Monday, September 14, 2009


Yesterday started SUPER early for me (5:45am to be exact). After I finally got my butt moving, I checked the weather and was excited to see it was in the low 60s - perfect running weather if you ask me! Threw on my fall running gear (my favorite Under Armour capri tights, Chicago t-shirt and a light pullover) and we were out the door by 6am.

These are my faaaavorite bottoms to run in once it starts to get cool out!

What was all this for you ask? The Parks Half Marathon, of course! I hadn't quite figured out my plan of attack by the time we left (take it easy or race it) so I figured I would play it by ear - especially since I had that week off and I knew the course was rolling hills.

Got to the start around 6:45 and immediately took note of how small this race was compared to every other race I've run. It capped out at 2,300 participants so I anticipated a very low key and roomy race. Wrong-o! It was definitely low key...but roomy, it was not.

Although the race starts out on a major road, the majority of the race is on a thin and somewhat windy trail throughout a couple of Montgomery County's parks. When I say thin, I mean you can't fit more than 3 people abreast at all times and there's tons of congestion! Check out some of the course (yes, I did a lot of Googling).

See how narrow that is??

Definitely a gorgeous and relaxing trail to run.

There were a few pretty significant hills early on and a few more scattered throughout the course. Thankfully we got the massive ones over with early! I chugged on through the first few and decided I wasn't going to aim for a PR or even aim for my current PR (2:05). My plan, which I finally figured out around mile 4, was to maintain a steady 9:30/9:45 pace. It was comfortable and I welcomed a slightly faster long run.

I'd say Parks was a pretty challenging race for a few reasons, both physical and mental:
  1. Since this course runs through parkland/trails, there is very little crowd support going on. It's you, other runners, the volunteers and the wildlife. That's it. Don't get me wrong. The volunteers were awesome, but one person clapping and cheering in the middle of the woods is SOOO different than say, running Chicago.
  2. Hills. Lots of hills.
  3. Sort of varied terrain - paved, mud/puddles (since it rained all week, there were still some large puddles to dodge and slippery mud as you tried to pass people), and crushed gravel. We know how I feel about crushed gravel. I think it's time to retire the Inspires for anything more than 5 miles. Boo.
Oh, and you run through a tunnel before you get to the finish. See?
I ended up finishing in 2:07, which is just shy of my current PR. I was actually a little shocked at how comfortable I felt during and after the race...especially since there were so many hills and my PR was on a pretty flat course. Just you wait, National Half Marathon - I'm going to kick ass in 2010 ;)

The finish festival for this race was pretty freaking awesome. They had bananas, oranges, watermelon...the usual finisher food items, PLUS 6 foot (I guess?) subs, pizza and ziti...and I think I saw some fried eggs in there somewhere. Crazy goodies! I went with a few bites of sub before I decided I wasn't into it. I then parked myself in front of a watermelon box and proceeded to eat my weight in watermelon before metroing home. :) :)

Since watermelon can only fill my belly for so long, I started making my Turkey Chili early yesterday afternoon (if you remember my fun glass o wine). I found this recipe for turkey chili on Epicurious a couple years ago and have made it a bunch of times, making a few changes here and there as I grow comfortable with the recipe. Here's my latest and greatest:

Turkey Chili
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 lbs lean ground turkey
3 links chorizo sausage, casings removed
1/4 c chili powder
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 (14.5-ounce) can whole tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
2 c chicken stock
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 c frozen corn
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
1 15-ounce can light red kidney beans beans, rinsed, drained
Chopped fresh cilantro
Cheddar cheese

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Add turkey and sausage; stir until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon. Stir in chili powder, chipotle pepper, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon. Add bay leaves and mix in stock and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans to chili and simmer about 20 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat before continuing.)

This time around, I skipped the onion breath and only topped the chili with some avocado, cilantro and reduced fat cheddar. Since I still have some corn tortillas in the fridge (I think I hate corn tortillas again), I sprinkled some mexican cheese blend with Adobo seasoning on top, popped them in the toaster until they were crisp and quartered them.

I'll save tonight's dinner for tomorrow's post. I fear I've written WAAAAY too much for one night ;)

My chili is a little on the watery side. Do you prefer a super thick chili or one that's a little soupier?


Rosey Rebecca said...

I made turkey chili the other night! It was amazing!! I like chunky chili! Great job on the race!

I like eating my weight in watermelon!

copper boom said...

Hey awesome job! It was a tough one especially with the mud and you are right about the space to run. I thought I was going to hit people along the way! I ate my weight in oranges at the end :) I wish we could have seen each other, hopefully soon!


Melissa said...

CONGRATS on the race and your very impressive time!! That chili looks fabulous.. I'm going to have to try that one on the fam!

Tra said...

i'm going to go with chunky thick chili. =D

Morgan said...

Congrats on a race well run girl! I gotta check those pants too!

Karena said...

Thanks :)

Btw, how do you make chili thicker?? Like not necessarily chunky, but you know...thick? I usually like my chili fairly thick but can't make it to save my life! agh!

Also, BEST. CAPRIS. EVER. They're the Under Armour Agility Capri Tight. I have two pairs and since my legs are so short, I end up wearing them in the winter too (regular running tights are always too too long). I highly recommend them!

Olga said...

It's definitely a season for chili!
I like the addition of chorizo to otherwise mild turkey chili!

I am planning on making a chicken and white bean chili tonight (cornbread is already done)

Jen (Running With Cake) said...

I think thick chili is the way to go. It's easier to eat with a tortilla chip too!