. Surprisingly, I was able to keep a faster pace than I thought I would. Early in the race, we ran from downtown into Uptown. It was so cold and windy, but luckily we were not running into the wind. The whole first half of the race is a gradual uphill. By around mile 5, my right hip/left ankle were definitely hurting from the uphill, I could feel it affecting my gait. I tried to focus on keeping my form strong. I was also taking in fuel (Honey Stinger chews) every 3-4 miles to keep my energy up. I rarely use fuel during training runs, but I think it helps me during races. I only took fluids about every other aid station, so about the same intervals as fuel. I mostly stuck to water, but did take one cup of Gatorade about halfway through.

Just after the 10K mark, both my parents and Michael's were cheering! (I knew they were going to be there and had been looking forward to seeing them.) They managed to get some good action shots.

At this point in the race (between about miles 5-7), we were running East and did not feel any wind at all! It was such a relief. Once we turned south around mile 8, the wind was back. But luckily, again, we did not have headwinds and at some points the wind was even at our back. Also at this point, the rest of the course is a gradual downhill. So I was feeling much better by this point and started doing some mental math to see if I could make that sup-2:00 "stretch" goal. I figured if I could keep my current pace, I could. Mile 8 was my slowest mile (9:22) but after that I was able to hover around 9:00 min/mile.

Finally, when we turned into Fair Park I realized I could make my goal but I'd have to really haul butt! So I kicked it into gear the last stretch. I could see a platform with a photographer and vinyl logos on the ground. It wasn't until I got pretty close that I realized that wasn't the finish line, just a photo op! One more turn and I crossed the (real) finish line! I smiled for another camera as I crossed and then stopped my watch. I got my finisher's medal, a water, a Gatorade, a Power Bar, a bag of chips and a space blanket. Before I knew it, my hands were too full to look at my watch!

I made my way out of the crowded finisher's chute and tried to find the family meet-up area. We had made a tentative plan to meet at the "B" letter after the race, but I couldn't find any letters or anything designating a family meet-up, so I finally just found a spot to put down my stuff and get organized. I was finally able to look at my watch and see that I'd clocked in *just* under 2 hours. I was excited but knew I'd have to wait for official results before I could really be sure. I wrapped myself up in my space blanket and ate my snacks while I waited. I texted my location to Michael, hoping he had stayed with the other two guys. I finally saw Brandon and waved him down. He had a great race, finished in about 2:11 which was better than he thought he would do. He said he had left both Michael and Aaron, Michael's foot was hurting and Aaron was having knee pain.

Finally, we found Michael, who had finished in about 2:24. He had hurt his foot a couple of weeks ago and while he said it felt better going into the race, he was hobbling now. His time is still better than last year's (his only other half marathon), so that is a success! Finally we found Aaron and his wife Becky and we all headed out for Mexican food and race stories! (Always a good combination.)

Official finish time: 1:59:51! I am still a little surprised I was able to make this goal with what felt like tough obstacles. But sometimes we surprise ourselves!

Overall, I enjoyed my third RnR race and will definitely do it again. It's a huge race, which of course has its pros and cons. It's so well-organized, everything from having enough bathrooms to the smooth corral start system make it a stress-free race. The crowds are a lot to contend with, but the corral starts alleviate a lot of the congestion during the actual race. Lots of friendly volunteers and course support, not to mention the bands! I didn't hear any stand-outs this year, but it is always uplifting to hear good music during a race. The course is great, it hasn't changed much in the last few years and runs through some really great parts of Dallas.

Once again, a great event and I hope to be back next year!

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

The Fitnessista shared a great slow cooker recipe not too long ago. San Marzano tomatoes, basil, red pepper- yum! And in the slow cooker, even better!

1 large can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (28oz)
1 pack of chicken breasts (3 medium), washed, pat dry, and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 large sweet onion, minced
1 C fresh basil
1 t dried oregano
splash of balsamic
salt (about 1 1/2 t) and pepper (1/2 t)
2 T capers (I did not include these, I'm not a huge fan of capers)

Put everything in the slow cooker, cook on high for 4-6 hours (or low, 6-8 hours)

Easy peasy! I served this with brown rice, it would also be great with pasta.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Garlicky (Turkey) Meatballs

A few weeks ago, I realized I had gotten into a rut with weeknight dinners. I vowed to go through my recipe binder (where I put recipes that I tear out of magazines) and make one new-to-me recipe a week. Michael has been requesting more recipes that include meat, so I thought I would give this one a try. I have never tried making meatballs and wasn't sure if I would like them, but I figured I could just eat the pasta and sauce if I didn't like the meatballs.

I substituted lean turkey for the sirloin, breadcrumbs for panko and dried pasta for fresh, but otherwise followed the recipe. I thought they turned out quite tasty! The leftovers were great, too. I used jarred marinara as the recipe called for, but if you have time for a homemade sauce (or make big batches ahead of time), that would be even better.

Garlicky Meatball Pasta

9 ounces refrigerated fettuccine
12 ounces ground sirloin
1/2 cup panko
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Cook the pasta per directions. Drain over a bowl, and reserve 1/3 cup pasta water.
2. While pasta cooks, combine beef and next 6 ingredients (through egg); shape mixture into 16 meatballs. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add marinara and 1/3 cup pasta water. Cover and cook 11 minutes or until meatballs are done. Divide the pasta evenly among 4 plates; top evenly with sauce, meatballs, and cheese.

Robin Bashinsky, Cooking Light
APRIL 2012