Friday, July 22, 2011

Wading through the soup

Image: Suat Eman /

Day 18.

I was less than a mile into my run this morning when I stopped to check my watch; the pace was so slow that surely the settings must have been wrong. They weren't.

Wading through the soup (and I say wading, not running, as to call what I was doing "running" would be misleading), I struggled to keep my pace in the single digits. There were a few thin, hazy, wisps of clouds that offered brief moments of respite from the sun's merciless rays. An occasional light headwind from the northwest helped me to push through, and my iPod shuffled through tracks by Jane's Addiction, Beastie Boys, Metallica and Godsmack to distract me from the wading. And the melting.

Within minutes of heading out, I was drenched; my hands so slippery I thought my rings would slide right off. By the time I got home, my fingers were so swollen I couldn't have gotten those rings off with a crowbar.

At that moment I decided I'd take take winter running any day over this extreme heat. At least in the winter you can add layers, and your body warms as you exercise. In this weather, there is nothing to be done to relieve the discomfort. The first seeds of doubt set in as I wondered, if conditions are this hot & humid in Cozumel, will I be able to finish the race? Could I have done this morning's run six more times? I think not.

While running, I saw a neighbor headed to the pool with her kids and fantasized about waving to catch her attention or hopping onto the back of her van's bumper so I could be transported along with them to the cool oasis of the swim club.

Instead, I arrived home at 10 AM to a "real feel" temperature of 105 degrees and an excessive heat warning from Dangerous heat index. Outdoor exposure should be limited.

Thirty-five minutes of running and I'm not at all sure how I accomplished it. I will credit my body's "running chi" as the driving force since my overheated brain couldn't begin to say how I got from point A to B today. I'm just glad it's over. And I'm enormously grateful for air conditioning.


"Chi Running combines the inner focus and flow of T'ai Chi with running to create a ground-breaking technique that removes the pain and potential injury from the sport of running."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

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Bugs, sweat and tears

Day 17.

First my stylist derails my swim and now my kids are doing it. I'd planned to knock out 1800m this afternoon, but my girls are enjoying their down time and want to stay home. I guess we all need some down time. Looks like the swim will be postponed until tomorrow . . .

But, I did get to ride this morning. And it was HOT! Maybe the hottest ride yet. I'll take cycling (or swimming) over running any day, especially in this weather--at least there is usually a small breeze. Not so much today. Another scorcher, with sky-high humidity and temps heading toward 100. (And, I wore the wrong shirt. I thought all of my stuff was "wicking" now but, apparently not. I grabbed an older Title 9 tee and realized too late that it was 64% cotton. I could literally wring it out. So thankful for the latest advances in athletic wear!)

Sweat is to be expected on a summertime ride, but it's usually just a sheen on my skin. Today was ridiculous. Sweat was literally dripping from my chin, nose and earlobes. My eyes were burning from the constant stream of sweat mixed with sunscreen running into them. My arms, legs and face looked like a car windshield after a long trip; road grit and dead bugs all over. If the bugs smacking into me didn't die on impact, they surely drowned in a pool of sweat. Ew. I laughed at my husband when he bought a GUTR last summer. I'm not laughing anymore.

There was no brick today. Nuh-uh.

20-mile ride

Calories burned: 1177
Max speed: 40.2 mph
Max HR: 180 (I hit a record high on Tuesday night--190 bpm!)

Pre-ride fuel: 1/2 cup homemade granola and herbal tea

Ride: 44 oz water

Post-ride: 8 0z Recoverite

Breakfast: Oatmeal

Since then: Chai, water, dark chocolate-covered raisins, popcorn. Guess I should consider a real lunch soon?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Desperately Seeking Shade

Desperately Seeking Shade.

And a ban on retractable leashes.

Day 16.

With my kids in morning VBS this week, I'm able to set out for my workouts an hour earlier than usual, though it wasn't much help today.

I tried to seek more established neighborhoods and roads bordered by trees in an attempt to find shade, but nothin' doin'. By 9 AM it was already 85% and 67% humidity and not a cloud in the sky. The sun was already high enough that it was well above the tree lines, so no shade. Nada.

My legs were carrying the weight of yesterday's workout, the full force of gravity pressing on me, the heat and humidity a total beat down.

It was a 4.5 mile fartlek run (Fartlek. Who came up with that word anyway? Is it an acronym? What is its origin?) and despite the eight 30-second sprints, my average pace/mile was a full minute slower than last night's brick.

The last 1/2 mile was in sight, the stretch of road fully sun-baked, the heat making the air above the pavement shimmer. I just. Wanted. To Walk. The motto I've adopted, "Go hard, or don't go at all," was completely out of my reach today, but I didn't quit. I kept going, my feet barely leaving the ground. I was never so happy to see a run come to an end. Ooooo, Cozumel. Hot, humid Cozumel. It could be ugly.

Pre-run: Herbal tea
Post-run: 8 oz Recoverite, water, ice on the feet and knees, and looking forward to breakfast.

But first, a word on retractable leashes.

Strongly dislike! Most people cannot control their dogs with these things. I once saw an elderly woman walking a huge dog on one of these leashes. (I am sure retractables were not originally intended for 90-pound Rotties.) When I ran by on the other side of the street, the dog started doing cartwheels. To her credit, the woman held on to the dog but could not under any circumstances have "reeled him in." If I had been within striking distance, I could have become the dog's marrow bone.

Today, I came upon a woman walking a little white ball of terror on a retractable leash.

I called out to the woman to let her know I was approaching; I don't like to startle anyone, or their dogs.

She didn't respond, so I cut away from the path at a 45-degree angle to make a wide arc around her and the little white menace lunged at me, teeth and all. Now, white girl can't jump, but she sure can manage a mean backward scooch when the occasion calls for it. A foot closer and that little dog might have had a piece of my leg.

The woman's reply as she pulled an ear bud from her ear? "Oh. I didn't hear you." Not sorry. Not oops. Not "bad dog." Oh.

Um, maybe try walking with your iPod at a volume that allows you to hear others around you? Or perhaps consider using a real leash next time? Or maybe getting a real dog?

(Apologies to all the little dog lovers out there; I'm sure your dogs are absolutely dear.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

White Pizza

I may have posted this dinner idea before, but it's so good--quick, simple, easy, healthy, crowd-pleasing--that I couldn't resist putting it out there again. This dinner is a staple in our house:

1 Boboli Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
2 T. Olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 - 2 cups Mozzarella cheese
Italian Seasoning to taste
Top with your favorite fresh veggies.

Cook at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.


Tonight our pizza is topped with porcini mushrooms, sliced black olives and fresh baby spinach. We also like chopped onions and, to fancy it up a bit, try adding Feta or Ricotta cheese, or pine nuts.


Color trumps chlorine

Day 15 and color trumps chlorine.

Generally, I'm not a high-maintenance gal. I don't get mani-pedis (save for certain special occasions) and I hate to shop; the further away I am from the mall, the happier I am.

However, I do tend to the 'do.

I've been perming, bleaching and otherwise abusing my hair since, oh, fourth grade? It started with the feathered bangs. Nice. Then came the kinky-curly poodle hair. (How I longed for cute, bouncy corkscrew curls. Instead, I ended up with frizz). The frizz was then made worse by, first, a "bi-level" haircut (the girl version of the mullet) and, second, by the peroxide and lemon-juice combo that turned the frizzy mullet orange.

Why is it that we always want the hair we don't have?

By high school, I decided to leave the chemicals to the pros and began what has become my lifelong relationship with "professional highlights." Thankfully, by college, I gave up on the curls and embraced my stick-straight hair, reducing the chemical onslaught by 50%.

As I've, ahem, "matured," I've moved farther away from the "bleached blonde" look closer to my natural hair color only to discover--eek! Gray hairs! (Yes, plural.) It's not that I mind so much that I have them, I'd just never noticed before. The highlights hid them well.

Which brings me to today, Day 15. Embracing my darker, more natural hue has therefore introduced me to the world of "color." The idea of adding color to my hair rather than stripping it away is all-new to me, but it requires a whole new level of maintenance; where I was once getting highlights to camouflage my roots, I now need color to hide the gray. (Sigh. Does this ever end?) And color, I've learned, does not mix well with chlorine.

Needless to say, my stylist "highly recommended against" me going swimming today, what with the fresh chemicals teeming on my follicles and all. In fact, she recommended not going into the pool for a week, but I won't take it that far. I'll be back to swimming laps by Thursday but, for today, I'm kind of enjoying the fact that someone has given me a very valid excuse to skip my swim workout (and, to say "Grays? What grays?).

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's 5:00 somewhere

It was a tough weekend; the first of the "long" ones. Definitely the longest run and bike distances I've done in two months.

As I was sweating it out up a big hill about 20-miles into a 40-mile ride, I glanced at my watch and noticed it was 5:00 PM. I couldn't help but thinking about the beloved motto of Jimmy Buffet's Parrotheads: "It's 5:00 somewhere." But not here, I thought. Not for me. (Que tiny violins.) And, as if to underscore my point, or rub it in, at that very moment a rusty old car packed full of laughing teenagers rolled by, some upbeat latino/reggae/hip hop tune blasting from the speakers, the scent of incense and other aromas trailing in their wake.

The toughest hills in our county are within 10 miles of our house, and we hit them all. Eight miles in and I was ready to cry mercy and trade in my Gatorade for a margarita. But, I pushed on, letting my mind wander to distract me from the miles . . .

I reflected on the book I'm reading, "I'm Here to Win," by Chris McCormack and how he refers to his bike as his weapon. Well, before reading about Chris, I might have once thought that way too, given that the bike is my strongest leg. Now, however, that idea is a bit diminished, as Chris' Tsar Bomba makes my weapon seem more like a . . . water balloon? Yeah, that's about right. Something that is sometimes resilient and remains intact, even when dropped a few times, if it's not overinflated. But, other times, there is a slow leak until there's nothing left except a shriveled exterior or even a sudden explosion where the whole thing breaks apart. Yep, that pretty aptly describes me and my "weapon."

I'm Here To Win: A World Champion's Advice for Peak Performance

Thankfully, my “hottie” (the painful hot spot on my right foot) merely glared at me out of the corner of her eye, but was content to let her evil twins in my neck and lower back do her bidding for most of the ride. But, with 3-miles to go, she couldn't resist and joined the party, a triple threat of pinching, pulling and pain all having their 5:00 happy hour on my body.

Despite the fatigue, I topped the bike with a short 1-mile run on the advice of a friend who suggested I “make every bike a brick.” Believe it or not, the first quarter mile felt great—anything to be off the bike!

Yes, I am whining. We'd been up that day since 6:30 AM and spent six hours at the pool, first for our kids' swim meet and then our own 2000-meter swim, with a mere 90-minute break before we embarked on our ride. By the time we got home and put the kids to bed that night, the best we could manage for dinner was a plate of tortilla chips with melted cheese, served with some slightly redeeming homemade guac (Recipe to follow; so easy and so yummy!)

Because I am a glutton for punishment, I again chose the 5:00-hour on Sunday to head out for a 6-mile run. Mistake. On many levels. I really needed a morning to sleep in and, in truth, thoroughly enjoyed the extra z's and a rare leisurely morning. But, crime doesn't pay. While lazing around the air-conditioned casa, I neglected to drink enough water; looking back, I may have had only 8 oz all day in addition to an 8 oz chai tea. And, two hours pre-run, I ate a salad with wild salmon. Not a good choice. And let's not forget the heat. Since I slept away the morning window of opportunity, I was hoping the temps would cool off a bit by 5. It didn't. So, it was hot, I was dehydrated, and trying to process a plate of greens. Not good. By mile 4.7 I was doubled over with cramps and had to walk the rest of the way home. Not an experience I wish to repeat. Lesson learned.

I was also missing my favorite white UA Heat Gear tank, which was lifted at the pool last week. The shirt I wore instead was hot and designed just imperfectly so, so that it tugged on my iPod cord with each stride. Every 10 or so steps I had to yank the cord upward to keep my earbuds from popping out.

Oh well. Win some, lose some, but always learn some.

As for fuel, I was not a nutritional superstar this weekend and hope to do better next time:


Breakfast #1 (7:00 AM) Oatmeal, green tea.

Breakfast #2 (10:00 AM) Egg & cheese on pumpernickel bagel, bowl of fruit.

Pre-swim snack: Grapes, Lara bar

Pre-bike lunch: Tortilla chips and carrots with lemon hummus, (Note to self; do not eat chips within one hour of a bike ride), slice of whole wheat bread with almond butter & honey, ¼ cup of awful coffee that I pitched.

Ride fuel: 66 oz water + 1 Hammer Gel

Post-ride: Recoverite

Dinner: Tortilla chips with melted cheese and homemade guacamole.

Dessert: Drambuie nightcap. (Much needed.)


Breakfast: Herbal tea, whole grain pancakes with fruit.

Lunch: Oatmeal (yes, I was a bit off schedule)

Late afternoon/pre-run: Salad and wild salmon (good idea in theory; bad idea in practice), cup of chai.

Dinner: Shrimp Pad Thai (Delicious! See recipe below.) with carrots and hummus, and oranges.

Dessert: Ice cream (Yes, I know ice cream is technically a nutritional "no-no" but, darn it, if I'm working out six days a week I'm going to have ice cream when I want it!)


Homemade Guacamole

Two avocados
1 T. greek yogurt
1 lemon wedge
salt & pepper to taste

Wash avocados and slice lengthwise; remove pit and scoop flesh into a bowl; mash.
Add yogurt, and lemon, salt & pepper to taste. Lightly mash/mix. Serve with tortillas or pita chips. Use leftovers on sandwiches.

Shrimp Pad Thai (Thanks, Colleen!)

> 1/4 pound rice-stick noodles
> 1 teaspoon canola oil
> 1/2 pound large shrimp -- peeled and deveined
> 4 scallions -- chopped
> 2 cloves garlic -- minced
> 2 egg whites -- lightly beaten
> 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce -- (nam pla)
> 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce
> 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
> 2 cups bean sprouts
> 3 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts -- chopped
> 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
> 2 tablespoons sugar

Place the noodles in a large bowl and add enough hot water to cover; let stand until the noodles are soft, about 10 minutes. Drain, transfer the noodles to a large bowl of cold water to cool, and drain again. Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are just opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. Add the scallions and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the egg whites, stirring gently, until they begin to set, about 30 seconds. Add the fish sauce, sugar, chili sauce, and soy sauce; cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 30 seconds. Add the drained noodles and the bean sprouts; cook, tossing gently, until mixed and heated through, 2-3 minutes longer. Sprinkle with the peanuts and cilantro.

Per serving (1 cup) 243 cal, 4 g. fat, 1 g Sat Fat, 67 mg Chol, 1,001 mg Sod, 36 g Carb, 3 g Fib, 15 g Prot, 56 mg Calc.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Reality Check

Image: Grant Cochrane /

Day 6.

This morning I slept in and woke up happy with the knowledge that tomorrow is a rest day.

But first, there was today to contend with.

A full brick was on the books, the total distance being almost as much as an international triathlon--I biked 26 miles, swam one mile and ran two. Then did absolutely nothing for the rest of the day.

Over the past six days, I have swam a total of 4000 meters (about 2.5 miles), biked 88 miles, and ran almost 9 miles. And this was a recovery week, not to mention a wake up call and a reality check.

I'm slowly beginning to appreciate what I am up against over the next 20 weeks and hoping I will be able to hold up--mentally as well as physically.

I'm also beginning to understand that training for the Iron Man is a triathlon in itself. Not only will I need to be physically fit, but mentally and nutritionally fit as well.

Physically, I will have to be prepared to cover 140.6 miles, but also to remain well-rested and injury-free during the training. Stretching and icing have become a mandatory part of my training and, while getting enough sleep has always been a challenge for me, it is now non-negotiable. My body will need the time for repair and recovery.

Mentally, I will need to be strong enough to keep going and not quit, to run when I want to walk and possibly walk when I wan to stop. There's no doubt I will need to push through the pain that is sure to come, in my muscles and joints and in the form of blisters and chafing and saddle discomfort.

Nutritionally, I have a lot to learn. I am a vegetarian and, as such, I'm always aware of my need to get enough protein and iron. For other health reasons I follow a nearly gluten-free diet and avoid certain food combos and plants in the nightshade family. I have found several nutrition plans that meet most of these needs, but none were geared toward endurance athletes who need additional daily calories. That is, until I found Ben Greenfield and his free podcast on

Holistic Ironman Nutrition: How To Fuel Your Body For Endurance Sports Without Destroying It.

But I need to start putting the principles to use on a regular basis.

And, when it comes to the race itself, a good friend who has done two Iron Man races has recommended Infinit Nutrition:

I am planning a phone consultation this week to decide if this solution might be a fit for me.

So, as I tackle the training for this race, there are many mountains to climb--and not just the kind I encounter on my bike. This week has truly been a reality check for me.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Don't let your workout get skunked

A cold beer that becomes warm will skunk--its flavor ruined, an opportunity lost.


A similar thing can happen to a workout.

If the idea of a workout is warm, but not acted upon, the good intention may cool and skunk--the inspiration ruined, an opportunity lost.

It's Day 5 and a 1-hour bike ride was on the schedule.

I was up at 6 AM for my daughters' swim meet and didn't get home until 2 PM. After six hours outside in the heat, surrounded by the cacophony at the pool and the sun's glare reflecting off the water, I was whipped. Hungry, tired and nursing a headache, all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch in the AC with a good book and a cup of Chai.

But the bike ride still loomed. And I was "this close" to blowing it off. And I'm only on Day 5.

It's times like these when I am especially grateful that my husband is such a positive influence and a good workout partner. He is even more intense and competitive than I am, which can sometimes be annoying, especially when I'm hoping he'll enable a slacker moment, but it mostly helps me to push myself harder, to challenge myself and become stronger; to not slack.

But, knowing he was tired too, I tossed him some bait, wondering (hoping?) if he'd take it, and floated the idea of skipping our ride. We just stared at each other, locked in that instant of indecision, tetering between biking and bailing.

"Let's do it," he said, not surprisingly. And so we did. I popped some Advil, took two hits of Hammer Gel for lunch, and off we went. And, of course, I was glad I hadn't blown it off. If I had, I would have missed out on the thrill of biking through the thick and potent essence of freshly squashed skunk, the challenge of dodging patches of loose gravel (dump truck yard sale?) on a fast descent, and the pleasure of spending time with my now constant companion--the hot spot on my right foot. This "hottie" has returned this season with varying degrees of intensity; I never quite know what mood she will be in--slightly annoyed or a raging bitch.

But, 20 miles later, I am satisfied to report that even though I ended up getting skunked today, my workout did not.

I'm hoping it's times like these--when the cool comfort of my couch is calling to me and I'm tempted to choose the easy way out but don't, when I choose the path of most resistance instead--that I am building the strength of character I will need to triumph over 140.6 miles.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Exercise Caution

Image: Idea go /

As I venture into Day 3 of Iron Man training, I'm realizing that more training days means more days of training alone. Running and swimming have never been a problem (despite my longing for a serenely secluded trail run) but biking solo puts me on edge.

I have successfully changed a flat and can fix a slipped chain, so it's not the technical challenges that give me pause, it's the potential for harassment or accidents that are worrisome.

Typically, my husband and I ride together twice a week, which has been sufficient training for the races we've been doing. However, the training plan I'm now following: Essential Week-By-Week Training Guide by Matt Fitzgerald of Triathlete Magazine, calls for up to four rides each week, a frequency which will require that I sometimes ride alone.
Triathlete Magazine's Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide: Plans, Scheduling Tips, and Workout Goals for Triathletes of All Levels

My preference is to ride on scenic, country roads with little traffic, which there are plenty of where I live. However, the isolation and non-existent shoulders on these roads make them a questionable choice.

On the other hand, the busier main roads offer a constant stream of passers-by and wide shoulders, but the sheer volume of traffic whizzing by at 60 mph makes me even more nervous than being alone.

In the four years since returning to triathlons, I consider myself lucky to have had only one flat tire (knock on asphalt) and a few scary encounters. Once, while riding along a secondary road, my husband and I had handfuls of change thrown at us. Another time, on the same road, an aggressive driver literally tried to run us off the road. While on smaller, country roads, we have twice been chased by big, vicious, snarling dogs. Yet, while on a main road designated as a "bike route" we've had many speeding motorist fail to observe our rights to share the road or obey the law that requires a 3-foot berth when passing and nearly clip us with their side view mirrors, not to mention the unwelcome cat-calls and horn-honking that always startle me half to death.

A friend of mine was riding his bike in West Virginia when a car full of teenagers approached from behind and then opened their passenger door while passing, knocking my friend off his bike. Luckily, he was unharmed save for some minor scratches and a bruised ego.

Another local friend was not as lucky. While riding his bike on one of our main, oft-traveled roads with a generous shoulder, he suddenly "went down." The last thing he remembers before waking up in an ambulance was beginning a gradual climb about 10 miles from home. Fortunately, he was wearing his Road ID and a passing motorist who found him was able to contact my friend's wife after calling 911. My friend was left with a concussion and possibly a separated shoulder, along with no memory of his accident and no witnesses.

So, as I set out for solo rides, or any rides for that matter, I always make sure someone knows where I'm going and that I have the following items: Road ID, fully-charged cell phone, list of emergency contact numbers, spare tubes and CO2 cartridges, and extra water. So, please, bike safely out there, exercise caution and be well.

Runners ID, Cycling ID, Medical ID Tags

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

And so it begins . . .

Today I officially started training for the Cozumel Iron Man, my first Iron Man-distance triathlon.

The first five weeks of training are considered the "base phase."

Before it's all over with, I will have a peak week that calls for 18 hours of training!

It's going to be a long 21 weeks . . .

Training kicked off this morning with a relatively short 1200 meter swim (my last swim was more than two weeks ago!)

Tonight, however, was a doozy! Leave it to my husband to say "want to do some hills?" and then plan the most hellacious, 28 miles he can think of. Not only did we tackle the absolute worst hills in our area, but he made sure that on all other roads, we were riding against the terrain--going left to ensure an uphill climb, verses right where we could have coasted a bit. Ultimately, this is what makes him a good training partner--the way he pushes me to go harder than I might on my own.

And push me he did! My heart rate hit 187 bpm on some of the worst climbs. But, despite my heart hammering in my chest and being unable to speak for half the ride, I actually felt pretty good on the climbs (and made good on my vow not to curse our local hills after the boring, pancake-flat rides in Hilton Head last week). However, the hills took their toll and sapped my energy pretty quickly.

Workout recap:

1200 meter swim

28-mile bike:
1561 cal
max speed: 40 mph

Nutrition recap:

Lots of water all day.

Breakfast: Power Oatmeal (2.5 hours prior to swim)

Lunch: 1 slice honey whole grain bread with almond butter and honey, carrots and hummus, and a peach. (post-swim)

Dinner: Big green salad, quinoa pilaf (recipe below) and chocolate covered almonds for dessert. (1.5 hours prior to bike)

Bike: 44 oz water, though I could have used another 10-15 oz today.

Post-Bike: 8 oz Recoverite, almonds with dried cranberries and a few dark chocolate chips.

Quinoa Pilaf:

Tonight is the first time I made a quinoa pilaf--the recipe was on the box, though I modified it using the fresh veggies I had on hand: Diced carrots, celery, onion, zucchini, squash & swiss chard sauteed in olive oil with oregano, salt and pepper, and then added to a pot of cooked quinoa. It looked a bit dry, so I added another T. of olive oil to the pot before serving. It looked something like this:

I thought it was pretty tasty. My daughters, who are pretty adventurous eaters, didn't rave about it, but ate it without complaint. What was especially satisfying was to hear them saying "mmm" as they chomped on their salads!