Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Kraut House

I swear, I only went inside to use the bathroom.


Bike: 43.24 miles, 2:38
Run: 46 minutes. Holy shit, I'm actually doing this thing. I'm going to do this thing.
Eat: Stupid gels and protein bars. No pierogies, no veggie reubens, no spaetzel

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Swim like the Buddha

There's a group of early morning regulars at the Y. They get in the pool and they swim, slow and steady, for 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 75 minutes, heads down, arms turning, a gentle flutter at the feet. "It's my meditation," one said. "It's relaxing. It calms me to just go back and forth."

I'm the opposite of these people. I'm agitated and irritable at the mere thought of that monotony. I need a structured workout, a program with variety and new challenges. Novelty always wins, and the familiar is tedious, and tedium is anathema. So when I saw that my training plan said to swim 3500 meters today without stopping (every 10th length fast), I was dismayed. "Oh God," I wrote to my training pal Mara, "Have you seen Thursday?"

"Don't forget, that's meters!" She chirped. "It's actually 3648 yards, and that's still not the full 2.4 mile race distance!"

Oh God. I knew better than to complain to her--she's quick to tell me to put on my "big girl panties" when I complain about things that don't matter--and I wanted to suffer with the anticipation a little while longer.

My plan was to swim 77 "fifties", or 50-yard laps. I got in the pool at 6:05, waited for the timer to hit the top at 6:06, and off I went. The demon in one ear, who clearly doesn't even know how to swim, nearly convinced me to stop several times, which is remarkable considering that his (yes, it's a he) arguments are no more skillful than "this is boring," "this sucks," "you suck," "I'm thirsty," "you forgot to eat," "this is going to take FOREVER," "you're slower than you used to be," "you might as well quit now," and "I think you're going to poop." 

Oh, great. I get to swim with my own 9-year-old bully.

But I kept going, up through laps 10, 20, 30. Once I hit 35 I knew I'd keep going, but the 40s were brutal. Once I hit 50, I started to feel like it was worth it. Mara showed up just before 70, and her cheers boosted me to the end. It took me 73 minutes and 30 seconds. It was slow. I don't care. I didn't listen to the bully demon, and my next swim will be faster.

This training program truly is 90 percent mental. Through this medium of exercise I'm learning new ways to keep my focus, to turn ugly thoughts into positive ones, to transform fear, anxiety, discomfort, and frustration into power and strength. I can't do a four-hour bike ride or a 2-hour run or a 3500-meter swim without being totally in my body. Counting laps for 73 minutes sharpens my focus and trains my awareness on my body, on each stroke, on every breath. This physical training is expanding my mind and my spirit, teaching me in the most fundamental, experiential way to be fully present in the moment and to accept what is. For now, with each stroke and footfall and pedal turn, with every yard and mile, this is my spiritual practice.

 I guess I'm not so different from those early morning meditation swimmers.


Swim: 3650 yards, every 10th length fast.
Bike: 1:11
Eat: blueberry spinach smoothie, leftover bowl of wow with broccoli, protein bar, Lucy granola toffee bar, hummus and crackers, Zafiro picadillo, black beans, rice

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fast and easy bowl of wow

Here's how it went down. Got home from work, turned on the oven to 350. Changed into gym clothes. Washed 1c Lundberg Wild Blend rice, put it in an all-metal saucepan with 2 c cold water, covered it and popped it into the oven. Mixed equal parts tamari, toasted sesame oil and agave nectar (you could use maple syrup too) in a big bowl. Cut up two blocks of fresh, local Heiwa tofu and put it in the sauce.

Went to the gym, did my little PT exercises and maybe socialized a bit too much.

Came home an hour later. House smelled like heaven and the rice in the oven was perfectly cooked. Heated sesame oil in a skillet, sauteed some of the tofu. Added fresh local asparagus and fried it up a little, then added some of the tofu marinade, covered the pan, and let it steam for a couple of minutes. Mixed it up in a bowl with some rice, tossed in some microgreens just lovingly grown at Village Farm, and almost died from delight.

It took about ten minutes of actual effort. So good. You should try it. 

Never mind the slugs and worms

5:00 a.m.

"I think 45 and raining is ideal for cycling."
"Are you talking about our age, or the temperature?"


Bike: 1:22:52, 20.54 miles, 14.9 MPH
Run: 40:00, not telling my pace

Monday, May 26, 2014

Ninety percent mental

Last year, as I listened to yet another athlete friend give a race report involving puking or near-puking, I finally had to admit that I don't push myself anywhere near as hard as my peers do (never mind the people in the many tiers of competition and athletic ability above mine). They are willing to endure all kinds of pain and misery in their training and racing that I'm just not. I'm not even talking about injury-pain, I'm only talking about really hard work.

Truth is, I hate discomfort and I get pretty peevish about it, especially if I'm already feeling out of my element, as I am whenever I'm running, for example. If I'm out of my comfort zone (in athletics or anywhere else), one of my go-to responses is to try and control everything I think I can. I get all fussy, and all my little things have to be just-so: no tags rubbing the wrong way, no water bottle in my hand, my headphone wires tucked away, my shoelaces in double knots, and so on. If a thing rubs wrong, I stop and try to fix it. If you saw me running, you'd never believe I was so particular—I still look like Pigpen, with shit flying off of me in every direction.

Last summer when I was training for the Timberman 70.3 race, I started to experiment with pushing deeper into the discomfort. Where's the line between discomfort and injury, and how do I stay on this side of it? What do I do to take care of myself while also getting faster, stronger, and tougher? How uncomfortable can I get and have it still be worth it? If there's a likelihood of a podium and medal on the other end, for example, the "worth it" factor increases to support more discomfort.

I'm still a big weenie compared to most of my friends, I know I am. But each week I see that I'm toughening up just a bit, digging a little bit deeper, pushing a teeny bit harder. The real training is not in my legs or arms or heart or lungs, it's in my brain. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it's 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.

This video was making its way around last week.


Can you believe her? While I feel confident that I would eventually get up and run, I sure as hell wouldn't even try to win the race. And I would have to spend some time pounding my fist into the track before getting up, not spring reflexively to my feet and fly. I can't in a million years imagine summoning so much grit and determination. It inspires me, in an I-would-never-do-that way, but still.


What I did: rest day: Slept in till 6. Never got out of the house or even my PJs. Cleaned out every closet.
What I ate: oatmeal with almond milk, agave nectar, banana. Salad with mixed greens, carrot, beets, nutritional yeast, tahini dressing. Snacks of crackers with almond butter and fruit spread, like all day long. Dinner bowl of yukon gold potatoes with onion, kale, tamari, balsamic. Bowl of granola with coconut kefir.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The protein question

I don't eat meat (at least not intentionally, though I believe I consumed about half my body weight in tiny flying insects while riding my bike through Lincolnville Center last week at dusk), and I eat almost no dairy or eggs. Invariably the question comes up about how to get enough protein on a plant-based diet, especially with intense physical exercise.

Many Americans have grown up with the idea that we need to worry about protein, that we're always at risk of deficiency, and that meat—or at the very least, eggs and dairy—are essential to good health and a balanced diet. I don't believe this is true. The standard American diet delivers far more protein that most individuals need. What it lacks are the whole, nutrient dense foods that support the body and keep it free from disease. Every body has different needs, and I think it's up to the individual to find his or her own way of eating that is healthful. However, I do think most people would benefit from less meat and more whole, plant-based foods.

Personally, I don't eat meat because I believe my body is healthier without it, because I don't want to kill animals, and because I believe a plant-based diet is better for the environment and the world in general. I feel committed to this part, but the rest of my diet is open to experimentation. What's working now is a diet of nutrient-dense whole foods that are easy to digest, anti-inflammatory, and alkaline-forming in the body.

What does that mean in real life? Vegetables of all kinds, no refined sugar and not too much of other sugars, whole grains eaten in moderation, nuts and seeds, other healthy fats such as coconut oil, some beans but not too much.

As my diet has become cleaner, my cravings have changed. When I'm eating for comfort, I still want to shove a whole bag of Little Lad's popcorn in my piehole on the way home from Fresh off the Farm, but when I'm eating for hunger, I want broccoli. Or whatever. My body knows.

When I'm training, I'm aiming for 100 grams of protein a day. I prefer to get this from whole foods, but I depend on prepared protein powders and bars to get a little extra boost without a lot of time and effort. It's not all tofu or rice and beans—protein is present in foods you might not expect. The salad alone has 32 grams! Here's a typical day, with protein content shown:

This sexy little salad has 32 grams of protein.
Chocolate-chia ball (2g)

Pineapple smoothie
1 c pineapple chunks (1g)
11 oz coconut water (1g)
2 c spinach (3g)
coconut milk (1g)
Vega one nutritional shake (15 g)

Kickass salad
mixed greens (2g)
1 c steamed broccoli (3g)
1 large carrot (1g)
1 red pepper (1g)
1/4 c cashews (5g)
1/4 c pumpkin seeds (10g)
Tahini dressing (2g)
2 T nutritional yeast (9g)

4T hummus (4g)
Sami's millet crackers (1g)
Vega protein bar (15g)

Dal with kale and quinoa
2c kale (5g)
1 c cooked quinoa (8g)
red lentils (13g)
onion (1g)
coconut oil for cooking

TOTAL: 103g

USDA recommends that active people get at least 0.37 grams of protein per pound of body weight—so, 56 grams for a 150-pound person. More if you're exercising. I notice that when I get plenty of protein, I'm less inclined to binge on high-carb foods. I don't feel as hungry.

Finally, a few resources that have shaped my own thinking about nutrition. The amazing Gena Hamshaw's Choosing Raw website is a treasure trove of recipes and intelligent perspective on a raw and vegan diet. Brendan Brazier was a professional Ironman who has developed plant-based yummy food products and cookbooks, with lots of info for athletes and interesting articles on his website, Thrive Forward. Finally, the documentary film Forks Over Knives is an accessible, entertaining, un-preachy look at the profound health benefits in a plant-based, whole foods diet. They also offer recipes and resources for changing eating habits.


What I did: My first long run without debilitating sciatic pain. I have still been really worried about whether I'm actually going to be able to do this. Wednesday's run was excruciating. Today's run was hurt, but only in a not-in-running-shape kind of way, not in a crippling kind of way. I ran 7 miles. My pace was slow, but I don't care. If I can add a mile a week on my long runs, I'll be fine for the race. This is a thrill and a huge relief.

What I ate: Oh, hell, I don't know. Everything.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Riding for Hope, Liberty, and Freedom

Our training plan said to ride bikes for 3 hours. Mara wanted to ride for 5. 

Bike: 65 miles, nearly 5 hours including 3 photo stops, 2 pee breaks, 3 slipped chains, 1 lost straw, 1 map check
Run: 3 miles, 30 minutes (Mara ran faster)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The beauty in this world

I had just stopped my bike by the side of the road on Buttermilk Lane in Thomaston to photograph this sky when I got a call from my mom telling me that a very close family member has a malignant tumor.

Lately I've been feeling like I can barely handle the beauty in this world. I almost can't stand it, like I don't have the capacity to absorb it. Sometimes I think that if my perception of the world's profound beauty continues to grow, I will reach a point at which my physical human body just can't contain it and I'll simply de-materialize, return to the spirit world where my expanded consciousness will be capable of comprehending this perfection.

That's pretty much what was running through my head when I pulled over and heard about the cancer, which at first felt so at odds with what I was feeling and seeing--how could the grief in my mother's voice exist in the same scene that had just brought me such elation? And then I thought that's what it's all about, that's the sublime.

This brilliant, divine, perfect light shines on even the ugliest things, like cement plants. And tumors.


Swim: 12x200 easy/fast, 20" rest.
Bike 24 miles, 1:45 minutes. 
Strength training part 1

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Herd

We were rolling by 5 this morning, the light coming up just enough to brush the world with color, the air crisp and full of birdsong. There was little traffic on the roads, only a handful of builders in their pickups headed to early jobs, offering us a rare chance to talk a bit while we rode. 

I like to be alone, and I train solo a lot of the time, but when the right group comes together, the energy, enthusiasm, and friendly competition are powerful motivators. When the four of us met on 105 between Camden and Hope this morning, my routine Wednesday ride became an event. These friends are perfect training pals: 1) happy to be riding before dawn; 2) funny, smart, and kind; 3) faster than me but willing to wait. 

I struggled to keep up with them on the hills, but the extra push and the company did me a world of good, and I will be a faster, happier cyclist very soon if I keep this up. As I flew down the sweet long hill that curves through the dairy farm on Barnestown Road, tucked low at 36 miles an hour, I thought: There is nowhere on this earth I want to be more than right here, right now. And also, if I crash and die, I hope these people will tell my family that I was mooing at cows at the top of my lungs, head over heels in love with this world, when it happened. 


What I did: Rode 1:37 , 22 miles. Ran 0:61, my longest and most painful run to date. My head worries about how much sciatic pain I'm having, but my heart says this thing is going to come together.

What I ate: Pre-workout and breakfast: Pineapple smoothie, Vega recovery accelerator. Lunch: kickass salad. Snack: Dal and crackers, Vega protein bar. Dinner: Dal with sauteed kale/sweet potato/potato. More dinner (not dessert): millet/flax chips with almond butter and maple syrup.

Oh shit, I also had a piece of Stollen someone offered me at an open house at lunchtime, which caused me to then go buy a raspberry lemon teacake at Rock City. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hyperbole smoothie

The most delicious, nutritious, satisfying smoothie ever in the history of the universe. The creamiest, richest, smoothest smoothie you ever imagined. The best smoothie anyone ever made. The smoothie to end all smoothies.

Blend it up:
Fresh pineapple, cut into chunks (maybe a cup)
A very ripe banana
Generous handful raw spinach
Half an avocado
1/4 cup coconut kefir or light coconut milk
1 scoop Vega Performance Protein (or other plant-based protein powder)
Coconut water and ice to blend to desired consistency

Aside from being insanely tasty, it's ridiculous how nutritious this drink/meal is, with 32 grams of protein, a huge blast of potassium (the banana is famous for potassium, but the avocado kicks the banana's butt, with one little avo delivering 957 mg of potassium). That handsome little fruit (yes, the avocado is a fruit, actually a berry) is also loaded with healthy fats that are essential nutrients. Listen, people, fat is not bad. We need the healthy fats found in coconut oil, avocados, seeds and nuts. If you're watching calories, be mindful of your intake (because these fats are calorie-dense), but throw some healthy fat in your smoothie and you'll be doing yourself a favor. Not only are you giving your body something it needs, you'll also feel fuller and satisfied longer. 

And speaking of electrolytes, do you know about coconut water, AKA nature's sports drink? Holy moley, no wonder the Hawaiians call it "dew from the heavens."  Vitamins, amino acids, electrolytes, and more. It's low in sugar but sweet. It's also yummy.

I make coconut kefir out of coconut milk and kefir grains, bizzare little brainy looking nuggets that are actually live active cultures of yeast and bacteria living together in blissful harmony. Pop 'em into the milk (coconut, soy, breast, whatevs), leave in a warmish place for a couple of days, and voila-- you've got a fermented, yogurty-yummy drink that has super probiotic benefits.

Finally, let's hear it for the humble pineapple, which brings a boatload of fiber, vitamin C, and bromelain, a protease enzyme thought to have anti-imflammatory properties. 

The only place this little glass of awesomesauce fails is in the department of eating locally, and it fails spectacularly. Otherwise, it wins the day.

What I did: 35 minute run, strength training, swim 20x100, easy/fast, 15" rest, plus warmup, drills, and warmdown
What I ate: Workout: chia chocolate ball, EFS electrolytes, recovery accelerator. Breakie: said smoothie. Lunch: kickass salad, a treat of pumpkin seeds and cashews mixed up with maple syrup and coconut butter. Snack: too much co-op popcorn, Vega sport protein bar. Dinner: red lentil soup (so easy! sauteed onions, garlic, pepper, and ginger; curry powder, red lentils, water, soy sauce, salt) with sauteed kale and millet & flax crackers

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rest day

How I feel on my day off.


What I did: Ugh. Nothing.
What I ate: Breakfast: beet, raspberry, & strawberry smoothie. Lunch: Last of the fiddlehead pizza, steamed broccoli. Snacks: Vega protein bar, co-op popcorn, marinated tofu. Dinner: Field roast "sausage" wrap with steamed broccoli, sauerkraut, russian dressing.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bike porn

Want some of your own? Go see the boys at Sidecountry Sports in Rockland. 
Great gear and some of the best customer service you'll find anywhere.


My friend Jayme and I caught a lucky weather window today, a few hours of sun and almost-sun and dry roads. My plan called for a three-hour bike ride followed by a 20-minute run on Saturday, but I wimped out and switched up the days. My coach Scott rode 5 hours in the driving rain--which feels like nails in a wind tunnel, by the way, never mind the hypothermia. Today was perfect. No traffic on a Sunday morning, and scenery like this.


What I did: Three hours biking, 44 miles. 20 minute transition run, 2 miles.

What I ate: Peach smoothie (2 fresh peaches, 1 banana, Vega Performance Protein, 1 cup spinach, water, ice.) Workout: EFS Electrolyte mix, Vega Protein Bar, Vega Recovery Accelerator. Lunch: 3 slices leftover fiddlehead pizza. Some snacks in the afternoon, I forget what. Dinner: big bowl of roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes and kale, salted and drizzled with high quality balsamic vinegar. Bowl of granola with almond milk.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Fiddlehead pizza

My appetite was through the roof today. I pretty much ate everything I could get my hands on, including a couple of naughty little treats at Treats in Wiscasset on my way home from my swim lesson at Bowdoin. One of the things I love about intense training is that I can eat the way I want to eat--in generous quantity and without worry--and still lose weight, tone up, and get stronger. I freaking love to eat and I'm not very good at moderation. Right now I have the luxury of not giving a shit. I'll have to deal with my issues some day, but at the moment I'm enjoying avoiding them.

However. Since I dialed up the intensity and volume of exercise about a month ago, I noticed a shift in my eating patterns a departure from my usual behavior. I'm eating solely for hunger, not for stress or comfort or boredom. I always stick to a pretty healthy diet, but I do usually overeat, and I often eat when I'm not hungry. So while what I eat may be healthy, the way I eat it doesn't always feel that way. Prime example: bowl of rice crackers with giant glob of almond butter and honey. In bed, well after dinner. ---> Guaranteed food hangover, certain contributor to excess adipose tissue, and surefire smasher of self-esteem. But lately I'm not even doing that. I think I'm eating less than I usually eat. Maybe it's the endorphins, maybe the fact that I feel SO F*CKING AWESOME that I don't need any damn midnight snacks (my midnight = 8:30 pm).

I'm also noticing that a nutrient-dense diet is not optional now. I feel like crap if I don't get the right food, and I don't have the energy to sustain my workouts. I'm taking extra care to make sure I get a good balance, enough healthy fats, and plenty of protein (more on that topic, and on a plant-based diet, soon). I don't much time to cook, so I'm going for whole foods that are easy and quick to prepare.

So here's tonight's dinner, inspired by the fiddleheads on the shelf. I love that fiddleheads are only available once a year, because that's as much as I want them. I think they are super cute, and also a little creepy. I look forward to one May treat, I enjoy them, and then I gladly forget about them till next year. Meanwhile, they're a solid source of protein, vitamins A and C, and a slew of minerals. 

I decided to try a pizza. 

I'm in love with these Sami's Bakery products. They make all kinds of wheat-free baked goods that are kinds of good: simple, nutritious, and yummy. The millet and flax lavash and the crackers are both staples in my kitchen. Tonight I grabbed their pizza crust.

I threw the fiddleheads in with sauteed red onion, garlic and a little salt, tossed them around then splashed them with a little water. While they steamed, I made the cashew cheese: 1 cup of soaked raw cashews, soaked for an hour or more, juice of 1 lemon (or more to taste), 2T nutritional yeast, salt to taste. Process or blend until creamy, adding water as needed.

I spread the cheese on the crust, put the fiddlehead mixture on top of that, baked it all in a 450 until the crust was crisp. 

So. Damn. Good.

Thank you, cute/creepy little fiddleheads.

The swim lesson

I've been working a lot on my swimming, and hey, guess what? I've been getting slower!

How encouraging.

I like to swim (kind of), I'm comfortable in the water, and I could swim forever at a "walking" pace, but I'll be damned if I can build any speed.

Water is a lousy medium for human performance, and we are mechanically inefficient in it. Only a small fraction of the calories we're spending in the water are actually propelling us forward--the others are lost in this thick mass out of which our ancestors crawled so many millions of years ago. Body position, drag, stroke technique, momentum: all these things and more affect how well, and how fast, we swim.

Because efficiency plays such a huge role in the quality of the swim--far more than it does in biking and running, where strength, force, and power are a bigger part of the overall equation--it's worth working hard on technique and form. If I can execute my stroke with a heart rate that's 10 BPM slower, then I'm freeing up energy for improved speed and endurance. So I went back down to Brunswick, where a couple of months ago I took part in a great little swim clinic with Brad Burnham, the head coach of Bowdoin's swim team. I needed to understand how to apply Brad's teaching concepts. I needed him to watch me swim and tell me specifically what was wrong and how to fix it.

There's way more wrong with my swim than even he could fix in an hour, but his coaching was incredibly helpful.

For you fellow swim geeks: Brad's approach focuses on body position and momentum, creating an integrated stroke that's fluid (pun intended) and connected. "Swimming freestyle should be like walking down the pool,"  he says. You can hire him for small group and individual sessions. He tells me he's re-doing his website, but there are some resources and great info on it already:

This just in, 5/18: Here's the follow-up email I just got from Brad. I think it speaks to his approach and the quality of his coaching far better than anything I can write, so I'll just paste it in full.

Posture - keep that long line in the spine, especially in the neck. You can find a piece of pipe at any hardware store or home depot for a couple of dollars. Cut it to length - tailbone to hairline on the neck. You might feel it better on land without all of the water around you.

Walk down the pool but do it with a little more energy in the swing. The rhythm won't necessarily increase but the stroke will move forward. The rotation of the body will tell you when to start the recovery. You swing the recovery, that leads the body into a rotation, that rotation allows the anchoring hand to exit the water with momentum. I like to say that when your belly button passes your hand it is time to focus on the recovery.

Your kick looks excellent. Keep is small and quick. From time to time think about lengthening your legs. Walk with long legs and swim with long legs. 

Breathing - the big issue - the head needs to be centered when you breathe - both in the vertical (one goggle in and one out - and in the horizontal (look slightly forward) to keep the head on the line. Focus on the exhale to make sure you do that part before you roll so the inhale takes less time. Get a snorkel to develop a solid stroke pattern then take it off and try to keep the pattern with the breathing in there.

Drills - learn the drills but then focus on the elements of the stroke you are working on. 
Sneak Switch - Recover (Sneak underwater), Anchor, Switch - Focus on the timing of the body roll and breathing.
Whole Stroke Switch - Recover (Swing over the water), Anchor, Switch - Focus on swinging the recovery from the shoulder blade and the timing of the switch. You should get more distance out of each switch.

What I did: 30 mins elliptical, then 42-minute run in 55 degree pouring rain, wishing someone I knew would drive by and notice what a badass I was. Instead got only strangers noticing an injured drowning rat. Swim lesson, then 20 minute swim when I got home.

What I ate: pretty much everything. See my fiddlehead pizza.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's alimentary, my dear

This is less a blog post and more an open letter of apology to anyone who sat within earshot of our informal Ironman info session at Long Grain last night.

My dear training buddy Mara and I met with mutual friend and totally sweet badass Sadie, who rocked her first Ironman in Florida last November. We were anxious to get her perspective on the real details of the day. Mara and I both have read a lot about the race, and we're getting great advice from all kinds of experienced and knowledgeable people, but we wanted the real nitty gritty, the street-level view of the day from someone we could relate to.

A fourteen (plus)-hour race presents all kinds of logistical and physiological challenges, the digestive process being primary among them, so though we chatted a bit about clothing, organizing our gear, and getting our wetsuits peeled off by attractive volunteers, most of our conversations were like this one:

"Did you pee on the bike?"
"I tried, but I couldn't."
"I peed on the bike at the Pumpkinman, but I had to throw my shoes away because I could never get the smell out."
"I wanted to in the Timberman, but I couldn't do it either. I'm more worried about puking."
"The guys just pee at the side of the road. You can just stand there and go next to them."
"What about pooping? I'm a wicked pooper when I run."
"I'm gonna have to get up super early to poop before that race."
"Did you read that guy's advice about eating 800 calories 5 hours before the race? Who can do that?"
"Scott could. Don't eat fiber the day before. Maybe a sweet potato. And chicken."
"There's always a line for the portapotties."
"You can just go wherever you want."
"What about all the spectators?"
"The spectators are amazing. So supportive and fun. My favorite one in Florida was the S&M tent. I totally thought of you, Shannon."
"Uh, you thought of me at the S&M tent?"
"They will whip you, if you want."
"Jesus. What I want to know is how come with all the extra body fat I carry around, why am I only losing it from my boobs? My damn thighs remain enormous but my ta-tas are disappearing."
"I know. Mine were only big when I had my babies."
"What the hell is the special needs tent?"
"It's where they hold your extra stuff, like salt tablets, food, extra clothes. You yell out your number as you roll in and they bring it to your bike. I just grabbed a big dollop of chamois butter and shoved it down my shorts and rubbed it around right in front of them. I was like, excuse me, but I really didn't care. You just don't care."
"My crotch this year! I got off the new bike and my crotch--"

Erm, you get the idea.

Seriously, though, nutrition in the race is a big, big deal. Like the biggest deal. Too much food early in the bike, too few calories, too much water without electrolytes, too much solid food, it can all take you out and keep you from finishing. I'm ordering gels and electrolytes and endurance bars and little caffeinated chewy things now, starting to test them out to see what works, what's palatable, what makes me feel the best.

It has to be planned in the finest detail--how many calories you're going to take in, and in what form, and how often; whether you're bringing everything or counting on aid stations; and how you're going to carry it and get it into your body. I have been nervous about figuring all this out, but the research and experimentation is also part of the fun. I am so obsessed with this thing, and such a nerd, that you (dear reader) likely have been, or will soon be, trapped in some corner of the post office for ten minutes after innocently asking "how are you?" while I expound on the virtues of Medjool dates as a direct source of fuel as glucose.

Get a group of triathageeks together and there's no telling what you'll have to listen to, though without a doubt it's going to be about our bodies, or whatever's going in or coming out of them. We're like little kids, enchanted by bodily functions and lacking shame or filters.

So, to the diners next to us with your 3- and 5-year-old children, you were probably already talking about bike rides and pooping and snacks, so you weren't bothered by all this. To the rest of you (including you, behind me, with your lovely date), we'll try to take our next meeting to Chuck E. Cheese.


What I did: 1) Strength training. 2) Swim: warm-up, 2x500' negative split. 16x50 on 1" hard, warm down.
What I ate: Chocolate chia balls, EFS electrolytes, Vega recovery accelerator, spinach salad with red pepper, carrot, nutritional yeast, pumpkin seeds, dehydrated tofu, Annie's goddess dressing, vega sport protein bar. Snack: hummus and carrot, co-op herbed popcorn, kombucha. Dinner: Improvised messy croquettes (mix Lundberg cooked wild rice mix, mashed cooked garnet yam, diced kale, onion, and red pepper, eggs, and coconut flour. Form into patties, cook in coconut oil in skillet and serve with mango chutney.) Nutritionally complete, packed with protein, and so f*cking good, I can barely stand it.

Country roads

One of my favorite rides: High Street, Hope. 


What I did: 2) Swim: warm-up with drills, 10x200' descending 1-5 and 6-10, warm down. 2) Bike: 1:45, 28 miles, 13.5 MPH. Hilly. Buggy.

What I ate: Workout: Chocolate chia ball, EFS electrolytes, Vega recovery accelerator. Breakfast: Blueberry ginger spinach smoothie. Lunch: Mixed green salad with red pepper, carrot, nutritional yeast, pumpkin seeds, dehydrated tofu, Annie's goddess dressing, Vega Sport protein bar. Snack: Hummus with carrots and rice crackers. Dinner: Vegan reuben on Sami's flax lavash with sauerkraut, vegannaise russian dressing, steamed asparagus, Field Roast plant-based italian sausage. Om nom nom. Rice crackers with almond butter and honey for dessert. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rainbow unicorn fairy sunrise magic bike ride

Right at dawn, before we could even see the sun above the horizon, it was working its magic in a southwest cloud.


That's an osprey out there.
Camden to the Keag R/T, 27 miles, 1:30, 18 MPH


What I did: Modified brick workout, bike, 1:30, elliptical 1:00

What I ate: Workout: chocolate chia ball, EFS electrolyte, Vega recovery accelerator. Breakfast: watermelon ginger kale smoothie (not very good). Lunch: Sweet potato-kale-black bean wrap on Sami's flax and millet lavash, rice crackers with almond butter and honey. Snack: Vega Sport Protein Bar. Dinner: Pad See Ew with tofu.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pumping iron, man

No matter how fancy you want to be with your speed work, heart rate zones, intervals, hill climbs, VO2 max, lactate thresholds, bike drills, stroke work, and sprints, the core of an Ironman training program is hours and hours of swimming, biking and running. My total volume is a little over 10 hours a week right now and it will be up over 25 by the end of this thing. I'll build volume for 3 weeks, then scale back a bit for a week, then build again.

All that forward motion can be addictive. It can also be tiring. It's time consuming, and as the weather improves, the call of the great outdoors is tough to resist. It's easy to skip strength work, but that's an important part of triathlon training, as coach and elite Ironman Shane Niemeyer writes: "Why strength train as a triathlete? Strength training makes the body more durable and less prone to injury, it promotes range of motion, and significantly improves economy of movement and time to exhaustion among a host of other physiological and neuro-muscular benefits."

I'm loving his 4-phase strength-training plan for triathletes. Right now I'm in the third phase, heavy weight and plyometric training.


What I did: Strength training. Elliptical: 15 min warmup, 1x0.5mi, 2x0.3 mi, 4x0.15 mi, Z3, 10 minute cooldown. Swim warmup and drills, then 2x25, 2x50, 2x100, 2x150, 2x200, easy/fast, warm-down

Monday, May 12, 2014

Breakfast of Champions

Local baby beet greens just in at Fresh off the Farm inspired this gorgeous smoothie, packed full of nutrition and flavor.

Plant-based protein powder, such as Vega Nutritional Shake
A generous handful of beet greens
A cup of diced beets, steamed and cooled
A cup of frozen raspberries or other berries
1T coconut butter
One frozen banana (tip: cut up very ripe bananas into small slices, store in a Ziploc in the freezer)
Water and ice for desired consistency

This one fills a quart jar with 21g protein, 68g carbs, and 440 calories. Beets are little ruby powerhouses, offering high doses of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, fiber, and vitamins A, B, & C, along with phytonutrients that provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detox support. The nitrates in beets have been linked to improved athletic performance.

I have a smoothie for breakfast almost every day. It's a great way to get several servings of fresh, raw fruits and veggies and a good dose of protein. If I've had a big workout or just want the treat, I sprinkle a little granola on top. The extra crunch makes my mouth happy and helps sustain me though the morning.
What I did: Rest day. Blessed rest day.