Thursday, July 19, 2012

RAWSOME UPDATE – Sub 19 and Raw Desserts

Grayslake 5k – Hello Sub-19!

The Grayslake 5k was one of the few races that I had on my calendar this year that I was actually planning on racing.  I heard this was a fast course so liked my chances of breaking 19:00 or at least running a PR and getting under 19:15.  I blew away my track workout that week; we were doing 800s so I did 6 of them.  4 of them were under 3:00 with the fastest being 2:53.  I was feeling strong despite the blasted hot temps and searing sun.  I was confident with my workouts and the time I put out on 4 on the 4th.  I wasn’t really thinking much about this race, I wanted to give myself a little extra rest but didn’t need a full on taper or anything.  Blazed the track workout, hit the gym on Thursday and then did a run early Friday morning before the crack of dawn with Melanie, figured that would give me a little extra recovery time. 

I wasn’t even quite sure what pace I needed to run so I typed my goal time(s) into my handy dandy pace calculator and decided to shoot for 6:05-6:10, that should get me there in under 19 or under 19:15.  I put no pressure on myself, just wanted to go out and run, if I had it great, if I didn’t then there’s nothing I can do about.  I’d just congratulate those around me and go on with my day. 

It was kinda rainy the morning of the race, used my windshield wipers almost the entire drive up there.  I sipped on my coffee and listed to tunes, getting ready to face the pavement and grind out a grueling 3.1 miles.  I knew I really had to give it my all during that last stretch, couldn’t let up no matter how much I was hurting.  During the warm up, I could tell it was humid and the sun was peeking through, dang.  Kinda wish the rain woulda stuck around for a while longer. 

At the starting line, I was asking around to see who was gunning for what pace.  I wanted a faster speedy friend to slack off and pace me but he wasn’t interested and it’s a good thing because he thought to break 19, I needed to run a 6:30 pace.  geesh, I woulda been extremely disappointed when I got to the first mile marker and realized I needed to make up 30 seconds, haha.  In all fairness though, I wasnt even sure what pace I needed to run and I really have no clue how fast any of the speedy guys go nor do I know the pace of anyone behind me.  So guess I can't expect everyone else to figure out my pace for me because I can barely keep track of myself, haha.  I found a few other guys who were looking to run around 19:00 so that’s who I was gonna go with. 

The gun went off and they all took off like jackrabbits, umm, ok that’s a bit quick.  Stay relaxed and do your own thing, no need to get sucked in with the fast kids.  Don’t wanna blaze that first mile only to progressively wither away during the rest of the race, that didn’t seem like a pleasant race strategy.  After a few twists and turns, we came upon the first mile.  There wasn’t a marker but there was a guy yelling splits, I heard him say 5:45.  Umm, excuse me?!?  That’s like my mile time trial pace, there’s no way I just ran that for the first mile of this race at least I hope not because if I did, I’m in some real trouble. 

I didn’t let the time get to me and just kept cranking away, I didn’t feel the need to adjust because I had a feeling the marker was off.  There were a few more twists and turns and slight inclines, I kept on picking people off.   Picked a target and reeled them in, once I got em, picked another one and did the same thing.  I was still feeling quite strong.  Mile 2 came around, another guy reading splits but no marker, my watch read 12:10.  Alright so that meant I was dead on for a sub 19, ie 18:59, if I could keep up that same pace for another mile.  I calculated the split and either I slowed down drastically that 2nd mile or the 1st mile was really in the wrong spot, I decided it was the latter otherwise my shot of hitting a PR was out the window.

encouraging my dad to the finish :)

I knew I’d have to dig deep during the last mile; I didn’t feel like I was slowing down and just kept pushing the pace.  I figured I had about 6:00 to go and that made me think of the US Bank climb in Milwaukee because it takes me somewhere between 5, 6, 7 minutes, couldn’t remember the specifics.  Alright cool, I know I can push through that.  Shouldn’t be any issues.  At this point, I was still feeling pretty good.  The heat was starting to bake me a little bit but I wasn’t feeling like it drained all my energy or that I needed to slow down or was gonna be sick because of it.   Friends told me that once you approach the downtown area, you still have to go around the block before heading to the finish; I saw the area and knew I was almost done.  I started to pick up the pace just a bit.  I looked at my watch, somewhere between 16-17 minutes, alright so 2:00 left.  That’s like a Zurich climb, you totally go this!!  You know how to push hard for 2 minutes, you know how to pick it up and just grind to that other level when there are only 10-20 floors to go.  This is nowhere near the pain you feel during a climb, your heart is beating fast but it’s not gonna explode, your legs are pushing it but they’re not filled with acid, you’re not gonna collapse, there is no doubt that you can do this, that you can go harder. 

I turned the corner to the finish, I could see the clock and I picked up the pace, the red numbers were ticking every second and I just gave it all I could, I picked up the pace even more.  I was trying to go sub 19, I didn’t know if I would make it.  Those numbers were just glaring at me and I was fighting so hard to get there before the clock struck 19:00, I couldn’t tell the distance I had and how long it would take me.  I had no clue so I was just watching and running, watching and running!  I got there – 18:53!!  I made it and I had time to spare!!  Oh my gosh, how the heck did I just break 19:00 in suboptimal conditions without really doing much run training, this was incredible.  I just broke the limits of what I thought I could do. 

I’m not sure why I was thinking about climbing during my race, I think most people would think ok 2:00 is a little over a ¼ mile, just one more lap around the track and a smidge more but I start thinking about buildings and floors and comparing my race to that.  Maybe to prove that I have more left in me, that I had more to give.  The two obviously can’t be compared but the effort can be, I still don’t think I’ve reached my full running potential.  I need to learn how to push the limits the same way I do in the stairwell, I can’t be afraid of the pain, I need to embrace it.  Not sure why I haven’t reached that in running especially since I’ve been running for years but I know I’ll get there.  I’m starting to harness that power this year and I know there’s more to come.  I’m looking forward to seeing what kinda times I can put up.  I think having a positive mental attitude has been important as well, just going into a race without any pressure and doing what I came to do is awesome, so much better than freaking out at the starting line and being a wreck when I have a bad race. 

Mile Time Trial

A few days after Grayslake, we had a mile time trial on tap during our track workout.  Sweet, maybe this would be my chance to break 5:40!  The day after Grayslake, I ran 10 miles with Brad and Rob, we picked up the pace during the second half and finished with negative splits but my claves were torched from the race, my legs just didn’t feel all that great.  I hit the stairs Monday morning, they were still kinda dead.  After work I did an hour on the spin bike then hit the rowing machine before heading for my run at Dick Pond.  My legs were still feeling trashed, it was 95+ and the sun was blazing down, we were all kinda feeling it so a 7 mile run turned into 5 miles and I was happy to be done.  Tuesday cranked out another hour on the spin bike, followed by 3 miles (35:00) of vertical training and a few flat running miles.   Woke up Wednesday morning, ready to hit the stairs.  Did my normal climb, bleh 1:45, I consider anything under 1:40 to be slow and that’s when I know my legs are feeling it.  I decided to hit 5 floor sprints instead of continuing on with the slow climbing, the sprints actually provided some relief to my dead legs and I was digging them, can’t believe I actually said I was digging 5 floor sprints, those things are brutal.  Hunched over after each one, gasping for air, heart wanting to explode, yea that’s the good stuff.  I did 6 of those and called it a morning. 

As the day progressed, my legs started to feel a bit more tired.  I got to the track, started  my warmup, I felt alright but my legs felt a bit off.  but usually I feel sluggish during the WU and even the first 1-2 reps of the workout.  We did 2 x 400 before the mile time trial, my 400s felt horrible.  I hit a 1:29 on the 2nd one and thought to myself, there’s no way I can string 4 of those together to go sub 6 in this mile.  I thought about canning the mile then stepping it up during the rest of the workout but when it came to it, I toed the line with everyone else.  Started off, the first lap wasn’t too bad I was at 1:25 which was decent, there was some wind going around the northwest corner, I really needed someone to block that for me. 
Came through at the half at 2:54, alright I had slowed down a bit but I was still 6 seconds under 6:00.  The third lap started to suck, I started to fade and people started passing me.  I tried to encourage myself, told myself that I should be up there with them.  Then I started second guessing myself, that I underestimated this mile and my dead legs, I did stairs this morning, I did this workout and that workout.  why did I expect to do well, I knew the reason because I’d been busting track workouts and races when I shouldn’t be so I thought maybe I’d surprise myself with this mile.  It just wasn’t gonna happen. 

The 4th lap was no good at all, I was almost dead last which wasn’t a great feeling, I trudged in and finished with a 5:58.  Bleh, that’s really not cool.  I just ran 6:05 for a 5k so I know im faster than a 5:58 so it really doesn’t matter, my legs just didn’t have it, nothing I can do about that.   It’s not really a big deal, congrats to everyone else who ran a mile PR, it’s well deserved!!  I was kinda disappointed but it’s not dragging me down.  This is the worst track workout I’ve had in a long time; my legs haven’t felt that burnt.  Usually I can still pull out decent times but today, my body didn’t want to.   This proves, I’m not unbreakable or invincible.  I have bad days and tired days just like everyone else, it’s the slower tired days that make you appreciate the faster easy ones a whole lot more, they make us better and stronger.  Can’t have your best workout and race, every single time, it just doesn’t work that way.  I know that before this year is over I’ll break 5:40 in the mile, it’s gonna happen!!

Borrowed Earth

A couple of weeks ago, I had a rawsome dinner at Borrowed Earth café in Downers Grove.  I went with Barb, Elyse and Sara, were all veggie / vegan eaters so were pumped about going.  I always have trouble deciding what to eat in a veggie restaurant because I have the whole menu to choose from!!  I’m used to carnivore type places were I’m limited to what’s listed under salads or sides and even then I have to have it customized.  Umm, can I get the such and such salad without the chicken, cheese or eggs, with the dressing on the side and can you add some nuts to that?  Thanks much!  That’s became the standard ordering pattern when I adopted the veggie / vegan lifestyle, I’m quite fine with it but sometimes I wonder if the others around me think I’m nuts or if the chefs back in the kitchen are spitting on those extra nuts.  Anyways, who was the person that decided that almost all salads need to have some kind of meat added to them and why does it have to be topped with some crumbled moldy cheese?  It’s a salad, it’s supposed to be healthy, and it’s supposed to be made with fresh veggies, not loaded with bacon bits and fatty dressing.  That’s the problem with food in this country, it’s always bigger is better, lets load you up with a portion large enough to feed a starving lion and on top of that we’ll fry it, add grease or make it fatty in some kind of way.  I’m glad that more places are coming up with additional veggie options; I think healthy eating is starting to catch on but will it ever become main stream?  I could continue on this rant, not even sure why I started it in the first place so I should get off my soapbox and get on to talking about how delicious raw food is. 

We decided that the 4 of us would order different entrees and split them.  They all came with salad and the dressing was phenomenal.  We ended up getting these tasty entrees:

Planet Pizza - Made with wheat-free buckwheat, flax seed and spice crust, covered with marinara sauce, tomatoes and ricotta nut "cheese."    This is what I decided to order, I thought it’d be like a pizza crush topped with goodness but it was more like a lasagna type configuration.  Still quite good, had all the traditional pizza flavors but wasn’t what I expected, I wanted a crust!!

Burrito Loco - Guacamole, sour cream “cheese,” salsa and spicy sunflower seed “beans” wrapped in a corn tortilla.  This definitely had a kick to it; I could taste those spicy seed “beans”. 

Lasagna - Layers of zucchini noodles, spinach, and vegetables topped with a cashew ricotta "cheese" and marinara sauce.   The lasagna and the pizza were kinda similar, both had the Italian flavors but there was still a difference between the two. 

Falafels Falafels Falafels   - Ground nuts combined with rich spices rolled together and wrapped in a carrot flax seed wrap.   This was great, the curry was outstanding, left ya with a powerful punch of flavor. 

I love these raw wraps, so unique.  Everything was so colorful and just fun to eat and share.   I think the next time I go; I wanna try the sweet potato quesadilla!  The food tasted incredible but its kinda pricey, almost $18 per entrée but the portions were quite generous but it’s so totally worth it. 

On to dessert, of course we had to try the raw desserts!!  The restaurant even says: “We only have one rule – Nobody leaves without dessert”.   I was really looking forward to this, how you can go wrong with a dessert made from all natural healthy ingredients, nuts, dates, cacao, fresh fruit, etc.  Once again, we each picked something and shared.  I went straight for the chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, we had a chocolate brownie with mint chip ice cream, a chocolate cherry cheesecake and a cashew cheesecake.  They were all so creamy and decadent.   Sure maybe the calorie count wasn’t on the low side and they didn’t skimp on fat either but the ingredients are all so fresh and good for you, it’s hard to ignore that.  I would prefer to eat something like this and maybe have more fat or calories than take a low fat, low calorie dessert that’s processed and packed with chemicals!


I had a few bbqs to attend one weekend so thought it was the perfect time to share some raw desserts.  I’ll go through phases where I’ll really get into baking or making things for a few weeks in a row.  I’m always eager to share with everyone, most of the time I’ll try to give most of it away.  Otherwise, it’s sitting there tempting me and I usually end up eating it all in the span of 1-2 days so it’s not glaring at me from the kitchen.  This time was no different.  I found a few recipes for raw tarts, I didn’t have a tart pan and wanted to easily share them so decided to make individual tarts using a cupcake pan for the molds. 

As most raw dessert recipes go, the nuts have to be soaked ahead of time.  I was planning on making my desserts Friday night so I tossed macadamia nuts, almonds and cashews into three separate bowls and covered them with water before I left for work.  I decided upon a chocolate coconut ganache and a cashew cheesecake that could be topped with fresh berries.   I had most of the ingredients at home so that was lucky.  These desserts are really easy to make, basically all you need is a food processor.   Of course, I was constantly snacking on the crust and filling to make sure everything tasted alright, even consumed a few deformed tarts that’s night :)

Cacao Coconut Ganache - I started processing up the nuts and whatever else to make the crust, then packed that into the pans.  Tossed it in the fridge while I made the filling, the chocolate filling was just cacao powder, coconut oil and agave, so simple!  The crust consisted of shredded coconut, almonds and coconut oil.  Talk about having little to no ingredients, how rawmazing is that?!?  I could really taste the coconut oil in the crust and filling, I thought it was good but wasn’t sure how other people would react.  Coconut oil can have an overpowering taste at times so if you’re not used to it, you might think its funky in flavor but I love using it in baking as an alternative to oil or butter.

Cashew Cheesecake - The cashew cheesecake was superb!!  This also had whole some ingredients, crust was made with macadamia nuts and dates, I added a few cashews because my stash of macadamia nuts was running low.  The filling was cashews, agave, lime juice, coconut oil and vanilla.   These were made the same way, toss the ingredients for the crust in the food processor then pat into the pan.  Then mix up the ingredients for the filling.  Toss the whole thing into the freezer and patiently wait.

Chocolate Coconut Almond Tarts – The third kind of tart I made was something I came up with on my own.  I had soaked an extra ½ cup of almonds so I wanted to use those to make something.  I go through stages where I make my own larabars so I know you pretty much need dates and nuts to start then can add any combination of flavors.  So I kicked my crust off with the almonds, shredded coconut and dates.  Then made the filling with cacao powder and agave, also added a splash of melted coconut oil.  I think these ended up being my favorite and I was just trying something out!!  I love when that happens. 

Check out the recipes for raw desserts I made, you should definitely try them.  I found a new recipe for avocado strawberry cream pie and I think that’s gonna be my next attempt at raw “baking”.

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