IRONMAN Wisconsin Trip 2019

In which we road tripped to Madison, Wisc., so I could go race another IRONMAN.

Wednesday, September 4:

As we do, we left early on Wednesday morning.

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Sunrise leaving town.

Our hotel reservations didn’t start in Madison until Thursday, but the first day of race check-in was ALSO Thursday, and I know if I don’t want to wait in a long line, I get there the first day. So we left Wednesday and drove to Dubuque, Iowa (much like I did for my Shinedown trip back in May).

Mostly, a long boring day in the car. Thanks, head winds. But I didn’t get lost this time! We also stopped at the same Chick-fil-a in Dubuque I did back in May to get a whole bunch of chicken sandwiches with extra pickles for bike food on Sunday (go read the tri blog linked above for more on that).

Food Eaten: Breakfast: egg and oj, Starbucks, Chick-fil-a (mmm chicken egg and cheese on a biscuit). Lunch: KFC/Subway. Dinner: salad at Hy-Vee, Culver’s.

Thursday, September 5:

First things first, I realized I was missing an IM road trip tradition, so I took care of that.

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Then, it was on to Madison … with first a stop in Verona to get a cappuccino at n+1 Coffee and Beer (inside Rocket Bicycle Studio) because I really liked it last time I was in town.

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Plus we got to talk to one of the owners, Jessica, who gave B a whole bunch of good tips for coming down and spectating on Sunday, as the bike course goes by their shop twice. After coffee, we stopped at the cute little grocery store in town for a doughnut (as I remembered them being good) and a few other things (bottled water for my water bottles, apples for some fiber (mostly for B), mini Dr. Peppers for special needs) before heading off to Madison.

Our hotel room was ready when we got there (stayed at the Hilton Monona Terrace), so we got checked in, unloaded the car, and then I headed literally across the hotel sky way to the Monona Terrace Convention Center to go get checked in for my race.

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This is on the tiles outside.

After I got all checked in, I was starving, so we quick dumped off my IM crap upstairs and then headed to the Great Dane for lunch. We ate at a couple Madison “must-dos” on this trip, and the Dane was one of them.

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Overall, it wasn’t bad. We split the massive pretzel as an appetizer (B was doing his best to shove a lot of food in my face this week). I had a different type of fish sandwich (salmon) and B had a Nashville hot chicken sandwich and onion soup.

We went for a ride with a friend that afternoon and then for dinner, we decided to do another “when in Rome” and go eat at State Street Brats.

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There are fiberglass Bucky Badgers all over town. I tried to emulate him here.

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Hockey Bucky!

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We ended up doing a mini tour of cheese curds on this trip, and State Street Brats was the first place we tried. Weren’t bad. Brat was okay, too. We sort of found a part of an empty table to stand at because apparently the Green Bay Packers were playing that night and it was packed. Also packed with college kids. I’m telling you, at 36 I don’t feel old in general … unless you throw me in a bar on a college campus filled with undergrads. Then HOLY SWEET JEEBUS do I feel ancient.

Afterward, we tried a local ice cream shop that B’s ex (who is from Wisconsin) recommended in the Chocolate Shoppe.

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I had the Latte-Da. It was tasty.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, n+1, random donut. Lunch: Great Dane Brewing and Pub. Dinner: State Street Brats, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream.

Friday, September 6:

Friday morning was taken mostly up with a practice swim, as I wanted to get in Lake Monona at least once pre-race. I also went to an athlete briefing, as, well, I was in town for a race and that was something I needed to do. I was also super happy I had checked in the day prior as the lines for that? So long.

I was planning on doing the Undie Run … but lost confidence, so B and I just did a short mile shakeout run to lunch. Lunch was sushi at Sushi Express on the UW campus as we always like eating sushi a day or two before a race. Plus it is (or at least can be) a lot lighter of a meal which was definitely needed.

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Mmmm, fish.

After lunch, a shower and then mostly chilling out starting to get my bags prepped for the next day.

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But also a picture of Lake Monona and the top of the convention center from the room we ate breakfast in every morning. I swam there.

For dinner, we met up with B’s cousin Nicole, who lives in Madison. Our first thought was the Old Fashioned … but they had like a 90 minute wait and I didn’t want to eat dinner at 8p. So, we wandered off to another place and tried the Tipsy Cow. I didn’t take pictures, but they weren’t bad. Tipsy Cow ended up being stop two on the cheese curd tour, and theirs were better than State Street’s. I ended up having some chicken caprese sandwich thingy that was actually really pretty good (if a bit heavy on the balsamic). I think B ended up doing fish fry (fish and chips) and I can’t remember what Nicole had.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks. Lunch: Sushi Express. Dinner: Tipsy Cow.

Saturday, September 7:

The main activity this day was the Madison Farmer’s Market, which takes place around the entire square.

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Some of the gorgeous flowers on display.

We ended up getting a few things. Brandon got some apples, I bought a cucumber to just eat, and we got a large bag of 5 dozen ears of corn so I could attempt to make tamales when I got home. (Which I did. It was a disaster. Hilarious, but a disaster.) We also got a pumpkin cream cheese muffin from a vendor for my morning pastry as I wanted to get coffee from a local place that morning … which I did, in Colectivo Coffee.

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After that, back to the hotel so I could prep all of my gear bags and B could head down to his volunteer shift checking in athlete bikes.

I packed up my gear bags and took them and my bike down to get racked and placed for the next day. I ended up seeing a few friends at bike check-in, as I ended up hanging out for the rest of B’s shift. We saw our friend Loberg from out here in Colorado (and I took a picture to send to my friend Katie, who’s her coach) and then chatted with an old SMASH teammate, Taryn, post-check-in shift.

After talking with Taryn, we were both fairly ravenous, so we went off to lunch to go try the Old Fashioned again.

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Lunch was still crowded, but we were able to find an immediate seat at the bar as opposed to waiting 20-30 minutes, so that was nice.

The cheese curd tour continued (and ended), and I think they had the best of the three we tried (with points taken off as they might have been the greasiest, too).

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(I will honestly say though, I think my favorite curds are still the ones we get at the Minnesota State Fair.)

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I got this delicious heirloom tomato BLT. I have no idea what B ate.

After lunch, it was time for me to stay off my feet until dinner, so that’s what I did.

Dinner was at the Bassett Street Brunch Club, as I needed to do my usual breakfast-for-dinner. We were joined by more of B’s family – Nicole, and then his cousin Peter and his partner Emilio who drove up from Chicago.

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Inside.

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When a place makes their own doughnuts … you kinda have to get one.

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B’s chicken and doughnut (with Nicole’s savory french toast waaaaay in the background).

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My standard ol’ breakfast. Not the best I’ve had, but it did the trick.

Emilio (Thai peanut noodle something) and Peter (steak frites) did normal people food.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks, Colectivo Coffee, random farmer’s market stall. Lunch: Old Fashioned. Dinner: Bassett Street Brunch Club.

Sunday, September 8:

Race day for me! Pretty much spent all day on the race course. Again, go to the tri blog if you’re curious.

B did a great job cheering and supporting … but I have no idea what he ate all day, so the food below is just me.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel. Lunch: food on the bike. Dinner: food on the run, post-race.

Monday, September 9:

I actually slept well post-race, which doesn’t always happen for me. B actually had to poke me awake so I could go downstairs to the convention center and buy my finisher’s jacket.

Breakfast was after that, and then it was all about packing up the car to leave. And meeting my friend Jen who lives in the Springs to get the five cases of salsa she bought at the farmer’s market to transport home for her.

The rest of the day was mostly spent en route to Minnesota, as we decided to visit B’s parents since we were basically in the neighborhood.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: hotel, Starbucks. Lunch: the Ground Round. Dinner: Green Mill. Snacks: Dairy Queen (my throat hurt from so much breathing during the race; needed something to make it feel better), apps at the in-laws.

Tuesday, September 10:

We woke up super early to leave B’s parents as he wanted to try to make it back in time for bowling that night. Sooooo … that’s what we did, not even stopping for breakfast until … Owatonna, I think. Then, just a long day of pushing through with quick stops.

But we made it back for bowling.

Food Eaten: Breakfast: Starbucks. Lunch: Taco Bell (along with random car snacks. lunch kinda wasn’t really a thing). Dinner: whatever B ate at the bowling alley, whatever I scrounged up in the kitchen.

On Tea at the Brown Palace Hotel

Although I really haven’t blogged about it much, we’re still doing our monthly date nights. Not all of them have been super exciting (a lot of times it’s just dinner … and even if it’s a new place I haven’t always wanted to write about it). However, this month we decided to really change it up and do tea at the Brown Palace Hotel.

The Brown is one of the oldest hotels in Denver (if not the oldest), built in 1892. They also do a high tea during the afternoons from 12-4. I’ve done it a few times, but the last time was over a decade ago for a friend’s birthday.

I’ve talked about it, and B wanted to do it … but it was hard for us to commit to as you typically have to make your reservation for tea months out and with his schedule, that isn’t easy. However, once he got his March schedule, we chatted about it, and they had spots open. So, we went yesterday.

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We just did the signature tea, as neither of us wanted alcohol. You get to choose your type of tea; I chose a black while B chose a green. Unfortunately, I can’t recall which flavors we got and the menu online doesn’t match yesterday’s. Both, however, were delicious.

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The treat tower.

Bottom level: scones. We had a buttermilk and a coconut and we loved both of them. The Brown imports their Devonshire cream from England and it is very tasty.

Middle level: sandwiches. Your typical cucumber sandwich (yum), a chicken salad on rye (okay), and a curry egg salad (not bad, but you definitely taste the curry).

Top level: desserts. A mini almond madeleine (tasty), some mint petit four (gross), a chocolate thing (highly disappointing), and some raspberry pastry that was surprisingly good – reminded me of a tarter Starbucks Raspberry Swirl Loaf.

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B is excited.

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You can get extra sandwiches, so we just got more of the cucumber ones.

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A close up of the raspberry dessert. It was pretty.

Tea at the Brown is definitely a fun experience, albeit a pricey one. I wouldn’t recommend it as something to do super frequently, but it is worth doing.

T and B Do Italy: The Food

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the final of those posts.

So much food eaten in so many days … might be easier on all of us if I do this in a modified list form …

Tuesday, April 10:

Breakfast: egg and oj at the house, oatmeal at the DIA Delta Sky Club.
Lunch: Shake Shack at JFK, veggies in the Delta Sky Club there.
Dinner: Delta One pod life, baby.

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Appetizers. “Grilled apricots with whipped ricotta, truffle honey and crispy prosciutto;” “Baby iceberg wedge salad with chives and cherry tomatoes served with creamy dill dressing” Also had the opportunity for a tomato bisque (which B ate and liked), but I didn’t take it. Not usually the biggest fan of wedge salads, but this one wasn’t bad. The apricots (not something I would normally eat, but hey, adventure) were surprisingly good … but probably would have been better warm.

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Dinner. “Cacio e Pepe ravioli – parmesan fondue, asparagus tips and blistered tomatoes” Actually was interested in the salmon option, but got the ravioli. Which I think I’m ultimately okay with (plane fish? could be sketchy …) … mostly because it was delicious.

Dessert: continued pod life.

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Lemon Tart. B did not get one. I think one of the (good) flight attendants saved it for me due to something that happened before we even took off that I would prefer not getting into on here, but had me crying for a good hour or so. I am thankful for this, because it was AWESOME.

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Best part of international first/business class is the make-your-own-sundaes. Mmm.

Wednesday, April 11:

Breakfast: more pod life.

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“Potato and gruyere frittata with tomato hollandaise and asparagus” It was this or some homemade granola cereal with yogurt, which I didn’t want to take my chances with. I know I wouldn’t have been happy with that … but I wasn’t particularly happy with this, either. Blargh. The croissant was tasty though …

Dinner: Panino Gusto

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We kind of slept through lunch, so dinner was just a place we found out walking – a fancy Italian sandwich shop. Apparently it’s a chain around Milan, but it was really tasty. We also had our first of many trip cappuccinos there.

Thursday, April 12:

Breakfast: free at our hotel. Great spread, though – eggs, meats, cheeses, assorted pastries, yogurts, fruit, several fruit juices …
Snack: croissant and cappuccino at Marchesi in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuale II.

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Lunch: a massive slice of pizza we split from somewhere near the Navigili canals.
Dinner: savory crepe from some restaurant we found – cheese and ham and mushrooms and it was pretty terrible but it was food. Also fries from Amsterdam Chips because we needed something better for our taste buds.
Dessert: gelato from some cart near the Duomo.

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He got cherry, I got coffee (caffe). Like cappuccinos, gelato is so much better in Europe.

Friday, April 13:

Breakfast: hotel, once again.
Snack: cappuccino and croissant at Pan Brioche in Milano Centrale. Partially to waste time, partially because mmm, cappuccino.

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Lunch: Impronta Cafe, Venice, Dorsoduro district.

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This place was highly rated in “best places to eat in Venice” – B found it. Maybe if we had eaten something other than just sandwiches … B was meh on his. Mine was actually tasty after I peeled off all the olives. Ugh, olives.

Snack: gelato from some tiny shop near some church somewhere in Venice. Could not recreate where. But I got more caffe gelato and it was good.
Dinner: a prix fixe menu at Bacaro Jazz. Wanted to keep it a touch cheaper and their menu looked okay. Food … was there.

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Their version of a mussels au gratin. Not the greatest I will say. I forget what B did as his first course … lasagna, maybe?

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Main course of chicken milanese. This was good. I was happy with this.

Saturday, April 14:

Breakfast: well, our first “snack” was a pastry and a cappuccino at a small cafe near our hotel after some sunrise wanderings, but breakfast was actually just at our hotel. Less “Americanized” than in Milan, it was pastries, cold meats and cheeses, yogurt, and, thankfully for my protein-needing belly, hard-boiled eggs.
Snack: random stuff on our train ride, plus I saw donuts (donut cioccolato) in the train station. Had to buy one.

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Looks normal …

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… but oh wait, it’s not. It was … weird. Edible, but weird.

Lunch: a sandwich we bought at the same place we bought the donut that we split once getting into our hotel room in Florence. Also some gelato, because, duh. Went to a place called Perche Non (literally, why not). Had good reviews, upped it to two flavors – cioccolato along with my caffe. The chocolate was SO RICH OMG and it overpowered the coffee to the point that the coffee was almost flavorless. Don’t know if I would actually recommend them.
Dinner: the first of three eventual trips to Gusta Pizza (Gustapizza? might be one word …)

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Pizza margherita. I wish I could be eating this right now …

Sunday, April 15:

Breakfast: hotel. Not as wide of a variety as in Milan, but probably ultimately overall tastier. Scrambled eggs, strange bacon, pancakes (that I didn’t try), various pastries, meats and cheeses, yogurts …

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… and cappuccinos that I got designs in every morning. So tasty.

We also got a cappuccino while out wandering at the Corona Cafe, but I don’t want to consider a cup of coffee a “snack,” so I’ll just mention it here.

Lunch: random paninis we picked up at some cafe wandering around that we ate outside the Duomo.
Dinner/Dessert: a full three (well, four with dessert) course meal at La Sosta de’Golosi, a restaurant right down the street from the Duomo area. Super nice staff and really delicious food.

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Course one, that we split – prosciutto-wrapped melon. So tasty.

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Course two – mushroom papparadelle. I was quite happy with this, while B was happy with his … spaghetti bolognese I think …

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Course three – chicken parm for me, beef entrecote for B, and fries to split. I’m not sure how authentically Italian chicken parm is necessarily … but it was some of the best I’ve ever had.

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Course four – dessert. I got gelato affogatto (essentially ice cream and espresso) while B got some cake that the mom of one of our servers made and brought in. It was good but way too sweet; I’m glad we each got what we did.

Monday, April 16:

Breakfast: hotel noms.
Lunch: sandwiches at some tiny cafe right near the Leaning Tower in Pisa.

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The chicken, on the left, was really good. The ham and cheese, on the right, got a bit much.

“Snack”: quotations because it was cappuccino at Corona Cafe again.
Dinner: Il Bottegone, in the Duomo square. Mondays mean a lot of stuff closed in Florence, but if you want to eat, you can always count on the touristy areas. Even if it means you’ll pay a bit more.

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My turn for the beef entrecote. Pretty good. I do regret not trying actual Florentine bistecca, but, cost. We also split more prosciutto melon which was predictably delicious.

Dessert: gelato at Ristorante d’Orologio.

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This caffe gelato may have been quite tasty, but it was also SO EXPENSIVE. Our two gelato cones were damn near 14 euro, which is INSANE. Not worth it. AT ALL.

Tuesday, April 17:

Breakfast: hotel, as per usual.
Lunch: sandwich pizza from some cafe. No, really, that’s the best way I can describe it:

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While it looks weird (and was quite greasy), it was actually really good.

“Snack”: apparently we’re on an afternoon cappuccino kick, and this day’s infusion was provided by Caffe Mario near S. Croce church.
Dinner: more delicious Gusta pizza.

Wednesday, April 18:

Breakfast: hotel, because of course.
Lunch: at Il Borghetto, on the other side of the river. Cross the Ponte Vecchio and head up toward the Palazzo Pitti and you’ll find it.

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A touch dry, but otherwise not bad.

Snack: one final scoop of caffe gelato from Festival de Gelato. Maybe not as good as Ristorante d’Orologio, but definitely a lot f’ing cheaper.
Dinner: one final visit to Gusta. I miss you, delicious pizza.

Thursday, April 19:

Breakfast: one final hotel breakfast.

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Pictured: cheese danish thingies I ate at least two of every morning, B’s duck cappuccino, my name cappuccino. Not pictured: the pile of eggs I ate every morning.

Lunch: random sandwiches we bought from some place in the Florence train station that we ate on our train back to Milan.
Dinner: so there wasn’t much by our Holiday Inn Express, but the Crowne Plaza down the road had a restaurant, La Brughiera, so we ate there.

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Gnocchi that we split for a first course. This was to die for.

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Oh hey, more entrecote! With really terrible roasted potatoes.

Friday, April 20:

Breakfast: a hard-boiled egg that I grabbed from our hotel in the five minute window we had between breakfast opening and our hotel van as well as cappuccinos, mediocre sandwiches, and pastries from InAmore cafe across from our gate in MXP almost four hours later.

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We may have had two cappuccinos each … knowing that we’d miss them terribly when we got home. Which is 100% accurate.

Lunch: some chicken and risotto something or other we got back in coach on the airplane. That wasn’t actually all that bad, really.
Snack(s): Magnum bar on the flight, some turkey and cheese croissant thingy on the flight, a metric crapton of cucumber in the Delta Sky Club in JFK … Pringles on the flight home …

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Back of the bus plane snacks. Not quite as pretty as up front … but tbh I would have rather had this for breakfast as opposed to that frittata on the way out …

Dinner: Chick-fil-a of shame on the way home. Too tired to do/think of anything else, and only picked it up because we knew we needed to eat SOMETHING.