Sunday, December 25, 2011

THE RACE & TRANSITION AREA: Technologically De-vanced?

This year for Christmas I decided to drive back to Nebraska instead of flying.  The sole reason for doing so was my 15-year-old dog, Bailey.  I just didn't think he'd be able to handle a flight home this year.  So we packed up the car and set out to drive about 11-12 hours a day for 2 days.  Unfortunately, thanks in part to the wonders of GPS technology, the first day turned into a 15-hour trip...Maybe you've suffered a similarly aggravating setback at the hand of the technology that's supposed to make your life so much easier?

This card that someone gave me for Christmas pretty much sums it up...
This isn't so much a technology/gear review as it as technology cautionary tale.  In the triathlon world, we come to depend - sometimes a little too much - on our technology. For Ironman training in particular we focus obsessively on heart rate zone training -  wearing our Garmin GPS units or similar fitness equipment with a heart rate monitor to make sure we're staying in Zone 2.  Heaven forbid if the heart rate monitor isn't working for a workout or - worse yet - for an actual race.  We're lost, we start to panic, fear and confusion set the hell will we be able to bike or run without knowing what heart rate zone we're in?! We're like deer in the headlights not knowing how to function.

The same deer-in-the-headlights effect happens when we mindlessly rely on GPS units in our cars.  How many times have you known a better route than the GPS unit, but followed its robotic directions just because it's supposed to "know" what it's doing?  How much have you cussed at your GPS for taking you down a 35 mph street just because it's a shorter distance than the 50 mph highway?  Yet, you continue to follow it.  Just like I continued to follow the damn thing across some po-dunk highway in Ohio that added a good 2.5 hours to my Nebraska road trip.  I'm not the only ding-dong.  The internet is full of stories about people who blindly follow their GPS units to the point of nearly driving - or actually driving - off cliffs:  Wall Street Journal

One thing I've learned through all the triathlon training (and now, through a 1,400-mile drive) is that we really need to be better about listening to our instincts and our bodies. In this technologically-dependent world today, we seem to have back-burnered our God-given instincts.  Believe it or not, you can do a workout or even a race without your heart rate monitor.  If you've trained well enough, you can actually know what heart rate zone you're in without a heart rate monitor.  I actually got pretty good at that during the months of Ironman training. In fact, I could usually predict the rate at which my heart was beating within a beat or two.  It's not rocket science.  It's pretty basic common sense that your mind should know what your body is doing and how your body is feeling.  The same holds true when you're just dong basic physical activity, like moving boxes or scooping snow - your body knows its limits and it's up to your mind to actually pay attention.  But sometimes our minds - like a GPS unit - want to override what our bodies are telling us.  That's when we get in trouble...

Next time you forget your heart rate monitor or GPS watch for a workout or even a race, take a breath and trust that YOU actually know your body better than a piece of technology.  And the next time you're in the car and the GPS unit tells you to take a left down a street that has a sign marked "DANGER - CLIFF AHEAD" - maybe you should use your head to override the technology.  I know that for my trip back to the east coast I'm going to print off a good ol' fashioned map to take as a back-up just in case the GPS directs me to go down some back country highway!

Have a funny story about how technology has actually set you back? 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

THE RACE: I Believe....

During the holiday season, there's a lot of focus on "beliefs."  In what religion, if any, do you believe? Do you believe in Santa Clause? Do you believe in Christmas miracles? Obviously throughout the rest of the year, our various beliefs shape our daily thoughts and actions; but, how often do you really stop to think about what you believe in?  Could you actually sit and list the beliefs that shape your outlook on life?  Well I tried, and here's what I came up with:

I believe...
  • you are first and foremost a human being.  Every other title you have is temporary and secondary.
  • you are influencing people, for better or worse, when you don't even know it.
  • people who are mean, cruel, or arrogant actually have very low self esteem.
  • the world would be a better place if we focused on our similarities rather than our differences.
  • there is a higher power that, regardless of what you call it, unites us all.
  • that from a moral, religious, environmental, & humane standpoint, humans in an advanced society have no reason to eat animals.
  • we should not assign value to another living creature or nature based on its usefulness or utility for us.
  • physical activity makes us stronger physically and emotionally.
  • everyone should watch a toddler run and try to mimic it.
  • you can find out a lot about yourself by taking a trip alone, especially to another country.
  • one of the best ways to cheer yourself up is to listen to the genuine, unfiltered laughter of a small child
  • it really is the little things - both good and bad - that make a difference.
  • true love is not an urban myth. 
  • everyone should volunteer at some point in their lives. 
  • as my mother says, in any bad situation, you can say "If this is the worst thing that happens to me, I'll probably be ok."
  • as my grandpa used to say, "all you gotta do is look around and there will be somebody who has it worse than you do."
  • as my uncle used to say, "It is what it is."
  • and finally, you really do get what you wish for, even if it's not in a form that you recognize.

 I'd love to hear some of your beliefs...what beliefs shape your life and your actions?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

RECOVERY: A Hop, Skip, and an Injury

Training for and finishing an Ironman makes you feel like you're at the top of your fitness game.  Obviously there are pain and injuries associated with training and the race, which is to be expected.  What I didn't expect, however, was the most painful injury I've ever had during my recovery period after the race.

Taking full advantage of the post-Ironman recovery period and trying to branch outside my normal swim, bike, run routine, I decided one nite last week to do a little workout where I jumped rope for 5 minutes, did a series of pilates, and then repeated twice.  My left calf was a little sore afterwards, but no biggee...

Then last nite, I went to my good friends' house.  Their three kids were showing me their jump rope tricks, so I decided to join in.  On the very first jump, it felt like someone shot me in the calf. I couldn't stand or walk and the pain was unbelievable.  I was left walking like Frankenstein, couldn't drive my stick shift, and was very worried about what damage I'd just done to my calf...

I saw my accupuncturist today (who my friends and I lovingly refer to as Mr. Miaggi because he works wonders).  He gently explained that after Ironman, your muscles are tight...duh.  Plus, you're not doing the same level of workouts as before, only adding to the tightness.  Consequently - don't do explosive workouts (like basketball or, gee, jumping rope) when you've trained for endurance rather than speed!

So here I am on the couch, with my leg propped up, icing my calf, wearing my compression socks, barely scooting around the house, and taking herbal supplements from Mr. Miaggi.  All because - I'm a ding dong...Based on my internet research, an injury like this could take 4-6 weeks to heal. Mr. Miaggi thinks he cut my healing time in's hopin'...

So there are two important things I've learned from this little setback:

1.  Don't think that "recovery" means you can simply segway into totally different workouts.  Change up the intensity and volume, add more strength workouts, but don't stray too far out of the training box.

2.  On a bit of a sidenote, be careful with flying after an endurance event or when you have a muscular leg injury.  Mr. Miaggi wisely told me that after an event like Ironman, your muscles have a lot of little tears, which means little bleeds.  If you sit on a plane after that, those little bleeds can clot, and well, we all know what can happen from there.  So make sure either to allow plenty of time between your event and return flight, or at least wear compression socks on the flight.  And always make sure to drink plenty of water when you're flying to keep the blood circulating.  Flying makes your blood kinda "sludgy" and can contribute to the blood pooling.

At the end of the day, I'm really glad this happened now rather than a month ago or during the Ironman...And it's definitely taught me that "recovery period" doesn't mean "free-for-all."

Have you had a post-event/recovery injury?  What was it and how did you deal with it? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

THE RACE & RECOVERY: Post-Event Depression

Have you ever planned for a goal or event, accomplished the goal or gotten through the event, then fallen into a funk when it's over?  Well, don't worry, you're not a freak and you don't need to run off to see a shrink.  Turns out, you're probably suffering from something fairly common...something I'll call Post-Event Depression or "P.E.D."  Yes, I'm coining that term (as far as I know) heard it here first.  

What is P.E.D.?

Well, since I've made up my own term, there's probably not a clinical definition, so here goes:

  • P.E.D.:  the feeling of "let-down" after accomplishing a goal or getting through a big event in which you have invested a substantial amount of your time and energy over a significant period of time.  Oftentimes, you use this goal or event as a way to define yourself, so that once the goal is accomplished or the event is over, you're at a loss as to what to do with yourself.     

According to, "post-Ironman depression" is pretty normal for triathletes, particularly those doing an Ironman, because for months on end, their lives have revolved around this one goal.  So once that goal is over, then what?  And apparently this feeling isn't limited to athletes:  anyone accomplishing a major goal, like graduating or retiring, can fall into the same kind of funky vacuum.

Most articles I've read chalk up the Post-Ironman Depression or other P.E.D. to not knowing what to do with yourself and your time once the event is over.  Athlete or not, we seem to define ourselves by our goals, our professions, our hobbies.  So when you achieve your goal, retire from your profession, or have your job or hobby taken away by circumstance beyond your control, you're left wondering "now what?"  

What Can You Do About P.E.D? 

Most recommendations for dealing with Post-Ironman Depression or some other form of P.E.D. include:

  • Immediately setting a new goal, like signing up for another race, to help you re-focus your energy and get "back on-track."  Some people even recommend setting this new goal before your old goal is complete.  
  • Rewarding yourself for accomplishing your goal.
  • Re-focusing your energy on other things/people that are unrelated to your goal.  For example, spending more time with your non-triathlete friends or taking up other un-related hobbies.      

For the most part, these kinds of recommendations are probably fine.  But I think that some people need to be careful with the first one...  

My Two Cents:

My concern is this:  if you need to sign up for another race to pull yourself out of your Post-Ironman funk, then there may be a bigger problem.  Ask yourself this:  

  • Do you need a triathlon or Ironman to define yourself or to pull yourself out of your depression?         

I'm not talking about needing to exercise to feel good.  Exercise, the release of endorphins, makes us feel good - that's a given.  I'm talking about your need for the title or label.  Would you feel lost without it?  And I'm not just harping on triathletes here - I'm harping on anyone who uses one thing to define themselves.  I know a lot of attorneys who are the same way.  Without that label of "attorney," they'd be lost.

My bottom line is this:  you are not just one thing or one profession or one hobby or one title.  You are first and foremost a human being.  Beyond that, everything else is temporary.  If you feel that being without that "one" title or goal will strip you of who you are, then I think you're grossly underestimating all of the other titles and goals you could have.

So embrace whatever Post-Ironman or post-event funk you're in.  Use it as a time to reflect, and know that on the other side there are a lot of other amazing things waiting for you.  Whether you set the same goal (another Ironman) or a different one, it doesn't matter.  Just don't use that one goal or one title to define yourself.  Let your cup runneth over....use that goal to add to all of the other wonderful things that you are instead of defining the entirety of who you are.  Then maybe next time, your P.E.D. won't be so bad because your cup will still be plenty full...

Have you experienced Post-Ironman Depression or some other P.E.D.?  If so, how have you dealt with it? 

Friday, December 9, 2011

THE RACE: The 12 Quotes of Christmas

With the holidays in full swing, it's easy to get a little Grinchy.  Here are a variety of quotes to help put a little jingle back in your day...

1.  "It's easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you're a winner, when you're number one.  What you got to have is faith and discipline when you're not a winner."  -- Vince Lombardi.

2.  "I survived because I had trained my heart to do the same:  survive.  Becoming an Ironman had kept me from becoming a dead man."  The Long Run -- Matt Long

3.  "What matters is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight -- it's the size of the fight in the dog."  -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

4.  "Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far they can go." -- T.S. Elliot

5.  "Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction."  -- William James

6.  "Let us live so that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry."  
-- Mark Twain

7.  "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees."  The Bible, Hebrews 12: 11-13

8.  "Without patient endurance, even the smallest thing becomes unbearable.  A lot depends on our attitude."  The Dalai Lama

9.  "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.  It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed.  Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up.  It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.  It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle -- when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."  Born to Run -- Chris McDougall (quoting Roger Bannister).

10.  "If a task is once begun, never leave it til it's done. Be the labor big or small, do it well or not at all."  -- Unknown

11.  "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I've lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I've failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed."  -- Michael Jordan

12.  "You just can't beat the person who never gives up."  -- Babe Ruth

You don't need Stuart Smalley...Just pick a few quotes to pep you up...

Have a favorite motivational quote you'd like to share? 

RECOVERY: Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie

Peanut butter and bananas...2 things that make my mom wanna hurl.  I love 'em...and together, even better!  So I was thrilled when I was poking around on Pinterest and found this Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie from the This Chick Cooks blog.  (Btw, if you haven't tried Pinterest....then you've probably been getting more sleep than me.  It's completely addictive.  It's a site where other "pinners" "pin" things that they like to "boards."  Basically, you see something you like on the internet - a recipe, clothing, a DIY craft, a cute animal, whatever - you pin it to your board, other people see it, they can re-pin it, and you get some great ideas and laughs.  Check it out...and plan on staying up too late!)

This is what I look like after too many late nites on

Anyway, I tried this smoothie the other nite after a workout and it hit the spot!  I, of course, used Almond Milk (vanilla) instead of real milk to make it vegan.  And you could probably add some vanilla protein powder for an extra protein kick, although the peanut butter has good protein.

Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie

  • 2 frozen & sliced bananas (Tip:  slice the bananas before putting them in the freezer, then take the bananas out about 1/2 hour before you want to make the smoothie to let them thaw.  Otherwise, even the VitaMix will have a hard time blending them up)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup ground oats (Tip:  Unless you have a high-powered blender like the VitaMix, grind up the oats in a coffee grinder first)
  • 3/4 cup milk, almond milk, or rice milk
  • Blend all ingredients together and voila!  
Have a smoothie recipe you'd like to share? 

Monday, December 5, 2011

TRANSITION AREA: Michele's Top 20 Holiday Gift Ideas

The internet is teeming with gift guides for the holiday season, so I may as well jump on Santa's bandwagon. Here are my top 20 gift choices for the athletes, wanna-be athletes, or the comfy couch potatoes.  If you'd rather avoid the commercialism of the holidays or if the economy has left a big lump of coal in your back pocket, I've also included some more eco-friendly ideas (meaning both ECOlogical- and ECOnomy-friendly).


1.  Cuisinart Classic Waffle maker ($39.95):  I recently found a recipe for vegan waffles and I was thrilled!  Vegan or otherwise, waffles are quick to whip up thanks to this mini round waffle maker.  Great for individuals, it heats up quickly, has a ready to use/ready to eat indicator light, and is easy to clean.  

2.  VitaMix ($449-$649, depending on the model): O.k., so you may have needed to be extra good this year for Santa to bring you a VitaMix because it's not cheap; but, I've put it on the list because it's by far, hands-down, without a doubt, no questions asked the best "blender" out there.  I say "blender" because that really doesn't do it justice.  I had three blenders - each of went to crap in a matter of months - before I broke down to buy the VitaMix a few years ago.  Yes, it's a lot of money up-front; but, it has a 7-year warranty (how many cheaper blenders would you buy in that amount of time?), and it's so much sturdier and hard-working than other "blenders."  You can make soups, smoothies, pizza crusts, peanut name it.  If I was stranded on a desert island, I'd want my VitaMix...

3.  Keurig Mini-Plus Brewing System ($99.95):  I never really drank coffee until my boyfriend introduced me to the Keurig.  I'd never make a whole pot of coffee, so the Keurig individual cups are perfect.  I hate that the K-Cups are so wasteful, so hopefully they can at least come up with recycled or recyclable K-Cups soon. At any rate, the Keurig Mini is perfect for the office or even if you're traveling to take to a hotel because it's small and holds just enough water for one cup of coffee, with options for three cup sizes (6, 8 and 10 oz).

Keurig Mini-Plus in 3 colors

4.  Hydros Self-Filtering Water Bottle ($30, but on sale for $25 or less on many websites):  I'm totally putting this on my Christmas wish list year (hint, hint Santa)!  No more plastic water bottles, no more icky water out of the fountain at the mall...This made-in-America, BPA-free self-filtering water bottle is perfect for on-the-go so you can filter out chlorine, chloramines, and particulates from your tap water.  (Not recommended for use with lake/stream/river water, so don't try to filter the stream water on your hike!  The website notes that "Hydros filters are intended to be only used with municipally treated tap water or well water that is regularly tested to be microbiologically safe.") 
Hydro self-filtering bottle (in orange)
5.  Wrap-n-Mat (various sizes starting around $8):  I have one of these and I wish I had more.  These are foldable, reusable, easy-to-clean cloth mats are great for bagels or sandwiches to take to work or in the car.  You can save money by not using plastic sandwich bags, which in no time will make up for the cost of wrap-n-mat.  They also come in lots of cute designs that kids will love (and adults!). 

6.  Pack-It cooler/lunch bag ($19.95, but on sale now for buy 1 get 1 free):  My mom bought me two of these for my birthday and I love them for traveling.  The bag folds up to be stuck in the freezer and when you're ready to go, the gel pack will stay cold for 10 hours.  Perfect for lunches for day trips or snacks/drinks for post-workout. 


7.  Yogi Organic Tea ($4.99 for 1 box of 16 tea bags):  I love the Yogi teas - they have so many different kinds that you're sure to find the right one for your mood or ailment.  Plus, they have inspirational little sayings on them, which I love.  

8.  Vega Sport Endurance Bars and Protein Bars ($2.99 for the Endurance bar and $3.49 for the Protein bar):  A great stocking stuffer.  I hesitate to tell you that these are vegan because you probably wouldn't know the difference.  Whether you're vegan or not, I urge you to try these!  Developed by vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, these bars have blown me away!  A lot of vegan bars, and even some sports bars in general, are rather lackluster.  The Vega Sport line, however, is delicious!  I ate the Endurance Bars during Ironman Arizona and they were great for my stomach.  Whether you're working out or not, these are a nutritious, healthy, yummy snack!

9.  Rescue Chocolate Bars (variety of different chocolates at different prices):  Based on Alicia Silverstone's recommendation on her website The Kind Life, I really want to try these chocolates, so I'm putting them on my list too!  Put your money where your sweet tooth is - 100% of the net profits from these chocolates go to animal rescue organizations!  The chocolates are vegan, kosher, and hand-crafted in Brooklyn, NY. 

Skin Care: 

10.  Skin Care for Athletes (prices vary based on type of product):  I don't think you have to be an athlete to enjoy the benefits of these.  I'm a little leery of recommending something I haven't personally tried, but these sound so wonderful that I'm adding them to my list also.  (My Santa list is getting a little long...).  Skin Care for Athletes is cruelty-free (no animal ingredients or animal testing in the product or any of the raw ingredients), paraben-free, fragrance-free, and certified organic.  They sell cleansers, moisturizers, bath salts, and body washes.  For an independent review of the products, click here.  

11.  Nature's Gate Lotions ($8.99-$12.99 depending on size and type):  This lotion isn't as inexpensive as other brands, but it's cruelty-free (notice that I'm a big advocate of cruelty-free), paraben-free, and just down-right soothing.  It's not heavy or greasy and my skin always feels great afterwards.  


12.  It's hard to recommend just one book when there are so many good ones out there, so check my Books I Like tab for my recommendations.  My real gift-buying recommendation is this:  try to avoid the big-name booksellers this year.  Use a retailer like Better World Books, where every book sold online helps fund high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world.  The company commits that for every book sold on their website, they will donate a book to someone in need.  They also offer free shipping and the option of purchasing carbon offsets for your shipment.  Alternatively, host your own holiday party book exchange and ask your guests to bring the books they've already read to exchange them with books from other guests.  Everyone gets a new book, they recycle, and it's FREE!

For the Athlete or Wanna-Be Athlete:  

13.  Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves and Arm Sleeves (leg sleeves $39.99; arm sleeves $29.99):  I've already talked about the benefits of compression gear in an earlier post, but I'm just in love with the Zensah compression leg sleeves.  I've been meaning to get a pair of the compression arm sleeves, but may need to add this to the Santa list.

14.  One More Mile Shirts (short-sleeve $26.99; long-sleeve $29.99):  Shirts-off to One More Mile for the witty sayings on their shirts.  I have several of these wicking shirts and the sayings crack me up:  "I'm only doing this so I can post a picture on Facebook." "I thought they said "Rum."" "If found on ground, please drag across finish line."  And my favorite "In my dreams I am a Kenyan."

15.  Swim Caps with Funky Designs: Swim Outlet has tons of cute swim caps with designs from Santa to sharks to flowers.  Show some attitude with your swim!
Festive swim cap

16.  Princeton Tec headlamp for running ($26.95):  Running at night requires the runner to see and be seen.  The Princeton Tec LED headlamp is lightweight (78g) and has 146 hours of burn time.

17.  Knog Beetle LED bike lights ($22.95 for front and back light each):  Cyclists also need to see and be seen at night and these Knog Beetle lights are easy to clip onto the bike before taking off on your early morning or nighttime ride.

White light for front, red for back
Misc. Stocking Stuffers:  

18.  Road ID (starting at $15.99, depending on the version):  Anyone running, biking, walking, roller-blading, hiking, or doing any type or outdoor activity needs a Road ID. The Road ID provides your name, emergency contact information, and medical information.  It literally can be a life-saver.  If you get nothing else on this list, get the Road ID.

Road ID  
19.  Give the Gift of a Race:  Give someone you love the gift of a race next year.  There are several websites like (which has numerous sporting events including running, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, cycling, and triathlons) and that let you search according to your desired sport and area of the country.  If you know someone who's been itching to do a 10k or marathon, or if someone just needs a little inspiration to get off the couch, give them a homemade gift card for a race next year.

20.  Sponsor an Animal:  Despite my long Santa list, my favorite gift actually is the gift of sponsoring an animal.  Sponsor a homeless or rescued animal this season on your behalf on in someone else's name.  There are countless rescue organizations that need your support and when you sponsor an animal, your dollars go toward the feed and care for a particular animal.  Farm Sanctuary (that I linked to above) is just one example.  There's also the Best Friends Animal Society or any number of local animal shelters in your area that you can find by using the ASPCA's shelter finder.

Happy Holidays!

Have another gift-giving recommendation? Let me know....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

THE RACE: The Stupid Stooper

I have the following sign up in my office, which is a spoof on the movie the Sixth Sense, where the little boy is telling Bruce Willis that he sees dead people:

Some days more than others that spoof is particularly true.  Sometimes it seems like stupid people are popping up everywhere like zombies in a horror movie....walking around in what I call a stupid stooper.  Plus, the holiday season really seems to bring out the stupidity in people.

Today as I'm driving on the Route 7 cluster in northern Virginia on my way back from Home Depot, I asked myself what in the hell I was thinking coming out in this mess. I almost got run over by some ding-dong yapping on his phone as I was in the cross walk in the parking lot.  I saw parents wandering clueless down the Home Depot aisles, leaving their children unattended in the shopping carts to rip items off the shelves. People parking illegally, blocking traffic right in front of the door, with their hazard lights on, waiting for someone to come out of the store.  And - one of my biggest pet peeves:  the people who are oblivious to the concept of "right of way" at a four-way stop sign.  Apparently, "right of way" isn't on the driving test for people in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area because 9 times out of 10 when I roll up to a four-way stop sign to the right of another driver, at the same time or just before him/her, they don't yield the right of way.

So as I'm lamenting the time I wasted on my Sunday afternoon Home Depot jaunt, I started thinking about how thin my patience had been lately.  Although there may be a variety of factors at play, what I realized is that I was having a bit of a superiority complex.  While running around cursing at all the stupid people around me, I'd forgotten that I myself have been guilty of the stupid stooper...maybe just once or twice.  I thought back to Ironman Arizona when I barked at several people who were passing me on the bike ride on the wrong side.  In most triathlons, the applicable rules say that you can only pass someone on the bike on their left and that you're supposed to announce that you're passing.  I'm notorious for scolding people in a race or on the bike trail when they don't announce that they're passing. During Ironman Arizona, there were several people who got a couple of choice words from me as they not only passed me on the wrong side, but did so without even announcing themselves.  Did they not know the rules, or did they know and just not care?  Either way - stupid!  But today, I remembered when I had a similar bout of stupidity during the Chicago triathlon last year.  The Chicago triathlon uses different rules than most other triathlons and, for whatever reason, I hadn't read them.  I thought "how different could they be?"  So as I was flying down Lakeshore drive, yelling at people "on your left," wondering why everyone was riding on the wrong side, someone actually yelled back at me "You're supposed to pass on the right!"  It took two other people yelling at me to realize that the Chicago rules were the opposite - I was supposed to pass on the right.  Who was the idiot then?

How many of us have honked at someone who sat for 2 seconds too long at a red light?  And how many of us have actually been the person who sat too long at the red light?  How many times have you yelled at someone for talking on their cell phone without the handsfree device while driving?  Yet, how many of you have been guilty of picking up your cell phone in the car for just 10 seconds without the handsfree?  Ever gotten annoyed with someone walking at snails pace in front of you, gabbing to their friend?  Yet how many times have you been enjoying the company of a friend while just slowly strolling down the street?

The point is this:  We're all guilty of the stupid stooper, at least once in awhile.  Yet, when you're chewing out some other person for being a ding-dong, it's easy to forget that you too have been just as much of a ding-dong at some point in time.  You're not perfect, and neither is the person whom you're calling a ding-dong.  

During the holidays we're all stressed and a little short on patience.  But the next time you find yourself annoyed with another driver, the person next to you on the metro, or some store clerk, try to remember that everyone has their moments - including you.  In the spirit of the holidays, try to have a little empathy and think about how stressed or in a hurry that other person may be.  Remember that you too have had many a brain fart, just like the person who's annoying you.  Be patient, laugh it off, wish them a good day, and move on...then maybe the next time you forget to read the rules or you ignore the four-way stop sign, the other person whom you've just annoyed will return the patience...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

AID STATION: Say it With Me: Keen-wah

As a vegan I've learned to be creative and resourceful with the foods I eat to ensure that I'm getting adequate nutrition, particularly for all the triathlon training I do. It's not as hard as some people think, and yes, yes, yes I get plenty of protein. In fact, early in my Ironman training I kept track of all my nutrition and I was getting way more protein and calories than most meat-eaters. Being a vegan (at least a healthy vegan - there are unhealthy vegans who eat a lot of junk food) just requires more intentional and thoughtful eating and a wealth of knowledge about what foods provide which nutrients.  Not that meat-eaters aren't knowledgable about their food, but being a vegan seems to require a little more planning.

One of my staple foods that's phenomenal for non-vegans as well as vegans is quinoa. If you're from the Midwest (like I am) you're probably pronouncing this like it looks: kwi-noah. (We midwesterners like to sound out our words. When I first moved to DC I thought "Pilates" was pronounced "PIE-lates," with the "lates" sounding like when you're tardy rather than when you're ordering a coffee). But alas, quinoa is pronounced keen-wah. It's too bad that such a power food has such a hard-to-pronounce, foo-foo name. Quinoa is anything but a wimpy, foo-foo food. It's cheap, easy to cook, tasty, and nutrition-packed.  Quinoa is protein powerhouse and actually is a complete protein because it has all nine essential amino acids.  Although quinoa often is referred to as a supergrain, it's actually a seed that, when prepared, is fluffy, with a slightly crunchy texture and nutty flavor.  You can buy quinoa in pre-packaged containers or in the bulk bin.  Please note that before cooking quinoa, you should wash it thoroughly to remove resins that coat the quinoa seeds and can give it a bad taste if not washed off.  I usually put the quinoa in colander with holes small enough so the quinoa won't wash through. 

Here are a couple of my favorite quinoa recipes and their nutritional information, courtesy of Whole Foods Recipes:

Quinoa Pilaf:  

Serves 4

Dried cherries and toasted pecans add wonderful flavor and color to this quinoa dish.


1 cup quinoa 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup fresh chopped chives 
2 cups gluten-free vegetable broth 
Sea salt, to taste 
Ground pepper, to taste 
1/3 cup dried cherries (optional) 
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans


Rinse quinoa and drain it well. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chives and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Stir in quinoa and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until the skillet gets dry. 

In a separate pan, heat vegetable broth to a simmer. Add hot broth, salt and pepper to the skillet. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 20 to 25 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Stir in cherries and pecans.


Per serving: 300 calories (110 from fat), 12g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 8g protein, 42g total carbohydrate (6g dietary fiber, 7g sugar), 0mg cholesterol, 500mg sodium
Zesty Quinoa with Broccoli and Cashews
Serves 4


1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil) 
1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided 
1 cup finely chopped red onion 
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
3/4 cup dry white wine (**I actually cut this to about 1/4 cup, otherwise it's a little too potent)
1/4 cup lemon juice 
1 cup uncooked quinoa 
2 cups small broccoli florets 
1/2 cup roasted cashew pieces 
2 green onions, thinly sliced


Soak sundried tomatoes in hot water to cover for 15 minutes to soften them, then drain and chop. Bring 1/2 cup broth to a simmer in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add chopped sundried tomatoes, remaining 1 cup broth, wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Stir in quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. 

Arrange broccoli on top of quinoa, cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and toss gently to combine. Serve garnished with cashews and green onions.


Per serving: 340 calories (100 from fat), 11g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 115mg sodium, 45g total carbohydrate (6g dietary fiber, 5g sugar), 11g protein
Zesty Quinoa with Broccoli and Cashews
Have you tried quinoa?  Do you have a quinoa recipe to share?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

THE RACE: Recover, Recover, Recover and Then - GET UP!

With Ironman Arizona in the books for over a week now, it's time to start thinking about doing a little bit of physical activity.  I spent all of last week when I got back from Arizona on the couch, watching t.v., drinking and eating A was awesome! I had less than no desire to swim, bike, run, stretch, or even skip-to-my-lou.  After nine months of training, focusing on only one goal, I was spent.  The most strenuous activity I performed was putting up my Christmas decorations...and then I went right back to sitting on the my Rudolph slippers...with some wine... 

If you've ever had a period of high stress or some goal that you were committed to achieving, you probably understand what I'm talking about.  And you probably said the same thing I did:  "I'm glad it's over!"  Whenever you accomplish that goal or finish a task that's required an extreme amount of dedication and effort, it's natural to experience a period of stagnation afterwards where you can't or just don't want to do anything.  In the world of endurance sports, we call this the "recovery" period.  After the intense physical demands of an Ironman or marathon, a recovery period is essential.  Every coach and website will tell you that your body (and mind) need time to recover after such an event. In fact, the Ironman website itself says: "For most age groupers you are looking at 6-8 weeks, at least, to fully recover depending upon what you do for training, regeneration, and nutritional support for the body. The body must go into overtime to repair the damage from the race in terms of the muscular and cardiovascular systems.  Your immune system will work overtime as well to help heal you internally along with trying to keep the variety of germs and virus's from getting you sick."  Well hallelujah - I'm on it!  

As much as my body and mind have welcomed the recovery period though, one week after the Ironman was over, I had the itch - the itch to get off my ass (no, my ass wasn't literally itching...)  I've learned that I can tolerate only so much sedentariness and then I start to feel a little stir crazy.  So Monday I went for a nice, easy 30-minute run (and then read tonight that I actually should avoid running for 2-3 weeks...oh well!).  It was a gorgeous day, I wanted to take advantage of the weather, and my body felt ok.  Toward the end of the run, however, I could tell I was feeling a bit tight.  I took yesterday off because I just didn't feel like working out, and then tonite, I went to the gym and hopped on the stationary bike for 30 minutes.  Whether I'll do anything tomorrow, I'm not sure and the nice thing is, I don't HAVE to do anything.  I'm in recovery!!  For this week and next week, I can do - but don't have to do - very light activity (less than an hour).  

Recovery is important in life as well as endurance sports.  You work your butt off, maybe you take care of the kids, manage a household, take care of pets, pay your bills, travel constantly, workout hard...whatever consumes your life, you work hard.  But do you allow yourself to recover?  You don't have to take a 3-week recovery period - but can you take a few minutes to recover each day?  Or take the weekend to recover?  Maybe you're laughing or saying you don't have time to recover. Really?  Do you have time to be sick?  Do you like being irritable to your family, friends, and co-workers?  Do you have time to be run-down?  Do have the time and energy to feel burnt out?  Recovery isn't a shameful thing. It's necessary to get your groove back.  Endurance athletes don't train the same way all year long. Their schedules always incorporate recovery periods, even during the training season.  Recovery is necessary to allow the body to rejuvenate.  Likewise, recovery from the daily grind is necessary to allow your body and mind to rejuvenate.  When your body and mind are under extreme stress, recovery holds the key to giving you back the energy and desire to want to jump back on the bike.  After a week of recovery, I was already missing the workouts...a little bit. Think about this - you probably do the same things, have the same schedule, all year long. But when do you allow yourself to recover?  When do you actually give yourself a chance to miss being on the bike?  

Take advantage of a recovery period...And then, get back on the bike. You may be surprised how much better you feel after you've had some down-time....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

THE RACE: Which George Bailey Will You Be?

Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, I go get my fresh Christmas tree and put up all my Christmas decorations.  Then once the house looks like Santa has puked all over it, I settle in on the couch with some wine, dinner, my Rudolph slippers, and watch Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.  It's my dorky little holiday tradition to start the Christmas season.

If you've never seen It's a Wonderful Life, you need to.  I'm not much of a "black-n-white" movie fan, but this one has become very dear to my heart.  It tells such a heart-warming, timeless story that can make you look at your life in a whole new way.

For those who haven't seen it, there's the not-so-quick run-down.  The movie stars James Stewart as George Bailey, which is reason enough to watch it. They just don't make 'em like Jimmy Stewart anymore.  As a young boy, George Bailey saves his younger brother (Harry) when he falls into the ice and, as a result, George gets an ear infection and loses the hearing in his left ear.  In his childhood job at a local pharmacy, George notices that his boss, Mr. Gower, accidentally puts poisonous pills in a customer's prescription.  George makes Mr. Gower realize his accident, saving the customer's life and Mr. Gower's business.  Growing up, George dreams of traveling the world, building tall skyscrapers, and getting out of his small town of Bedford Falls.

George's father owns a small building and loan association, that provides loans to people to build houses.  Instead of going to college when he graduates high school, George helps his father at the building and loan for four years until his younger brother Harry can take over so that George can go to college.  The night before George is supposed to leave for his worldly pre-college travels, his father has a stroke and dies.  With the risk of the building and loan association being dissolved and the home loans being taken over by the local ogre, Mr. Potter, George is forced to stay in Bedford Falls and assume responsibility for the family business...a course of action contrary to the big hopes and dreams he had of traveling the world.

George falls in love with and marries Mary (played by Donna Reed) - a childhood sweetheart who swears at very young age to love George til the day she dies.  In one of the best movie scenes ever (which I understand was filmed in one take), George reluctantly realizes his love for Mary:

George and Mary get married and, just as they're leaving for their honeymoon, the Great Depression hits, threatening the building and loan association and forcing George and Mary to use their own honeymoon money to bail out the business.  As time goes on, George and Mary have four kids, buy an old dilapidated house that needs major repairs, and struggle financially.  Then one day - Christmas Eve Day - George's uncle misplaces an $8,000 deposit for the building and loan association, causing the evil Mr. Potter to swear out a warrant for George's arrest for misappropriation of funds.  George begs Mr. Potter to help him, offering Potter his life insurance policy, which only has $500 in equity.  Mr. Potter scoffs at him, declaring that George is worth more dead than alive.  

Consequently, in modern lingo, George goes on a bender.  In his drunken stooper, he goes to a bridge and contemplates suicide, looking at his life insurance policy.  Just then, another man jumps into the river, screaming for help.  George dives in after him, saving the man's life.  The man turns out to be George's Guardian Angel, Clarence, who was sent from Heaven to help George realize the value of his life.  In response to George's wish that he'd never been born, Clarence lets George see how life would have been if he'd never existed.  His brother Harry would have died in the ice and, as a result, all the people that his brother Harry saved in World War II also would have died because Harry wouldn't have been alive.  Mr. Gower would have killed his customer with the poison and his life would have been destroyed.  Mary would have become an "old maid."  People who George helped get homes with the building and loan association would be stuck in Mr. Potter's slums.  Through all of this, Clarence gives George the opportunity that none of us will ever have - the chance to see the ripple effect our presence has on those around us, and how different the world would be if we never existed. 

While Clarence is giving George the tour of the world without George Bailey, Mary is telling folks in town about George's trouble with the missing $8,000.  Once George snaps out of Clarence's spell, he runs home to his family.  Waiting for him are reporters and police ready to take him to jail...but he doesn't care.  He's just so happy to be home with his family.  Then, in another memorable scene, Mary bursts in, with the entire town behind her, coming in to give money to George to bail him out of trouble.  All of the people that George had helped throughout his life, asking nothing in return, came to his rescue.  The final scene in the movie moves me to tears every time:  

While everyone is singing Auld Lang Syne, George finds a message from his Guardian Angel, Clarence:  "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.  Thanks for the wings."  (After Clarence helps George see the value in his life, Clarence finally gets his angel wings).

The reason I love this movie so much is that it's a good reminder of what success really means.  George has two competing personalities in this movie:  The one personality that wanted to leave Bedford Falls in search of a bigger and better life, that was always in search of something "else," and the second one that realizes success doesn't come in the form of money or riches.  You can be the "richest man in town," while still being the poorest in terms of money.  It's not your travels, your money, your house, or your job that give meaning to your life; rather, it's the love of your friends and family and the love that you show them.  It's our relationships that enrich our lives.   

I generally spend a lot of time acting like the first George - the one who's always looking for something better, wanting more money, more "things."  I spend a lot of time comparing myself to other people, especially when it comes to triathlons or my success at work.  I think we all do that, at least to some extent. We see someone with a huge house or nice car and we wish we had their financial freedom. We see someone who's faster or stronger than us and we feel too fat, too slow, too weak.  We see someone prettier or more handsome, and we want their looks and all the "perks" that come with being beautiful.  

All of those superficial things, however, can't fill the void.  In the movie, Mr. Potter had more money than God, and he was a "warped, frustrated old fool" (in George's words).  It's the second George that finally gets it - that realizes the money, riches, and success, won't provide you with a full life.  The richness of our lives can be measured by our relationships; and, not by the number of relationships, but by the quality.  I'd rather have 1 good friend upon whom I could call in any emergency, than 100 friends who would be too busy to come help.  

As you look back over this past year, which George have you been?  Have you been the one who's always wanting more, more, more, or have you been the one who realizes that your cup overfloweth with the loved ones in your life?  It's been a hard economic year for so many people and I don't mean to demean the hardships that many of you have encountered; but, through it all, there are blessings.  Even when you're peering over the ledge wondering how much you're life is worth, remember that you and your presence alone - not your financial worth - have a positive influence in this world.  Do you really understand the positive effect that your presence has on other people?  I'm sure that all of you, in some way, have given wings to someone, whether you knew it or not.  Through some action, some small word, some smile, you've moved someone and made an impression.  Don't ever underestimate your power to leave behind something positive, and remember that next time you're devaluing your life by constantly wanting more.  The love you give is worth more than any tangible thing you can acquire.  Maybe in 2012 we can we all try to be a little more like the second George... 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

AID STATION: Pumpkin Pasta

I've been a vegan for over three years now (or maybe four - I've lost track) and was a vegetarian for a year before that.  Having grown up in Nebraska, you can imagine what a shocker that was for my family and friends.  For various reasons that I won't get into now, it's something I feel strongly about for my own personal well-being.  In a nutshell, I have moral, religious, environmental, and health reasons for choosing to be a vegan. It's a personal choice that I researched before making the decision and continue to research all the time.  I'm not perfect, although I try my best.  Sometimes though, there are things that would never occur to me as being un-vegan.  For example - Worcestershire sauce.  I never knew until my boyfriend pointed it out to me that Worcestershire sauce had anchovies in it!  So I found a vegan version.  Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes with soy milk - the pumpkin mix has milk in it.  Who knew?? Anyway, I'm not perfect (shocker, I know) and there are things for which I make an occasional exception (like my Grandpa's hot cocoa mix recipe during Christmas, which has powdered milk and chocolate pudding mix, for which I haven't been able to find any substitutes).

At any rate, I'm not a pushy vegan, I don't get grossed out when other people eat meat around me, and I certainly don't expect anyone to have to adjust their eating preferences because of me.  By the same token, I don't expect people to give me a hard time about being a vegan or criticize me for my personal choice, which has no impact on them.  I think we should all be respectful of other people's informed opinions.  (If you have a knee-jerk, uninformed opinion, then you'll have a hard time getting any respect outta me for that opinion...)  For those reasons, I want to make sure that I try to account for everyone's personal choices in writing this blog.  There definitely will be recommendations that I make and personal views that I espouse - and you don't have to accept or agree with any of them; but, because I have to assume that my blog will reach a diverse audience (hopefully it'll reach more than the four followers I currently have!), then I want to make sure that I'm putting forth something that most of that audience will want to read or try.  With that in mind, all of the recipes that I recommend will be vegan, but obviously the meat-eaters or vegetarians can substitute to fit their preferences.

So here's an awesome pasta recipe that I highly recommend everyone try as the vegan version, but if you're totally adverse to that, you can make it to suit your meat or dairy preferences.  I got this recipe courtesy of Sarah Kramer's Vegan A Go-Go book (page 100), which is amazing and has simple recipes that even I don't screw up.  This recipe is a great way to perk up your pasta for the fall.  

Punk-kin Pasta
  • Pasta (enough for 2 people)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup vegan sausage, sliced (vegans - I prefer to Tofurkey Kilbasa style)
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • 1 14-oz can unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup vegetable stock (optional - but it helps to think out the pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup vegan cheese, grated (optional) (regular cheese can be used also)
In a large pot of salted water, boil the pasta.  While pasta is cooking, in a large saucepan on medium-high heat, saute the onions and "sausage" in the oil until onions are translucent.  Add the pumpkin, salt, and pepper and simmer for 5-7 minutes.  This sauce can be quite thick, so to thin it out, add 1/4 cup stock at a time until you've reached the desired consistency.  When pasta is cooked, drain noodles and return to pot.  Add the sauce to noodles and toss well. Serve immediately garnished with "cheese."  Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.

Let me know if you make this and how you liked it! 
Happy eating!