Friday, May 24, 2013

Restaurant Review - Maggiano's Little Italy

We don't eat out much in our family, mostly because it can be too complicated to find somewhere that I can eat at that everyone else is happy to go to. I'm perfectly fine eating the same thing all the time, so having limited options doesn't really bother me much, but the rest of my family prefers to go somewhere other than Chipotle occasionally =) Last night was my mom's birthday, and she really like Maggiano's. It's an Italian restaurant that is known for being really good with food allergies so we decided to give it a try.

It was great!!! I would highly recommend Maggiano's for anyone with food allergies; they were very attentive and incredibly accommodating. When I made the reservations, I was able to give them a heads up that I had multiple food allergies. While I was still on the phone, the hostess found a chef and let me talk with him about what options I would have and how they could work around all my issues. Since I can't have wheat, dairy, or fructose I'm pretty limited in terms of Italian cuisine =P Because of the fructose malabsorption, I cannot have onions (tried about a week ago and failed miserably) or and concentrated forms of tomato (i.e. tomato paste or sauces, fresh tomatoes are ok). I wasn't sure what I would be able to eat, especially after he said their tomato based sauces all have onions in them, but he sounded very knowledgeable and confident that they would be able to accommodate me so we gave them a try.

When we got there, I let our server know about my food allergies. He wrote down what I told him then went and brought a chef out to speak with me. Instead of listing off a limited gluten free menu, the chef asked what I wanted which was cool! I told him I heard they had corn pasta and I would like to try that. He said that their tomato based sauces all have onions in the base, but he could make an oil based sauce with fresh tomatoes and other vegetables. I'm not a huge fan of oil sauces (the fat is hard for me to digest) but I asked him to just go light on the oil and decided to try it.

If I had any complaint it was that my dish came out with the rest of my family's appetizers. So I ended up sitting around for most of the main course and dessert because I didn't want it to get cold. BUT it's a minor complaint because everything else was so positive. The past was good. Gluten free pasta can be hard to cook well, but they did a good job! I ended up having their GF corn pasta in a light oil sauce with sauteed spinach, fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini. I'm happy to say that it tasted good, and it didn't make me sick!! Woohoo!!

AND Maggiano's has a deal with certain pasta dishes that if you order one, you get a second full order to take home. Our server (who was fantastic) entered my pasta on our bill in a way that let me take home another full sized order of my pasta! They didn't even charge extra for gluten free! So I got 2 full sized orders for the price of a normal pasta dish. The portions are so large, that I only ate about half of my order last night, so I was able to take home a lot of food =)

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I highly recommend Maggiano's for anyone with food allergies =) Even if you have different allergies than I do, the servers and chefs were very knowledgeable about their dishes and the ingredients as well as cross contamination issues. I had a great experience, and now have another restaurant to add to my list of safe places to eat if my parents and brother aren't up for another round of Chipotle!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Race Report #2: Ladies Choice Tri

One week after the Pittsburgh Half, my mom and I did a mini triathlon with a friend and her mom. We signed up for this race on a whim, but it turned out to be a really good chance to try (tri?? =P) things out with our new road bikes and clip-less pedals.

This was my first triathlon in 3ish years, so it was perfect for me to get back into the triathlon mentality again. It was a super sprint: 400 yd swim, 8 mile bike, and 2 mile run. I was seriously undertrained for this race, but went in with the attitude that I was just going to have fun, and it was a BLAST!!! I had so much fun I can't wait to do another.

I did the 400 yds in 8:15. I was happy with that because I had swam once in the past 2 months. My swim that I timed to see where I was at was a bit faster, but my pool I trained in was a bit smaller, and I was doing flip turns. This race only allowed open turns and you had to touch the wall at the beginning AND end of each lane. This definitely slowed me down, but like I said, I was very happy with my time.

Transitions were included in the bike and run times, so there was no official T1 or T2. But they were definitely there =) and one way I'll be able to get faster (hopefully) next time. I had brought my favorite running socks, but didn't think about the fact that they had compression in them...not the best idea for wet feet...I definitely lost some time trying to get my socks on during T1. Other than that, I had no complaints about T1. I made it out and mounted my bike with no issues (yay!) and was off on the bike!

I was most nervous about the bike going in to this race. I had been out on my bike with the new pedals a total of *1* time before the race...and that had been the day before...haha, not quite the best way to train for a race, but oh well =) I had been biking on my trainer so I was comfortable on my bike but just wasn't sure how I was going to manage the pedals. Turned out all my worrying was wasted because I had no issues. If anything, it was even better than I could have planned! The course was tricky because there were a lot of tight turns, and it was SUPER windy (read ~20mph). But I felt strong and was passing a lot of people during the bike which was fun =) I did the bike in 30:31 which ended up being 1 second faster than my mom =P

T2 (or lack there of) was pretty smooth. I made it in to transition easily without crashing (always a plus!) and switched my shoes quickly and was off. I even remembered to take my helmet off!

I felt a bit rough at the beginning of the run, but I was expecting that. I was able to settle in to a good pace about a half mile into the course. I had forgotten to turn my watch on at the beginning of the race, so I had no idea what pace I was running....I think I may do that more often! I felt super strong and was just running by feel. I was able to push myself without having the pressure of wanting to hit a specific pace. It turned out really well, too! I ran a 14:15 for the 2 miles, so averaged a 7:08 pace without pushing much at all.

I ended up finishing 6th overall (out of 135ish) and 2nd in my age group. I was 28th in the swim and the bike, and 1st in the run!! Not bad for my first triathlon in years...and even better, I had a blast! It was so much fun, I can't wait to do another.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Race Report - Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Going off food/diet for a bit and writing about a few races I've done recently!

I ran a disastrous race back in March just before we started figuring things out with my stomach problems. I didn't train for it because I had been feeling so sick and couldn't eat. The evening before the race I started feeling worse than usual, so I went in feeling bad. Let's just say it didn't end well...yet another trip to the medical tent at the end of a race...

BUT I am happy to say Pittsburgh went much, MUCH better! Even though my mileage going in wasn't much better than before Reston, I had been feeling a lot better in the weeks leading up to the race - translation: I was able to eat without pain!! Who knew that eating makes a big difference?!?! =P

I met my parents in Pittsburgh Friday night and we spent the evening and all day Saturday walking around the downtown area of the city. I had never been to Pittsburgh before so it was a lot of fun to see at least the part of the city between our hotel and the expo. My mom has been wanting to run this race for a while because she loves Pittsburgh, and now I can see why. Our hotel was right at the edge of a park where the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela (no I can't pronounce that...) Rivers all come together. It was also right at the finish line - BONUS!!

Sunday morning was sunny and gorgeous. As always I stressed about what to was 50, clear, with little to no wind. I ended up wearing shorts with compression sleeves and a long sleeve shirt. It was perfect. I was cold at the start (who isn't) but warmed up within a few miles and never felt like I wore too many layers.

I was running this race with my mom and we were planning to take it easy, walk the water stops, and not worry about our time. She had been having a lot of knee problems, and I had been having all my stomach issues, so neither of us were as prepared as we would have liked.

The first couple miles were great! It was very crowded because the marathon, half, and relay all started together, but we settled into a comfortable pace. We stopped for a quick bathroom break around Mile 2ish, but otherwise we were running easy. I don't remember all the details of the course, but I do remember really liking it. We ran over 5 bridges and crossed all 3 rivers which was fun and very scenic. There were a few slight (very slight) inclines as we went over the bridges, but no large hills in the first part of the course.

Whenever we mentioned we were training for Pittsburgh, everyone always warned us about the hills, so throughout the whole course we were anxiously waiting for Mile 11 and the supposed "killer hill." Right before the hill we crossed the last of the bridges. As we were running across we could see people running at the top of a cliff, so I figured it was close. After the bridge we turned a corner and began running up. It was definitely a hill and we KNEW we were running up it, but after the horror stories we had been told, it wasn't anything worse than hills we trained on. It was about a mile long, but as soon as we reached the top, it was all downhill to the finish, literally!

Overall, Pittsburgh was a fun race! The expo was pretty good - LOTS of vendors, but not as many great deals as you can get at some races. The course was fun and scenic. I didn't like how crowded it felt the whole time, but I also didn't feel like it affected my running at all, so I guess this really wasn't that bad. The best part: NO MEDICAL!!! My mom and I finished and walked around for a bit to keep from cramping up, then headed back to our hotel to shower and wait for my dad. He finished in a decent time considering his training, too. We all enjoyed the race and had a good time hanging out and bonding as a family! =P Successful weekend!

Completely unrelated to the race, but still a major high point of the weekend - on our way out of the city after the race we stopped at a restaurant a little ways outside of downtown called Mandy's Pizza. They had numerous gluten free/dairy free options and it was fantastic!!! I would almost run Pittsburgh again just to be able to go eat there...