Security 5K in Las Vegas!

Hello blog world!  Matt and I are enjoying a relaxing weekend southwest of L.A. in California’s Temecula wine country.  We tasted wine all day and as I type this post I am sitting on our private patio at Ponte Vineyard Inn looking out at this gorgeous view of grape vines and mountains… AMAZING!

Ponte Vineyard Inn

I’m getting ahead of myself, though.  I’m sure I’ll be doing a full recap of our time in Temecula next week, but the purpose of this post is to recap the 5K that Matt and I ran in Las Vegas on Thursday!  The race was the Security 5K, a fundraiser event sponsored by the security conference/expo that we were exhibiting at in Vegas for work.  Here I am post-race, just before we jumped on a shuttle bus to get back to our hotel in time for the expo’s 10am start.

Annie Security 5K

The flat 3.1 mile course was a few miles off the strip at a local park just south of the airport.  There were 380 participants (308 men and 71 women) and the race started at 7:30am.  I typically eat breakfast 3 hours before race time, which meant that I had to venture down to the Palazzo Casino’s gaming floor to get breakfast at 4:30am.  That’s the earliest I’ve been in a casino and there were some interesting characters down there who had definitely been up drinking and gambling all night!

The start of the race was pretty chaotic.  The only other race that I’ve done with more than 300 participants was last year’s Turkey Trot.  For that race they had the 600+ runners lined up on a road that was the same width as the starting line so that start went pretty smoothly.  That was not the case for the Vegas 5K though, where all 380 runners plus all of the 2K walkers were massed together in a big, wide blob at the start line.  The crowd was significantly wider than the start line, so when the gun went off everyone patiently began to walk forward before politely waiting their turn to cross the line.   This makes sense because the race was chipped, but it was still weird not to take off running when the race started!!!

Matt Security 5K

Matt finished the race 122nd overall (113th male) with a 24:41.  I finished 146th overall (13th female!) with a 25:26.  I’ve really been hoping to go sub-25 but considering the traveling, long work hours at the expo, and higher than usual elevation, I was pretty happy with my time.  As my splits show, I felt like I got a great start (I even kept up with Matt for a while!) but then my speed sort of petered out in the last mile.  I didn’t know at the time because the race was chipped, but the 12th place woman beat me by less than a second! I’m pretty sure that I would have been able to run a little faster at the finish if we had been running neck and neck, so I’m going to use this as a lesson to always finish as strong as I possibly can, especially in a chipped race where the actual person you’re competing against might be several seconds ahead of or behind you.

Security 5K Runkeeper Stats

After the 5K we spent Thursday and Friday working at the expo.  Then we packed up on Friday and headed west to California!  I’ll wrap up this post on that note because it’s time for me to stop blogging and start reading a book while watching the sun set over the vineyards.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday evening!

Miles since last post:  20.0
Days since last post:  6
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.84
2014 TOTAL MILES: 456.3

Related Posts:
•  Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Mile (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Let’s Go Streaking! (11/21/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-A-Muck 5K (9/22/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Color Out Cancer 5K

Today my brother and I ran the Color Out Cancer 5K in West Chester, PA.  There were lots of ups and downs, so I’ve decided to recap the race with a list of pros and cons.  First the biggest pro of the day – I got to run with my brother!

Annie and Billy CoC5K

Color Out Cancer 5K – The Cons:

The Course Marking – I had what felt like a fantastic start in today’s race but it was immediately foiled by a complete lack of directions on the course.  There was no course map and we had been assured at the start that there were people on the course with signs so we’d all know where to turn.  Unfortunately the organizers neglected to mark the very first turn which occurred about 200 meters into the race, so we all went straight, directly into a little neighborhood.  We got about a quarter mile in before the road dead-ended.  It was clear at that point that we were definitely off course so everyone stopped, turned around, and milled around for a bit before cutting through a random parking lot and eventually getting back on course.  Talk about a frustrating way to start a race!  (I remember wishing that they’d just bring us all back to the start line and restart the race!)

At another point in the race I was approaching an intersection and had lost sight of the person in front of me.  There was a volunteer (and yes, I realize that he was a volunteer, and for that I thank him) standing in the intersection with a giant neon posterboard sign FOLDED IN HALF IN HIS HAND (!!!), making it impossible to actually see the sign.  I had no idea where to go and finally had to yell “WHICH WAY??” before he pointed the direction.  Not ideal.

The Course in General – As I mentioned, there was no map so I had no idea where we were going.  All I knew was that it was two laps because that’s the only actual information they gave us at the start of the race.  I was fine with this; I figured I’d get the lay of the land during the first lap and then I’d know where I was in relation to the finish on the second.  But the problem is, that first lap seemed to take FOREVER.  By the time I passed the start line the race clock showed I had already been racing for 20:30!  I realized then that not only was the course terribly marked, apparently this was more like a 5 MILE race!  Again, no big deal, and I adjusted by settling down into a little bit of a slower, more comfortable “5 mile” pace.  Less than a mile into lap 2 I was shocked to turn a corner and see the finish line ahead… and that’s when I learned that the second lap was a much shorter loop than the first.  Which would have been good to know in advance.

My Music – When I start an activity on Runkeeper it usually auto-plays my 5K music.  The music didn’t start today.  I normally would have just ignored this, but when we all stopped after going off course I tried to fiddle with my phone to get the music going.  But my phone was utterly, inexplicably unresponsive.  I could open the music app but it wouldn’t let me hit play or even scroll through songs.  I got so desperate that I actually asked Siri to help me out (Yes, I was that weirdo commanding my headphones to “Play Safe and Sound!!“) but to no avail.  After the finish I eventually had to restart my phone in order to get the music to work.  Strange.

Not exactly a tech shirt...

Not exactly a tech shirt…

The Free Tech Shirt – Not a major con here compared to the other race issues, but the race registration clearly stated that participants would get a ‘sport teck’ shirt.  My brother was especially excited about this because it would be his second 5K shirt and his first tech race shirt.  The moment I looked in the race bag I knew that he was going to be disappointed.  The “tech shirt” was a (very) see-through white polyester shirt with pink writing on it.  Not likely to ever get worn in public.  Oh well.

Runkeeper CoC 5K

Color Out Cancer 5K – The Pros:

Despite the course issues and phone malfunction the race really wasn’t that bad.  Here are a few of the things that were great about today’s race!

Running with family! – My brother Billy ran the race with me and his girlfriend Suzanne braved the drizzly, windy weather to cheer us on.  Billy did great in the race, coming in 8th overall with a time of 25:35.  The best part of the morning happened after the race when the three of us went to the Market Street Grill for breakfast… I had an empanada omelet with chipotle sour cream and pepper jack cheese.  YUM!

At least it isn't pouring!

At least it wasn’t pouring!

My Pace (considering the course issues) – The race ended up being around 3.4 miles long.  I finished 18th overall in 28:13 which would have been roughly a 25:43 5K.  If you factor in the time spent turning around and being lost at the start and that’s actually not too shabby!

The Weather – Wait, didn’t I just say that Suzanne braved wind and rain to watch us run?  True, but I think that mid-40s and overcast is pretty great running weather.  I was a little cold at the start but warmed up quickly and then felt very comfortable in tights and a long sleeve shirt.  Also, it was down-pouring on my drive home so I am very thankful that we did not have to run through that!

My Foot didn’t hurt! – I haven’t mentioned it on the blog, but after my 10 mile run two weeks ago I woke up with intense pain on the outside/bottom of my right foot.  It was pretty much identical to the pain I felt when I had Peroneal Tendonitis in my left foot last fall, so I reacted immediately by icing my foot/ankle regularly, taking ibuprofen 3x a day for a week, wearing my compression socks whenever possible, and cutting out running completely in favor of logging miles on the elliptical machine in my garage.  Today was the first time I’ve run since my 10 mile run and my foot felt great!!!  That’s a huge relief.  I’m still being cautious though… when I got home I put on my compression socks, propped my foot up on the couch and iced it.  Hopefully it will still feel this good tomorrow!

I get to redeem myself on Thursday, IN LAS VEGAS!!! – Sure, today’s race wasn’t the greatest experience ever, but luckily I only have to wait another 4 days before I get a chance to run even faster!  Matt and I will be running in the Security 5K, a race that’s associated with the conference that we’ll be in town for.  I’m looking forward to warmer temperatures and dry weather!! :-)

Miles since last post:  57.2
Days since last post:  14
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.88
2014 TOTAL MILES: 436.3

Related Posts:
•  Athlete’s Closet March 5 Mile (3/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1/14)
•  Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4/14)
•  New Year’s Eve 5K at the YMCA (12/31/13)
•  Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14/13)
•  Turkey Trot 5K (11/28/13)
•  Let’s Go Streaking! (11/21/13)
•  Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2/13)
•  Oy Vey 5K (10/27/13)
•  Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19/13)
•  Run-A-Muck 5K (9/22/13)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflection

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is reflection:

Canadian Goose Reflection

I captured this photo of a Canadian Goose and his reflection on February 5th during the damaging ice storm that caused hundreds of thousands of power outages in our area.  I was wandering around my mom’s icy backyard on snowshoes with my Nikon D90 when I spotted this goose standing at the edge of the pond.  Hershey the chocolate lab saw the goose too and took off across the yard towards it.  Luckily I had my camera up and ready and was able to snap a few shots as the goose flapped its wings and flew across the ice!

Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Kale, Leeks and Ham)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Matt and I don’t have a specific Irish meal planned for this year but I’ve been saving a yummy Irish side dish from last year’s feast to share on the blog today.

Irish Colcannon

That’s Colcannon, or, as I like to think of it, Irish mashed potatoes with kale, leeks and ham.  Oh, and butter… lots of butter!  Last year this heaping plate of colcannon made the perfect side dish to the Beef and Guinness Pie that Matt and I ambitiously tried to make after work on a Monday (it took much longer to braise the beef than I anticipated!).  Luckily the colcannon came together very quickly so we were able to sneak bites of it while the pie baked.  Here’s a photo of my dinner plate from last year when we finally sat down to eat at 9PM:

Calcannon with Beef & Guinness Pie

YUM.  If you need a side dish for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner I would absolutely recommend colcannon.  And don’t be intimidated by the kale…  once it is steamed, chopped, and stirred into this creamy mixture of leeks, ham and potatoes you won’t even realize you’re eating super healthy leafy greens!

Irish Colcannon (Recipe from Nigel Slater at TheGuardian.com)

You will need…
2 lbs. Baking Potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 1/3 cup warm Milk (use whole milk for a creamer consistency)
4-5 tablespoons Butter
3/4 to 1 lb. Leeks, washed and chopped
4-5 handfuls of Kale leaves, washed, steamed, drained and chopped
3/4 to 1 lb. Cooked Thick-Cut Ham, chopped (we used a ham steak)
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
Place the potatoes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil.  Cover and boil for 20 minutes or until easily pierced by a fork.  Drain potatoes and return to pot.  Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until creamy, then add in the warm milk and butter and continue to mash until thoroughly mixed.  Fold in the chopped leeks, kale and ham and gently stir until combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve as part of a St. Patrick’s Day feast!

Colcannon

Are you making an Irish-themed dish for St. Patrick’s Day?  Maybe Bangers and Mash or Shepherd’s Pie?  Tell me about it in the comments! :-)

My Un-Pickle Run 5K and a 10 mile run!

I have long been awaiting a chance to run a race at Ridley Creek State Park and I finally got my chance yesterday… except that I thought the race started 5 hours after it actually did, so I completely missed it.  Doh!!!

Yesterday should have been the perfect day to race… the temperature was a wonderful 57°, the sun was shining, and I was super psyched to get a chance to run on my relatively flat “home” course.  I remember thinking that the biggest challenge might actually be dodging all of the walkers, dogs, and bikers that would surely also be enjoying the park at 3PM on such a beautiful afternoon.  That and finding a spot to park, since the already crowded parking lot would no doubt be overflowing with the addition of all of the racers’ cars.

When Matt and I pulled into the parking lot at 2:20 (forty minutes early for our “3PM” race), I was shocked to see so many open parking spots.  Were all of the other racers running late, I wondered?  Then we came around the bend to where I was sure the Run The Day registration table would be set up, only to see a few late afternoon picnickers enjoying the lovely weather.  What?!!  I then checked the race web site and realized my mistake… the race had started at 10AM and was long over.  Boo.  :-(

Me after my UNpickle Run at Ridley Creek

Me after my un-Pickle Run. That’s Ridley Creek in the background. I love this park!

Matt and I were all ready to race so we decided to run our own un-Pickle Run (maybe that would be a Cucumber Run??).  We started promptly at 2:30PM and, race or no race, I was still determined to get my PR.  We didn’t run the exact Pickle Run course (the race would have had us do a 1.5-ish mile out and back) so our route ended up with more downhill than the real race had, but nevertheless I got my personal best!!!!  I crossed the “finish” with a huge PR time of 24:25.  My previous best was 25:13 from the New Year’s Eve 5K so I was very happy with my time.  Now if only I could have done it in a real race!  :-)

UnPickle 5K Runkeeper Stats

In other running news, I ran my longest distance ever today – 10 MILES!!  Matt had a lacrosse game at Rosemont College and I tagged along in order to go on a nice run on the Main Line.  When I ran track (hurdles/sprints) at Haverford College I spent a ton of time doing shorter runs in this area so it was nice to get back to my running roots with the long run today.  My run took me from the Septa (R5) train station at Rosemont all the way to Narberth and back… that’s 6 stations in all!!  (And I can name them in order by heart because I’m a dork… Rosemont, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Ardmore, Wynnewood, Narberth.  I wrote my college thesis on the Main Line so I could also tell you all sorts of useful useless historical facts about them, don’t get me started.)  Anyway, it wasn’t easy and I definitely got pretty tired around miles 7-8, but I did it!!  My run started before Matt’s lacrosse game began and I didn’t get back until his game was over.  I felt very hard core!!

Here are the Runkeeper stats for today’s run… I stayed close to the train tracks to avoid the bulk of the traffic lights and intersections but I still (mercifully) got stopped at a few lights and had a chance to stretch.  I also paused my workout to use the restroom at the Ardmore Wawa… I spent a ton of money there in college so I figure I am entitled to a free pit stop!

10 Mile Run (Runkeeper Stats)

After my epic run and Matt’s lacrosse game we stopped at a place in Bryn Mawr called *ndulge cupcake boutique for cupcakes (the mocha-cola cupcake was delicious!) and then I drained my entire Camelbak waterbottle before collapsing into a bubble bath with my Kindle for an hour or so.  Life is good!

Miles since last post:  75.4
Days since last post:  15
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.92
2014 TOTAL MILES: 379.1

Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage and White Beans

How do you prepare for a snow day?  Do you rush to the supermarket for bread, milk and eggs?  Or maybe turn up the heat so the house feels warm and toasty when you come in from shoveling?  In our house we try to take advantage of being snowed in by planning a big, slow-cooked meal that we normally wouldn’t have time to put together on a regular weeknight.

Flashback to Thursday, February 13th… A huge storm was dumping more than a foot of snow on our already snow-covered region, the local kids were all enjoying yet another snow day, and our office was closed.  Knowing that we’d have lots of time to cook, Matt and I decided to try a new stew recipe… something that required a little prep up front and that would be guaranteed to fill the house with the delicious aroma of slow-cooking meat and herbs as it simmered in the crockpot all afternoon.  I found the perfect candidate on MyRecipes.com… smoked sausage cassoulet!

616 Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a classic french dish that features slow-cooked white beans and meat.  White traditional versions of cassoulet call for duck confit, our snow day version of cassoulet kept things simple.  All of the ingredients were readily available at our local grocery store (on the eve of a snow storm, no less!) and, after being sauteed and slow-cooked all afternoon, they came together to make a delightfully hearty stew with smoky kielbasa, richly flavored white beans, and pork that was so tender you could cut it with a spoon.  Top that off with some freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley and we had the ultimate culinary reward for all of the shoveling we did on Thursday… and it was a LOT of shoveling: about 14 inches of heavy, wet snow!

February 13 Snow Collage

Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage, Pork and White Beans (adapted from MyRecipes.com; serves 5)

You will need…
2-3 slices Bacon, uncooked, cut into approx. 1″ x 1/2″ pieces
12 oz. Smoked Sausage,* halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ slices
2 cups Chopped Onion
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary
1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 – 14.5 oz. cans Diced Tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 – 15 oz. cans Great Northern Beans, drained and divided
1 lb. Pork Tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
Grated Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
Fresh Parsley, for garnish

*Choose a good quality smoked sausage as this will have a major impact on the overall flavor of the dish.  The first time we made this recipe we used Johnsonville Smoked Pork Kielbasa with great results.  The second time we also added in some spicy Andouille sausage (leftover from Jambalaya) and that added even more flavor.

621 Cassoulet

Directions:
Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the chopped bacon bits, stirring occasionally, until crispy.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a bowl and set aside.  Add the smoked sausage to the bacon fat and saute until just starting to brown.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to another bowl and set aside.  Add the onion, rosemary, thyme and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, approximately 4-5 minutes.  Add the bacon, tomatoes, salt and pepper to the pan, stir well, then bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place 1 can’s worth of drained Great Northern Beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until chunky.  (I found that doing this in a 3 qt pot worked well since the bottom of the pot is flat.)  Add in the remaining can of beans along with the browned sausage and pork and stir well.

Assemble your cassoulet in layers in a crockpot.  First, spread half of the bean mixture on the bottom of the crockpot.  Then, in layers, add half the tomato mixture, the remaining bean mixtue, and the remaining tomato mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW for 5 1/2 hours.  Stir the cassoulet before serving and top each individual bowl with grated Parmesan and parsley.  Enjoy!

597 Cassoulet

Do you have any go-to recipes that you love to make on snow days?
Tell me about them in the comments section!  :-)

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

Happy Mardi Gras!  I was not raised observing Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, or any of the other Lent traditions, but I’m certainly happy to use a holiday as an excuse to try a new recipe!

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya

I’ve been a huge fan of hearty one pot meals this winter so last weekend when we realized that Mardi Gras was just a few days away we decided that a flavorful Jambalaya would be the perfect recipe for Sunday night.   We consulted our trusty Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipe cook book and decided to make their version of a creole-style Jambalaya with shredded chicken thighs, andouille sausage, shrimp, tomatoes and rice.  The recipe came together fairly quickly (compared to some of our stews, at least!) and the resulting dish featured an impressive range of flavors from the smoky andouille and clam-juiced shrimp to the fresh parsley, and slow-cooked chicken.  Yum!

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya (from The New Best Recipe; serves 5-6)

You will need…
1 Yellow Onion, quartered
1 Celery Rib, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
1 Red Bell Pepper, quartered
5 Garlic Cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons Vegetable Oil
4 Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs
8 oz. Andouille Sausage, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ pieces (buy a good brand of Andouille if possible; it should give this dish a lot of flavor!)
1 1/2 Long Grain White Rice (uncooked)
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Thyme, minced (we used dried Thyme)
1/4 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
1 – 14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes, drained with 1/4 cup of juice reserved
8 oz. Clam Juice
1 1/2 cups Chicken Broth
2 Bay Leaves
1 lb. Shrimp, peeled and deveined (we used frozen 30 ct. shrimp and thawed them beforehand)
2 tablespoons minced fresh Parsley

Directions:
Begin by transferring the onion, celery, red pepper and garlic into a food processor.  Pulse the vegetables briefly to finely chop them without pureeing them.  We have a miniature food processor so Matt did this in 4 steps (one per vegetable) and then combined all of the chopped veggies together on a plate.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Use tongs to place the chicken thighs in the oil, skin-side down, and cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes or until golden brown.  (Watch out, there’s a lot of splattering!)  Use the tongs to flip the thighs over and continue to cook for another 3 minutes, then transfer the thighs to a plate.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the chopped andouille, and brown for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  (This step smells amazing, in my opinion.)  Transfer the browned andouille to a paper towel-lined plate.

Reduce the heat further to medium low, then add in the chopped vegetables.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot and stir the veggies until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add in the rice, salt, thyme, and cayenne and stir well for about a minute to coat the rice in the chicken fat.  Stir in the tomatoes, tomato juice, clam juice, chicken broth and bay leaves.  Remove the skin from the chicken thighs then use your tongs to place the chicken, skinned-side down, on top of the rice mixture.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes stir the mixture once and flip the chicken thighs over, then cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Place the shrimp on top of the rice mixture then cover and cook for 5 minutes until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.  (Be careful not to overcook the shrimp.)  When the shrimp are fully cooked remove the pot from heat and discard the bay leaves.  As soon as the chicken thighs are cool enough to work with, shred the meat into thin strands with your fingers.  Gently stir the shredded chicken and minced parsley into the stew and serve immediately.

Jambalaya

728 Jambalaya

Do you have a favorite Mardi Gras-inspired dish or tradition?
Please tell me about it in the comments section!