Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Salad Frenzy

It's officially the time of year I love the most. I love the summertime for a lot of reasons: longer days, warm nights, beach trips; to name a few reasons. One of the main reasons I love summer is the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. I hate using the word "produce". It jumbles all the delicious, beautiful, colorful and edible plants into something so ordinary and generic sounding.

Recently, my friend Maura sent me a link to the article: "101 Simple Salads for the Season". It has inspired me all over again to approach eating salads on a daily basis. I realized my problem before was that I thought I was quite adventurous with my salads because I added fruits and nuts. Sadly, I was still eating the same salad almost every day. Though I never seem to tire of rice, beans and veggies, I tired quickly from my daily salad. The article "101 Simple Salads for the Season" opened me up to a lot more possibilities. First it reminded me that salads don't have to have greens as a base. Secondly it suggests salads with grains, pasta and beans, all of which help you feel full.

This first salad has been my go-to salad this week. It's baby spinach, radishes, sliced baby carrots, walnuts, craisins, and a bit of crumbled low-fat feta. I've been making a really simple dressing of olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. I make the dressing in a tiny condiment cup (Thank you Japan.) the night before, and add it just before I'm ready to eat my salad. Other ingredients I've added to this are chickpeas, black beans, raspberries and brown rice.

This salad is from the article. "#18: Roughly chop cooked or canned chickpeas (you can pulse them, carefully, in a food processor) and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, lots of chopped fresh parsley and mint, and a few chopped tomatoes. Call this chickpea tabbouleh." I added the greens, which is another batch of lettuce from my garden. (The mint and parsley I used was also from my garden.) I also added some of the low fat feta, which has been my new favorite thing. Every time I get close to going vegan, I discover a new dairy product that is pretty healthy and delicious!

I've also been working as much fruit into my diet as possible. My cereal standby is to measure out one cup of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal, and slice in a peach, a handful of blueberries, and slice up one banana.

Or I go completely overboard and combine cereal with: 1 peach, 1 banana, handful of raspberries and a handful of blueberries. This was pretty fantastic, the different fruits really complemented one another.

Since the big race I've had "post-race blues". Can't seem to bring myself to work out like before. Saturday I took things easy and really enjoyed the day. Went to the Farmer's Market and got a great bunch of kale for smoothies, and a quart of big local blueberries.

I rode my hybrid for the first time in months. At an easy pace I went down into New Haven, around the green that was setting up for an outdoor concert, and back into East Rock. I rode my bike up East Rock to the summit for the first time since last year (I think). I didn't stand up at all, and passed a couple on my way up. I picked a shady spot and read for awhile. Here is a picture of a few of my favorite things: bikes, ice cream, East Rock and a sunny summer day.

By the way, the picture at the top of this post is of a gigantic fruit salad I made for my coworker's birthday. I used: strawberries, peaches, blueberries, kiwis, grapes and watermelon. In a 1 cup measuring cup I squeezed in some agave nectar, and mixed it with a bit of water, lime juice and shredded mint. My coworkers LOVED this and I will definitely make it again. Don't drown the fruit with this mixture, just make enough to lightly coat the fruit!


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sobe Mossman Sprint - Photos

I have to say, I'm really impressed with Capstone Photography's work! It's not easy getting everyone in a race, not to mention taking quality shots as people are running, biking and swimming around. I will probably buy a proof or two, or make my parents buy them, ha! Here are some of the better shots:


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sobe Mossman Sprint Triathlon

Yay! My first race report! I'm pretty excited. After a year of reading other people's race reports I get to post my own! Knowing me it'll be really long and I'll forget important details! Sweet! Here we go...

Since my fall a couple weeks ago, I've been having pain in my chest under, well... my left breast. I looked it up online and it seems to be "costochondritis," which "is an inflammation of the junctions where the upper ribs join with the cartilage that holds them to the breastbone or sternum." I was paranoid that it was going to hurt during the run since even walking seemed to aggravate the pain. So, Friday after work I went to this sketchy Asian massage place on Whitney Ave. It's called Naturegene Herb Store, they also seem to have some sort of herbalist/doctor type guy there.

A wonderful friend gave me a gift certificate there and highly recommended the place. It's super cheap, something like $20 for half an hour, $55 for an hour. Since I had the half hour gift certificate, I paid $20 for a full hour! "Jasmine" was my masseuse and she was great! It was a little weird at first, but she really worked my whole body, even the glutes! Honestly, a tad uncomfortable getting my butt touched by a stranger, but it felt awesome, so whatever. She worked my sore shoulder and chest.

I found it so hard to relax and just focus on the massage. My mind wandered and worried, and I kept telling myself to focus and to "be present". I have to work at living in the moment, and so I did my best. I kept worrying because I didn't have cash on me, and kept wondering what I would do if they didn't take debit cards. I played scenarios of going to the nearest ATM and leaving my purse so they didn't think I was skipping out on them. I know, it's kind of neurotic. I kind of had an epiphany on the massage table, I told myself to relax, and deal with things as they happen. I can't worry about what may happen, because if whatever I worry about doesn't happen, then I have wasted my time and energy. I didn't know it at the time, but this would come in handy during the triathlon.

Saturday I ran a bunch of errands. It was really humid and gross, and I was trying to keep hydrated by drinking water all day. The humidity also made the chest pain worse, and I was taking two Advils at a time. I practiced my transitions a few times, until I felt comfortable. I forced myself to eat Kashi Go Lean cereal for dinner. I wasn't really hungry but I knew I had to eat something. I went to bed around 10pm and woke up around 3:30am.

Ideally I was supposed to wake up at 3am. I left my apartment around 4:45 and sped down 95S going about 85-90mph, passing several triathletes along the way. I imagined they were wondering if I raced as fast as I drove. I got there around 5:15am when pre-race packet pickup started. I got my number, a sheet of stickers with my race number, 304. The body marking on my left arm hardly showed up. He wrote right over Alice's face.

It was a beautiful morning, and I couldn't have asked for better weather. I wish I took a picture of the sunrise with my BlackBerry. It sounds disturbing, but the ocean looked like an oil slick. There were so many colors in the sky, and the water reflected everything. My parents drove all the way from Western Mass and got a hotel room in Norwalk. Dealing with parents while having pre-race anxiety and post-race low blood sugar is an event in itself. I was happy to have them there but honestly, I lost it a few times. They were great though, and so proud of me. My dad took all the photos on this post.

I set up my transition area where I was next to my friend Jen on Trifitness. There were a lot of Trifitness folks there which really calmed me down. It was just like practice, and I think having them around really helped. I didn't feel out of place, and I knew if I had any questions (which I did), they would be there for me (which they were). I took two Advils for my chest pain, and two Hammer Enduralytes to prevent cramping before I walked down to the swim start.

Went into the water and warmed up a bit. Saw that Jen and Amelia were near me so I joined them. I felt good, and the water was the perfect temperature.

I was in the second wave. I'd say there were about 200 of us. Before the race girls were shouting encouragement to each other and getting psyched up. I found myself smiling. "It's just like practice," I told myself. I realized then to just enjoy it! There's no reason to take things too seriously. Then the horn went off and so did we...
I felt like a salmon swimming upstream. It was intense and awesome, and I struggled a few times but I tried my best to draft. I got my calves grabbed a few times, kicked off a few girls, got pushed by one girl on the final turn. I'm so glad I practiced swimming there the weekend before. I was prepared for the course and the current. At one point I took in too much water and forced the air out, sort of choking on it. I calmed myself down as to prevent an asthma attack. This was one of the moments where I reminded myself to "be present". "Don't focus on what could happen, focus on what is happening."

I swam in as far as I could and bolted out of the water, ripping off my suit. Don't I look graceful?

Seriously flattering photo of me:

Took WAY too long! 2:31! Out of 631 I placed 448 for my first transition. Yikes! I struggled with my bike cleats, which is weird cause I didn't have any trouble with them in practice. I'm okay with this though, because I realized the first triathlon is really just a HUGE learning experience.
Oh, and it doesn't help transitions to have your dad yell, "Hey Heath! Atta go!" Haha, but totally worth it!

Had trouble clicking in, but once I did, I was off! Passed a girl on my tri team in the first few minutes. I was going fast and passing people. I finally went to take a sip from my water bottle with Nuun in it, and I dropped the bottle! I knew I needed it for the run though, and I didn't want someone to get hurt, so I stopped, got off my bike, screamed expletives, grabbed it and went. I'm sure this cost me at least 40 seconds, and all the people I passed, passed me. My goal was to pass everyone, again. One woman I passed shouted, "Great recovery from the water bottle!" "Thanks!" I shouted back, it made me feel good. Having her show me some positive support made me want to pass it on. I became... chipper. Oh my god I was having a blast! And being nice for no reason! Who am I?!

I shouted thank yous to all the staff and cops. I felt like such a nerd, but I've heard it's the nice thing to do, and really, they have better things to do, like SLEEP! At one point I caught up to the girl on my team I had passed earlier. I hammered down and got serious. Behind me I heard, "You got this! That's right, you've got it, go go!" I passed her and a few people. Then the biker behind me got next to me, "Great job! That was great!" "Thanks!" and he passed me and was gone. Later I realized he might have been drafting off of me. Honestly, didn't care, he made me feel like a pro! Another guy rode next to me, "Sweet bike!" I was shocked, since there were some serious future machines out there and I have an outdated Fuji. "I've got a Fuji too!" We exchanged a few words and he was off.

When I was riding back to the beach on my first loop I heard my friend Kelly shouting my last name. She gets a kick out of screaming my surname while sounding like an old man, like she's my angry boss or something. Hard to explain but it makes us both laugh every time. Anyway I heard her shouting my name, and I knew instantly it was her. I saw her and my other friend Jason and I was so happy! I screamed "Yeeeaaaa Motherf***er!" and I have no idea why that was my response.

The bike is a blur to me. I know by the end I was hammering down and passing any girl who looked remotely in my age group. I reminded myself to guzzle down the Nuun and to SLOWLY place my bottle in the cage.

Kind of slow on this one too, I think because I put my bike on the rack weird and corrected it. Forgot to put on my running number.

I hadn't done any brick workouts for awhile and I totally should have! I felt like I was going SO SLOW! I looked at my Garmin, shocked that I was doing an 8:30 pace. What the hell?! I knew this was a symptom of running after biking but I never had it feel so slow before. I felt like I was never going to get to the first mile. Once I hit the first mile though things felt more normal, of course then I started to feel a side stitch coming on. I cheered on my friend Jen who was suffering from a serious stitch. The stupid "water" station had Gatorade. Sick. I grabbed it anyway and most of it landed on my face. That stuff is gross and sticky and it's a huge pet peeve to feel sticky like that. I saw Fuji pass below me on the loop and I yelled, "Hey Fuji!! You got it!" Hahaha, once again I'm such a nerd.

Around this time two girls in my age group passed me. I was sort of struggling with the mild stitch, and figured there was no way I'd make the top 10 in my age group so I didn't push myself. My trainer passed me and told me to go faster, I tried to match her pace but she's a machine. (She ended up placing 3rd in women's overall... oh and she's 47. I want to be in her shape and kicking as much ass at her age!) Nearing the end, I picked up the speed, passed a girl who was 24 (our age was written on our calf). Then, I summoned what I had left and sprinted across the finish line making a crazy face and mouthing "F*** YOU F*** YOU!" over and over. Don't ask me why, but I just had to get angry and freak out to push myself. I ended up passing a girl in my age group on this mad dash. She was next to me in the transition area, and after the race said she tried to keep up but couldn't and that I did great.

My run time was 24:33. Not bad considering that on my 2nd 5k last year my time was 24:13 and I hadn't swam and biked before it!

I felt great! After my 5ks last year I was a huffing, sweating mess. As soon as I got across the finish line, and took off my chip, I was totally fine. It didn't feel like I had just done a triathlon! I couldn't believe it. It shows me that I'm much more in shape than I was last year. Fitness is so hard to gauge, but this was the first time I realized how far I've come internally. To be able to do a triathlon and not feel exhausted is incredible. Muscles are visible, and can look great but I feel true fitness is within.

I had so much fun, and it was the perfect first race! It's been a long time since I've had such an enjoyable, happy time. I can't believe I was doing a triathlon with a smile on my face! I know every tri won't be as fun, and I can't expect to have everything go so well. Sure I made a few mistakes, but they were minor and it was my first! Like I said in my last post, I caught the bug I've been wanting to catch! Already signed up for a sprint that TriFitness is putting on in September. Debating signing up for a sprint in Boston in August. The Urban Epic sounds like a lot of fun, I'm just worried about the 5 mile run and the unfamiliarity with the area.

I learned so much from this race. Here's a few I can think of right away:

1. I learned how important transitions really are, and that I need to work on my transitions a little more. I know every article says that transitions are vital, but not ever doing a race before, it didn't sink in to me how big a few minutes can be! A minute less and I could've been 8th or 9th in my age group.

2. I can do this! Since I didn't have any idea of what my time was going to be, I aimed for under 1:30. When I looked back to the clock and realized I was well under this goal I was SO proud! I laughed with joy like I haven't in ages and hugged my friend Kelly. Now that I know I'm capable of 1:23 I would love to get below 1:20.

3. Push myself more! Ending a race and feeling like I still had more left in me?! I don't want to over do it, but now that I know I can in fact finish a triathlon, I need to have more faith in myself and push!

4. Do more brick workouts!

TriFitness Girls! They are a bunch of Amazons!

My friends Kelly and Jason, who seriously rock for showing up!

My results:
Bonus: I was 10th in my age group (out of 27). My secret goal was to be in the top 10. If I hadn't sprinted at the end, I wouldn't have made my goal!


Sunday, July 19, 2009

It's Official!

I'm officially a triathlete!

That's pretty much all I have to say for now. Unofficial results say I'm 7 minutes under my goal! Will wait for proper results to give a full race report. Glad to say, I caught the bug I've been wanting to catch all this time! I want to race again!

Friends, if you're reading this: THANK YOU! Thank you for putting up with a friend who puts off hang-outs and nights out so that she could train. I've been selfish, and really, that's what I needed. To be selfish for awhile and go after something only I could make happen. ( ...and Trifitness training of course!) Thank you all for your support and telling me on a consistent basis that I kick ass. I thought about everyone out there, and it pushed me to hammer down and pass people. I will sign up for more races, but I also want to be better at balancing training time, with spending time with those of you who have shown me true friends do exist.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fast Food Nutrition - Part 1

I've decided to compile a list of fast food places and their healthier "vegetarian" menu options. I'm trying to keep them under 400 calories, with minimal grams of fat and low in sugar. I've listed the nutritional info I always keep in mind: calories, fat, sodium, carbs/sugars. I put bold font on some things to watch for, such as high sugar or fat content. Personally, I try my best to stay away from items that have 15 grams of sugar or above. If they contain more, than I think of it more as a "treat".

I decided to leave in some egg sandwich options, even though I've been trying to stay away from eating eggs as a main part of a meal. There is no "perfect" fast food meal. The best of the bunch here is Starbuck's Perfect Oatmeal, if you hold back a little on the toppings. These are just some meals to keep in mind when you're hungry on-the-go. This took me a lot of time and research, so I'm going to break it up into parts, doing as many chains as I can deal with at a time.

I've hated on Starbucks for quite some time. I still don't like the idea of selling yourself as "your local coffee shop" when it's not, at all. It tries to give the feel of your quirky downtown coffee joint, but has millions of locations worldwide. However, it seems they are finally making a real effort to provide foods with few additives and better ingredients. I love that they have Soy Milk as an option. They are becoming my favorite for to-go foods, I just wish some of their items had less sugar.

Orange Mango Banana Vivanno Smoothie (made with Soy Milk)*:
270 cal, 4g fat, 135mg sodium, 50g carbs, 30g sugar, 17g protein

Strawberry Banana Vivanno Smoothie (made with Soy Milk)*:
280 cal, 2g fat, 115mg sodium, 54g carbs, 39g sugar, 15g protein
*Just a heads up, even though I calculated these smoothies with soy milk, the smoothies contain whey protein so they are not vegan.

Perfect Oatmeal:
140 cal, 2.5g fat, 105mg sodium, 25g carbs, 0g sugar, 5g protein

Oatmeal Toppings:
Brown Sugar: 50 cal, 0g fat, 0mg sodium, 13g carbs/sugar, 0g protein
Dried Fruit: 100 cal, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 24g carbs, 20g sugar, 1g protein
Nut Medley: 100 cal, 9g fat, 0mg sodium, 2g carbs, 1g sugar, 2g protein
(When I got a Perfect Oatmeal recently, I sprinkled on less than a quarter of the brown sugar packet, and the whole packet of dried fruit. It was really good!)

Multigrain Bagel:
320 cal, 4g fat, 220 sodium, 62g carbs, 8g sugar, 12g protein

Dark Cherry Yogurt Parfait:
320 cal, 5g fat, 140 sodium, 58g carbs, 40g sugar, 11g protein

Strawberry Blueberry Yogurt Parfait:
350 cal, 4.5g fat, 100mg sodium, 66g carbs, 35g sugar, 10g protein

Dunkin Donuts
I've always been partial to Dunkin Donuts. A brand started in my home state of Massachusetts, it's the coffee joint for the "Regular Joe". They are trying to promote healthy eating with their DD Smart menu, but at the same time still pandering to America's gluttonous ways with a Waffle Breakfast Sandwich that has a whopping 23g of fat! I looked it up, that's 3 grams MORE fat than a McDonald's Double Cheeseburger! Still if you're on the go, these are easy to find in the Northeast where we have one approximately every 100 feet.

Multi Grain Bagel
400 cal, 9g fat, 600mg sodium, 65g carbs, 2g sugar, 18g protein

Reduced Fat Cream Cheese:
100 cal, 8g fat, 250mg sodium, 5g carbs, 2g sugar, 4g protein
(I usually use half a container or less, but here is the the info for a full one)

Egg White Veggie Flatbread Sandwich
290 cal, 9g fat, 680mg sodium, 39g carbs, 4g sugar, 11g protein

English Muffin:
160 cal, 1.5g fat, 340mg sodium, 31g carbs, 2g sugar, 6g protein

Egg & Cheese on English Muffin:
350 cal, 13g fat, 730mg sodium, 34g carbs, 3g sugar, 14g protein

Relatively small chain compared to the previous two. There are a few in the area, and I enjoy going to them from time to time. I love that they have hummus as an option for bagel/sandwich topping. They have a "build your own salad" option, which is great. Their Mandarin Salad sounds great, but is loaded with fat and sugars.

Multi Grain "Fortified" Bagel:
350 cal, 4g fat, 550mg sodium, 69g carbs, 10g sugar, 13g protein
Add jelly for 50 cal

Garden Veggie Deli Sandwich:
400 cal, 2.5g fat, 620mg sodium, 82g carbs, 14g sugar, 16g protein

Do I even need to go into my qualms with McDonalds? I haven't been to one in over a year. I don't know when the last time I was there was. I think it was 4:30 am in NYC waiting for the next train to New Haven and decided fries were the only thing that could console me after using the hobo bathroom

Premium Caesar Salad (without chicken)*
90 cal, 4g fat, 180mg sodium, 9g carbs, 4g sugar, 7g protein
*I don't think this included dressing, as always, use sparingly.

Snack Size Fruit & Walnut Salad
210 cal, 12g fat, 60mg sodium, 31g carbs, 25g sugar, 4g protein

Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait
160 cal, 2g fat, 85mg sodium, 31g carbs, 21g sugar, 4g protein

Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait without Granola
130 cal, 2g fat, 55mg sodium, 25g carbs, 19g sugar, 4g protein

Egg McMuffin no meat, no cheese
240 cal, 9g fat, 350mg sodium, 28g carbs, 2g sugar, 12g protein

English Muffin with Strawberry Preserves
190 cal, 3g fat, 280mg sodium, 36g carbs, 11g sugar, 5g protein


Yale Shoreline Ride

I can't believe it was a week ago today that I did the Yale Shoreline Ride! It was such a beautiful ride though, that I have to post about it. Sorry for such a delay, writing this blog in a timely fashion is nearly impossible with everything going on. And more apologies, this is will not be my best writing. I spent from 8:30pm - 1:30am at my SWIM Across the Sound fundraiser. I was the door girl, and had to convince semi/completely inebriated folks to hand over $10 for the cause. We raised a lot of money, although I don't think we hit our goal. I had a great night once I got into the groove of talking to people. Unfortunately it was under 60 degrees outside, and for a cold-wimp like me that's freezing.

BTW it's not too late to donate to my SWIM Across the Sound page!

Yale Shoreline Map:

This was the first time I uploaded a map to my Garmin. It came in handy when I went off course and it started beeping at me. Unfortunately it doesn't really tell you HOW to get back on the track. Luckily I had my new BlackBerry Storm with me, and I used the Google Maps app to find my way. I could have set my Garmin to have a "partner" and gave the "partner" a specific pace that I wanted to beat. Since this was my first time going over 40 miles, I decided no pace setting was necessary. As long as I was above 14mph average, I was okay with it.

I started out my day by powering up with this amazing breakfast. Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal, with Unsweetened Soy Milk, a fresh peach and blueberries. It was a fantastic blend of bright summery colors, crunchy filling goodness and sweet fruits. I'm a firm believer that color makes things taste better. This breakfast is about 350 calories. Perfect for a normal day, but I had 60 miles ahead of me. I also ate a Kashi Go Lean Crunchy bar as well. I love their Chocolate Caramel flavored bar, it satisfies my sweet tooth without being too fattening. 150 calories, with 3 grams of fat and 8 grams protein. 14g sugar is relatively okay compared to other "healthy" bars out there.

If you live in the New Haven area, I highly recommend this ride. I would say it's a moderate course, even though it's long. There are a lot of fun rolling hills, and only a few that were tough. Compared to the Bloomin' Metric ride, this was a flat course! Most of the course is spent on main roads, but they are in the country and most of it is on a bike route. The Yalies marked a lot of the turns which made things even easier for me. The traffic wasn't bad, except for a few areas, and that was only because it was the Fourth of July.

Going up to Durham, there are plenty of views of local farms and the small Connecticut "mountains". I was excited to find an immaculate Porta-Potty in Northford at a park that was right off of 17. When I opened the door and found it had toilet paper too (nice toilet paper, by the way, not dirty damp toilet paper) I gasped with glee. Near Durham center I ran into another biker, and I asked him how close I was to getting onto Durham Rd, which is the road that leads south. I don't want to sound rude, but I don't think he quite got where I was trying to go, and his directions seemed a bit off. Or maybe we both just misunderstood each other. Either way I was happy he was nice at least, and not a stuck up at all, which seems to happen to dudes when they're compressed by bright spandex.

The whole ride I nibbled on Kashi Honey Almond Flax bars. (Sorry I'm starting to sound like a Kashi commercial, I'm just on a huge Kashi kick right now!) I was never starving on my ride and I think it helped a lot with my energy level. I wanted to prevent getting overtired, and thus cranky. When the cranky kicks in, that's when my rides/workouts go horribly wrong and I end up lost, miserable and near tears. Around 1 or 2 I stopped in Madison at a little deli. I splurged and got an Eggplant Parm sandwich on whole wheat bread. The guy thought I was crazy for getting Eggplant Parm on wheat bread. I continually ask places to make Eggplant Parm on alternate forms of bread, just this Thursday I asked for one on a wheat wrap. I always get the same confused reaction, followed by a look that can only be described as, "whatever floats your boat". Oh. It floats my boat, sir.

The guy at the deli seemed a little annoyed by my request. I don't know, he didn't seem friendly. Then he complemented me on my tattoos, followed by the standard, "You're not from around here, are you?" Ha! I love when people ask me that! "Nope." I told him I was from New Haven, and he gave a reactive nod and a "Ah." "That's far, no?" he asked. (He was foreign, I'm assuming he doesn't get around CT too much.) "Um about another 30 miles or so I think." "How long have you gone?" "I'm at 24 miles now." Behind his eyes, his brain exploded a little. After that he was really nice to me and wished me luck on my ride.

As I continued along I realized I was in Guilford, CT. I passed by my new favorite place to eat outside of New Haven, the Shoreline Diner. But that's not the full name of the diner though, oh no. It's the Shoreline Diner & Vegetarian Enclave. Isn't that wonderful? It makes me laugh every time, it sounds like it's some secret vegetarian headquarters where we plot secret plans and maniacally laugh as we concoct new ways to turn soy beans into fake meats. M-W defines enclave as: an enclosed territory that is culturally distinct from the foreign territory that surrounds it. I can attest that most of CT outside of its more progressive cities can view my questions of "Is there meat in the sauce?" as culturally distinct. To have a nice place like this that "gets" veganism is exciting. I ate here once before, but it's a bit out of the way to visit on a regular basis. Next time I do this ride I'm definitely stopping there. They have a great, diverse menu, about a quarter of it is vegan.

Sigh, it's taking me forever to write this post, and I'm mostly rambling. I'll end with a couple pictures I took while on 146, the shoreline part of the ride.

I believe this area is known as Leetes Island. I saw many egrets, a crane, and soon after this picture was taken a painted turtle trying to cross the road:

Near Lighthouse Point. By this time I was nearing the end of my ride, my arms were killing me and I just wanted to float across the harbor to New Haven proper, where I belong.
End Results: 60mi, 4hrs 15 min, avg speed of 14.12. By the end I was so beat I think it dramatically cut down my speed. Oh well. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful ride, and I now have a sweet bike shorts tan that starts halfway down my thighs.


Friday, July 10, 2009

The Ups and Downs of Running

This post is brought to you by my favorite product of all. Bird's Eye Classic Mixed Vegetables. They are the perfect accompaniment to black beans and rice, they are cheap, and easily transportable. They are also my favorite ice packs.

Yesterday afternoon was beautiful. I had to show my apartment since I'm looking for a new roommate, so I couldn't go to spin class as usual. Nor would I have anyway since it was so nice out. After I showed the apartment, I decided to go for a run. I wanted to go 6 miles. At first my run was going great! By the time I hit the downtown area of New Haven, I was running just under 8 minute miles! I was pumped and I kept at it, pumping myself up more with positive affirmations. I did hill intervals during my morning workout, and it seems I immediately see a speed increase after those sessions. I kept telling myself I need to do more hill intervals because I was going so fast!

I felt great, I looked great. I've committed myself to doing abdominal workouts every other day (which I will post more about later) and it's really starting to show. All was going well until I tripped on a grate in the sidewalk I've run over a dozen times. I hit the ground, HARD. Two ladies who were several yards ahead of me where turned around when I got myself up. My shoulder and knee immediately began to burn. I looked over to my shoulder, it glowed red. I paused my iPod, and one of the ladies yelled, "It only hurts for a minute! Were you running?" "Yes."

I walked forward, a bit defeated. Every time I'm feeling awesome about myself and my progress I get smacked down. It's become an Icarus complex, I can never fly high without getting burnt. I muttered expletives and thought about what I was going to do. Am I going to walk home? What would I tell people? What would I write on my blog? Haha. I thought to some encouraging words my friend Maura had just texted me an hour or so before. She told me how I was an inspiration to her, and that she's been running more. I was so touched, and happy to hear that. I needed that. I've been having a down week, I feel weak but I have no real explanation. I think with the whole roommate situation and some other thoughts I've been having, on top of lack of sleep, has just gotten to me. I wanted to cry, I almost cried. I had a flashback to Muay Thai sparring, when I got the wind knocked out of me. The trainer was right next to me again screaming "Don't CRY! DON'T CRY!! SUCK IT UP!" And so I sucked it up, and swallowed it down like a rancid shot of cheap whiskey.

So all this ran through my head at a thousand miles an hour. Not even a minute after falling, I turned my iPod back on, I restarted my now scraped up Garmin and started running. No way I was walking home. What if I fell during a race? I think I need some injury perseverance training. I passed a woman who was smiling at me, like really smiling. I couldn't tell if she was smiling at me because I'm tattooed (which is usually the case) or if she could tell I was injured (my shoulder was a brilliant shade of lava) and realized I kept on running. Most likely it was just the tattoos, but I decided to go with, "She thinks I'm awesome because I got back up."

So I ran, debating the entire time whether I was doing more harm than good, or if this wasn't such a bad idea. By the time I got to my street I was feeling "good". Okay, I was in pain, but the rest of me wanted at least another mile. I fell at mile 2.5 and I was now a mile past that, so I decided to push myself even more. I went down Whitney a little more before I turned onto a road that was sort of heading back home. I was running sub 8:30 min miles. I kept going and by the time I was nearing my apartment I was really in pain. In the end I ran 4.28 miles with a pace of 8:23. Had I not injured myself I probably would have had a pace of 8 or even below. Still, under 8:30 is fine with me.

Excuse me Mr. Flamingo, it seems your head has exploded.

It looks so lame! The real pain isn't the scrape, it's my complete shoulder. During my cool down walk I tried to move my shoulder, and I heard that digital noise in my head, the sound a camera flash used to make when it charges. Shit. This is bad. I only hear that noise if I'm about to pass out or I'm in a lot of pain. As soon as I got home I took two bags of Bird's Eye Mixed Vegetables, laid on my mat, and put one on my shoulder and one on my knee and just laid there. I looked up at the ceiling wondering how bad it was, or if I was just being dramatic. After the icing I put Ziploc bags with wet microwaved towels in them on my injuries. Then Google said not to do that. Only long term injuries get heat. But the heat felt so good! The ice made me stiff and hurt more. So I iced again, and took a shower, which loosened up my shoulder and knee again.

This morning I debated working out, because I'm insane. Luckily I realized I'm insane, and opted for a rest day. Because sometimes I need to admit I'm human, which is hard for me to do. I'm sore, and I keep trying to stretch out and move my shoulder. Luckily my knee isn't so bad. So I will probably go to the gym after work, to go to the sauna and hopefully loosen it up some more. I know they say not to heat it, but it makes it feel so much better. I think the muscles are just knotted up, and hopefully I will be able to swim this weekend.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Show me Your Six Pack

As I was getting dressed at the gym, I overheard a girl crying and talking on her cellphone. At first I thought she was just a crazy drama queen. While I was washing my face, I heard more of her conversation. Turns out she just did a fitness assessment, which is basically how the gym cons people into paying for personal training sessions. Before I joined my gym I read horror stories a lot like her's online. I was so intimidated to join my gym, fearing they would be pushy salesmen but personally I've never had a problem. Then I heard her say what the trainer said to her, and my blood boiled. "He said I could look better in a bikini, I think I already look fine in a bikini! And then he said, "Well show me your six pack." And I was like, I'm not showing you anything!"

This girl was skinny and fit. She was about my size but a little taller, with long full hair, and you could just tell she took good care of herself. There was no reason that the trainer should have said that to her. When she got off the phone she was still crying a bit. I thought back to all the "Operation Beautiful" posts and articles I've seen in the past week. As the site states, "The mission of Operation Beautiful is to post anonymous notes in public places for other women to find." In my opinion, the Operation Beautiful thing is a great gesture, and a step in the right direction, but being anonymous just seems kind of unhelpful and generic. I realized this was my opportunity to be the better person I'm trying to be and help a fellow girl out. To go the step beyond what "Operation Beautiful" does, and actually reach out to someone who needs to hear some kind words and positive reinforcement.

I should bring up, in terms of "sisterhood", I've been a terrible female. Girls picked on me so much growing up, that I really have a hard time trusting other females. I've spoken a lot of hateful and degrading words towards women, and I'm not proud of it. I've come to realize more recently that the things that men have said about my body and other girl's bodies has really affected me deeply. I can recall vividly all the times guys, and often guys I loved or respected, have said things that were painful. One of my ex boyfriends, who was a very tolerate, peaceful happy-go-lucky kind of guy has said things about other girl's bodies that made me worry. I wonder if those are the kinds of things they think about me and my body. They must have seen the "muffin top" on me that they pointed out on that girl.

So, I was thinking about all this when she was on the phone, and decided I was going to say something. Other women in the locker room heard her but minded their own business. I was scared she'd be angry at me for clearly eavesdropping though honestly, she was talking really loud. Anyway, I went up to her and said, "Which trainer said that to you?" She started talking to me, and as she was, a woman who teaches spin craned around the lockers, her face in shock. She missed hearing the phone call but when she heard that the girl was upset by an employee she was irate. Unfortunately the people that teach classes aren't really employees, as the work like 3 hours a week, so she couldn't really do anything to complain.

The girl went on to say that she only did the fitness assessment because she's new to the gym and doesn't know how any of the machines work. She was intimidated to begin with because it's a new place, bigger than her old gym and she doesn't know anyone. She's confident that she has her own fitness plan down, which she has every right to be because she's fit. All she wanted was a little help getting familiar with the equipment, but the employee, who is basically a salesman, used dirty tactics to get her to sign up for a personal trainer. I don't think guys ever realize how painful their words can be. I'm sure he knew he was upsetting her, but didn't think of the consequences of how what he said could affect her after tomorrow.

I told the girl she was beautiful and fit. I told her she has every reason to be confident in herself, and not let some massive muscled dude with shrunken balls tell her any different. The spin teacher joined in and said to just be "an asshole to anyone who talks to you like that. Just walk away, tell them they just lost a sale." The girl said she didn't know what to do, that she didn't want to leave the locker room. I told her to just go back out there, get on a treadmill and show him that he didn't beat her down. I also told her that I've never had that problem, and that the class instructors are a lot better than the people who work there full time. I told her I've met a lot of nice people there, and that this was just one bad experience and not to let it pull her down or stop her from going to the gym. She was really appreciative and after talking to me for a bit she calmed down.

Sometimes it's so hard to take a little time to put yourself aside, and help someone else. I've been trying a lot lately to be patient with other people and talk to them. It seems so simple, but I've closed myself off a lot these past couple of years. The other day an Asian lady who wants to get her eyebrows tattooed asked me questions for about 20 minutes. She didn't get the concept that the tattoos will never wash off. Her English wasn't that great either so it made it really hard, especially when I just wanted to go home. Other women were watching us, though they were on the other side of the lockers, they could see us in the mirror. I don't want to perpetuate the stereotype that tattooed people are anti-social and uneducated. Seriously, I've had people treat me like I've been to jail and didn't go to college and must wear a name tag where I work. Usually it's been doctors and nurses, and if they spend 5 minutes with me realize they're completely wrong.

Anyway, that was a bit off topic, but what I'm getting at is I'm trying to be a better human. The transformation I seek isn't purely physical. These past few years I've been losing weight, gaining muscle, learning new sports, learning what my body is capable of, the list goes on and on. The progress I've made physically has given me a lot of insight into a wide variety of things. Since I've become more athletic I've inspired people, been able to motivate friends, helped people in a positive way, and I'm so grateful for that. I need to be better to my fellow females most of all. The older I get the more I realize they have the same hang-ups and insecurities that I do, and that we should be supportive of each other instead of giving into the competitive, "catty" bullshit that tends to arise. I need to put the past behind me and stop assuming the worst.


Train, Grains and Gains

Last week I did so much that I think I'm burnt out this week. Last week's totals:
Run: 13.05mi
Bike: 53.93mi
Spin: 1hr 30min
Swim: 6000yards
Strength: 1hr 46min
and I also walked/hiked about 3 miles and did my last kettlebells and kickboxing classes at Aiki. I've been getting a pitiful 6 hours of sleep a night lately. I've been trying to get myself to sleep earlier, but I end up getting sucked into the internet doing nothing in particular. I've been kind of dragging in all my workouts this week. Spin class has been the exception, the teacher made both classes this week Michael Jackson tributes! I was rocking out both classes and it was a lot of fun. My insane teacher at one point screamed, "MJ's lookin' down on you guys, and he's like... meh... PUSH HARDER! DON'T STOP TIL YOU GET ENOUGH!!!" Have I mentioned before that my spin instructor is insane? Well if I haven't, now you know.

I'm so happy I got to bike outside twice last week! Finally! I've been getting a lot better at dealing with the clip pedals, which is great. I'm feeling confident on the bike again and now look forward to riding again. I think going to spin is helping my speed on the bike, so I'm going to continue going at least once a week. When the canal path is empty, I'll hammer away and think back to how much I push myself in spin class. I ask myself, "If you can push yourself so hard in spin class, why are you holding back now?" Usually that will motivate me and I will get up to 20-21mph! Now if only I could get that as my average speed!

Last week I really pushed myself swimming too. I've been using old workouts from Trifitness, and have been trying to do the A or B group workouts. A is advanced, B are moderate, and the C group ones were the newbies/slow swimmers. Last week was the first time I swam over 3000 yards in a workout. My arms were killing me by the end but I was really proud that I'm adding more distance.

This week I went to a Naturopathic doctor. I decided I do not want to treat my stomach with harsh antibiotics and medicines. Speaking with the doctor I felt relieved, finally a doctor that takes my lifestyle into account. You'd think all doctors, especially concerning stomach problems would care about how I was eating. Neither my primary care doctor or my gastroenterologist really asked about my diet. I think they take one look at me and just assume I'm healthy. The naturopath has doubled some of the vitamins I take already, as well as added some more and some herbal remedies. I'm going to get a breath test to see if I do in fact have an H. pylori infection. He says I should avoid dairy for 3 weeks, which I've been okay about. I did cave completely yesterday and had soft serve ice cream, pizza AND chocolates. My hormones have been insane this week, my face broke out and my cravings are out of control. TMI be damned, my PMS some months is ridiculous.

I haven't been very raw this week at all, and I'm okay with that. I think it's best for me to eat raw foods but also get plenty of whole grains. Training as much as I do, I need more substantial carbohydrates, which is very similar to Brendan Brazier's views. Also, I can't bring myself to eat salad! It's like I go on a salad kick and I eat salad every day for a few weeks, and then the sight of greens makes me gag. I've been eating a lot of quinoa! Quinoa is an awesome super food! Most commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. It is a recently rediscovered ancient "grain" once considered "the gold of the Incas." -

I tried quinoa last year, but it was too earthy for me. This year I incorporated my new habit of adding vegetable bouillon (which I do to add flavor to brown rice) and I've found it makes quinoa so much better. Quinoa is a lot faster to make than brown rice, and can be made in around 20 minutes. Compare that to the hour or so it takes to make brown rice! (Unless of course you're using a more instant brand.) Below are the food charts from WHFoods:

As you can see quinoa has iron and other nutrients that brown rice lacks. "Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source." (Wikipedia) I've been making quinoa with beans, frozen spinach and mixed vegetables. I bought Eden Foods brand quinoa, but the best bang for your buck is to go to your local health foods store and buy it in bulk. It's super easy to prepare. Wash the quinoa with cold water in a collander that is mesh metal, and has very tiny holes. I grab the quinoa with one hand and rub it against itself. This cleans off the quinoa's natural coating called saponins. If you ever played with Floam as a kid, you'll have some nostalgic flashbacks when washing the quinoa. It gets bunched together and is just like the foam pellet putty from back in the day. Bring 1-1/4 cups water to a boil and add in a cup of quinoa; simmer, covered for 15min (or until all water evaporates). Remove from heat and cool, covered for 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork, and it's ready to serve!

I've also been on a HUGE Kashi kick. Kashi Go Lean Crunch has been on sale at Stop and Shop, as well as their TLC bars. I've always been kind of weary of Kashi, being part of a big corporation and all, but I've given them a second chance. The more I look at their nutritional labels, the more I realize how great their products are. All their products are packed with protein, fiber and healthy fats and very little sugar. I have to admit, right here, I work for a company that sells Kashi. Really the only advantage I get, is an employee discount, making it more of an incentive for me to buy their products. The other day I was in a grocery store I never go to, looking for healthy vegetarian options for me, since I was having dinner at my meatatarian friend Dan's place. I was craving an oatmeal raisin cookie. I looked all around but found no healthy options until I went in the granola section. I found a box of Kashi's TLC Oatmeal Flax Cookies. Wow, not only are they a decent size, but they were the healthiest option I could find for an oatmeal cookie.

When I buy instant oatmeal to eat at work, I buy Kashi's Creamy Truly Vanilla oatmeal. I went through a huge search, as only a nutrition nut like me would, for the "perfect" instant oatmeal. So many instant oatmeals, from Quaker to the most organic "healthy" brands out there add SO MUCH SUGAR to their oatmeal. I was eating Quaker's Weight Control Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal for the longest time, but it tastes like aspertame. (Funny side note: My coworker for the longest time would always mention how he loves the smell of my oatmeal until he realized it was the Quaker's Weight Control one and was so disheartened. He's tried it in the past too, and said it was too awful to finish!) Also, the Quaker portion was so small, it never filled me up. Kashi's oatmeal is awesome because you can add more water. You can't just add hot water, you have to microwave it too, to really cook the grains in it. Nuking it makes it fluffy and creamy and a lot more filling.

One last endorsement. Kashi waffles, oh man. I don't get the Kashi waffles on discount, and this is a real bummer. They've been recommended to me by a few people, and I finally decided to try them out. They are a great treat to buy! If I ever see them on sale, I'm stocking up! I've had them with apple spread and with fresh peaches, but they'd be great with any fruit, or none at all. I add a little Earth Balance spread and drizzle on agave nectar. I have to say, I've tried Van's waffles too, and these are great, but comparing their nutritional value, Kashi wins. Kashi's has less fat, less calories, and more protein. If you are vegan though go with Van's, Kashi's uses dairy and eggs, unfortunately.

In summation, adding back the whole grains into my diet has helped a lot. I feel I have more endurance, and feel stronger in general. I still have a smoothie in the morning, and mostly raw fruits and veggies for snacks with the addition of a Kashi bar. Now I just have to work on getting in more sleep, and I should be making even more progress!