Sunday, December 21, 2014

Recipes For A Well-Fed Triathlete

After the Washingtonian put up their photo spread of some of our favorite adventures in cooking, we received a lot of questions about recipes for the featured items. I’ve written up about half of them below, and I’ll try to do the other half soon. Katie has described my approach to using fixed amounts of ingredients as ‘haphazard” or “what do you mean a handful? How much is a handful? Your hand or my hand? Argh!”, but I have tried to formalize things a bit in the recipes below. I would encourage you to play with the proportions a bit, though, until you get a result you like.
I would not recommend messing around with the temperatures on the yogurt, though. That is more science than art.

Peanut Butter
Takes 30-40 minutes. Quantity produced depends on how many peanuts you use. 1 lb of peanuts makes a goodly amount.

Required Items:
Food Processor - We use (and love) the Ninja. The old standby 2-blade Cuisinart might or might not work for this one.
Oven
baking sheet

Ingredients:

  • (shelled) peanuts. We have used roasted and unroasted, salted and unsalted. All will work.
  • salt
  • 1-2 TBS oil per lb of peanuts. I use olive oil, as we like the taste, but if you don’t love the taste of olive oil, you could use any neutral oil instead.
  • (optional) cajun spice and honey

Process:
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spread peanuts out on a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet.
  3. Roast peanuts until they look “sweaty” - usually takes 8-12 minutes, depending on what type of peanuts you are using, but can take longer with dry-roasted peanuts.
  4. Remove peanuts from oven and pour into food processor.
  5. Add 1-2 TBS oil per lb of peanuts.
  6. Turn on food processor and find something else to do for about 5 minutes. Do not watch the food processor, or the peanuts will not turn into peanut butter. I have tested this.
  7. Check food processor and scrape down sides. Depending on any number of factors, you will have a substance that is someplace between peanut chunks, peanut powder and peanut butter. If the former, have faith, trust this unfootnoted recipe you got from the internet, and turn on the processor again for another 5 minutes. If the latter, proceed to step 8.
  8. If you have something that looks like peanut butter, taste, add salt if needed, and decide if you like the consistency. The longer you process it, the less chunky it will become. If it looks soupy, do not despair; it will thicken as it cools. If it still seems powdery after 10 minutes of processing, add a bit more oil every 2 minutes until this is no longer true.
  9. (optional) If you are bored with regular peanut butter, and ready to have your mind blown, add spicy cajun powder and honey (start with 1 tsp cajun/1 TBS honey, and go from there). Or add a handful of chocolate chips. Probably not both, though.
  10. Refrigerate until cool, and eat. I don’t know how long it will keep in the fridge; ours has never lasted long enough to find out, but at least a couple of weeks.


Yogurt:
Takes 15 hours of total time; requires 20 minutes of attention at the start, then a burst of activity an hour later, then sits unattended overnight.

Required equipment:
  • candy thermometer
  • stove
  • large (1-gal+) nonstick cooking pot
  • sous vide heater (optimal) or an oven that holds heat well (not optimal)
  • 1 gallon glass jar (if you are using the sous vide option)
  • very large stock pot for the sous vide water bath
  • metal strainer or colander
  • cheesecloth

Ingredients
  • 1 gallon milk (any store-bought milk is fine; does not need to be raw or hippie)
  • ½ cup of plain yogurt with active cultures

Process:
  1. Heat up milk in cooking pot to 185 degrees, then turn off stove. Be careful when stirring, as a scorched layer of milk will generally form on the bottom of the pot. This is fine, but you don’t want to scrape the bottom when you stir as this will bring the scorched layer back into the milk, altering the flavor. It comes right out of a nonstick pot afterwards.
  2. Set up sous vide heater to 105 degrees and start the water bath. If you don’t have a sous vide, turn on the oven to 150-200 degrees for 10 minutes then turn it off. We had very mixed results with the oven method, so I don’t really recommend it.
  3. Allow milk to cool back down to 105 degrees. If left unattended, this takes a little over an hour in our house; if you are impatient you can dip the cooking pot in a larger bowl of ice water and stir.
  4. Add ½ cup of yogurt and mix.
  5. If using sous vide, pour the yogurt/milk mixture into the glass jar, and set in the sous vide water bath. Do not cover the jar. If you are using the oven method, place the cooking pot in the oven and pray.
  6. Go to bed, or let sit for at least 6 hours.
  7. When you return, lay two layers of cheesecloth over the colander, and pour the mixture from the jar into the cheesecloth. It should resemble very soupy yogurt.
  8. Let sit in the cheesecloth, stirring occasionally, for 1-3 hours, depending on the desired consistency of your yogurt. Save the whey that drips out for breadmaking.
  9. Pour the resulting yogurt out of the cheesecloth into a storage container, and refrigerate. This should make 1.5-2 quarts of yogurt per gallon of milk. Higher fat milk makes more yogurt per gallon than lower fat milk.

Pairs nicely with bloobs.


Standard Loaf Bread:
This is a variation off of the recipe in Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, a book that has been our starting point for many of these adventures.

Required Items:
  • Oven
  • mixing bowl (a stand mixer is great for this recipe, especially with a dough hook)
  • 2 loaf pans

Ingredients:
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 3 ½ cups whey or water at room temp
  • 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups wheat flour
  • 2 TBS honey or molasses
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • neutral oil for greasing
  • any or all of the following:
    • ⅓ cup flaxseeds
    • ⅓ cup wheat bran
    • ⅓ cup chia seeds
    • ⅓ cup hemp seeds
- (optional) 1 C raisins, 4 TBS butter at room temp, 1 tsp cinnamon, ⅓ TSP ginger, ⅓ TSP nutmeg,  1 TBS sugar

Instructions:
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl or stand mixer.
  2. Stir honey or molasses into the whey/water, then add to the dry ingredients (helps prevent clumping).
  3. Stir until a dough is formed. I usually use the dough hook on the mixer for a minute or so.
Option 3a. If you want a sweeter, richer bread, add 3 TBS of butter to the dough and mix. Then put the dough on a floured surface, and stretch/roll into a rectangle with a  short end the length of the loaf pan. Spread the surface with the remaining 1 TBS of butter, and spread the raisins evenly on the surface. Mix the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sugar, and sprinkle evenly over the surface. Press the raisins lightly into the dough so that they stay in place, and roll up the dough from one of the short ends.

  1. Grease loaf pans.
  2. Put dough in loaf pans (should fill them about ½ to ⅔ full) and cover with a towel or plastic wrap for about 2 hours, or until it is near the top of the loaf pans.
  3. Preheat oven to 450.
  4. Bake loaves for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove bread from pans, and return to oven for another 15 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow if tapped.

More to follow. Happy eating!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Life Hacks, Kitchen Edition

Non-triathletes who patiently read this blog (hi, Mom!) rejoice, here's one that might actually interest you! And since it involves food, keep reading, fellow tri geeks. Now that it's the off-season and Elliott and I have more time for socializing, we've hosted a few food-related events. Each time, we receive questions or comments about some items in our kitchen (or how we work there). Here are the highlights, in case you are interested in acquiring something similar...or want hard evidence that we really are dorks.


  • Tea Baller: Like loose leaf tea but not the hassle of scooping juuuust enough tea into the awkwardly clomping strainer before it spills all over the counter? We are big fans of this clever spoon. Just scoop the tea and twist the handle to seal. We painted one of the handles with nail polish so we can tell them apart. Bad things happen when I drink Elliott's stiffly sweetened mostly sugar ewww brew tea. 
  • Rolling Pin: Sure, you can use a wine bottle or a Nalgene. But a marble rolling pin is far more fun. You can chill it in the fridge so it keeps dough cold (and easier to work with) and it's so heavy, you can just roll it back and forth and the dough gets out of your way. Plus, it feels super classy for about $20-- not a lot of dough (ha, see what I did there?).
  • Water Bottle Rack: How to store all your water bottles without risking a domino disaster? Use a wine rack or build one out of PVC pipe. The advantage of the latter is you can pick the pipe diameter to fit the types of water bottles you use, e.g. bike bottle or Nalgene. And you can brag to your friends about having a bespoke water bottle rack. 
We can turn wine [racks] into water [bottle holders]!
The soft light. The roaring fire. The PVC pipe... 
  • Silicone Baking Mats: Baking something and don't want it to stick? Sure, you could grease the pan, but that gets sticky and makes the delicious, delicious chocolate chip cookies even less healthy. Parchment paper to the rescue...until you realize you are out. Again. Enter silicone baking mats. They are naturally non stick, can handle high heat, and will last for years. 
  • Spice Rack: This is a DIY project that has served us well for years. Attach a magnetic strip to the wall or cupboard door (Ikea sells them as knife racks) and super glue a washer to the back of a spice jar. Magic science!
Hey, nice rack!

  • Vacuum sealer: Want to avoid having a freezer full of ice-crusted tupperware? Use a vacuum sealer for your leftovers. It even works for wet(ish) items, like spaghetti with tomato sauce.
  • Sous Vide: It may sound fancy, but it actually feels like cheating. Put meat, veggies, fruit, etc. in a sealed bag (or ziploc), dunk it a pot of water, set the sous vide to the proper temperature, and walk away. The sous vide heater will bring the water to the set temperature (e.g. 135F for medium rare steak) and hold it there, cooking your item to exactly that temperature without going over. This means goodbye to rubbery chicken, steak that is rare in the middle and scorched on the surface, etc. (You can sear the outside of a steak with a blowtorch if that makes you happy. And it probably will.) Even if meat isn't your treat, you can also use it to make incredible Greek yogurt for around 25% the cost of buying from a store. 
  • Books: Yes, the internet also has recipes, but cookbooks are far more fun. We often check them out from the library first to make sure we actually like the recipes and not just the photos. Over the past year, our three favorites have been Oh She Glows, Smitten Kitchen, and Mighty Spice. OSG is vegan. We are not. But we still love all the recipes. That says something. SK is fun to read, features incredible desserts, and includes a few American-Jewish classics that make me feel right at home. I even gave this book to my mom and she raves about it. MS is organized by--you guessed it!--spices. Want to finally use that turmeric that has been staring at you from your spice rack for months? Now is your chance! (Pro tip: it will make everything yellow. Plan accordingly.)
Yes, they are organized by color. And yes, there are more shelves. 

  • Eat Your Books: Cookbooks are awesome. Searching each book's index for a particular recipe, not so much. Eat Your Books has indexed thousands of cookbooks, magazines, and blogs so you simply add the names of your books to an online bookshelf and search all of them at once. This site has helped me rediscover books that I hadn't used in years (often, admittedly, the ones without pretty pictures) and quickly figure out what on earth to do with the abundance of {fill in the blank} from our garden or CSA. 
What are your favorite kitchen toys or tips? What are your standard kitchen-themed birthday or wedding presents?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What I Did For My Summer Vacation

No, this is not a horribly out of date post, though we all know I'm capable of that. Nor am I unaware of the frigid weather descending upon DC this fall. Running a 10 K in sub-30 degree weather this morning sent a clear message that we are nearly in December. Let's just call this a "metaphorical summer vacation."

For triathletes in the northern hemisphere, race season runs from around March or April until September or October. This year, I started racing in February and was pretty burned out by 70.3 Worlds in early September. Enter the off-season. Late fall/early winter, aka off-season, is a magical time in the triathlete's year when sleeping in (until 6!), culinary indulgences, and reconnecting with long-neglected friends/relatives/spouses take the place of swims, rides, and runs. True, there are always cautionary tales of athletes who take it too easy and have trouble getting back into shape in the spring, or simply continue training and wonder why they are an unmotivated zombie in March. Time will tell where I fall in that spectrum, but here's my strategy:


  • Sleep. That's a no-brainer. (Or actually, a better-brainer, since sleep makes you smarter.) Over the past year, I've gotten into the habit of going to bed early, usually around 9:15, since my workouts required a wake up call "in the 4s." Now that my training volume is lower, I can often sleep in until 6...nearly 9 glorious hours of snoozeville. 
  • Core work. How to avoid over-use injuries? Core work, including abs, back, and glutes. What do triathletes never dedicate enough time to do? Core work. Knowing myself and my likes (being social, saving money, obsessively completing workouts in Training Peaks), and dislikes (doing crunches in a crowded gym, motivating myself to hold a plank longer than :30 if no one is watching), I am adding core work/PT/foam rolling to my Training Peaks calendar and also subscribed to Class Pass. If you haven't already been recruited into the Class Pass mafia, it works like this: $99 per month for unlimited (ish) classes at local yoga, pilates, barre, and spin studios. (The "ish" is that you can only take three classes per month at a single studio, but considering there are over 75 studios in the DC area and classes are usually $25 a pop, this is an incredible deal. H/T Lynn!) 
At left: the glute-burn-erator, aka, pilates reformer

  • ART: No, not painting. Active Release Therapy. I'll do a separate post on it soon (yes, it's that awesome) but in a nutshell, it's a really effective soft tissue therapy that helps "remodel" muscles, prevent scar tissue formation, and improve range of motion. Rose PT offers it *and* accepts insurance, so why even bother with a "fluff n' buff" massage at a spa? 
  • Social Time: Did you know that a universe exists in which people join their friends for brunch, talk about things other than training, and then go shopping (albeit for running shoes)? Or visit small farms in Frederick County and meet alpacas? I'm also enjoying the opportunity to learn more about the sport from people who know their stuff, like the Women and Bicycles event at Rose PT and my speedy triathlete friend, Holli
Well, hello, there.

  • Culture: Yes, the other kind of art. Elliott and I are now making a point to schedule at least one cultural or educational activity per month. So far, we have attended a dinner with the Charcuterie Club of DC and learned about Civil War history in western Maryland. Next up: a 3D printing class. Fancy! 
Charcuterie + wine + fiance = happiness

  • Racing: Yes, I know, it's the off-season. But my coach and I decided to add two low-key, non-taper, single sport races to the schedule to test my training a bit and put a fire under me for next year. Smart move: in both races (10 mile bike time trial and 10K road race), I placed second. Next year... 
What are your off-season plans? 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Over the River and into the Woods

Did you know that there is more to Washington, DC, than the northwest quadrant? Or that one can mountain bike within city limits? And that deer sometimes outnumber people? Welcome to my neighborhood.

Since the usual DC training hotspots of Hains Point, Rock Creek Park, and Poolesville can become crowded or just boring after awhile, here are a few alternatives:


  • Anacostia Park: Flat stretches with very little traffic--check. Outdoor pool--check. Free and easy parking--check. Sounds like Hains Point, right? Even better: no tour buses, no park service police ticketing people at stop signs, no flooding, and the roads are open 24/7. Plus, you can mix things up a bit by riding on the parallel trail west of the river. I like to do a route that involves crossing each of the four bridges. Oh, and there's also a pirate ship! 
  • They Don't Call it Hillcrest for Nothing: Want to train on some steep hills? Behold Ward 7. The Penn Ave SE climb is just the beginning. Try Naylor Road, Fort Baker Drive, 31st Street, or Park Drive. If you'd rather stick with a group, Bicycle Space offers a Hills of Anacostia ride on Saturdays.
Why hello there, neighbor! Also notice the steepness.

  • The Great Escape: The Fort Circle hiker-biker trail is city's best kept secret (or it was...oops). Think single track mountain biking amidst Civil War forts. I once went for a trail run here and saw nine deer and zero humans (present company excluded). 
No humans were harmed (or seen) in the making of this photo.

  • No Cue Sheet Required: Want to go for a decent ride without writing down directions...or even turning? Just take Mass Ave the whollllle way, Goldsboro Road to Southern Avenue. It's nearly 15 miles and transverses almost all of DC, from the mansions of Palisades to the PG County border. 
Have you tried these? Any others I should include? 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I'm Number..Cough Cough...One!

Ironman 70.3 World Championships, Mont Tremblant, Quebec. Where the best of the best come to duke it out over 70.3 miles of swimming, biking, and running, then make up the calorie deficit via vast quantities of poutine. Qualifying for this race was my big, hairy, audacious goal of 2014, so I was thrilled and a little nervous to be there. If you've never been to Mont Tremblant, it's kind of like a Disneyland + ski resort - costumed creatures (and in this case + a few thousand spandex-clad triathletes). The town is located next to a lake and at the foot of some ski lifts. As a result, the views are picturesque and there's even an adorable gondola between the bottom part of town (including the finish line) and some of the hotels. This also means the run course included some 25% inclines. Oh yes. How did I do? Well, if your unit of measurement is the amount of fun a person can have and quantity of joy at the finish line, then I probably won. If you're into actual numbers and placement, I was 101st in my age group. While that's slightly off the podium, if you think of all the 30-34 year old women there are IN THE WORLD, I'm pretty pleased with myself.

Probably the only time I'll take a bike on a gondola.


Keeping with the theme of fun vs. facts, rather than a traditional race report, here are some things that surprised and/or amused me. May they do the same for you:


  • For some reason, I was originally placed in the women's 65-69 age group and got some really shady looks from the other women in my bike rack. ("What's my secret? Sunscreen, drinking lots of water...and actually being 35 years younger than you.")
  • You know you've made it when a Japanese tourist wants to take a photo with you. In this case, however, it was my bike's water bottle setup that he cared about. 
  • While there were volunteers with sharpies doing body marking, nobody actually had their age on their calf. Except me. No wonder there was no line. 
  • The swim start included a Royal Air Force fighter jet flyover, though I think people enjoyed posing for photos with the Mounties more.
  • The lake was eerily clear and I could see the bottom for a ways offshore. Sand...rocks...bigger rocks... SHIPWRECK! Actually, it was maybe an old dock or construction or something (I was too busy actually swimming to investigate) but it was definitely unusual.
  • The level of competition was just incredible, and definitely a kick in the butt to get faster next year. I was holding the same watts as in a normal race and getting passed like I was standing still...by 50 year old women. 
  • One year of college-level French is apparently enough to negotiate for a space blanket post-race. (Then again, as we know from Panama, my foreign language skills are apparently heightened by dehydration. Wish I'd known this in college.) 
  • If your flight is delayed, delayed some more, and then ultimately canceled, be sure to ask for food vouchers from every employee you encounter. Bonjour, CAD $96 steak-stravaganza


Many thanks to my family and friends for the cheers, Elliott for sherpa-ing, Coach Kerri for getting me there (and beating me by 0:30--ouch!), and Rose PT for keeping me healthy and strong. Here's to a fun off season!

Mission Accompli

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Are You Faster Than a Buggy?

In short, yes, apparently so. For my birthday this year, my friend Tess and I decided to celebrate on two wheels in Lancaster County, PA. This was version 2.0 of a similar trip in 2006, when we happened to be biking through Tour de France "winner" Floyd Landis's home town the day after the doping allegations surfaced and all the news crews were clamoring to take action shots of "devastated cyclists." (We actually hadn't checked the news that morning, had no idea what was going on, and probably smiled and waved like dorks.)

Why Lancaster County? Our requirements were simple: easy drive from DC. Open roads for cycling. Some hills, but not too many. Good beer. As it turns out, Bicycling Magazine had an article about the top ride in every state and the Maryland and Pennsylvania routes were relatively close together. Weekend made.

Maryland boasted the Covered Bridges tour, which supposedly included three covered bridges. We found one, maybe two, and wound up hitting the first one twice because we got lost. Yay GPS! We also rode past a picturesque college that looked like a monastery from afar and, fittingly, offered classes in quilting. (Unfortunately, our schedules did not allow for such a detour. Next time...)

Actual covered bridge. 



We then drove to Lancaster via Gettysburg ("home of factory outlets...and some history, if you're into that type of thing") and a bunch of small towns out-boasting each other on their antiquing creds. If there had been more room in the car, I might have given myself an old wagon wheel as a birthday gift. Since who doesn't need a wagon wheel (singular)?! While Lancaster is traditionally a farming community with a large Amish/Mennonite population, a new crowd has sprouted recently: yuppies. We stayed at a boutique art-themed hotel that was way cooler than we were (hint: bikes and expensive hallway sculptures don't mix) and had dinner at a microbrewery. A flight of beers = carbo loading, right?


Why you can't take me anywhere.


The route on Sunday was called the Ice Cream Lovers' Ride. Awesome, right? Hot summer day, small farms, winding roads, local ice cream. Just one catch: everything is closed on Sundays. So it was more like the "get lost in the corn fields again" ride. But really, with signage like this, can you blame us?

This is why we packed a map.


All in all, a fun weekend. Special shout out to Tess for being willing to chase down some buggies with me, as well as Rose PT for keeping me riding pain free. (Strong glutes = happy cyclist)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Old News is Good News

Hi, there. It's been awhile. As you may have heard, things have been busy for me since I last wrote. Where to begin?

USAT Long Course National Championships


Yes, that's me in the middle.
Well, there was this.


I had signed up for this race with the goal of seeing how close I could come to qualifying for Team USA -- more likely, a realistic goal for next year. However, my mentor, Terra, warned me not to psyche myself out and just go for it. Good advice. And go for it, I did! According to my power meter, I averaged over 500 watts on the 56 mile bike leg. (For those of you who haven't talked watts since high school physics, someone of my weight pushing 500 W over 56 miles would appear on a box of Wheaties, her massive thighs wrapping around the edges.)


Look out, Lance!


But as I learned from Maritime, data doesn't really matter. Actually, I didn't really learn my lesson then. I learned my lesson at this race, when my watch showed I crossed the finish line in 4:59:58 and my official time was 5:00:03. Note to self: ignore the gadgets and push until the end.

So what's next? As a member of Team USA, I will represent the United States at the ITU Long Course Triathlon World Championships in Motala, Sweden, in June 2015. Fancy. I'll post more details to this blog when I learn them, but in the mean time, it's time to practice some Svenska, ja tak!

Coming Up Roses


Exciting news! Here's a hint: 
I spy, on the upper thigh...


I'm partnering with  Rose Physical Therapy! Rose PT is a local practice focusing on athletes. Thanks to them, I'll be able to train and race harder, stronger, faster, and injury free.  Citius. Altius. Fortius. Gluteus Maximus!

Getting Back to My Roots


Believe it or not, I sometimes do things that involve neither swimming, nor biking, nor running, like spend a week in Alaska for my cousin's wedding. My family has lived in Alaska since the 1800s and I like to show my local cred by oh so casually mentioning to folks that I was born in Fairbanks...and then promptly lose said cred by thinking the North Slope is a ski resort. Sigh. But the wedding was a blast, my family awesome as always, and the scenery did not disappoint. But don't take my word for it...
Not the North Slope


There be moose! (Probably, somewhere, if you zoom)

Best. Treadmill. Ever.

Our rental car. Definitely not blending in.



Photo taken quickly to escape mosquitoes. And bears.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

So You Think You Can Climb

Even though I've lived in DC for over 10 years (!), I still consider myself a west coaster at heart. I prefer In & Out to Five Guys, natural beaches to boardwalks, and will never get used to watching the Superbowl at night. This also means I'm a mountain snob. For example:
These are mountains.


These are not.

Do I appreciate the beauty of Shenandoah National Park? Of course. But there are trees at the top, and I don't have to backpack to get there.

So when I heard about the "Mountains of Misery" century ride in southwestern Virginia,  I figured it would be a fun training day. How miserable could some hills be? Also, when the ride's registration opened in February, Memorial Day weekend seemed far enough on the horizon that I was extra confident in my ability to defy gravity.

As training progressed, I actually did start to get better at hills. How?
  • Step 1: Move into a house at the top of a hill. Decide you want to go home occasionally.
  • Step 2: Tell yourself that you're good at hills. Suddenly, training rides are an opportunity to attack some climbs (woo!) rather than grumpily mash some gears. 
  • Step 3: Reconsider gearing. For Ironman Tahoe, I upgraded to a 10-32 cassette with special derailleur. This means I have some extra easy gears when the climbing gets steep. 
  • Step 4: Learn how to descend, preferably without melting a wheel (yes, that happened). Some cyclists, such as Elliott and Cat, can naturally whiz down a mountain without a care in the world. I, on the other hand, am afraid of plummeting to my death. The biggest ah-ha moments in my descend-ucation:
    • Count out loud. To scrub speed, pull on the brakes for a count of four, then release for four. Counting not only distracts you from the whole careening off a cliff thing, but also no other cyclist will want to be near Count Brakeula and will give you a wide berth.
    • The harder you push, the more stable you'll feel. On a turn, push down HARD with the outside leg; when descending straight down, keep your feet at 9:00 and 3:00 on the pedals and push your knees into the top bar. Voila, stability!
    • Hands and feet work together. As you push down with your outside leg, also push down on the handlebar with your outside hand. This will get you around the corner safely and cleanly. Think of the hokie pokie if that helps.
    • Look where you want to go...with all three eyes. #3 is your bellybutton. I challenge you to think about your bellybutton on a descent and not crack a smile. 

Thinking about my belly button.



So, how did it go? It was definitely not the Seagull Century, where you can stay in one gear the whole time. In fact, I think I used all of my gears today. But the one constant was the smile plastered on my face. Such a fun ride! Beautiful scenery, well marked course, (mostly) good roads, enthusiastic volunteers... oh, and a four mile uphill finish with 12-16% incline. To boot, I got to hang out with my awesome coach, Kerri, and some Bike Rack Racing teammates at the top.
Optical illusion: We are actually the same height; the hill is just that steep!


Am I reformed mountain snob? Let's just say I appreciate the fact that the east coast offers plenty of challenging cycling that does not require packing an oxygen tank. But the moment United starts offering a direct flight from DC to Tahoe, you'll know where to find me!
Where you can find me now.
As always, huge shout-outs to my support crew: Elliott, my family, DC Tri and Bike Rack teammates, and Rose PT for keeping me injury free!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Maritime Olympic Triathlon: The Day the Data Lied

Pop quiz: which of the following happened today?
  • This year's race had an exceptionally large turnout, with nearly 90 people in my age group.
  • I was the first woman to finish the 1500m swim.
  • The 10K run course was actually 6.7 miles.
  • Despite this longer course, I managed to average 7:06/mile.
  • None of the above, leaving me annoyingly dissatisfied with what was actually a not-terrible race.
Since you've all read the title of this blog post (or are hurriedly rereading it now that I called you out), you know the answer to this quiz. But here's the rest of the story.

I signed up for the Maritime International Triathlon (aka "Olympic distance," albeit non-drafting) on the advice of my coach, who said it would be a good opportunity to practice some speed to gear up for Long Course Nationals (half iron distance) next month. I hadn't raced the Olympic distance since October 2012, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Surprise #1 came a week before the race, when my coach noticed that my name wasn't on the participant list. Cue the frantic search for a confirmation email, followed by the even more frantic search for a record of the transaction on my credit card. No luck. Thankfully, there was still room in the event so I could (re)register. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that while all the waiver and payment pages had the cancel button on the left and confirm button the right, they were reversed on the final confirmation page. Therefore, I probably canceled my entry in the first round. Sigh. Web design, anyone?

Maritime is located in Easton, Maryland, about 90 minutes east of DC (without traffic; you couldn't pay me enough to attempt the drive on a Friday night in the summer). As with most of the races hosted by Setup Events, this one was small/medium sized with easy parking, packet pickup, etc. I overheard from one of the organizers that participation had doubled this year versus last, to over 400. (My friend Trevor has an excellent recap of last year's race, including some very important safety pins.) As I hopped in the water with my wave, one of the other women remarked that our age group had nearly 90 participants. Wow! That's a large chunk of the overall total, but the wave was big...and it's a popular age group... and it was still early in the morning and I did not have the energy to count that high. The swim started with the ubiquitous air horn and I started to sprint (I think the reaction is now Pavlovian, even on land). My philosophy on the swim is that first out of the water is for suckers; it's far better to draft off #1 and exit the water second with fresh legs. However, I must not have followed my own advice because as I ran up the dock and into T1, the announcer called me as the first woman. Awesome!

Most of the first leg of the bike, my mind was going over what it meant to be riding in the lead. Wasn't I supposed to get a motorcycle escort? Dude, where's my chopper?! What if I can keep the lead and wind up winning? Will there be a tape for me to break and hold up above my head? How far behind is everyone else? Answer: not very. I got passed by another woman about eight miles into the 24 mile course. And then saw another woman ahead of me at the turnaround. What?! (No motorcycle either, for what it's worth.) I tried to catch up but was wary about burning myself out. Normally I try to stay in high zone 3 (185-190 watts) for 56 miles and while I was pushing harder on the shorter course, I haven't done much hour+ training above 200 watts and wasn't sure what that would do to my run.

Answer: I couldn't feel my feet. The entire time. But no worries, according to my trusty Garmin, I was smoking it - sub 7:00/miles for the first two, and then around 7:06 for the remainder. So what if I felt like crap? So what if a few more women flew past me? Look at us speed demons! The run was a double out and back but rather than being boring, it meant I could see and high five/smile/thumbs up/nod/grunt/blink at Elliott, my teammates, and colleagues as we encountered each other. (Communication deteriorated as the race progressed.) As an added bonus, I also saw my coach, Kerri Robbins, in hot pursuit and I was determined not to let her catch me. My favorite moment was when I was running right behind my teammate, Emerson, on the final stretch. Elliott was running in the opposite direction, starting his second loop, and shouted, "I love you, darling! Kick it home!" Emerson, unaware that I was right behind him, mumbled a confused "thanks?" "That was directed at me!" I said as I ran past. It was a fun way to finish, and unlike Panama, no medical tent = always a plus. Kerri finished a few minutes after me and we compared notes on the race - the headwind from *every* direction on the bike, the gravelly run, and the 6.7 mile 10 K. We checked results and detected a theme -- Kerri got 2nd Masters (women 40+), and I got 2nd 30-34 age group, with a time of 2:22 and a nearly 22 minute PR (according to my post-race mental math). Not bad! Elliott finished shortly afterward, 3rd Clydesdale, making us both 4 for 4 on podiums, and in his case, 4 races in 4 weeks.

Which brings us back to the pop quiz, and the reason I'm writing this blog post. It's not to brag about my results, or to provide a course description for future racers. It's to remind us (or me, at least) not to overthink things. Announcers can't count. Or discern gender. Websites have confusing layouts, causing people to think there are 90 competitors in every age group. Garmins fail to pick up satellites and rely on footpod readings, leading to perceived longer distances and faster splits. But none of that matters. The point of racing is to have fun and see what we can do. And we are the only ones in charge of that.

And on that note, I'll be seeing what I can do next week at the menacingly named Mountains of Misery bike ride. Let's just say it sounded like a good idea when I signed up in February. Many thanks to Elliott, my DC Tri Club teammates, Coach Kerri, Smashfest Queen's smashing visor, and Rose PT for improving my run form--next time the 7:06/mile splits will be real!


Apparently first and third places didn't want to attend this Podium Party.