Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Decompression

Lately I've been beginning my weekends by going to the gym after work. I go to the pool, swim 1000 yards, 2000 if I have it in me. It's so nice to swim at the gym, it's nowhere near as hectic as swim class. I'm able to clear my head and focus on my stroke. There's no one behind me or in front of me. It's my own pace and I don't force myself. I count my laps by repeating the number over and over. 3...3... elbows up... 3... 3... bring in those legs... 4... 4... and so on. It's meditative. Work is miles away, and I am completely present.

After my swim I hit the whirlpool if it's not disgusting. Then I rinse and go into the sauna and sweat it out for awhile. I stretch, I focus on what I want out of my training, I visualize my goals, and I stretch some more. I imagine toxins washing out of me, sweating them out. I read, which after awhile is the only way I can keep myself occupied to stay in long enough that I'm pouring out sweat. Then I shower again, and take my time getting ready and leaving.

It feels like a trip to the spa. It's awakening and calming at the same time. I leave in a good mood, and I smile for hours. My Friday solo swim sessions make me enjoy swimming. It doesn't feel like a "workout", but I think it's really beneficial. Sometimes it's better to go slow and focus on what your body is doing than push yourself just to say you logged those miles or cut down some seconds. It's so easy to get caught up in improving, when at the end of the day, the point is to be healthy and have fun.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Rambling Recap of this Week

So after last week's crappy Bloomin' Fail I thought it'd be smart to make this an easy week. Luckily it's a rest week according to my triathlon group's calendar as well. My legs are completely worn out. I'm having pain in my left tibia, just below the knee. Also every now and then I'll have knee pain that will cause me to limp on my right leg. Most recently I'm having pain on the top of my right foot, just before the ankle begins. All these pains come and go, so I'm not sure what to do!

I've been using the elliptical this week in hopes that it will give me the cardio I need while being low impact, thus saving my legs from more damage. I really need to buy a foam roller. I keep putting it off because they are usually way too expensive for what they are. It's a giant round piece of foam, don't charge me more than $10! I also keep saying I'm finally going to use the massage gift certificate I got for my birthday, LAST YEAR. Whoops. I need to start going more often than every other year!

Last week I left my favorite Speedo swimsuit, my goggles and my favorite swim cap at the Weston pool after swim class. Last time I did that I found everything in their lost and found area. Not so this time around. Lame! Well the Speedo suit was chaffing me badly under my right arm, so even though I loved the grey camo print on the sides, I guess it's for the best. My TYR suit is baggy as all hell. Not sure if it's weight loss or just worn out, it's about a year old. I went to Sports Authority and suits were 25% off. I got a Nike two piece, and even though I feel like a bit of a gym ho, it's so comfortable! The only issue is there's a lot of drag happening up top since I'm endowed like a pre-teen upstairs.

My old goggles were the cheapest ones on the rack last year. TYR's for $12. They gave me so many problems that I decided to pay the extra $4 for Speedo Women's Vanquisher Goggles. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! No leaks, no fog, more comfort! I still get a lot of redness and lines under my eyes, but it's nowhere near as bad as the old TYR's. I'm so pleased with this purchase! Also at Sports Authority I finally picked up a pull buoy. Last week I also got my Speedo Contoured Swim Paddles and I'm really happy with them too. The small fits great, even though my hands are pre-teen size as well. The only swim purchase left for me is a good pair of fins. Anyone out there have any recommendations?

Yesterday I went to the grocery store and spent double my usual amount. One reason is that I think I didn't go to the store last week. Another reason is I'm trying to avoid sugar as much as possible! I decided to buy more fruits and healthy snacks to keep me away from the cookies and candy available at work. Friday I was the only designer working, and they also decided to unleash a massive excel document full of website changes. I was busy throughout the day, and a co-worker decided to make things worse by telling me about changes from said excel doc like THEY found them! WTF. I almost exploded, but instead ate almost an entire package of Strawberry Mentos. After the Mentos, I decided the fresh maker is a tummy breaker. It was also the first Friday for icecream! (Yeah, um, my company has an icecream truck come every Friday of the summer and we get free icecream.) Did I get the Fruit Bar? No. Vanilla with sprinkles like an idiot. I was a moody, crashing, sugar-craving monster the rest of the day. My stomach hates me, and I don't think my gastritis is getting any better.

Friday's mess made me decide that I have to reevaluate my diet once again. I can't figure out what is going on with my stomach, but I think I really have to depend more on fresh fruits and veggies. I did splurge however and bought Tofurkey Oven Roasted Deli Slices. I usually stay away from processed fake meats, but this was an excellent purchase! The package says a serving size is 5 slices, I only used 3 for a sandwich. I had the deli slices, a slice of cheddar cheese, baby greens on an Arnold Whole Wheat sandwich thin, with hummus spread. Wow. I was floored, my first awesome vegetarian sandwich since January at 'sNice in NYC. I've tried other vegetarian deli slices before, but this is by far my favorite. I wouldn't make it a regular purchase, since they're expensive and processed, but when I really need to fulfill that sandwich fix I will definitely buy this again.

So that's this week in a nutshell. In other news I'm finally reading 'The China Study'. So far it's really interesting and really spurring my weird desire to study nutrition and be a nutritionist. I'm reading it quite critically and I'm not sure about some of his claims. Some of his claims are quite bold, and it's going to take more than one man's book to change my mind. Still I agree with a lot of his views, so if anything it's a great book for challenging my views on nutrition. Expect a full review when I'm done reading!


Monday, May 18, 2009

DNF - Bloomin' Metric

I didn't finish the Bloomin' Metric. I didn't even come close. 30 miles in I gave up.

I woke up early, got all my gear together and sped down to Norwalk going 90 most of the way. I should have left 10 minutes earlier than I did. In the car I realized my legs were tight, they felt like knotted roots, but I was hoping after the first few miles they'd loosen up. (Spoiler Alert: They didn't.) So I get to my friend's place, wait for her other friend who was riding, and we left for the ride. It was cold, windy and cloudy, I referred to it as the Gloomin' Metric. We get our wrist bands, T-Shirts and head out.

At first I was keeping up with them, but slowly I dropped back. I wasn't worried I knew my legs were shot and I needed some time to warm up. I'd get closer to them but never up with them. Eventually I lost sight of them. I rode on my own, in a head full of negativity. "This is ridiculous, you're not going to finish." "You're going to have to find the sag wagon, you're beat up." Yeah those were my thoughts on probably the 5th mile! I was dealing with some heavy mental and physical barriers. I didn't want to do it at all.

I finally met back up with them at the first food stop. I ate a PB&J, a banana and an oatmeal raisin cookie. They looked at me and could tell I was beat. "I think I'm over trained," I said. They asked what I did this week. "I swam 4,000 yards, ran a total of 13 miles, uhh kickboxing, kettlebells, oh a computrainer class... uhhh yeaaah I think I'm over trained." They looked at me like I was insane and agreed I was indeed pushing my limits. We stretched and I was of course ridiculously tight. Back on the bikes, I again kept up with them but the course just went up, up and up. The hills on the Bloomin' Metric are what I'd refer to later as a "non-stop vertical assault". My glutes were killing me! I would pass people on the hills, but once we got to straight and flat areas people were going past me. I tried to follow people's cadences but my legs would not listen to me. It's like they didn't even belong to me. I'd push and they'd say, "No I'm going to do this cadence with this amount of effort and you can fuck off."

At the "Indesicion Split" where you can choose the 100K path or the 75K I said goodbye to my friend. No way was I doing 100K, and I think when I admitted that I had kind of given up a lot more. I rode alone, no chance of catching up with them. My head was now full of negative thoughts. I pushed on. I tried to be positive but I felt like I was completely lying to myself. I passed the food stop again, as it was on a loop, and stopped there again to figure out how far I had gone. I got back on and passed an intersection with a traffic cop and the sag wagon. The truck looked so good to me but I went on. Then I realized I was going to have to follow the same road I had just went on an hour before. I was going to have to do it all over again and I said fuck it. I could barely do it the first time, I'm a glutton for punishment but even I have my limits.

I rode back to where the sag wagon was, trying to figure out if I indeed had to ride up that way again (I only had a 100K map on me). I got one pedal free and then somehow just fell right in front of the cop directing traffic. The looked down at me and said I was done. "Yeah, I'm toast. I can't do it." Luckily the sag wagon guy was pretty awesome and we "bonded" during the ride. As we were driving the course I kept asking, "This is it? This is what I'd have to be riding?" and he'd say yes, and every time my mind was blown. There was just no way. I literally felt like there was no strength whatsoever inside me.

So that's that. I guess I feel a mix of resignation, disappointment and well, that I did the right thing. I learned I have to listen to my body and sometimes it's just better to let that registration money go to the cause and take the day off. I knew I was pushing it, and I knew my body was exhausted but I thought I could just push through it. The day before, I was telling people if I hadn't registered I wouldn't even go. I guess I can be happy that even over trained and exhausted I pushed through 30 hilly miles. I also learned not to sign up for a long event like that less than a week before it. I was not ready, and I was not trained for that event. I was acting like it was just a long training ride. I need to build up to that kind of mileage before I go for broke and do it. I think the furthest I've gone on the bike is 40, and a flat 40 at that. Adding 20 hilly miles to that was a huge stretch. So today is a rest day, I'm eating my humble pie and taking it easy.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What I Eat

I've been meaning to write about my diet for some time now. I think it's a very important part of my training and lifestyle. With thousands of different diets out there with their sponsors, books, commercials, claims, websites and general media nonsense it's hard to focus on what's right for you. I have no idea what's right for you. I'm still trying to figure out what's right for me. I have developed over the past couple of years a pretty balanced diet that's been easy to follow. I have no real strict regimen, and I make changes to it as I see fit. The most influential book I've read that has shaped my attitude towards nutrition is Brendan Brazier's 'The Thrive Diet'. Brazier is a vegan triathlete who eats a mostly raw diet. I found out about Brazier through reading about my favorite UFC fighter Mac Danzig. Mac is also a vegan athlete, he puts to rest the stereotype that vegans are scrawny! (Not to mention he is the most intelligent and articulate UFC fighter!)

Speaking of scrawny... Self-indulgent gun show warning.
Proof you can be strong and not eat meat.

Although my diet isn't vegan, I find their diets to be a thoughtful, well-balanced approach. (A general overview of Mac Danzig's diet can be found here. Scroll down a ways to "6. UFC Fighter Mac Danzig's Vegan Diet". Sorry there's no better way to link to it.) Technically I am not a vegetarian. I'm an ovo-lacto-pescatarian. That's too much to say most of the time so I stick to "vegetarian". I eat eggs sometimes, but after a trip to Vietnam and reading 'Vegan with a Vengeance', I don't care for them as much as I used to. More often, I end up eating products that contain eggs.

I drink milk rarely, again I usually eat products that contain milk. I need yogurt and cottage cheese in my diet because of the live cultures they contain. I've found live cultures help my stomach issues, as well as my allergies and immune system. There are dairy alternatives with live cultures in them, but I find most soy products to be heavily processed. I feel it's a lot more natural to just stick to the real thing. I try to avoid cheese most of the time, and sometimes go weeks without eating it. Fish is another rarity in my diet. Because my motivation for going vegetarian was health, I see fish as a very healthy food option. Yes, there are issues with fish and mercury, but for the most part fish is a very good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

A majority of my diet is plant based. Here's a sample of what I eat on a typical day:

Breakfast: Smoothie made with Unsweetened Soy Milk, Banana, Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Natural Whey Protein Chocolate, Chocolate Brown Rice Protein
Post-Workout: Fluid Recovery Drink
Mid-Morning: Oatmeal/ Post-Workout Chocolate Whey Protein mixed with water
Lunch: Brown Rice with Frozen Vegetables and Black Beans with seasoning
Mid-Afternoon: 2 Whole Wheat Fig Newtons or Chobani Yogurt with Fruit
Dinner: Salad of mixed baby greens with craisins, walnuts, apple and a little bit of dressing. Almond Butter and Jelly on an Arnold Whole Wheat Sandwich Thin

Basically I choose simple, nutritious foods. I find foods I like and stick with them. I'm definitely not a perfect eater by any means. My work barrages me with a constant onslaught of poor food options. People will randomly make cookies and brownies or buy Munchkins. I have a sugar addiction and it's so hard to say no! Once I eat a confectionery treat my body goes haywire. It wants more! I can't just eat a little piece and be satisfied. I sit there and think about eating more until I eventually do. They say sugar sends off dopamine, and thus it's like a drug. Also, vigorous studies and research on my own part show that sugar is also freaking DELICIOUS. Fortunately/unfortunately my stomach issues have made another excuse for me to pass on treats.

Some sources of monthly inspiration for me are Shape and Fitness Magazine. Growing up in rural Massachusetts, with limited female friends and with no clue about makeup or how girls be girly, I decided to get with the program and subscribe to YM and Teen Magazine. In general I hate those magazines, but the actual beauty and fashion advice were extremely helpful. I had no clue how to do my makeup or even what concealer was until I got those magazines. Same thing with fitness, I started out not having a clue. Shape and Fitness give me exercise and diet ideas that help get me out of ruts. Every now and then when I'm in an especially bored food rut I'll buy Vegetarian Times.

Here are some other sites I've found helpful:
World's Healthiest Foods - Lists every beneficial whole food, and then breaks them down into extensive articles. They include the food's benefits, history and preparation tips. Great way to find out about new foods and how the heck you use them. - Nutrition - Basically is like the Associated Press of fitness and nutrition articles. Their articles can usually be found in various magazines like Prevention and Women's Health.

I also check out magazine sites online. Shape, Fitness, Women's Health and many more have a lot of stuff up on their sites. Check them out!


Clipless Pedals, or Me vs Gravity

Saturday after hard kettlebell and kickboxing classes, I decided it was finally time I get it together and buy bike cleats. I headed over to Zane's Cycles in Branford, CT. It's a pretty big store, and I prefer the intimate setting at Devil's Gear but Zane's apparel and gear selection is much bigger. I picked one shoe in the women's section that was tolerable, but the sales guy said Look pedals wouldn't fit it. He came out with a shoe that was black and silver but the Specialized logo was powder blue. UGH! Why do womens specific bikes and gear have to have pastels and flowers?! I can't stand it. I want to be taken seriously, not "seriously for a woman". I could go on a rant here about running skirts and such, but I'll save it for a later time.

Anywho, I ended up getting black, red and silver MENS cleats that match my bike perfectly. When I got home I immediately went to work on my bike. Getting the platform pedals off was frustrating, but getting the Look pedals on was really easy. I headed off for a test drive around the neighborhood. I didn't seem to struggle and didn't fall! I thought I was ready for a real ride. I got on some biking clothes and headed out. Of course my first fall was at the end of my street.

I got to my first full intersection stop, and tried to twist out of the pedal. I ended up falling directly behind an SUV. I was laughing, but at the same time hoped she didn't over shoot the intersection and decide to back up, cause my head was right behind her tire. When I got up and got onto the sidewalk, I looked at the driver. She hadn't even noticed my fall, she was busy talking on her cellphone. Yikes. So on I went to do the usual canal ride. It was a great day, perfect for biking. I realized right away the difference the pedals made. It's much easier to reach a higher, constant speed. Hills are a bit easier since I can concentrate on my power rather than keeping my feet on the pedals. Once I got on the canal I practiced getting out of my pedals for all the intersections without a problem. Of course, there were never any cars coming and no reason for me to panic.

My second fall came at the end of the ride. I was approaching a busier intersection, and the cross street was a very steep hill. I thought I was going slow enough, but again couldn't get out of my pedals. I kind of panicked and started to go left up the hill while trying to get out of my pedals at the same time. Kersplat! I fell, harder this time. I have a nice scrape on my forearm, right where my skull tattoo's wings meet. My tattoo has been stenciled on my last few band-aids. It hurts like a bitch even though it looks like a sissy scrape. An old man on a bike came over to me when I fell and I sheepishly laughed and said, "First day on the pedals." He had no idea what I was talking about so I showed him my shoe. "I've never seen anything like that before." "Oh well... uhh I'm okay!" and I rode off. I felt like such an idiot. I know everyone falls their first few times, but I felt like I was 7 all over again falling on my bike and having a stranger help me up.

I hope I get used to the pedals really quick. I signed up for the "Bloomin' Metric" today, which is a 100k ride through Fairfield County on Sunday. Baptism by fire has always been my method. Luckily I'm riding with my friend Deborah who is probably one of the sweetest girls I know. I won't feel stupid falling in front of her, she's new to the biking madness as well. Wish me luck. I'm definitely heading back to Zane's Saturday for some THICKER SHORTS. Hopefully I can get the shorter stem for my handlebars installed by Saturday too. Otherwise my shoulders are going to KILL on Monday!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Stomach Woes

After last Thursday's booze fest I developed a raw, gnawing pain in my stomach. I thought it was just my body's normal reaction to too much alcohol. I constantly felt uncomfortable, and didn't know whether to eat or to fast. I couldn't work out, hence the "Lazy Slob" post. After 4 days went by with no improvement I decided to take it seriously. My symptoms were a lot like those of an ulcer. After work on Monday I went to the pharmacy and got licorice, Pepto Bismol and on a coworker's suggestion, Prilosec. Licorice is supposed to work wonders for an ailing stomach. (By the way there are a lot of interesting articles on the healing properties of licorice if you're interested: and University of Maryland Medical Center)

Monday night I decided to go to yoga, hoping I just needed some stress relief and a gentle workout to make me feel better. It worked until I laid down for bed, my stomach pain flared up and I was curled in a ball whimpering. Most of Wednesday I felt a lot better, and even had my first decent workout in awhile. I was planning on going to swimming, but when I left work my stomach had other plans. I became so nauseous and dizzy, the pain left me whimpering yet again. Thursday I took a half day at work so that I could go to the doctors. I told her about my situation and she said she thinks I have gastritis.

Gastritis: Gastritis is a term used to describe a group of conditions with one thing in common: inflammation of the lining of your stomach. The inflammation of gastritis is often the result of infection with the same bacterium that causes most stomach ulcers. However, other factors — such as traumatic injury, regular use of certain pain relievers or drinking too much alcohol — also can contribute to gastritis.

Gastritis may occur suddenly (acute gastritis) or it can occur slowly over time (chronic gastritis). In some cases, gastritis can lead to ulcers and an increased risk of stomach cancer. For most people, however, gastritis isn't serious and improves quickly with treatment. (

Notice the "drinking too much alcohol" part of the definition. Yeah. So my doctor thinks I'm an alcoholic. I tried telling her I only drink too much once every couple of months but I think she didn't believe me. She even had the audacity to suggest AA. First of all, I don't drink every day, or even every week! On average I have 4 drinks over a month's time! The average person drinks more than I do. So she's either insane or thinks I'm lying, which I'm not. It hurt to have her suggest AA or therapy. Yes I have a problem sometimes stopping myself from going overboard, but honestly I don't drink when I'm depressed. Usually I'm in good spirits, in a "life's too short to worry!" kind of mood.

Yes, I used to drink a lot. And yes, I do have a problem on my hands if I don't control it. With my family history, I've been aware I'm on thin ice when it comes to alcohol. I've done an awesome job of controlling it these past two years and have come a long way. I can't believe one night has led to a flare up this bad. It has to be something else. It has to be stress or something. The other trigger is caffeine, which I pretty much abstain from. Every so often, like once a week, I'll treat myself to a chai soy latte. Yeah. I'm a rebel. When I researched what my diet should consist of to help recover, I found that my regular diet is the "poster diet" for people with gastritis. Rice, beans, vegetables, non-fat cottage cheese and yogurt, fruit, whole grains and plenty of water. That's what I eat, EVERYDAY!

Things I have to avoid for a month or so: alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, fried foods, pastries and junk food in general. So basically this gastritis is putting me on my best behavior. I'm trying to look at it as a good thing. Now instead of giving into my cravings for fries, chips and cookies, I can look at them and know it could hurt my stomach. I'm reevaluating my diet once again and trying to eliminate more junk and unnecessary fats. Once again I'm leaning towards a very lean diet with only yogurt and cottage cheese for animal products. I have a sensitive everything – mind, body and heart. The older I get the more precautions and care I take of myself to prevent illness and imbalance. I will probably be going back to yoga to help with dealing with stress and to get back in tune with my body. I plan on posting more about my diet and how I'm dealing with this minor set back in the near future.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lazy Slob Returns

Every few months or so, the old lazy me comes back to visit. I guess the medical term is depression, but that's depressing. So I'm sticking with "lazy slob". I don't care about doing laundry, or the state of my room, eating healthy or even working out. I don't care about hanging out with friends or talking to them. It's when I slack on replying to texts or emails. I don't care. I don't even think that much. I just exist, and not much else. I was inundated with changes and nonsense at work this week. The end of the month always sees an influx of changes to be made for the next month's promotions. Maybe this brought it on? Not sure.

It's probably a whole host of things, all too personal to really go into in depth here. They say broken hearts heal with time, and it's true. But every now and again something will come up to make me realize that what I had was something really hard to find. So Thursday, instead of going to my computrainer class, worn down from craziness at work, I caved and went to happy hour. I really only wanted one 20oz bottle of Asahi Super Dry. The bartender was kind of an idiot, and placed another bottle after I had finished the first in front of me, literally when my head was turned. She didn't ask me if I wanted another, she just put it there. How do you return an open bottle? I don't know but I should have. 40z of beer to me is dangerous. I cross the line of being able to stop drinking. So I continued down my path of inebriation with white russians. Ugh.

Thursday's unexpected rest day became Friday's unexpected rest day. Saturday brought a miserable morning, and my stomach still doesn't feel right. Defeated, I let 3 days in a row go by without doing anything active. Instead of feeling refreshed I just feel gross, lazy and sluggish. My blood has become molasses, my body too heavy to push myself to a gym. I hate feeling like this. Today I plan to break the cycle with a 40mi ride with my old friend Deborah. We went to the same church, well her dad was the minister, way way back when my parents were able to make me go to church. It's been over 10 years, but we both happened to end up into the same things and living half an hour from each other. Funny how things work out that way. It's probably going to rain and be miserable, but fuck it. Seriously, I need to move and I need to remember why I started doing all this in the first place.

I've avoided writing about this aspect of my life for awhile now. I debated airing this in a searchable public forum, but I think to understand me and why I run, bike, swim and fight, this is a major part of it. I don't know why I drink myself to an oblivion once every 2 - 3 months. I would go back to being straight edge but when I do drink moderately, it's nice. It's nice to have a mojito on a hot summer day. It's nice to have a cold Smithwick's after a long bike ride. What's not cool is drinking until I black out, and feeling hungover for days. My body is just sensitive to it, it's undeniable. People think I'm exaggerating when I say I feel off or hungover for days, but then they see it for themselves and realize it's no joke. I'm still trying to figure out whether I can just learn to wise up and be careful, or if I really need to avoid alcohol altogether. I hope to find the answer to this someday, but I think it's just one of those things I'll struggle with forever.

In other less depressing news, my garden is still going strong!

Sprouted Seedlings!

Mojito Mint, transplanted from my backyard.

Basil and Tomato Seedlings from the Farmer's Market join the mint and pansies