Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Going home to find a new city

Last week Tim and I spent 5 days in Chattanooga, where I grew up. While we were there, I realized that the city has changed a whole lot since I left for college in 2003. When I was in high school there were three places my friends and I would choose from in the area we'd hang out, and every Friday or Saturday night downtown was spent at a movie at the Bijoux (which doesn't even exist anymore...am I that old?).

There are so many new restaurants, fitness studios, boutiques, and health food stores that it made me feel like I was visiting a new place! I haven't in the last four or five years really gone home when it wasn't a holiday where most of the time was spent at different family member's houses for Christmas or Thanksgiving meals. This non-holiday visit gave me the opportunity to see the city in a different light.

I wanted to share a few favorite eats that I discovered while we were there, because I'm going to do a different post about working out while traveling and what options there are. We tried three new places while we were there and also went to another new(er) place that we had been to on a previous visit.

Our first stop was at Urban Stack, which is a burger restaurant. Creative burgers seem to be the trendy thing right now, and my parents wanted to try this place they hadn't been to before. We started with the fried garbanzo beans and pickle platter. Both were delicious, and the spicy pickled vegetables were definitely unique. What I wanted to recreate at home, though, were the garbanzo beans. I'm sure there's a way to make them in the oven instead of a fryer.
 
And as though the new restaurants aren't enough, Chattanooga has even expanded the number of local breweries it has. I got the local sampler of beers from around the Chattanooga area, and while I won't long for any of them while I'm down here in Tampa, it was fun to try the local flavors.
I got the steakhouse burger with bacon, barbeque sauce, cheddar, and an onion ring on top, and in some attempt to be healthy went with the cucumber and black eyed pea salad on the side. I'm not sure what about the burger made me think I should worry about whether the side was healthy or not, but the burger was fantastic. I ate it all and wanted another one immediately. The side wasn't anything special, and I wouldn't order it again. It lacked flavor, though it might just have been overpowered by all the flavors of the burger.
 
For lunch one day we met up with a girlfriend from high school and her new (3.5 week old) baby. I forgot to take a picture of us or the restaurant we went to, but Taco Mamacitas is the restaurant that we had been to before, so it wasn't new to me. I got a salad, which was delicious as always. Then, because we still had gossip to catch up on, we headed over to Milk and Honey, a gelato and coffee shop just a few doors down. I instantly fell in love. Tim got gelato, and I got a cookie and a coffee, and I talked intermitently about how I wanted to open something like it in Tampa.

It's small and cozy with only two booths, counter seating, and an outside bench, but they serve breakfast, a brunch of sorts, and sandwiches, though most people seemed to just drop in for what they wanted and then head out again. The Americano that I had was delicious, and the thumbprint/sugar cookie was only 40 cents. They are owned by the same family that opened Burger Stack. Why weren't these things here when I was a Chattanooga resident?
Though not a Chattanooga thing, I couldn't resist mentioning that my mom ordered live Main lobsters to cook at home. I'm going to shock you all by saying that lobster isn't my seafood of choice, but these were tasty; we had fun making a night of it!
I think my favorite new restaurant that we visited, though, may have been The Flying Squirrel. It's more of a bar with food, but it's a far cry from being "bar food". It's presented in a tapas style, so you get to order at least a couple things that look tasty from the menu.
I had the house ravioli, which were very good and completely made from scratch, and the bison balls, which were tasty but not served as warm as I would have preferred. I still ate all of both of the dishes. The ambiance was really low key and fun, and the building is built with a lot of glass and industrial materials. My favorite part was the beer that I had. It was the Abita Strawator, a seasonal combination of their Strawberry and Andygator, and it was delicious in every way. It may be my favorite beer of recent recollection, and I'm hoping to stumble upon it here in Tampa sometimes soon. Had we not been heading to Atlanta to catch a flight I would have had another.
We had a fabulous trip and enjoyed so much of what Chattanooga has to offer that we haven't experience in the past. Tim noted that he really enjoyed himself, and we look forward to going to try a few of the other new restaurants and offerings that Chattanooga has come up with recently.

Do you still live in the city you grew up in? Has it changed a lot in the last few years?
When you go visit home or where you grew up do you like to try new things or go to your old favorites?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Top Gun Sprint Triathlon Recap (My first tri!)

On Saturday I participated in my first ever triathlon! It was a day I had been looking forward to and training for for a while. The triathlon was a sprint called Top Gun, and it was a .25 mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. Packet pickup was the day before, so I thought I'd start there. I was hoping official pictures would be up before I posted this, but I don't want to wait anymore; the photographers have already gotten enough pageviews from my incessant refreshing. Luckily my husband was there and got a lot of pictures.
 
Friday afternoon I headed down to Bill Jackson's Store for Adventure not knowing what to expect. The store was really cool, but my nervousness and hunger left me a little dazed and I didn't have time to explore. Luckily I did run into Tori and Patrick, and she reminded me that I needed to buy a race belt. I wouldn't have remembered that had she not mentioned it.
 
There were a lot more steps to this packet pickup than there ever are for races. I had to show my ID and grab a card that had a checklist on it, get my packet from another station, my ankle strap timing chip from another one, and my cap from the last one. I got a light blue cap for my age group, and I was a little jealous of all the age groups that got bright pink.

I headed home, setup a mock transition, and stuck all the stickers everywhere they needed to go (one on my helmet, one on my bike, and a wristband on my wrist to get into transition). I also put my race bib onto my race belt.
 
I shared this pictures on Facebook and asked if there was anything I was forgetting. I got so much great feedback including a key tip to put the race bib under my tennis shoes so I could grab it right after I put on my shoes to run. It worked and helped me not forget to grab that bib (it only has to be worn for the run).

I went to bed pretty early and set my alarm for 3:55 to get up by 4 and get out of the house by 4:30ish. I made a bowl of oatmeal to take with me, put all my stuff in the car, and got my bike on the back of the car. I was most nervous about that part because driving an hour on mostly freeways was something I hadn't done with my bike on the back before. Luckily it made it there unscathed.

The race was down at Ft. de Soto, and I was pretty familiar with where everything would be setup because I ran a few halves down there in the last year (including my PR race). Tim came with me since it was my first triathlon, and he was super patient as I maneuvered my way through body marking, setting up transition, using the bathroom a few times, and finding friends.

I got my transition setup and my bike racked and looked jealously at the super fast triathlon bikes with their zipp and disc wheels. I don't know how much of a difference that would make, but I can tell you I won't know for a while.
 
From there it was time to head to the water and get in for a little warmup. I practiced dolphin dives and running in the water and got in a few fast strokes before climbing out to listen to the National Anthem.

And before I knew it, it was time to line up with the rest of the blue caps! All of the 20-29 year olds and Athenas (women over a certain weight) lined up in this wave starting at 7:12.
 
And before we knew it, they were counting down! I wiped my goggles no fewer than 5 times and just hoped they'd stay fog-free for the duration of the swim. I didn't know what to expect, as I'd heard multiple stories of grabbing, bumping, touching, etc. I decided to line up in the front because the swim is my strongest leg by far. Growing up a swimmer is a benefit for sure in this sport.
 
And we're off!
 
 The swim was 400 meters in the Gulf of Mexico. We went 100 meters out to a buoy, turned left, swam 200 meters by a couple more buoys, and then turned left again to finish 100 meters to the beach. 
I asked Tim to take pictures, so he did. The green buoy in the picture below is one of the turn buoys, and you can kind of see how far out we were.
I have never denied having a competitive spirit, so I was ready to face whatever was placed before me. Once we ran into the water and ran over the waved for a bit, I saw people start dolphin diving, so I did it too. I did probably 5 or 6 dives before I started swimming. I surprisingly didn't get touched or kicked one time. Once I settled on my stroke I did some siting and just swam as fast as I could.

Eventually I caught up to the people in the wave ahead of me, so I just did my best to swim around them without impeding anyone's progress. 

I had heard to swim until you took two strokes that hit the sand, so that I did. Then I got up and started running up the beach to the timing mat.
 
I finished the .25 mile swim in 6:13 and heard Patrick yelling from the side that I was the 3rd one out of the water. One of the girls was in the 20-24 age group, so I got 2nd in the 25-29 AG in the swim! From here I knew it was going to be all about holding on and letting as few people pass me as possible.

The run to transition was long and on the sand and then rough cement. I threw my cap and goggles down, wiped my feet on my towel, put on my sunglasses and helmet, put my socks and bike shoes on, unracked my bike and was off. Transition was still slow! I did T1 in 4:46. Room for improvement!

Tim didn't make it up to the transition exit in time to see me, but these are other bikes coming out of transition.
 
Once I got on the bike I felt great! I looked down and realized that my Garmin was set on run mode, so it was giving me pace in minutes/mile instead of miles per hour. I spent a lot of time on that ride doing math trying to figure out how fast I was going. I was glad to have the Garmin, but at the same time I need to remember to turn it to bike mode in the future. I think I would have started a little more conservatively had I known my pace.

I got passed quite a bit and did a little bit of passing. The people passing were mostly men from the waves behind us, but there were also a number of girls my age. Looking at the tri bikes and hearing them whiz past was fun. I loved riding, and the head wind never got unbearable. I did take it out a little fast, so I was struggling a bit at the end, but I still love riding the most. Doing it out on a course with hundreds of other bikers just made it even more fun.

I finished the 10 miles in 29:01 with an average speed of 20.7 MPH. That put me 13th in my age group. 

Into transition and onto the run it was! T2 took me 2:53. Too long!
 
 Ugh. I'm a runner. I'm supposed to be excited for the run, but I wasn't. It felt odd, and I felt slow. I was running around 9:30 for the first little bit and was just trying to catch my breath and get into a groove of some sort. It took a while. I didn't like it. Ah! I'm supposed to like this part. I always read about runners who like this part and wait to get to it! I felt like I'd dropped my running membership card somewhere or forgot to pick it up from transition

At the 1.5 mile marker I felt like I had run at least 2. There were no mile markers on the run and my Garmin was still ticking from the bike. We turned around to run the rest of the way back ON SAND, and as a man passed and said "home stretch!" to me, I asked him how far. I think I might have sounded like the grim reaper, as he turned around and said, "mile and a half!" I thought about sitting down. I thought we were over halfway! And, I have to run this on the sand?!

During this time it struck me that the two months off from the stress fracture did more to my running fitness than I'd let on. Maybe I could run 2 or 3 miles at an okay pace, but I've lost a lot of the endurance I worked so hard for. Blah. Not a fun realization to have.

I walked through both water stops and took a gatorade and water at both of them. I didn't know if the finish line was going to come at any point, and when I finally saw it I picked it up and just started running my heart out. Then about halfway there I realized it's one of those "not as close as it appears" mirages, and I couldn't sustain my kick. Oh well. Sudden stomach cramps surged, I pushed to just cross that line, and then I had finished! I'm a triathlete!
 
I'm looking for Tim in that last picture.

The run was by far my weakest link, and my 3.1 miles took me 29:54, or an average of 9:39/mile. It also put me 17th in my AG. Yikes. 

But then I saw Tim and got food. I was dying for a Gatorade and they just didn't have any at the post race party. All they had was Propel, which was too sweet for me. Oh well. I got two big slices of watermelon, which tasted divine.

Then I met up with friends! Everyone had great races. Tori got another PR (for the fourth year in a row) and Beth killed it with her new bike!
 Overall it was a great day!

My total time was 1:12:49 for the distance. Now I've got a bar set!

I wore my new MooMotion Indie triathlon kit and loved it! I'll have a whole other post on that in the days to come.

My next triathlon will be double the distance at the International Distance Triathlon FD3 at Fort de Soto on August 24th. Can't wait! Already dreading the run but aiming for improvement.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2 weeks of workouts

I didn't do a recap last Sunday because we were celebrating our anniversary, but these recaps are almost more for me and rethinking everything than anything else, so I'm going to write out last week's workouts as well as this past week.
The miles are a little off for both week's totals because there were quite a few minutes put into spin bikes and spin classes that didn't count for mileage.

July 15-July 21
 
Monday: Rest Day. Had I thought about this strategically I wouldn't have taken this as a rest day, but after two hard days the Saturday and Sunday before, I was just thinking about how wonderful rest was going to feel.

Tuesday: Ryde for Life Class. I had a Groupon to use and was road biked out after a long weekend before, so I tried out this class. The bikes are the kind that move with you as opposed to being stationary, but I didn't like how much more focus there was on core and arms than normal spin classes. I went for the legs!

Wednesday: I swam 1850 yards then ran for 35 minutes with a 10 minute run/1 minute walk pattern.

Thursday: I met up with Jesica and Beth to ride the Pinellas Trail. We discovered at the area we were riding that it had an intersection literally every 200 yards, so we detoured to the bridges and beaches and had a great time! We rode a little over 25 miles.

Friday was a travel day.

Saturday: I was going to swim and run, but I ended up just running because the hotel pool wasn't conducive to swimming. I ran 4.2 miles in 40 minutes.

Sunday: The gym where my parents live had a spin bike set up in front of a tv with DVDs, so I did "riding through Ireland" and enjoyed the workout more than I thought I would. That was 50 minutes of pretty serious spinning. Then I did a brick run and did 2.16 miles in 20 minutes. 

July 22-July 28
 
This week was my smallest week in a while...

Monday: 1 hour spin class at Thrive in Chattanooga.

Tuesday: Another 1 hour spin class at Thrive.

Wednesday: Rest day because I was visiting family and friends and we did a bunch of stuff.

Thursday: 3.25 miles on the mountain. It may have been a poor decision with the triathlon two days later, but I wanted to give it a try as I grew up here and hadn't ever run the neighborhood before. Here's the elevation:
 

Friday: I swam 500 yards to shake everything out for the following day!

Saturday: I did my first sprint triathlon!! It was a .25 mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. I'll post my race recap tomorrow.

Sunday: After realizing how much running fitness I had lost, I really wanted to get 5 miles in today. I ran 5 miles in 47:27. I was only supposed to go 45 minutes, but I needed to see 5 miles for my own sanity's sake.

Linkup with me and Kat!
How were your workouts this week?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Travel Style (It's all about comfort)

I don't claim to be the epitome of style, but I can throw together a good travel outfit with the best of them. When you're going to be on a plane, walking around an airport, or riding in the car all day, the most important thing is comfort. I've got that one nailed!
I'd gotten the scarf in my June Popsugar Box,  and it paired perfectly with my new favorite cool racerback from lululemon. I threw over a thin, long cotton cardigan in case it was cold on the plane, and I wore TOMS. We were flying into Atlanta, the busiest airport in the world, so I knew there'd be more walking than flat flip flops would do for me. I also love my Target Mossimo fold over pants.
 
I just threw my hair up and didn't think much of it, but I loved how my scarf matched my top. I've never been much of a scarf wearer, but I think this works.  And I think I can use it to justify future scarf purchases, like this one that I want.

What's your favorite outfit to travel in? 

Linking up with Sarah, Shanna, and The Pleated Poppy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One Year.

Sunday was our first wedding anniversary, and to celebrate, we stayed the night at a nice hotel in Atlanta and ate at Aria, an upscale Buckhead restaurant. We found out the hotel had a shuttle service, so we got to pretend we had a driver as we rode the hotel's Escalade to dinner nearby. Aria was off of Piedmont Road in Buckhead, and I had found out about it on Open Table. The menu had a lot to offer, and we had a hard time picking!
 
I had a crab cake appetizer and the waiter suggested we split the watermelon, feta, tomato salad. It was a small portion but it was delicious. The crab cake was perfect dipped in the sauce, and the slaw-like salad was unique and balanced the flavors of the crab cake perfectly. Tim had fried oysters, and we were impressed with the portion size on those. 
 
Our meals were apparently so delicious that I didn't take pictures. I chose right with the sea scallops, and Tim had the beef short ribs. Both were extremely fresh and flavorful. Then for dessert, I got the lemon pound cake with blueberries, and Tim had the cheesecake. We both loved them. Tim particularly loved that the cheesecake wasn't a slice but was instead a mini cheesecake made for one. We enjoyed our coffee and then headed back to the hotel.
At the hotel, we decided we would have a drink at the Bourbon Bar. After sitting there and enjoying ourselves for a while, we decided one drink wasn't enough. It was the perfect way to end the night. We enjoyed people watching and talking about our first year of marriage. The time has flown by!
The next morning we packed up and enjoyed a room service breakfast. Though Tim loves exploring and trying new restaurants whenever we're traveling, I love room service and the ease of sitting in bed and not waiting. It's not something we ever do (we didn't do it on our honeymoon even), but it was a treat for our anniversary. 
Afterwards we headed up to Chattanooga, where we are now, to spend the rest of the week with my parents. It's nice to be able to spend time with family since they live so far away.

I've spent a year married and know I don't know everything. I love Tim so much and have enjoyed every day we've been together for every different reason imaginable. I've loved every second of some days, and we've experienced some less than fun days together too. But in the end, it's our ability to celebrate together and get through more difficult days together that has made our relationship stronger over time. I can't wait to see what the future holds for us! Right now we're talking about getting a dog, and I'm so excited!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Small Town, Big Charm: Newnan

Tim and I flew up to Atlanta on Friday to start a week long trip to visit family and celebrate our anniversary. We planned to spend Friday night with Tim's mom in Newnan, Georgia before moving on to Atlanta to spend the night Saturday for our anniversary. I have always loved big cities, so I didn't really think much of what Newnan would be like, but I was so pleasantly surprised by our dinner on Friday and walking around the cute little downtown area on Saturday that I wanted to share. Small towns have so much charm that cities can't always capture.

Friday night we drove the few minutes into the town to eat pizza and have beer at Fabiano's, which is attached to an old movie theatre turned music venue called The Alamo. Tim's mom and step dad knew the people that worked there, which added a fun touch to the night. I decided on a slice of "California" pizza with artichoke hearts, chicken, feta, and sundried tomatoes, and then I added spinach and mushrooms. It was delicious. I also had a Greek salad with my two Sweetwater Beers. Sweetwater has a brewery tour that I used to go to when I was in college in Atlanta, so it brought back fun memories to have a Sweetwater Blue.
Then on Saturday morning, the plan was to go to the farmer's market back in the same area. It turned out that the market only happens on the first weekend of the month, but we had fun walking around to all of the shops and boutiques around the courthouse square.

There were so many cute stores that carried some of Tim's favorite clothing lines that he can't find in Tampa, and I picked up birthday gifts for my dad and sister as well as a fun coffee mug I had pinned on Pinterest. We stopped by the toffee store, Let them eat Toffee, and were overwhelmed with the choices. We got a bunch of toffee, some chocolate covered bacon, and spiced chile mango. It has all tasted delicious. We also each got a King of Pops pop. I had the key lime pie, which had a graham cracker frozen into it, and Tim had the coconut lemongrass. 
They had four painted horses on the corners of the town square, so I had to find out what they were there for. It turns out the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society had commissioned them to raise money. Sponsors paid for them and then the sponsors got to keep them after they had been on display or they could gift them to the town to continue the display. I loved that element of the town! It added so much to them. It reminded me of other exhibits of similar nature in bigger cities (like the cow parade).

We left Saturday afternoon to head to Atlanta to celebrate our first anniversary. That Friday afternoon/Saturday morning experience in Newnan was so wonderful. It made me think about how we need to spend more time exploring little towns and what they have to offer. What small towns have you been to that you love?

Linking up with Sami!