Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Five - favorite spring foods

It is time for the Friday Five link up with Mar, Cynthia and Courtney and this week's theme has to do with one of my favorite things, food!  Specifically, our favorite spring foods.  I haven't really started busting out the Spring foods yet since the weather still feels a bit like soup weather.  But I am ready for Spring to start any day now.  And when the weather starts warming, I always begin craving fresh produce.  So here are some of my favorite ways that I've used fresh veggies and fruit.


1.  Okra Stew - This is a hot dish but it uses tons of fresh veggies and it tastes perfect for Spring evening when the weather may still be a little cool but you can taste the summer coming!

 

2.  Grilled Ratatouille -  Ratatouille is sort of a go to way to use up a bunch of vegetables, and can be made in a ton of different ways.  But one of the things we are itching to do by the time Spring weather rolls around again is fire up the grill.  This is a great vegetarian option for the grill.


3. Stone Fruits - I love peaches, especially the really ripe ones at the peak of Summer.  It's not quite time for that yet but I do get antsy for them and start eating them early in Spring.  I can't help myself! But one way to improve not yet in season peaches is to cook them up a bit.  And it can't hurt to pair them with ice cream :)

 

4.  Rice and grilled vegetable salad - Here is another option for the grill.  It can use whatever veggies are in season and is pretty easy to put together as either a side or vegetarian main dish.


5.  Homemade granola - And what about breakfast?  As the weather warms up I tend to want to move away from hot oatmeals and eggs.  I have this homemade granola (using a weight watchers recipe) that tastes great with greek yogurt and fresh fruit.  Hmm... I might need to make this one again this weekend.


So these are some of my Spring cravings.  Anything specific you start craving as the weather warms up?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rock and Roll DC Half Marathon review

Finally, I'm getting to my review of the Rock and Roll DC half!  It seems like it was forever ago but it was really only a week and a half.

If you've read any other reviews of the race, you already know that the defining factor was the rain.  Oh the rain.  It really made it hard to enjoy things but I did my best to put a good face on it since that wasn't in anyone's control.



Here is me before the race, all ready to go.  In deference to the rain, I wore my finisher's hat from the Richmond Half for the first time.  I also wore arm warmers and made a last minute change to calf sleeves instead of compression socks so that I could wear my usual socks that I know do well in wet conditions.

I was in corral #28 and it would be starting around 8:15 (I had asked at the expo) so I was shooting to get there at 7:15. I was staying at a downtown hotel only a couple metro stops away from the race start so I walked to the metro (not really raining yet) and took the train a couple stops to the start.  It was madness getting out of the station there since everyone was trying to get out at the same place but we eventually made it.  Once I walked out of the metro, it was a bit of a walk down to my corral. Not that many people were in the later corrals yet since it had started to rain so I joined some people in huddling under a tree.  I also had a garbage bag but I realized that I should have used a larger bag, not the normal kitchen sized one.  It didn't provide that much protection.




I entered my corral around 7:30 or so.  I didn't see any volunteers enforcing corrals or anything but maybe they were for earlier corrals?  I mean who's trying to sneak into corral 28? And for anyone wondering, there were 31 corrals.  I have to say that I didn't experience much congestion in this race at all and I always felt like I had a good amount of space. That may be because I was in the back of the pack and things may have been different in the middle.

I immediately saw people from my training group so I hung out with them for a bit.  An old roommate from college also happened to be in my corral so I spent some time catching up with her, which was great!  The race seemed to start on time so we shuffled up as they released each corral and we crossed the start line sometime between 8:10 and 8:15. I turned my garmin on, put my headphones in, and we were off. I was planning on 4/1 run/walk intervals for the whole race.

I have to say that I loved this course.  It starts out downtown at some of the scenic areas but then goes through some of the more residential parts of the city that wouldn't be familiar to most tourists. I really liked that mix. We started out on the national mall, ran past the Washington Monument, crossed the memorial bridge toward Arlington Cemetery and then came back across the other side of the bridge.  The first band was at the start of the bridge so we saw them twice. There were also some cheerleaders on the other side of the bridge.  The 5k mark was after the return on the bridge and I think I passed it at around 40 minutes, so about the pace I was shooting for.

It had been raining this whole time but I felt like it began raining harder after the 5k mark and that kept up the whole rest of the race.  We then ran on the Rock Creek Parkway, which was beautiful, even in the rain.  I really enjoyed this portion as it was a bit quieter but filled with natural beauty.  Also, at a certain point there were photos of fallen service members and individuals with US flags lining the road.  They were very encouraging and this was a very moving section.  Mike was waiting to cheer me on between mile 5 and 6 and it was great to see him.  I gave him a quick hug and continued on my way.

Photo courtesy of Mike, I'm the one in the middle front with pink arms.

I hit mile 6 in a good time but then there was the dreaded Calvert Hill.  For those of you not familiar with the area, here is the elevation map and I'm sure you can see what hill I'm talking about.



I walked up the whole thing.  I just felt like I would be wasting energy trying to run it and that it wouldn't have gained me much time anyway. After the hill, we were in Adam's Morgan and this began the residential portion of the race. I am sure the rain kept a lot of spectators away but I was surprised at the number of people that did come out in the rain.  I appreciated the spectators so much. There were people who had music playing off their porches, people dancing in the rain, people grilling and giving away meat, and of course people giving away beer which I took around mile 9. I really enjoyed the Adam's Morgan and Columbia Heights section of the race and remember thinking that I was sad that I hadn't taken up the offer at the expo to sign up for next year's race for only $50.

I have to admit that I began to fade around mile 9 or so.  I was in a bit of a fog and I'm not sure when we turned on North Capital Street but I looked up at one point and all of a sudden, the Capital was in front of me!  It's always amazing to look up, see that, and remember where you are.  And I loved being able to run toward it on the streets surrounded by other runners. Miles 11 and 12 were really slow for me.  The rain just felt really oppressive at that point and I was definitely taking extra walk breaks.    But after mile 12, I knew that I didn't have much more to go and could perhaps make a PR.  So I picked it up for the last 1.1 mile and pulled off a PR!



My chip time was 2:56:55 and my time from Richmond was 2:57:33. So not much of a PR but given the rain and the elevation changes, I am definitely happy with it!

Of course, it was still raining and I was drenched by this time.  Surprisingly, the arm warmers and calf sleeves managed to stay relatively dry but everything else was wet. I had stepped in countless puddles but thankfully I did not have any blisters or much chafing (just some spots where I had missed with the body glide). But I was still in no mood to stick around for the band or the free beer.  I just got my medal, a clif bar, a heat sheet, took a couple photos and then met up with Mike to take the metro back to the hotel.

Sadly, the metro had issues that morning and everything was backed up.  I think it took us at least 20 minutes to even get into the station.  Once we were in the station, a train came quickly and we were back at our hotel soon.  Of course, when we stepped out of the metro station it had stopped raining!


So what did I think overall?  Here's a quick summary.

Good - Logistics and organization, course, volunteers and spectators
Meh - entertainment (it just didn't matter to me either way, the bands were find but it's not like you stuck around long enough to really listen), shoe tag (I didn't think many big races still did this)
Bad - rain, elevation, sleep (I only managed 4 hours of sleep before the race according to my fitbit)
Ugly - metro

I didn't check a bag or park anywhere so I don't know if those things went smoothly or not.  But I think the biggest thing to show my opinion of this race is that when I found out the $50 deal for next year was still going on, I went ahead and signed up.  So I am already in for Rock and Roll DC next year!  Hopefully I'll get a chance to run this course without the rain :)