Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Holiday weekends were made for some sweet training!

This past week I PR'ed on bike miles. Looking back at my training log, I have consistently put in more bike miles over the last month than I did at any point last year. I guess that it what I get for hyperextending my knee. Swimmer problems. But I am not complaining. I had a great holiday weekend. 

James and I headed up to Lake Norman for the Start2Finish 2 mile open water swim. Both of us were contemplating swimming the 800m option as a warm up but once we got there we decided it was a bad idea. The water temperature was recorded at 69 degrees and the air temperature was about 15 degrees cooler. The idea one could "warm up" was laughable. In fact it never even occurred to me to bring a wetsuit to the swim. The swim was not sanctioned by any governing body so I could swim in whatever I wanted. I guess my priorities were a little off because instead of packing something sensible like a wetsuit I packed several different swim suits because I could not decide what color I wanted to wear. Priorities. 

The swim itself was rather uneventful. When the starting horn sounded we all took off. I was a little surprised by the initial aggression of the swimmers given this swim was not technically a race but I tried to stay calm allowing my body to warm up a bit before increasing my speed.  I was settled into my warm up when I took a breath and found James starring at me right in the eye. I put my head down and took another breath. Aack! There it is again. So freakin' creepy.

The Eye of Haycraft
Needless to say I started breathing exclusively to the left until I was out of the Eye's range. Breathing just to the left, I noticed several people had swung out wide approaching the turn buoy. One by one I was able to close the gap by keeping a straight line so that by the time I hit the first turn only two people were ahead of me, one 1-miler and one 2-miler. This pattern maintained until we approached the end of the first loop. Coming into the third turn, my timing chip started to come off and after 3 attempts to re-secure it to my ankle I finally took it off and stuffed it down the front of my suit. Heading back out for another round on the course I tried to close the gap between me and the other 2-mile swimmer. It had grown a bit thanks to the chip debacle but I slowly chipped away at it. It ended up taking me the entire mile to come within reach of the swimmer and I ultimately exited the swim with about a 10 sec gap. It was a well executed swim and despite the fact the swimmer was wetsuit-clad I was still impressed. Through introductions I learned this formidable swimmer to be Amy Krakauer, the assistant swim coach at Davidson College and accomplished ironman athlete. Pretty cool. My final time in the 2-mile event was 45:37 with an average pace of 1:25 per 100m. I really need to be in the 1:20 pace range but I will take the 1:25 for a cold non-race morning. 

After the swim I grabbed some breakfast and a quick nap before heading out for a 50+ mile spin through the outskirts of Charlotte. It had turned into a beautiful day and I was simply happy to be out enjoying it. When I got home I let the cats out to enjoy some sunshine while I brewed up some summer-inspired kombucha. 

Nectarine, Honey Ginger, and Strawberry
Saturday of course was just a little pre-game action for the weekend's main event. I met up with 9 other local triathletes just west of Morganton, NC. We spent the rest of the day knocking out 108 miles and tackling 11,000 ft of climbing. The route begins at a church just west of Morganton and at the bottom of 181 so we didn't have long to acclimate before we were slapped with the longest climb of the day. Luckily the grade wasn't too bad and we just had to grind it out. We snaked through the Pisgah National forest towards the entrance of Grandfather Mountain before hitting the second big climb of the day on Hickory Nut Gap. Of course these two climbs were just the appetizer to what I consider the ne plus ultra of the route, Beech Mountain. Two years ago I climbed Beech with Johnny Scoots. At the time the climb came at the end of a 110 mile ride. The temperature had suddenly dropped and when we reached the top it started to pour. It was so horribly awesome I decided to make an annual trip to memorialize the epicness of that first climb. 

Third annual assault on Beech Mountain
Once again Beech succeeded in testing my physical and mental capabilities.  The attempt on Beech was ultimately made by 6 riders, who all tackled the mountain like it was just another hill on the airport loop. I was humbled and impressed. About 0.5 miles into the climb I thought about turning around.  How often do you reflect on just how easy it is to opt out and turn the bike around? It is sooooooo easy. But you know what hurts more than any climb? The knowledge you quit willingly. Unfortunately you do not learn that until after you have already quit but I digress . . . After the climb we continued north towards Valle Crucis and Blowing Rock. We rode the Blueridge Parkway and along the Linn Cove Viaduct before making our way back towards the long decent on 181. Just another gorgeous day in the NC mountains with a handful of Charlotte's best triathletes. NBD. 

Linn Cove Viaduct

Mountain Loop Elevation Profile
I wanted to sleep in Monday. The idea sounds soooooo nice. Laying in bed, coffee, breakfast, a kitty or 3 . . . perfection. Of course I knew that would not happen since my body no longer remembers how to stay asleep so felt very content to wake up alarmless at the reasonable hour of 6 AM.  I met with the usual suspects at the MCAC where someone somewhere came up with the idea for the following little swim set:
10x 25 all out freestyle with 10-25 push ups after each 25 on :55 
It was fun, hard, and ridiculously pathetic on my part. Each round I was able to make 3 push ups before it started to burn. The rest interval got shorter and shorter with each repeat but I made all rounds (even the last round I did not think we had to do). We filled the rest of our workout with the normal swimming stuff but push ups are a gift that keeps on giving. Even today. As I type this. With each little lift of my finger/hand/arm. No bueno. 

The usual suspects or blueseventy models?

My holiday weekend came to a close with a little jog around the neighborhood and a chance to relax a bit at a cook out hosted by the ever generous Caamano Clan. I am very thankful to have the opportunity to train in this amazing place and with so many talented and wonderful athletes. 

Man is a special being, and if left to himself, in an isolated condition, would be one of the weakest creatures; but associated with his kind, he works wonders. 

Daniel Webster 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Favorites: Fruit

So I have been working with Tara Martine from Whole Impact Nutrition. Check out her website and more importantly check out yours truly featured on the Sports Nutrition tab with this guy. The bottom line is I have been trying to improve my diet. There are many reasons for this but the #1 reason is so that I can fuel my body appropriately for my work day and all my workouts with an emphasis on nutrient timing so that I do not find myself overwhelmed with hunger. When I become overwhelmed I make poor food choices (example may or may not include eating a large quantity of chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels before and then again after dinner). After analyzing my diet, Tara suggested I incorporate more fruit in my diet. This is something I have been trying to do for quite some time but it just seemed so hard. When I vocalized this Tara suggested I aim to eat 5 pieces of fruit a day. I felt overwhelmed by this so I started with 3 pieces of fruit and have worked my way up to 5+. One of the tricks Tara gave me helped tremendously. She told me to go to the grocery store and buy 35 pieces of fruit (or servings). In order to do this I find myself buying more of a variety of fruits when I shop, starting with whatever is on sale. I have also noticed how over sized our fruits are so I tend to buy the smaller pieces of fruit and buying bags of apples, oranges, avocados is both cost effective and convenient. The smaller pieces of fruit are not only easier to eat but they are also much more flavorful. Did you know when buying a whole pineapple you should select the one with the smallest top? With less energy wasted on growing the smaller "flower" the fruit itself is sweeter and more flavorful.

So here are a few examples of how I ate my fruit for the week. I will admit the easiest way to get in a large quantity of fruit is through a smoothie. I personally shy away from fruit juices and dried fruit. The juices are expensive and the lack of fiber doesn't balance out the resulting spike in insulin.

- 0.5 c. blueberries (breakfast)
- 1x apricot (mid-morning snack)
- 1x apple (pre-afternoon workout snack)
- 1x avocado (dinner)
- 1x banana (dinner)
- 1x orange (dessert)

- 1x banana (post workout recovery)
- 1.5 cups frozen berries (post workout recovery)
- 0.5 c. blueberries (breaskfast)
- 1x apricot
- 0.25 c. dried cranberries (lunch)
- 1x avocado (lunch)
- 1x banana (pre workout snack)

- 1x apple (post workout recovery)
- 1 c. pineapple (breakfast)
- 1x banana (breakfast)
- 0.75 c. mixed berries (breakfast #2)
- 1x avocado (lunch)
- 1x apricot (mid-afternoon snack)
- 1x banana (pre workout snack)

How much fruit do you really eat a day?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Favorites: The Minted Smoothie

Oh before I get started I have to tell you about this great festival this weekend in Plaza Midwood.  Dirty up your best messenger bag and check out the 2013 Charlotte VegFest! The festival is a great way to introduce yourself to the vegetarian/vegan/sustainable community here in Charlotte. I am particularly interested in seeing Gene Baur speak. He is a hugely successful activist against the deplorable conditions behind factor farming. Instead of taking a blind eye against the meat you eat, why don't you take a moment to stare at it in the face, quite literally.  

Ok now back to smoothies . . . 

A couple of months ago I purchased a NutriBullet. It is a small powerful blender often compared to the Vitamix. It is no-vitamix but the Vitamix is currently out of my price range. I watched several side-by-side comparisons on You Tube and it held up pretty well so I bought one. I have really enjoyed playing with it but I have especially enjoyed consuming a large chunk of my daily fruit and veggies through delicious nutrient packed smoothies. While I have a lot of favorites this week I am really digging the minted smoothie and I have two versions to share!

The first recipe I came across on YummyMummy Kitchen. A recovery smoothie or a dessert? You decide. My Nutribullet is a little too small to handle 3 cups of spinach but I just use as much as I can. The proportions here are not really that important but this recipe makes 2 large glasses.

3 cups baby spinach 
2/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or as much as needed to obtain the consistency desired)
1 banana (preferably peeled, sliced, and frozen) 
1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract 
1 sprig fresh mint leaves 
1 scoop vanilla protein powder 
3 cups ice cubes 
2 tablespoons chocolate covered cocoa nibs or chocolate chips 
a couple of thick straws!

Blend all ingredients except for cocoa nibs/chocolate chips until smooth. Add more milk if mixture is too thick to turn. Add chocolate and pulse until ground into chunky pieces. Transfer to glasses and garnish with fresh mint leaves, if desired. 

Honestly I cannot remember where I came across the second recipe but I found a close match published on another blog, Health Food Lover. It is rather simple with just spinach, pear, and mint but the combination is delightful! I added in the apple just to get another fruit that wasn't a banana. It seems like every smoothie recipe involves a banana and sometimes I just want something a little lighter and more refreshing!

2-3 handfuls of baby spinach 
1 pear, core removed 
1 sprig fresh mint leaves 
1 apple, core removed 
unsweetened almond/soy milk or just water (just as much needed to obtain the consistency desired)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Pros and Coughs

The last 7 days were full of ups and downs. Getting back from my first triathlon training camp I was pretty stoked to get back on the training wagon. One of the camp participants wrote up a pretty good summary of the adult camp for those who participate in triathloning . If you did not see it check it out. It is fairly entertaining.

8 campers holding down the mountain
I am flattered Timmy Two-step painted such a glowing picture of my bike skills. How quickly one forgets about my horrendous descending skills buuuuuuut in the scheme of things I am more comfortable with being conservative just as long as I am not TOO conservative (which can be equally if not more dangerous). Anyway, after a weekend with 8 super athletes I was feeling highly motivated . . . . at least until Wednesday afternoon when the fever started. I was rolling along fine and then BAM! One minute I was contemplating my bike intervals and the next all I can do is hope to make it home and into bed. Unfortunately I had to go into work Thursday to testify in court so I spent the day vacillating between having the chills and then getting flushed with a rising temperature. Overall I missed 2 bike rides and my attempt at swimming one morning was a miserable failure. Looking back I am not sure why I even bothered to try. Denial no doubt.

Frustrated from missing workouts I was even more frustrated I was dealing with fevers and one hell of a whooping cough going into my first race of the season. James let me in on a little race he was planning to do up in Salisbury so I asked if I could tag along. However when race day rolled around I was a little less than enthusiastic. I was still sick. The forecast for the day included words like rain, wind, cold, rain, etc. I haven't been running due to a nagging knee irritation and the lack of racing left me feeling rusty. But I drank a big glass of HTFU and got my race face on. Well kinda. Once we arrived in Salisbury we were warmly welcomed but I was still just going through the motions. Midway through my swim warm up, however, I spotted two ICE Racing teammates who drove up to cheer us on. This gesture made my day and I went from ho-hum to JACKED! I do not know what it was exactly but walking about the JF Hurley YMCA made me miss the camaraderie I had with my teammates back in the day swimming for CY. Now officially ready to race I set my sights on winning the race and knocking down a few course records. Other than a slightly chaotic swim start the race was uneventful. It did not feel nearly as cold racing as it did standing around and I was very thankful the rain waited until after the race to appear. Overall the race was well executed and probably one of my only experiences outside of the Set Up Events and WTC brands in recent memory. Winning $800 for being the overall female winner and breaking the course records in the swim and bike was just icing on the cake. 

Can you run with your eyes closed? Talent. 

Your race times: 
54:45 - Your overall finish time 

3:30 - SWIM Time 
0:32 - T1 
28:41 - BIKE Time 
0:43 - T2 
21:18 - RUN Time

Coach QOTD:
 "Not many pros can say they are undefeated as a professional triathlete, but Jenny can."
(I like the way he sees things)

To celebrate my victory and first paycheck as a pro athlete I went to see Ironman 3. I have never seen Ironman 1 or 2. Or The Avengers. Or is it The X-Men? Watching this movie and the large number of trailers that accompanied it I realized I am missing out on an entire subculture of movie goers. I was cool with it until I caught a glimpse of The Wolverine. Let's just say there may be a Marvel Comic Movie Marathon in my near future. 


Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Favorites: Coconut Mashed Yams

My favorite thing this week is the yam. Why? Because last week I went to a triathlon specific training camp. One of the attendees brought along with him several precooked sweet potatoes. He ate them for breakfast. Watching him do this got me thinking out of the box when it comes to sweet potatoes. Why eat them just one time a year? Why eat them just at dinner? They are cheap, super good for you, and they have a low glycemic index. Win-win-win. So when I was flipping through Chloe Coscarelli's cookbook "Chloe's Kitchen" for some inspiration for my meals this week I got excited about this recipe. 

Coconut Mashed Yams With Currants
3 large garnet or other yams, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup canned coconut milk, mixed well before measuring (I used reduced fat coconut milk)
1/3 cup maple syrup or packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup currants, soaked in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes and drained
1. Place yam pieces in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and return to pot.
2. Add coconut milk, maple syrup, salt and spices, and mash with a potato masher until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add more coconut milk for a creamier texture and more maple syrup for a sweeter flavor. Mix in currants and serve.
Yield: 6 servings
My creation not artfully photographed
Lucky for me I executed this recipe almost completely without issue. The only thing I did was forget to incorporate the currents so I just topped each single serve container with the delicious berries so no harm done. Now that I have the recipe down I know I can easily make it again. This round I used reduced fat coconut milk. I could use the full fat version but the flavor is there so why would I? Next time I make it I would consider adding a few more mix ins, maybe a handful of shredded coconut, maybe some walnuts or pumpkin seeds, maybe sub raisins or cranberries for the currents . . . I like how flexible this recipe is. A definite winner.