Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Storm Chasers

This day dawned like every other day of late--gloomy and gray--and the morning started as calmly as any weekday morning can.

It's another Two for Tuesday when, for the foreseeable future, Tuesdays will feature a double workout of swimming and cycling. So, off to the Y I went for an uneventful 2200 in the pool (workout included below). The cycling, however, was a bit more exciting.

After checking the hourly weather updates all day, I was happy to see the storm systems taking a late afternoon break, which meant that we could thread the needle between fronts and get our scheduled ride in.

According to weather.com at 5 PM, the chance of rain between 6-10 PM was only 10%. Sweet.

So, we set off on wet roads under overcast skies (The Beetles, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," playing in my head--unfortunate because it's not the most motivating tune to ride to, but it was the last thing I heard on Pandora before I left the house!) the sun making an appearance every now and then, the winds, for once, calm. Too calm. You know that old saying, "the calm before the storm?" Well, that's what it was. That 10% was coming for us.

As I rounded the bend on the westernmost part of our ride, the sky was ominous and amazing--dark, roiling clouds on the horizon, the wind suddenly picking up and changing directions, roaring through the trees. We were riding parallel to the oncoming storm and it was exhilarating; I felt like a Storm Chaser! The wind was whipping the blossoms from the Dogwoods, showering us in a swirl of soft pink and white petals, making me feel like an insignificant little figure trapped in a springtime version of a snow globe. I could hear the raindrops hitting the ground around me before I could feel them.

Then we turned east on a long, slightly downward sloping road and between the tailwind and the terrain, it felt like flying! (Max speed tonight was 35.7 mph). Nothing like a good dose of adrenaline when you're trying to outrun a storm to up the cadence a bit.

Almost home, but not quite, we turned north and there it was; The Wall. When you're on a bike you can appreciate an oncoming storm front in a way that maybe only birds and pilots can; with the wall of water clearly in sight and headed directly toward you, you know the collision is imminent. With raindrops stinging my cheeks and water coursing through my helmet and puddling in my shoes, we pushed onward and upward, toward home--no longer Storm Chasers but Chasees.

This is not the first time, nor likely the last, that we've been caught in bad weather. (It's amazing how quickly the weather can change during a 60-mile ride over several hours in the summertime!) We've cycled, and not on purpose, in heavy rain, thunderstorms, hailstorms and even a lightening storm. We've come upon flooded streets and have seen lightening strike a tree and sparks shoot from an electrical box on a power line . I've seen the hair on my arms stand on end. We've even re-routed our course on the fly when we've encountered an unexpected storm, it's dark clouds rising threateningly from the horizon, thunder suddenly rumbling in the vicinity.

During one particularly bad downpour, complete with an impressive electrical display, a sympathetic motorist turning into her driveway offered us shelter (and even towels and hot tea!) where we gratefully waited out the storm. Though we passed on the tea and towels, you gotta love those random acts of kindness.

Today's cycle stats:
Distance: 18 miles (about all we can manage for weeknight rides this time of year)
Calories burned: 930 (based on 16.42 miles tracked)

Swim Workout #6 (2200)

Warm Up (200)
200 choice, easy

Set 1 (800)
200 Kick
200 Pull
200 Choice
200 Free

Set 2 (500)
2 x 50, V-Scull down (stack heel on top of toes), elem stroke back. 6 push ups/pull ups/dips at walls.
Kick set 4 mins, Kick at wall increasing pace every minute. Full sprint last minute.
4 x 50, Fly down, fly kick back
4 x 50, Kick; IM order down, fly back

Set 3 (500)
500 Free, build (100 easy, 25 sprint + 75 easy, 50 sprint + 50 easy, etc. Last 100 full sprint)

Cool down (200)
200 easy, choice

Today's Fuel:
Pre-swim: Herbal tea, WW Eng Muffin w/almond butter & honey
Post-swim: 24 oz water, 1/2 c. Non-fat, plain Greek yogurt w/ 1/2 c. homemade granola, coffee with almond milk.
Snack: Raw almonds, dried cranberries, handful of dark chocolate chips

Pre-ride dinner: Stir Fried Tofu with Almonds (recipe below). Started this meal about 90 mins pre-ride, which wasn't quite early enough for an aero ride. Better to finish the meal at least 120 mins prior (Note to self!)

Stir Fried Tofu with Almonds
Servings: 4 (I double this recipe for our family of 5 and to have some left over)
Note: This is a quick/easy recipe if you do the prep work--marinating and chopping--in advance.

1 lb Extra Firm Tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes (Safeway's organic brand comes pre-cubed)
4 T soy sauce
1/8 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1 T peanut butter (I sometimes substitute all or half with almond butter)
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces*
4 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces*
1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 T. fresh ginger
1/2 c. canned water chestnuts, drained and sliced
1/2 t. cornstarch, dissolved in 1 t. water
1/4 c. sliced almonds

*You can use any kind of veggies you like and I go heavy on the amounts--just add a little extra oil. We did not have red pepper or scallions, but I used zucchini, yellow onion, snap peas, green beans and broccoli.

Prep: Mix together 2 T. soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder and peanut butter. Add tofu and mix well. Refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Heat 1 T oil in skillet. Brown tofu on all sides, then remove from pan and set aside. Stir-fry veggies, water chestnuts and ginger for 5 mins. Mix together 2 T. soy sauce with water/cornstarch mix. Pour mixture over veggies in skillet. Stir and simmer until thickened. Add browned tofu and almonds. Mix well and serve over brown rice, soba or udon noodles, or whole wheat linguine.

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