Why Tri Iron Girl and Race Recap



Sunday June, 16, 2013

PRE RACE: So I probably stayed up 1 hour too late and had about 1/2 glass of wine too many, but here I am, it’s 5am and I need to be awake.  I lost the BOY to last night’s festivities with my brother and dismissed him from early morning triathlon duty knowing that my parents would meet me at the course.  The race location is about 20 minutes north, and I was impressed with how smoothly transition set up went.




On the way to the race sight, I realized that I forgot my bike gloves.  I was able to catch my parents before they left, and my Mom was happy to lend me a pair.  She arrived just as transition was closing, but they let me run in to add my gloves.




To wet suit or not to wet suit?!  That was the pre race question.  I had multiple opinions from my family, and others were discussing it in transition.  In the end, I decided not to go with the wet suit.  I began to doubt my decision (along with all of my ability to swim) as I walked down towards the beach where participants were ‘warming up’ in the water and starting to line up by waves.




I kept myself busy chatting with my parents and some other racers, and then strolled over to the beach for the race start.  Man, that looks like a LONG 1/3 mile swim, I thought as adrenaline started pumping through my veins.  I think this photo sums it up perfectly!

Here goes nothing…




SWIM (1/3 mile 12:59):  The wave before us takes off and into the water we go.  With nervous energy and 3 minutes to sit and wait, I strike up a convo with the girls around me.  Then remembering a tip from a fellow blogger, I splash some water on my face and dunk my body.  It’s actually much warmer than I expected.  The countdown begins…10…9…8…


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Go!  I start swimming and immediately forget all of my pool practice.  Not being able to see through the murky water, I find myself picking up my head often and using the breast stroke right away.  Wait a minute…I can do this!  I can swim!  I start to find my rhythm and then pop my head back up.  Stay calm, I tell myself.  The goal is to swim this efficiently and not waste precious energy by panicking.  1/3 of the way down and I’m rounding the corner hoping not to get run over by the younger girls trailing at my feet.  Rounding the next Buoy and the end is in sight.  With less swimmers near by, I find my swim stroke groove (better late than never) and head towards the beach.  Shoot, I realize, I forgot to start my watch.  OMG!  I didn’t wish my dad a happy father’s day!




TRANSITION 1 (4:02): I emerge from the water and start my watch.  I see my Mom waiting for me and cheering me up the hill.  I continue my run remembering to wish my dad a happy father’s day before entering transition.  Transition???  It’s been a year since I’ve done this…where to start…swim cap and goggles off, feet dry, socks clean, bike shoes on, fix hair, helmet on, sunglasses, check, gloves, thanks mom!  A sip of water and my bike and I are on our way.


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BIKE (14 miles 47:47): Oh no…did I just miss the timing pad?!  Who knows, but not much I can do now that I am on my bike and speeding away.  What a gorgeous day for a bike ride!  I hope this isn’t a hilly ride!  I quickly settled into my bike and started shifting gears from muscle memory.  I felt light on my bike and started passing other racers.  I felt energetic throughout the entire bike ride, moving quickly down the little hills and using momentum to power up the inclines.  I chatted and cheered on bikers that I passed, and only got passed by 2-3 other racers.  About 45 minutes into the race, I ate 1/2 a Larabar while reminding myself to drink water throughout the bike (even though I kind of needed to pee).  Swift and steady, I continued riding my ‘biking high’ deciding instead of riding today, I was going to race.  The bike has never been a strength of mine, but I knew that this would be one of my fastest races. I ended up with a 17.6 mph average.  If I bonked on the run, then I bonked on the run, but I was interested to see how far I could push myself.




TRANSITON 2 (1:46): To pee or not to pee?  This was the new question.  Biking gear off and running shoes on.  Plus a tshirt and a race belt.  Then, I was running out the other end of transition past the potties and around the lake.


RUN (3.1 miles 23:45):  Today’s goal…8 minute miles for a 24 minute run.  My legs felt heavy, but I was happy to have completed a handful of BRICK workouts during my training.  The run started off sunny, but I found some shade as I rounded the far side of the lake.  Mile 1…under 8 minutes.  Sweet!  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Mile 2…7:51.  Almost done!  I focused on keeping my pace reminding myself that I didn’t need to go any faster or any slower.  I past a few other racers and one shouted out to me ‘When you finish, come back and pick me up,’ which made me smile.  I spotted my mom with a little over a 1/4 mile to go.  She started shouting and cheering me on as I kicked it into a sprint.




I later saw video of this self-described sprint and it really was more like a run : )  My parents said that my bright orange tshirt was easy to spot and they were able to find the best locations on the course to encourage me and document the day with photos and video.  I rounded the last corner and pushed towards the finish line.  My run ended up being the 9th fastest out 39 in my age group.  Woo Hoo!




FINISH 1:30:19




POST RACE: I immediately received my medal, a freezing cold sponge, and took 2 bottles of water.  My parents were waiting to congratulate me on my race!


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While I’d been working hard, my Mom had made friends with multiple people including the Athleta sales girl who she was eager to introduce me to.  I was feeling great, not sore at all, and proud of my strong race.  I was happy to walk around the post race expo before finally making it to the bathroom.  I couldn’t stop raving about how well organized this race was and had the opportunity to tell one of the Iron Girl employees how much fun I had (and beg her to come back to Lake Zurich again next year).  Because of the location and awesome venue, this is a race I would do again next year for sure! 

We happened to be standing next to the billboards when they posted the results.  Since I didn’t start my watch on time, I wasn’t sure what my final time was and couldn’t find my name.  I gave up, grabbed some breakfast and more SWAG (including another 2 jars of Biscoff…ha ha!) while chatting with my parents.  The post race expo was so much fun that when we looked at our watches, it was already 10am.  We were able to find my name on the way back to transition.  I was pleased to find out that I finished 64/322 and 13/39 in my age division.  Already, I am contemplating what my next race should be…


I was a huge fan of the Iron Girl race series!  If you are looking for your next race, I would definitely check out their website!



Why Iron Girl?


Everything from packet pick up to transition was organized perfectly!

There is a table of hand sanitizer, sunscreen, chapstick, and other necessary beauty products by the port-a-potties.

This is your post race breakfast…




It never felt crowded (even in transition!)

The staff was really friendly.

The race course was filled with inspirational messages.




The next day they mailed me a colorful certificate

A really cute, actually gonna wear, race tshirt + more SWAG




Who doesn’t love an event dedicated to girl power?




Have you ever done an Iron Girl event?

What was the best race you’ve ever done?

Greek Turkey Meatballs

OMG, the work week is almost over and I am thrilled with my schedule.  Wednesday nights used to be a mess of rushing home, making dinner, eating dinner, making breakfast, getting ready for bed, picking out clothes for Thursday, packing Thursday’s workout bag, writing blogs, reading blogs, checking email, crashing into bed, reading, sleeping…


Instead, last night I came home and the BOY had dinner (grilled salmon and broccoli) ready.  I cleaned up a few things, got into my comfies, and sat on the couch to watch the Hawk’s game.  Any other cleaning and meal prep could be done today!  I almost didn’t know what to do with all of my time, but I liked it! 




I was not able to stay awake for the entire Hawk’s game, but the BOY reported their win when he came up to bed.  Despite the big storms rolling through last night, Thursday appears sunny.  My first thought this morning (after tea of course) was to get started with dinner.  I found a fun looking recipe that would allow me to use my mint plant for the first time.  I have been working so hard at keeping him alive that I forgot I should be using the mint.




I began with the non-meat related ingredients and got stuck when upon cleaning out my spice cabinet (yikes…there were things that expired 2 years ago and at least 3 cumins) discovered that we have no oregano.  Since I was planning on running out this morning anyways, I stopped dinner (putting the bowl in the fridge for later) and got started on breakfast.




Another eggie concoction consisting of a Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burger with 1 egg + 2 egg whites and a splash of seasoned salt.




After breakfast, it was off to the pool for one last swim after a stop at Target for a few things, including oregano.  I am a tad worried about Sunday’s swim portion of the triathlon.  Should one really swim for the first time in a brand new wetsuit in a race?  I have used wetsuits before, so it will have to be okay and thankfully it is only a 1/3 mile swim.  I can float my way through that, right? 




This morning, I had the most amazing swim epiphany.  In the past, I have prepared minimally for the swim section of the triathlon (seriously only swimming twice before last year’s tri) and it is typically in a pool.  This year, I have been swimming almost every week since March so I should be much more prepared.  Expect this morning I realized that I am not as prepared as I thought when I attempted to swim a few laps in a row without stopping.  See…I can’t do the flip turns because my goggles fill up with water and then my contacts hate me, so I typically touch the wall, grab a few quick breaths of air and then continue on my way.  I didn’t fully understand how limiting that was (I mean it’s not like I was hanging out for a full minute after each lap) until this morning when I pushed on without the extra air.  I kept my same slow steady pace, but my heart was racing, and I when I got to the next walk, I lunged at it gasping for air.  Ahhh…It all makes sense….why when I am in the water for the triathlons without walls to grab ahold of, I struggle with my breathing, end up getting nervous, and pop my head above the water anxious and sucking in air.  Maybe it’s the runner in me that is used to breathing in/out nonstop throughout a workout that makes swimming even tougher, but it was clear to me today, 2 days before my triathlon, that I do not train properly in swimming.




With that being said, I swam my 15 minutes, eventually building up how many laps I could do without rest, before lazying in the hot tub for a few minutes.  At this point, there’s not much I can do before Saturday and I’m hoping my wet suit will help.  Plus, I know how to breast stroke when I need the air.  But as I am considering another late season tri, I will definitely have to make some changes to my training.  Suddenly, ladder drills are making a whole lot more sense.




I returned home starving, so I threw together a Cucumber Mango Green Smoothie before hopping into the shower.  I had plenty of time to finish putting together the meatballs for tonight’s dinner before work.  My thought is that the BOY can make a Greek meatball pita and I will use my leftover lettuce from the Teriyaki Chicken Wraps.  But, I’m guessing these meatballs would be great over pasta or spaghetti squash as well.  I rolled the meat into balls and left them in a baking dish where the BOY could find them when he got back home after school/work.




I’m not sure how he is feeling about it, but I am loving this tag team dinner prep!






I ended up staying later than expected at work, but the BOY was all set at home sticking the meatballs in the oven for 25 minutes.




And dinner was served!  These meatballs are seasoned perfectly, very flavorful, and super tasty!  I highly recommend them for your next week night meal! 




The BOY and I are enjoying a quiet night in with Downton Abbey before our busy weekend!  It’s been a fantastic first week of summer scheduling including some delicious dinners.  Enjoy!!!




Greek Turkey Meatballs

From The Eat Clean Diet



    1 lb. lean ground turkey

    1 cup low-fat feta cheese

    1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

    2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

    2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

    2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

    2 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning

    3 garlic cloves, minced

    1 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry and chopped (I used an 8 ounce jar which was sufficient)



    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Mix lean ground turkey, feta cheese, parsley, mint, oregano, lemon juice, lemon pepper, garlic and roasted red peppers together in a large bowl, blending in cheese until no chunks remain.

    Using a 1/8 cup to measure, roll into 16 meatballs and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until browned and cooked through, about 25 minutes.

    Serve with Greek yogurt cucumber sauce!

    Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

    I was hoping to get out on my bike one more time this morning before heading out of town for the weekend.  The weather looked wet, and I wasn’t feeling motivated to get up and moving.  Instead, I went to the park district for a swim.  Between running Sunday and biking Monday, my body was pretty tired.  However, I continue to be impressed with the fact that I am actually going to the pool.  I’ve been swimming so many times this year that I’ve lost track!




    This morning, I started off with freestyle laps.  I did three at my typically slow pace and then sped up for the forth for 15 minutes of intervals.  Then finished off with a little over 10 minutes prone on the kick board.  After 25 minutes, I was beat from head to toe and my heart was pounding from the intervals.  I happily spent the next 10 minutes in the hot tub before dragging myself out to get ready for work.

    I know I don’t even need to tell you guys how much I love making banana bread!




    So when someone hands me a bunch of nana’s right before I am heading out of town, I just HAVE to make some banana bread (even if the nana’s aren’t that brown).




    In search of a new banana bread recipe, I came across a Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread from Lovin’ From the Oven.




    Even though I was thinking about a double chocolate swirl type bread, this recipe definitely caught my eye.  I wanted to bring some mini bread loaves to work to share with a few coworkers, so I used three small pans instead of one big one.




    The breads baked up beautifully with a crispy top, and I was tempted to tear off a tiny taste of sweet crust.




    But I was able to resist!  Barely…my kitchen smelled so wonderful! 




    Instead, I packed them up into colorful bags suited for sharing with friends!




    The breads still smelled amazing as I drove from the pool to work this morning, and my coworkers were thrilled to have homemade bread waiting for them at work.




    This post is filled with more amazing banana bread recipes!



    Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

    From Lovin’ From the Oven



    For the bread:

    3 over-ripe bananas, smashed up

    1/3 cup melted butter

    3/4 cup sugar

    1 egg, beaten

    1 tsp vanilla

    1 tsp baking soda

    dash of salt

    1 1/2 cups flour

    For the swirl:

    1/3 cup sugar

    1 Tbs cinnamon



    Preheat oven to 350. Butter and four a loaf pan (or spray with cooking spray).

    Mix bananas, butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla together. sprinkle baking soda and salt around on top of the banana mixture. Then gently stir in flour. Be careful not to over-mix!

    In a small dish, mix together the sugar and cinnamon.

    Add 1/2 of the batter to the loaf pan and then sprinkle half, or a little more than half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture all over the batter in the pan. Add the rest of the batter, and then sprinkle the leftover cinnamon-sugar on top.

    Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

    Note: If baking muffins or mini loaf pans, adjust baking time to ~35 minutes.

    I Went Swimming Again

    Say What???




    Yes, I have now been to the pool the same amount of times (twice) in two weeks as I did all of last summer in prep for my triathlon.  I’d say that is a good start!  Especially since I haven’t even signed up for any summer tri’s.  I am considering one on father’s day and one the end of July.  Tri training is a great way to get in shape and cross training worked well when I did my first marathon in 2011. 




    So yesterday morning when the only thing I wanted to do was stay in bed, I crawled out and into a swim suit.  Again, my goal was 20 minutes of swimming.  I did 10 minutes of freestyle (new this season with my new goggles is that I can breathe on both the right and left side) and then about 8 minutes of kickboard drills before finishing off with a few more laps.  The reward, as always was the hot tub waiting for me when I finished.




    Friday is typically my day off from working out, but I did drag the BOY out for a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood.  It was 50 degrees today, and the snow pile in our front lawn is almost fully thawed.  It’s been a rather uneventful Passover so far so tonight the BOY and I had a rather uneventful dinner.  I’ve been feeding my carb cravings with chocolate…not too good for the waist line but nice on the taste buds : )




    They BOY is already asking when I’ll make another batch of Matzah Toffee.  Now that HIS college basketball season is over after a sad Indiana loss last night, he is transferring his attentions elsewhere…the grill : )  With warm weather expected this weekend and no bread in sight until Tuesday, we are hoping to spend some quality time soaking up vitamin D out back.  Woo Hoo!


    Alrighty, I have a run planned for early tomorrow morning, so it’s a little TV for me and then off to bed!

    Happy Weekend Ya’ll!



    That is the sound I expected to hear when I dove into the pool this morning.

    Instead…I got more of a swish as I slowly eased myself in reacquainting myself with the water.


    Truth be told I wrote the title of this post last night in hopes that I wouldn’t back down from my planned swim.  It has been a LONG time since I went swimming for exercise.  But I have been eyeing a June triathlon, which means that training should have started weeks ago!  With my March goal in mind, I drove to the park district pool at 6:05pm for a swim.  I decided to join Caitlin’s Ironman March and although I am a few miles away from my 26 mile running goal, I am yet to swim or bike.




    I was so freezing cold on the short drive over to the pool that I almost turned around and definitely thought about walking around the track in my swim suit covered in PJ’s. Yes that is what I wore to the gym!  But once I walked onto the pool deck, I was consumed by heat and humidity…a nice change during this ice cold winter.   The pool was almost empty and quiet.  One of the benefits of the park district pool compared to the gym is that it is MUCH warmer for senior water aerobics.




    The goal for today’s workout was to get into the pool, so once I was in, I had to decide what to do.  I figured that 20 minutes of swimming (any kind) would be a great start.  I alternated between freestyle and prone kicking.  A few strokes in and I remembered how peaceful swimming can be and because my newish goggles actually worked, I was way more relaxed in the water!




    I was really proud of myself for getting up AND getting to the pool, so I enjoyed my reward of a few minutes in the hot tub.  I would have loved to have stayed longer but I had to get myself ready for work.




    I forgot my contacts at home, but luckily I had planned to swing back home anyways to eat a bite of breakfast.




    Since Thursday’s have turned into a marathon day, I planned for an easy dinner tonight that the BOY could get started without me.  Yesterday’s dinner was just as easy.  I had planned to make stirfry, but the BOY said that he wasn’t that hungry.  Instead, I roasted up some broccoli to have with leftover salmon (from Tuesday).  Easiest week of meal planning EVER!




    I found this salmon recipe on a blog, commented on it, planned to make it, and then totally forgot where I found it.  Please tell me that I’m not the only person who this happens too!




    I share this with you so that you know that I can’t take credit for the recipe and because it explains why I have no idea what the portions are supposed to look like.




    Yet somehow this Asian inspired salmon turned out AWESOME!




    If this is your recipe, thanks for the easy weeknight meal (and leftovers) and please take credit in the comments! 

    Clean Eating Magazine (one of my faves) just emailed me with 15 Awesome Salmon Recipes!  Go check it out!



    When was the last time you went swimming?

    Any good pool workouts to share?

    What are you eating for dinner this week?

    Why do I have so many questions tonight?



    Orange Ginger Salmon


    3/4 to 1 pound of salmon

    ~3 tbsp fresh squeeze orange juice

    ~1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

    Ground ginger to coat


    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

    Mix orange juice and tamari, stirring well.  Coat salmon and marinate while oven preheats (longer if you have time).

    Sprinkle salmon with ginger and place in the oven (or on the grill in foil)

    Cook for 18 minutes.

    Friday and Florida

    Ah, Friday!  Finally an evening to be home before 8pm, have dinner with the BOY, and sit my exhausted butt on the couch to watch Pitch Perfect.  Oh, and blog about our weekend trip to SarasotaOne week ago, the BOY and I boarded a plane for the sunshine state.  We had a slight complication as the BOY got a flat tire on the way to the airport.  Luckily, we were close enough to swing back home to switch cars.




    However, my car (having spent the night of the snow storm outside) was buried under thick, heavy snow.  We hurried to clean off my car and move our luggage.  I hate feeling late for the airport, so I definitely had a knot in my stomach as I drove us to O’hare.




    We made it no problem and a 20 minute delay seemed like nothing compared to all of the cancelled fights throughout the country so I felt thankful to be boarding the plane.  I alternated between reading and snoozing while sipping on my Starbucks.  We landed, caught a cab to our hotel which was only 10 minutes away, and checked in. 


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    As we walked into the hotel, we were greeted by two of my close high school friends.  I love how life works out that way!  They were heading out to the beach as we were heading up to our room to change out of boots and winter gear and into shorts, tshirts, and sunglasses.  We walked a few blocks into downtown Sarasota which had plenty of options for lunch.  It wasn’t until we were seated outside at a little café ordering lunch and a cocktail that I finally exhaled and FELT like we were on vacation.  I knew it was going to be a relaxing few days!




    We had a nice mix of down time and wedding festivities ahead of us.  I spent Friday afternoon catching up with friends by the pool at our hotel.






    By 5pm, I was eager to get in a run before sunset.  I laced up my tennies and headed for town.  Last minute I decided to turn onto a large, steep bridge over to Bird Key making my way all the way to St. Armand’s Circle.




    I made it home super sweaty (when was the last time I ran in the heat?) and with enough time to shower and watch the sun set from our balcony.






    The BOY made us a dinner reservation at a place on the Marina overlooking some ginormous yachts.  We both love seafood and Sarasota is definitely the place for fresh fish.  Afterwards, we attended a cocktail hour hosted by the bride and groom.  It was wonderful to catch up with some old friends, and we were home and in bed early after a long day.  Saturday night was the wedding, but we had the day to spend at the beach.  We hitched a ride to Siesta Key to bury our toes in the white sand.




    We found the perfect sand bar to wade in the crisp water looking for seashells.  After which, we lounged in the sun under a clear blue sky enjoying the warm weather and eclectic mix of company.


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    It was amazing to see people biking on the beach, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t jealous!




    After the most enjoyable day, we had just enough time to fight the crowds back into town, grab a quick bite to eat (fish tacos and truffle fries), and shower before the wedding.




    When you combine a beautiful evening, with a stunning hotel, and an amazing couple, it can only be described as magical.  The wedding was personal and sincere, and I was so happy to be part of this special event!






    Cocktail hour took place in the garden at sunset.  A truly breath taking scene!



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    The BOY and I enjoyed the entire evening and were actually the last to leave the wedding : )  After midnight, as the wedding guests retreated to the bar, a few of us made our way to the hotel pool and hot tub.  Needless to say, I awoke the next morning with frizzy hair and wreaking of an over-chlorinated pool.  The BOY and I had no plans for Sunday, so we took a taxi out to Lido Beach.




    We took a long stroll down to the end of the beach overlooking Long Boat Key enjoying another spectacular day!




    From the beach, we walked a few blocks to St. Armand’s Circle.  After Friday’s run, I was eager to get back.  Per our taxi driver’s recommendation, we ate lunch at Columbia Restaurant.  The Spanish food was incredible and possibly the best meal we had all weekend!  With an afternoon Indiana game ahead, the BOY suggested cocktails and basketball.




    He didn’t have to ask me twice to spend Sunday Funday with a Mojito in the sun!  We got back to our hotel with enough time for a dip in the pool and nap before one last seafood dinner with the bride and groom and a few of their friends who had also stayed the extra night in Florida.




    Monday morning came way to quickly.  I pulled out my running shoes for one last 70 degree winter run.  This time, I stayed along the bay.  There is just something about running along the waterfront that I love!  By the time I came bounding back into the hotel room, the BOY was starving and ready for breakfast.




    We had a fresh and filling breakfast at the Toasted Mango leaving more than enough time for one last swim.




    Do I even need to tell you how hard it was to leave all of this and pack up for the airport???


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    But sadly we did!  Our weekend was so bright and wonderful.  The BOY and I had some time to relax, and we returned feeling rejuvenated and already talking about our next vacation!  I’m hoping that just looking at these pictures will keep me warm through the last few weeks/months of winter.

    Where For Out Thou Circular Pretzels?

    Is it wrong for me to tease you with pictures like this?





    If the answer is yes, then I sincerely apologize!  I had a fantastic first day in Florida.  I spent some quality time catching up with my aunt and my grandpa!  I took a dip in the pool, briefly trying out my new goggles and then came back inside to read, actually finishing my book.




    All in all, it was a pretty great day!  Along with reading, resting, and eating at the deli, I lugged my laptop down here so that I can catch up on emails (I’ve been awful recently) and some blogging.  Not at the expense of my vitamin D needs, of course, but I thought I would have some free time at night to catch you up on all my holiday baking.

    Which brings me to this very important question…


    Where Have All the Circular Pretzels Gone?


    I searched near and far, high and low, this store and that store, plus another store and could not find circular pretzels for this year’s holiday chocolates.  I’m sure had I planned in advance I could have ordered some online, but since I found them so easily last year, I didn’t think twice.  I had some help from my mom in locating a non-buttered square pretzel, which was a successful stand in.




    Afterwards, I found football shaped pretzels that would have be fun.  Maybe next time!




    I spent an episode of Grey’s Anatomy unwrapping Hershey kisses.  I love variety when it comes to these festive sweets which means mixing different kisses and M&M flavors.  This year’s kisses included milk chocolate, dark chocolate, hugs, and white chocolate peppermint (these are the BEST!).  The Grey’s drama continued and my wrapper pile just kept growing!




    When my show was over, I took my bowl of kisses into the kitchen.


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    Then got to work…quick hands mean action shots are hard to get.






    This year’s M&M flavors included…




    Plain (what was left after the BOY discovered them), mint, white chocolate peppermint, and coconut!




    I mix and matched all of the kisses with all of the M&M’s for some fun flavors and colorful candies!








    It is a-okay if your mouth is watering right now because this simple recipe is BIG on taste!




    I loaded up my chocolate pretzels with some holiday bark to share with my coworkers.  It’s amazing how simple these are to make yet wherever I bring them, EVERYONE loves them!






    I ended up with plenty of candy to share.  After making the bags for my coworkers, I added some to my already full holiday tins.




    And of course brought a bag down here with me to Florida!

    But the big question remains…how many will be left when I return home. The BOY has already asked which containers ‘hiding’ in the freezer are on and off limits?  And he has snuck into his parent’s tin of cookies TWICE!




    At least we know if a big snow storm hits, he’ll have plenty to eat!



    Chocolate Circle Rings Squares



    Circle or square pretzels (in a pinch, the regular shape will work too!)

    Hershey’s kisses

    M&M’s (get creative with your flavor combinations)



    Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

    Place pretzels on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Unwrap kisses and place them on top of pretzels.

    Bake for 4-5 minutes until chocolate is soft. Look for chocolate to start to ‘sweat’ and if you are not sure, try a tester M&M.  The ugly ones are perfect for snacks and samples!  (***NOTE: Milk chocolate will take longer to melt while white chocolate will melt quickly).

    Remove from oven and immediately place an M&M on top of the chocolate pushing it down. Refrigerate until set.

    Store in airtight container in the fridge of the freezer.



    Other Varieties…


    Turtle Pretzels





    Candy Corn Hugs with Pumpkin Kisses



    Mission Accomplished!

    I did it!  I completed my first Olympic Distance Triathlon this morning.


    I thought it would be nice to begin with a finisher picture!  This is my mom and I right after I crossed the finish line.

    Now, back to the beginning…

    I woke up at 4:30 this morning feeling like a total ball of nerves.  If someone would have told me 2 years ago, that I’d be competing in triathlons, I would have laughed.  I have finished 3 sprint distance races over the past 2 summers and I was eager to attempt the longer Olympic distance (it is twice the length of the sprint), but was also super scared!


    Luckily, despite the recent heat and storms, the weather was cooperating.  Check out this perfect race weather!

    6 am           9 am           12 pm

    58°F                68°F                 76°F

    Feels Like        Feels Like          Feels Like
    57°F             68°F              78°F


    I was all packed up and ready to go by 5:00 AM


    I had a simple breakfast of microwavable oatmeal with some added banana, skim milk, and chia seeds in the car on my way to the race, along with some black tea of course.  I was so nervous that I didn’t finish my breakfast.


    We arrived at Wauconda High School under a full moon.




    I set up my transition area (I think I overpacked for this one).




    And greeted my fan club!  I am so lucky to have such an amazing support system drive out to Wauconda before 6 AM.



    We boarded a bus and headed down to the swim start on Bang’s Lake.  The female sprint race was just beginning.



    I wrestled myself into my wet suit and still had time for my mom to braid my hair.



    The time came to walk over to the beach and my nerves kicked in!



    My mom came over for a pep talk.



    And then it was time to head into the water.  Despite all of my nerves before the race, I was totally calm in the water.  I think the wet suit helped…it made me feel buoyant and confident as I swam across the lake.  I think I took the scenic route since I had no idea where I was headed.  My left goggle was fogged and the buoys were tough to see with the sun.  Once I turned the corner to head back towards land, I was able to get into my rhythm and I confidently finished my 1 mile swim (the longest I have ever done).



    I was ready for the rest of the triathlon.  I took my time in transitions and battled some strong headwinds on the bike.  By the time the run came, I was feeling strong and steady.  I even kicked it into gear for my finish!  Don’t I look determined?!




    I was tired and a bit sore (especially in my legs) after the race, but I felt good…like I had trained well!  I was so proud of my accomplishment, and I enjoyed every minute of the race.  The BOY had given me some great advice.  He told me that it was my last tri of the season and I should enjoy it.  This worked great on the swim!  With such a gorgeous day, I kept reminding myself how lucky I was to spend it outside swimming, biking, and running.  It was a fast group of competitors this morning and many of them have done half and full ironman races.  You should have seen some of these bikes!  Instead of feeling intimidated, I felt proud to be competing amongst them.  I think that my family took some more pictures from the race that I will share soon! 

    Final Results

    1 mile swim: 34:33

    Transition 1: 5:31

    25 mile bike: 1:26:16

    Transition 2: 4:22

    10K run: 49:56

    TOTAL: 3:00:36

    Overall: 280 out of 381

    Age Group: 18 out of 25

    After the race, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my mom dropped off this week’s CSA in the BOY’s car.  Yum!



    We headed home for a quick shower and then off to Claim Jumper for lunch.


    Beer and popcorn…two of my favorites!

    Then it was home for a 2 hour family nap (even Emmy enjoyed a snooze) and some time with my my new friend the foam roller before relaxing on the couch.



    Last summer I set the goal of completing an Olympic distance triathlon, and I am so excited to have faced my swim fears, trained smart, and finished this race.  At 3 hours, it is the longest race I have ever done!  Until October’s Chicago marathon that is!

    Will Swim For Banana Bread

    I know many people don’t like the sight of dark bananas on their counter (which is probably why they pass them off to me), but I love a good banana bread and am always excited about the idea of searching for a new recipe (I have at least 7 in my recipe binder already).  Because of this, I buy my bananas in bulk from Costco and gladly accept overripe banana donations.  For the record, I also accept zucchini if anyone’s garden is overflowing with them this summer.


    Yesterday morning, I got myself to the pool for a 30 minute ‘confidence swim’.  This is what I call swimming in circles around the fun outdoor pool for 30 straight minutes without touching the ground or pushing off the wall like I do when I swim laps.  I did mostly freestyle with a few breast strokes to turn while trying not to run into the nice man also swimming outdoors.  I predict that my mile swim will take around 30 minutes, well probably closer to 35 minutes, but I am hoping a workout like yesterdays will help boost my confidence and keep me calmer while I swim across the lake in a few weeks.


    After my swim, I felt pretty good.  Especially when I was relaxing in the whirlpool before I had to head off to work.  I even had enough energy to get in a 7.5 mile run this morning…a nice step in increasing my mileage this month.  With all of this exercise, I have been super hungry…which brings us back to the bananas!

    I had a few bananas hanging around and I was hoping to find time this week to make a banana bread.  I wanted something to bring to friends this weekend, plus I haven’t done much baking lately and I miss it.  This morning, my mom gave me a few more brown bananas to add to the bunch.  When I got home from work, I knew I wasn’t going to have tons of time for baking, so I was happy that I had saved Gina’s recipe for Low Fat Peanut Butter Banana Muffins from her blog Gina’s Skinny Recipes (which for those of you who are interested is very WW friendly).  I decided to turn her muffins into 3 mini loaves…one for me and two to freeze for friends.  So when the BOY headed out for a DQ run after dinner, I hit the kitchen for some therapeutic baking.


    The recipe was easy to follow.  Although I didn’t have any Better ‘N Butter PB, I used the generic kind I keep for baking, which worked just fine.  I baked my mini loaves for 40 minutes and they turned out beautifully.




    I was eager for a taste and happy to find the bite with the PB swirl…yum!  The bread is very moist with the right blend of PB and banana. I can see where these would make a popular muffin at your next brunch…I might even add some mini chocolate chips…not that they’d need it!


    Looking for other ways to turn brown bananas into banana bread?  Here are a few of my favorites!

    Classic Banana Bread

    Peanut Butter Banana Bread

    Clean Banana Bread


    Although I have been finding many of my recent recipes on blog sites, I still get excited over a new cookbook AND look what just arrived in the mail…


    I’ve already flipped through the whole book, soaking in the pictures and mouth watering recipes.  Tosca’s newest recipe book has a colorful picture on every page (which I love) and nutrition information.  It includes classics like French Onion Soup (there is a whole soup chapter) and inventive new recipes like Sweet Potato Custard and Chili and Scrambled Egg Breakfast Tacos (there is also a brunch chapter).  She also includes some helpful tips on picking herbs and sustaining a vegetarian diet.  I’m looking forward to some clean cooking…when does my CSA arrive?!