Sunday, May 29, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane

24 hours from now I'll be sitting in a hammock on my ocean front patio enjoying the warm evening air and listening to the crashing waves.  The scenery might happen to look a little like this:
That, my friends, is the Dreams Resort in Cancun, Mexico!  Beginning tomorrow, I'll be enjoying 6 days of beaches, sunshine, fabulous food, and relaxation in paradise.  The trip is a graduation gift from my parents and should be a fantastic girls (Mom and I) getaway.  More importantly, it will likely be the last big trip I take for quite a while since the realities of residency are a mere 4 weeks away.

Before leaving for paradise, I had one last key workout to tackle.  I've had several tough bikes and runs this week and my legs were already feeling pretty dead going into today.  I definitely spent a good 20 minutes laying in bed coming up with every excuse imaginable for not doing and/or modifying my workout.  Also in the back of my head though was "HTFU!", and so I packed the car, grabbed a cup of coffee, and made the drive down to the river.  On the agenda was steady state bike intervals followed by a 10k step-up run.  Despite my negative attitude and frustration throughout much of the workout (trashed legs + 90 degree heat are not a good combination), I survived and accomplished the task for the day.  Hopefully all of my training in the heat will prove beneficial when it comes to racing the scorcher that is the Westpoint Lake Triathlon in 2 weeks.  The prize at the end of the tunnel was a  icy Mango Mix1 and a dip in the Chattahoochee River - a perfect combination.  A 10 minute soak in the cold 70 degree water was exactly what the doctor ordered!

The rest of the day was spent eating, packing, eating, mani/pedi, eating, packing, and finally putting my legs up and catching up on a little TV.  And now, my bed is calling my name.  There's no better sleep than after a hard workout.  See you soon from Cancun!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Day in the Life

I suppose many people think by current life is a dream come true.  My last medical school rotation ended in late March, and since then I've essentially been on a long-term vacation.  I start residency in late June, so in total it will be 3 months of freedom from school or work responsibilities.  Sounds nice, right?!?  While it sounds great in theory, it's been a difficult adjustment for someone like me who has gone non-stop pedal to the metal for 4 years of medical school.  As someone told me the other day, he imagines it must be like getting out of prison and returning to the real world after years of confinement.  I'd never thought of it like that, but that's a pretty funny comparison.  After a while, you start to get bored with sleeping in and lounging around.  My only worries each day are deciding when I'm going to swim/bike/run, and what I'm preparing for all of my meals.  My DVR is empty, I know all the latest celebrity gossip (which, by the way, I could really care less about Arnold's baby momma!), I've read lots of books, and cooked some  great meals.  A few weeks ago I would have told you I was getting anxious to move to Charlotte and get on with residency, but as the "vacation" is slowly disappearing, I'm really treasuring my freedom.

I get asked a lot what I've found to do to occupy my days, so I thought I'd give you a peak at the fun!

7:00AM - Wake-up sans alarm clock.  Enjoy a latte and breakfast in bed while watching the Today show.  Catch up on emails and the latest Facebook and twitter happenings.

10:00AM - The dog and I hit the road and arrive at the Chattahoochee River for a run.  Today's plan is speed-work - 5 x 1 mile repeats at 10K pace with 3 minute recovery.  Speed-work HURTS!!  8.5 miles and 20 minutes of stretching later we're back in the car.

12:30PM - Time to fuel the machine.  I take advantage of being near Whole Foods and drop in for some delicious eats.  I peruse the aisles, enjoying all of the samples, and then hit the salad bar.  I swear I could eat from their salad bar everyday and be a happy person!  Lunch is enjoyed while soaking up the sun - so glad Atlanta's winter-in-May has left!
Spinach base, broccoli, kale, chicken salad, tuna salad, grilled vegetables, chile lime quinoa salad, pesto pasta, roasted vegetable barley salad, baked beans, cherry balsamic tofu, sesame soy tofu, and honey roasted sweat potatoes.
2:00PM - Quick trip to Sam's Club to pick up water bottles and cases of beer for a party on Saturday.  I think you could have picked the entire cast for next season's "Biggest Loser" from the store.  It really is amazing how much junk people can pack in a single cart.  This picture pretty much sums up the purchases of the average customer.  I was starting to feel guilty after eating a bowl full of vegetables for lunch.  Maybe I should have bought the 64 pack of Jimmy Dean Sausage Croissants or Triple Box of Lucky Charms!

3:00PM - Spend an hour washing my car, vacuuming the carpets, and cleaning the windows.  Refueled with a Mix1 and frozen berry smoothie.  Yum!

4:00PM - Finish planning a fundraising dinner for Saturday - ordering food, organizing a silent auction, and gathering raffle items.

5:00PM - Prep dinner.  Tonight's menu features Mahi Mahi over Bok Choy with a Soy Ginger Glaze and a Brown Basmati Rice Salad.
Brown Basmati Rice Salad with Kale, Red Peppers, and Cumin Vinaigrette
Fish Marinating
Bok Choy and Onions
Soy Ginger sauce is reducing
6:30PM - Dinner while watching NBC Nightly News

7:30PM - Typing this post.

8:00PM - Time to enjoy a bowl of Ben and Jerry's!

And so there you have it - a sneak peak at the glamorous long-term vacation I am enjoying as a recently graduated "DOCTOR".  Fortunately I have a real vacation to Cancun planned in just a couple weeks!  Can't wait!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Peachtree International Triathlon

Another race is in the books - and it was a good one!

Peachtree International Triathlon
May 14, 2011    7AM
Peachtree City, GA

1500 meter swim, 26 mile bike, 6.2 mile run
The Highlights:

  • Swim:  26:22  (1:45/100m)
  • T1: 1:35
  • Bike:  1:11:43  (21.75 mph)
  • T2:  0:54
  • Run:  43:11  (6:56 / mile)
  • Finish Time:  2:23:42
  • Placement:  3rd overall female out of 112 finishers
For those of you who prefer the wordy version, here goes!

Pre-race:  When I initially planned my race schedule, 2 weeks each between the Cartersville Duathlon, St. Anthony's, and PTC seemed like a reasonable plan.  However, when you toss in the realities of training, a knee injury, and graduation festivities, it probably wasn't one of my better decisions.  After St. Anthony's we shut my run down for about a week to let the knee settle down.  The goal of the two weeks essentially became to recover and maintain fitness.  By the time my pre-race brick came around on Friday, I was feeling better, but certainly still fatigued and missing the leg freshness.  When the weather forecast predicted thunderstorms for race morning, I was beginning to wonder if maybe I just wasn't meant to race that weekend.  Fortunately, when the 3:45AM alarm clock went off on Saturday morning, I felt energized and excited to race.  My Dad made the 75 minute drive with me to enjoy the race as a spectator.  The combination of coffee, peanut butter and banana toast, and jamming to music left me pretty pumped to race!  The weather was in the low-60s with a fine mist in the air, but not the first sign of thunderstorms.  After packet pick-up and transition set-up, I squeezed into my wetsuit and made my way to the water.

Swim:  (26:22) This was a time-trial swim start based on our predicted 1500m swim times.  I was number 27 and was quickly into the water after the start.  Overall the swim was pretty uneventful.  By avoiding the mass start, it was largely without contact and I settled into my rhythm.  Now if only I could ever find a pair of legs to draft off!  It seemed to take forever to get to the first turn buoy and my shoulders were feeling the wetsuit-induced fatigue.  I thought I had a pretty good swim and expected a time close to 23 minutes, so I was really disappointed to see 26+ minutes on my Garmin exiting the water.  Everyone felt the course was long, and after looking at the results, I had the 6th fastest female swim split of the day.  So with that, I'm going to assume the course was long and that I really can swim much faster than the 1:45 pace my results show.

T1:  (1:35) This was ugly as usual for a wetsuit race.  Putting a wetsuit on correctly requires multiple helpers and 5 minutes of carefully executed gymnast-like maneuvers, all while avoiding putting finger digs in the $500 dollar neoprene masterpiece.  Taking it off, however, is a totally different story.  The pros make it look so effortless, but I can't say there was anything glamorous or speedy about my technique.  Hmm . . . need to work on that.  Despite my tortoise-like speed, fortunately there were only 4 women with a faster T1.

Bike: (1:11:43)  The bike course was made up of a few out and back stretches that covered rolling hills throughout Peachtree City and Forsyth county.  I was using Brett's 808s for the race, and very quickly noticed the difference in performance.  Some people claim it's more a mental effect than significant increase in speed, but regardless, I was loving it.  I caught a group of 3 men about 10 miles in and played cat and mouse for nearly the entire 2nd half of the course.  In case you didn't know, guys aren't fans of being "chicked"  on the bike, and so each time I would pass them, they'd make a mad sprint to get back past me.  Had it been a draft-legal race it would be no big deal, but when a USAT official came cruising past me (pen and paper in hand), while myself and the 3 guys were each within a couple bike lengths, I thought for sure we were busted.  All I could think for the remainder of the bike was how pissed I was going to be over a 2 minute penalty.  Maybe all the frustration helped me to push even faster to the end!  My bike split was 8th fastest for the day.

T2:  (0:54) Coming into transition I was feeling really good (maybe the extra 100 calories I took on the bike really did make a difference) and ready for a fast run.  My Dad was standing near transition and told me I was about 2:30 behind Tracy (my super-fast teammate and fish in the water).  A quick rack of the bike and change of shoes and I was off for the chase.  3rd fastest T2.

Run:  (43:11)  The first half-mile of the run felt like hell, as usual.  Fortunately, once I got my heart rate and breathing back under control and legs firing, I started to see some good mile splits.  The course is 100% on golf-cart paths, which means a narrow path, lots of turns, several tunnels, and a few random hills thrown in for good measure.  The first 3 miles I was holding 7 minute miles, consciously trying to keep things controlled.  At the 5K turn-around point I saw Tracy for the first time and calculated I was about 2 minutes behind her.  We are great friends and teammates, but ask either one of us, and I guarantee you we both felt the competitive drive to run faster!  Even though I was in second overall, you never know who is charging from behind with the time-trial start, so there was no cushion to relax.  Miles 4 and 5 were strong with sub-7 splits, and I made it my goal to keep picking off the men in front of me.  Mile 6 was tough and hills suddenly began to appear that I definitely don't remember running down at the start.  The finish line soon came into sight and I made a final charge across the line!  5th fastest run and a 30 second open 10K PR!

Post-race:  My immediate concern was trying to figure out if I had received a drafting penalty.  In all likelihood I had gotten an overall podium position, but all of that could easily be washed away by a 2 minute penalty.  Fortunately, none of the USAT officials had written my number in their books that day, so the coast was clear.  I hung out everyone from Sport Factory that had raced that day and enjoyed some Mix1 while we waited for results to be posted.  The end-result = I placed 3rd overall (beat by a woman with a crazy fast run split that started after me in the time-trial start), only a minute behind the winning female (Tracy - my awesome teammate!).  The race was definitely my best race to date and first OVERALL PODIUM!  It seems crazy that I could pull out a great day despite feeling somewhat blah leading up to race day, but somehow things just seemed to fall into place at exactly the right time!

Tracy (1st overall) and I (3rd overall) with our awards.  It's tough to beat a Sport Factory woman!
Sport Factory Overall Podiums:  Tracy, Louie (3rd overall), and I.
Sport Factory also had overall podium finishes for men and women in the SuperSprint race!
Thanks for following along as race season continues.  Next up is Westpoint Lake Olympic on June 12th!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Feed the Machine

They say that life is all about balance, and this post demonstrates the balance (or lack thereof) that I find in food.

This past Saturday morning I raced the Peachtree International Triathlon (race details to follow in a separate post).  My stomach always behaves oddly after hard workouts/races and I have a hard time tolerating much in the way of real food for several hours.  However, by the evening I'm ready to eat everything in sight!  So Saturday night I was watching TV and was hit with major hunger.  I wanted ice cream, and I wanted it right then.  There was some sort of fruit flavored frozen yogurt in the freezer, but I wanted the rich, creamy, full-fat stuff.  I had been talking to one of my teammates earlier that day and he mentioned his love for Ben and Jerry's.  And so with that in mind, I jumped in the car at 9pm and went straight to Publix and bought these beauties!

I proceeded to have two bowls of ice cream because I had to sample both flavors.  Let me tell you, it was fabulous, and I savored each and every bite.  Whoever says ice cream is bad for you is crazy!  I wonder how long I can use my post-race hunger and calorie deficit as an excuse to indulge after each meal?

In an effort to find some balance, I got creative in the kitchen on Sunday.  Nothing like some veggie goodness to round out the weekend.  The farmer's market was stocked with an awesome selection of produce, so I had all sorts of good stuff at my fingertips.  After much thought and planning (all this extra time on my hands results in me spending hours on otherwise simple tasks - like creating dinner recipes), I had a plan.

Citrus and Beet Salad over Garden Greens and Dinosaur Kale
Creamy Pumpkin Soup
Whole Wheat Yeast Rolls

All you carnivores out there are probably thinking that meal is pathetic and lacking in any sustenance to fulfill your protein craving bellies, but I have to argue that it was delicious and filling.  Here are a few pictures of my hard work and end-result.

Roasting the beets - golden and red
Sliced and cooled.  Lesson learned - gloves are required when handling beets.
Unless of course, you're looking to stain your hands a lovely merlot red.
Onion and garlic sauteing for the soup.
Time to eat!
And while we're on the topic of food, let me just make mention of my latest discover.  Starbuck's Green Tea Frappucino.  Oh so perfect on a hot summer day!  Let's just say it's a good thing the "half-price Frappucino" promotion has come to a close.  $2 seemed like a good bargain for a special treat, but $4+ is just ridiculous!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

First things first, I'm a DOCTOR!  After 13 years of elementary/middle/high school, 3 years of undergrad, and 4 years of medical school, I finally came to realize my dreams this past week.  It was a great week filled with friends, family, fun, laughter, and parties (perhaps we weren't behaving like the future doctor's of America, but we couldn't miss living it up before facing the reality of beginning residency July 1st!).  It all culminated with graduation on Thursday where I received this fancy piece of paper.

As I reflect on my recent medical school graduation, I've often reflected on the path I've taken and can't help but wonder where life would have taken me had I chosen a different path at each crossing.  Fortunately, I'm beyond thrilled to be beginning a medical career and find it hard to believe I would be happy on any other path.  Have you ever considered all of the endless possibilities for careers, lifestyles, hobbies, etc. and reflected on where you've ended up?

I've always loved Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken."  

Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Rather than describe in words the past 10 years of my life and the roads I have chosen (sounds riveting, right), I'll spare you the details, and instead, entertain you with pictures.  Here are a few highlights of the past decade.

I played in the Emory Wind Ensemble and Orchestra throughout college.    2003 - 2006

In 2005, we toured throughout Vienna, Graz, and Prague. These were definitely my favorite college memories and I really miss having music as such a large part of my life.
Graduation from Agnes Scott College 2006 with a Bachelor's in Biology.
I spent a year working in an orthopaedic office prior to medical school.  It was a great job and I was fortunate to have awesome co-workers that have remained close friends.
Mother-Daughter trip to Hawaii just prior to starting medical school - June 2007
MCG White Coat Ceremony September 2007 - receiving my first short white coat.
A group from our class trained together for the 2008 ING Georgia Half-Marathon.
We survived our 1st year of medical school!  Potlucks were plentiful throughout the year  - especially after major exams.
Ironman Florida 70.3 - May 2008.  My 1st triathlon!
We adopted Bailey - a 1 year old Weimaraner rescue.  An amazing dog and my faithful running partner.
Mistletoe Triathlon 2008 with classmates
Tacky Christmas Party 2008
Dr. Prom 2009
2nd year of medical school = DONE!
Spring 2009 - Started racing for The Sport Factory and got an awesome new bike.
Who would have thought that Ironman would come to Augusta - September 2009
Residency interviews had me traveling all over the country from November '10 to January '11.  Perhaps most memorable was my trip to Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota.  Snowpocalypse followed me there - 24 inches in about 12 hours.  It was a long day that included pushing our shuttle bus out of a snow drift and spending the night in the airport.
My first visit to Washington D.C. - January 2011.  Enjoyed seeing the sights during an interview weekend.
May 2011:  It's legit - I really did earn a couple new initials to add to my name.

Graduation May 2011 - decked out in the less than fashionable cap, gown, and hood.
North Augusta Riverwalk May 2011 - Couldn't have done it without the love and support of my awesome parents!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

St. Anthony's Triathlon Race Report

St. Anthony's Triathlon
St. Petersburg, FL
May 1st, 2011
1000m swim, 40K bike, 10K run

For those of you who aren't interested in reading a novel describing the race, here are the important stats:
Swim:  15:43 (1:35/100m)
T1: 5:00
Bike:  1:11:17 (20.9 mph)
T2:  1:49
Run:  45:11 (7:17 pace)
Total:  2:19:00

Placement:  6/104 (W25-29)
                  50/995 (Overall)

I initially signed up for this race more than 6 months ago.  I always hear so much about it each year, but haven't been able to take the time away from school to race here in the past.  Since I'm graduating from medical school in less than 48 hours, however, I had nothing but time on my hands to travel and race this year.  My trip to St. Pete started Friday with the 7+ hour drive from Atlanta with my coach.  It was nice to share the long drive with someone else and the time passed fairly quickly between talking, eating, and multiple potty breaks (evidence that we were very well hydrated and prepared for the Florida heat!).  We arrived in perfect time to check in, pick up race packets, and wander thru the race expo.  The expo is definitely my favorite part of these larger races.  In addition to all the great tri gear, nutrition products, and clothes for sale, there's always tons of great swag.  What can I say, I'm a very poor medical student (guess I can only say the student part for 40 more hours!!) and am easily excited by free t-shirts, socks, and nutrition!  Then we made our way to dinner, where I enjoyed a tasty Ahi Tuna Sandwich and steamed veggies.  And finally, enjoyed the perfect Florida sunset along the water with a delicious cup of Salted Caramel Gelato - it was amazing!
Please note how calm and peaceful the water is.  Race morning was a totally different story!
Saturday morning started with the usual pre-race short and easy swim/bike/run.  As we made our way to the beach for the swim, the calmness of the water the  night before was a long-lost memory.  This was my first race with an ocean swim, and needless to say, this was the exact nightmare I'd been experiencing since registering.  I'd guess seas were close to 2 feet.  I hate going out on the boat with rough seas, nonetheless having to swim in them.  Very few people were in the water and the majority stood on the beach sharing their concerns and potential that the swim would be cancelled come race morning.  After much thought and consideration to turning around and bailing on the practice swim, I decided to suck it up and conquer my fear.  The result - it really wasn't even close to as bad as I expected!  Sure,  I swallowed a lot of salt water, felt a little nauseous, and was slowed down by the waves, but I survived the 10 minute swim.  SUCCESS!!  At least now I knew that if I faced similar conditions on race morning, I wouldn't die!  The rest of Saturday was spent enjoying downtown St. Pete - the farmer's market, waterfront, race expo, and pool - and then checking my bike.  Saturday night's dinner was lots of bread with an amazing rosemary butter and pistachio-crusted salmon over a spinach salad.

Race morning came bright and early with a 4AM wake up call.  Breakfast was my usual - two pieces of cinnamon chip toast smothered in peanut butter and topped with sliced banana.  Our hotel was within walking distance of the race site, but we spared our legs and made the short drive to transition.  As we walked towards transition I was immediately struck by the howling winds.  After my heart rate spiked and my stomach did a little flip-flop, I was relieved when the race director announced the swim had been moved to a more sheltered area and shortened to 1000 meters due to the rough seas.  Body marking and transition set-up took little time and then I spent 45 minutes jamming to my ipod, focusing on my race plan, and trying to stay warm.  The walk to the new swim start proved to be longer than I expected - just over a half mile.  One complaint about this particular race is that the swim start times are spread over 2.5 hours to accommodate the 4000 participants.  Fortunately, I was lucky and started at 7:08am, just 18 minutes after the pros.
Race morning transition with 4000 of my closest friends.
The swim started with a 200 yard run from the beach to the water.  Elbows were flying and the girls all took off in a sprint.  Once we hit the water there was a short swim to the first turn buoy and it was every bit of a washing machine for those first 200 meters.  Once we made the turn I settled into a rhythm, found some open water, and tried to focus on maintaining my stroke and minimizing the amount of salt-water swallowing.  This was the first swim I'd done without my Garmin so I had no idea of my finishing time.

T1 was long and ugly - as you may have guessed by my time of 5 minutes.  After exiting the water we made a half-mile run on cement sidewalks  back to our bikes.  In my rush to get out of transition and onto my bike, I made the stupid mistake of running halfway out of transition before realized I still had my swim speed suit on.  After fixing that little problem, I was on my bike and away.

I've struggled with a hamstring/knee injury for the past 2 weeks and my bike and run training has been minimal. I was feeling pretty good in the days leading up to the race, but wasn't sure how it would respond to race pace efforts.  After making my way over the perilous cobblestone path that is the first 1/4 mile of the bike, I settled into aero and focused on maintaining a consistently hard effort and taking my nutrition at regular intervals.  The course is flat and fast with lots of turns.  I could have been more aggressive in the turns and seen a faster bike split, but I opted for the conservative approach in favor of staying upright.  My HR averaged 165 (low zone 4) for the 40k and I was happy with the split - my fastest average (21mph per Garmin) to date.

T2 was uneventful and I was quickly on my way out onto the run.

The sun was coming out and the course was heating up quickly.  The first mile of the run I focused on getting into a rhythm and shaking out the heaviness of the legs.  I took two cups of water each mile - one over the head and one to drink, and took a Gu at mile 3.  Miles 2 and 3 were the toughest both mentally and physically.  I was so jealous of everyone who was running the opposite direction and already passing mile 4.  My Sport Factory teammates were looking strong out there and that motivated me to keep pushing hard.  After holding my own for the majority of the run, a girl in my age group passed me with less than 1/2 mile to go.  She was flying and I didn't have anything left to respond.  Definitely frustrating to drop a position at the very end, but I felt like I gave it everything I had and was happy with the effort.  7:17 pace with HR average 169 (zone 4).

Typical post-race activities commenced - water, cool-down, massage, packing up, making the long walk back to the hotel in the heat, shower, and finally, enjoying some food.  I hung around for the award ceremony since they were recognizing placements 10 deep in each age group.  I didn't realize the age group athletes in the top 10 qualified for HyVee in September, so that came as a surprise.  At the end of the day I was mostly happy with my race. As one of my coaches would say, however, I definitely have several areas of opportunity to work on if I want to step it up and be more competitive in these strong and deep fields.

Pros - survived the swim and actually had a respectable time, consistent effort on the bike from start to finish
Cons - transitions (this is a trend - must fix this!), shy of the 7min/mi run pace that I had planned

Big thanks to Coaches Matt and Jennifer at The Sport Factory for continuing to push me to become a better athlete, Curtis at Cannon Cyclery for keeping my bike in race shape, and all our great sponsors (Mix1, Roswell Bikes).  And huge congrats to all of the Sport Factory athletes who had some amazing races this weekend!

Wow, that really did turn into a novel.  If you're still reading this - CONGRATS! - you have finally reached the end.