Chicago Has Food (and Lots of It!)

So, a couple of weeks ago we went to Chicago.  The marathon was obviously the whole point, but seeing as how neither Aaron or I had ever been there, we decided make a vacation out of it and do some exploring.

Vacations include testing out the regional flavor.

For Chicago, this means deep dish pizza and loaded hot dogs.

Don’t mind if I do!

In the days before the race Aaron was really keeping to a gluten free diet, but after the race, when stomach issues wouldn’t ruin mile splits, his inner garbage disposal came out and the Chicago style gorging began.

I will say this though.  Chicago is lacking in the local microbrew department.  We did find PBR at every restaurant (like, even the really snazzy ones) but since we can get that here for 75 cents on college night, we refrained.  Even though 75 cent PBR was the first drink Aaron bought for me before asking me out.  Big spender even bought a round for the whole table. Ah, memories.

Also to be noted that in addition to the 38,000 + people in town for the marathon (and their loved ones), a big football game between Miami and Notre Dame was held on Saturday, so the city was PACKED with runners and football fans.

Amy and Aaron’s Adventures in Chicago Eating

I forget the name of the restaurant where we got these martinis, but it was some sort of chop house a few blocks from our hotel.  It was an “Amy” type of place as evidenced by the the photos of my best friends on the bathroom wall.  They had a cool martini menu.  I’m usually a dirty martini type of girl, but who can resist a martini with chocolate swirls?

An added bonus was witnessing a lady trying to get a very drunk man she met at the bar to ask her out. I mean, he couldn’t figure even out how to spell Julie in his phone. How romantic.

On Saturday we stopped by The Berghoff which was down the street from our hotel.  Turns out it was a German themed microbrewery and the building has been there since the late 1800’s.  The beers were actually pretty good, and the Reuben sandwich was perfect.   

So happy to be at Berghoff’s!

Our carb loading on Saturday took us to Elephant Castle, another pub across from our hotel.  I wish Albuquerque had more pubby type places because I enjoy a good black and tan surrounded by British memorabilia.  It proved to be a great “pre-race” choice because of their special marathon menu.

We ran into a very drunk man who said as long as he stopped drinking by 10, he’d be ok for the marathon the next morning.  I wonder how that worked out for him.

The official beer sponsor of the marathon was Goose Island which is a Chicago microbrewery and it seems like the pride and joy of Chicago beer.  Aside from PBR.  Apparently they have a tasting room in Chicago that we didn’t get to.  The 312 Wheat Ale was pretty good as was the Matilda.  Aaron tried out the Bourbon County Stout at a restaurant which was AMAZING.

Our post marathon dinner on Sunday was at the infamous Lou Malnati’s (sounds suspiciously like Illuminati…I kept thinking we were in a Dan Brown novel).  Thanks Allison for this suggestion! This place did not disappoint (and with an hour long wait, we weren’t the only ones vying for some pizza goodness).   Fantastic deep dish pizza, and some great people watching.

A bunch of former frat boys in town for the Notre Dame game (who still were acting like idiotic 21 year olds despite being about 30) kept trying to pick up a pair of British marathon runners. Very unsuccessfully.  Made me a bit embarrassed to be American. Luckily the pizza made me happy again.  And seriously, even though it was good…I still prefer thin crust. Sorry. 

Monday evening we stopped by Paddy Long’s (I think it was in the area by Wrigley Field).  This was the bacon and beer bar.  They had an ok beer selection, but the bacon board was heavenly.  It was also the first place we went to that wasn’t crawling with people.

This place was also really cool because if felt “local.” So many of the other places we went to were overridden with tourists.  I felt like a Chicagoan! On Monday for lunch we headed to Portillo’s (thanks Hyedi for that suggestion) for their famous hot dogs and chocolate cake.  The place was a bit overwhelming and set up kind of like a food court (it took us a few minutes to figure out where to stand in line), but there were a lot of fun pieces of Chicago memorabilia.  And it was CHEAP. And tasty.

Aaron, staring dreamily at the hot dogs.

Monday night, on the recommendation of our Paddy Long’s bartender who understood our plight to find good beer that wasn’t IPA (way harder than it sounds), we headed to Clark Street Ale House.  I think Dominick, may have also recommended it, but I can’t find evidence of that conversation.

The beer selection was big, but most of the stuff we found was stuff we could buy in Albuquerque. The place was really empty too.  Apparently people in Chicago are too responsible to go out partying on a Monday night? We still made friends though. 

These dudes were like, “take a picture of us!”  I would kind of be surprised if homeboy actually knew what Livestrong was.  The other guy actually had a job similar to Aaron’s  and had lived in a similar part of Phoenix (and he was relatively sober), so they were able to talk for a bit.

“Seriously?” Or, “Bitch, please.”

NOT PICTURED: We had a post marathon breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s which was a cute mid-century diner.  I was seriously too sick to enjoy the meal (or take pictures), but it was a really cute place that has apparently been in a lot of movies that I’ve never seen.

IPO was the hotel restaurant.  REALLY trendy interior but the food was TOO trendy.  Oh, and pork belly is just pure fat. I didn’t realize that.  I was hoping for a bacon sandwich.  BLECH. The hotel (The W City Center) also had a really swanky bar/lobby, but it was pricey.

Chicago isn’t a cheap place to eat/drink.  We were really surprised every time we got the bill.  But people watching was better here than it has been anywhere else we’ve gone.  And I did love the feel of being in places that had been there since the turn of the century.

Thank you, Chicago, for feeding these very hungry and thirsty runners!

The W Lobby/Bar.  They had giant lamps.

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Weekly Race Shout-Outs and Foodie Pen Pals

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With this weekend, we enter back into racing season! Efforts will have to be redoubled to stalk and figure out who is racing where and keep you in my fast racing thoughts.  This week I haven’t had too much time to stalk, but I did want to mention a couple of people I know are racing:

1) Sam is going for a marathon PR in Idaho where he WILL be qualifying for Boston!

2) Jac is running the Disneyland Half this weekend! (major jealously from my end).  Her daughter will also be running the Disneyland 5-K!

3) If you WANT to race but haven’t signed up or can’t find one, Laura from Mommy Run Fast is hosting a virtual 5 or 10 mile race this weekend! I didn’t do a race in August (it just didn’t ever work out around marathon training), so I figure if I get my run in today and submit my times, I can still consider it a bucket list success!

Good luck and fast thoughts to you, and everyone else racing this weekend! 

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Foodie Pen Pals


So, I have some wonderful guest posts lined up for next week! BUT, today is the official foodie pen pal reveal day, and the Lean Green Bean lady runs a tight ship (necessary for organization).

I’ve been seeing these posts for the last few months, and I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon.  I like food! I like pen pals! I like receiving food from pen pals!

For August I was paired up with Catherine from Alabama.  The moment I looked at the box when it came a couple of weeks ago, I knew I was in for a good surprise!

The Goods:

These were eaten within moments of this picture being taken!

Catherine says she’s obsessed with this snack mix.  I’d have to agree after trying it!

She even included treats for Giuseppe!

Catherine is there in the left corner.  And this is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! 

THANK YOU CATHERINE for being a great foodie pen pal! This was such a cool experience, and something I plan to participate in often.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend!

Birthday Weekend Getaway to Durango

Aaron (who reads my blog but only comments in real life), sends a 30-years-big THANK YOU to everyone for the birthday wishes!

He also thought that I had an “interesting” choice of pictures in the post yesterday, so I thought I’d throw another one in the mix!

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SIDENOTE: We have had non-stop birthday action since Friday, so this will be a short on words post with a lot of unedited pictures (I’ll actually share about 10 million train pictures another day)

We celebrated Aaron’s birthday with a quick weekend getaway to Durango, CO (home of Zuke’s dog treats…thanks Ellie for that tidbit of information!)

Durango is a quick 3 hour-ish drive from Albuquerque, but pretty much a whole different world.

Durango is a small, ski resort town with an old western feel, and as a college town, almost everyone is 22 and beautiful (and drunk).  It is also pretty affordable and unpretentious unlike some of the other Colorado ski resort towns like Telluride, Aspen, and Vail.

We started off the drive on Friday afternoon, and immediately encountered a traffic jam in the first town out.  Fun.  We also ate potato chips for dinner because we had no other options in the middle of nowhere.  (I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I actually eat pretty healthy most of the time!).

After an uneventful drive, we pulled into Durango.  I hadn’t been in about 12 years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see an adorable town appear in front of the bug-gut covered windshield.

Despite being such a touristy spot, hotels are kind of hard to come by (condos, cabins, and vacation house rentals are plentiful however).  Low-budget options like Econo Lodge and Best Western were available in the north end of town, and the two options downtown (where all of the restaurants and action are) are really old.

We opted to go with really old to stay within walking distance of the action and chose the General Palmer Hotel (The Strater is the other, far more expensive option).  It was very cute, very convenient, provided free breakfast, had Keurig coffee machines in room, and real keys (as opposed to the magnetic swiper ones).

Even though Durango is a ski town, there are plenty of things to do during the summer including white water rafting, zip-lining, mountain biking, hiking, and…THE TRAIN!

Without getting into too much of a history lesson, the Durango-Silverton Line was a pretty big deal back in the day.  These days it is quite the experience, with authentic trains chugging customers through the mountains from Durango to Silverton, an old west mining town revamped into a tourist destination.  The 45 mile trip takes about 3.5 hours, but the time investment is well worth it because of the amazing mountain views! Also, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed along this stretch of railroad! Paul Newman and I have been to the same place!

We opted for an open-air car which allows for better viewing (though we did get cold, and soot covered).

Silverton itself is about 2 streets worth of restaurants and shops (apparently the mines were active up until the 90’s, but now the only thing supporting this town is the business from the train passengers).  You get to spend about 2 and a half hours exploring (or saloon patronizing) before getting back on board.

After the 3.5 hour ride back into Durango, we went exploring the various microbreweries and bars that Durango had to offer.  Durango actually has 4 microbreweries in town, two within walking distance to our hotel (more on that later).

Sunday morning we got up for a trail run (more on that tomorrow) to explore the amazing landscape that Colorado has to offer.

Sunday also happened to be the Taste of Durango event where local restaurants give small samples of some of their food in exchange for tokens.  I guess the token sales go toward Charity, but you are essentially paying $4 per sample portion.  It was ok, but we didn’t spend too much time there.

We opted instead to eat at this adorable French restaurant!

On our way out of town, we stopped at Ska brewing company.  I don’t know if it is as widely distributed in other places as it is in Albuquerque, but the brand is completely comic book themed.

But…it is closed on Sundays, so all I could do was take pictures of the sign.  Bummer.

So, even though it was just a quick getaway, hanging out in Durango was relaxing and fun, and at such a close distance, a destination I wouldn’t mind going to a couple of times a year.  Sometimes, just escaping to a different place can make life a little more exciting.

The Carb Cycle Weight Loss Secret That Isn’t So Secret

(My Wordpress “Reader” isn’t working.  I usually opt out of email notifications because of the Reader, but I am probably missing people’s posts left and right, so I apologize.  I promise I’m not ignoring people on purpose!  Does anyone know how I fix this? It was literally working until Sunday…UPDATE: I downloaded Google Chrome.  Problem fixed!). 

So, I know everyone is over it already, how crazy was Boston?

I was at work during the race, so I couldn’t watch it (thank goodness for twitter peeps giving me the play by play), but I was tracking a few people as they ran along. Knowing how fast these superstars run normally, it was quite obvious that everyone was running “smart.”  I’m guessing most Boston Marathoners never thought they’d run a marathon that slow.  I kept watching in relief as another split was updated, because that meant that people hadn’t passed out along the course.   A couple of runners gave me a scare between the 35k and 40k mark, but everyone I was tracking finished!

Only 427 people deferred to next year.  After all of the training and traveling, it would take a lot for me to give up the opportunity.

All of the excitement also kind of made me sad that my marathon falls just weeks after the 2013 qualifying deadline, so the most I can hope for is a chance to participate in the 2014 race, two years from now.  Looks like I’m not having babies anytime soon!

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Right now I’m on my “taper” for my half marathon.  Because I’m not working out too much this week (and seriously, pollen, you are kicking my butt big time), I’m doing a carb cycle.

And I don’t mean cycling through different donut choices throughout the day.  Mmmmm….donuts!

I was first introduced to the concept about a year and a half ago through a weight loss/fitness challenge that we participated in through the gym Aaron works for.

(FOR THE LOVE OF GUMDROPS please realize that I am not even close to a registered dietician.  Aaron, though very well-educated in nutrition, is also not a registered dietician.  Though we’ve researched this, and I’ve done it myself, we are not qualified to give out nutritional advice.  I know you all obviously understand this, and really, I don’t think most little bloggers get sued by people over diet posts, but who knows? Please don’t sue me!).

I think everyone pretty much knows by now that carbs transform into fat on your body when you don’t exert enough energy.  Unfortunately just about everything tasty in life is a carb (very cruel world we live in).  But, it makes sense that if you want to lose fat fast, you reduce your carb intake.

For just about any normal person, giving up carbs altogether is next to impossible because they are so good and they give you energy, hence the whole “carb load” that I love so much.

So, in comes the carb cycle.

Benefits:

1) You can lose weight fast.  I usually lose about 7 pounds in a 2 week period.

2) Because you are still eating protein, the pounds you are losing are fat opposed to muscle (your body breaks down muscle faster than fat for energy, so a lot of times rapid weight loss only means rapid muscle loss.  And losing muscle is bad, unless you like heart attacks and osteoporosis).

3) As long as you don’t go crazy right after, you can keep off the pounds for a while.  I do this maybe 2 times a year and eat pretty liberally the rest of the time.  As long as I keep my workouts consistent and don’t eat fast food every day, I can maintain it until major holidays come along.

4) You aren’t completely depriving yourself.  Every 4 days you get to eat like a normal person!

Drawbacks:

1) This isn’t a permanent solution.  Your body will drop pounds fast, but then it realizes what you are doing, and the weight loss gets less and less drastic. A healthy diet and exercise program is the only way to get longterm results.

2) By the 3rd day, you will be grumpy, tired, and hungry.  The very thought of a slice of pizza can cause you to go over the edge.  And that annoying coworker will literally drive you to the point of considering throwing them out the window, and then stealing their bagel.

3) As most of you are runners, this isn’t something that combines well with training.  Early on in taper weeks, sure.  The rest of the time, running and carb cycling makes you want to die.

So, the way I do it is on a 3 day cycle.  I typically eat 5 “meals” per day: breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner.  The first three days of the cycle are “Low Carb” days.  For the first 2 meals, I eat 20 grams of carbs.  Then, that’s it.  No carbs until the next morning.

The 4th day, the “High  Carb” day, you can eat carbs with every meal (but still, not too many…30-40 grams per meal).  This “high carb” day helps prevent the binge that comes with deprivation.  It helps renew your energy, and it gives you an end point to the three days of suffering.

Then, on day 5, you go back to Low Carb. I’m only doing one round this week so I can start carb loading tomorrow for the race, but I’ve done it for up to 2 weeks.

I try to make sure I have plenty of protein and fiber in my diet during carb cycle days.

Sample Day of Meals:

Breakfast: Plain oatmeal w/ protein powder mixed in

Snack: Yogurt (Greek yogurt has more protein in it)

Lunch: Meat (chicken breast or sliced turkey), mozzarella cheese, carrots, handful of nuts

Snack: String cheese

Dinner: Either grilled chicken breast or grilled fish, asparagus, salad w/ vinaigrette dressing

For me, after the first 3 days I drop about 3 pounds.   I try not to weigh myself because the fluctuation is pretty drastic.  I get addicted to dropping 1.5 pounds a day and disappointed when I only lose .2 pounds, and then I get tempted to cut food intake even more, which is dangerous.  I prefer to actually go by how I look and how I feel.  Right now I’m 2 days in, and I can feel the belly bloat going down. I also am starting to see a faint hint of my Jamaica abs peaking through!

Super blogger celebrity Monica  from Run Eat Repeat did a post recently about carb cycling (like me, she has thyroid issues and her body can’t regulate her metabolism on its own without synthetic hormones.  Her diagnosis is much more recent than mine, so she still is trying to get that all under control.  From experience, I know that physically not having control over your weight is frustrating).  Her post has a lot of links to other great resources on carb cycling.

In my opinion, this is a much healthier and more reasonable way to lose some unwanted fat rather quickly.  You are still getting the nutrients your body needs, you aren’t reducing calories, you aren’t working out for unhealthy amounts of time, but you are limiting those foods (like soda, white bread, pasta, potatoes) that aren’t good for you and that make you gain weight.

Hopefully this is helpful!  Have you ever tried limited carbs?  Has it worked for you? Have you ever wanted to punch someone as a result, or is that just me?