Thursday, June 30, 2011

'Twas The Night Before . . .

It's official, day one of intern year begins in t-minus 9 hours and counting!    While graduation was months ago, people jokingly call me "Dr", I've made the move to Charlotte, and 10 days of orientation are under my belt, there's nothing like receiving a pager to get your heart pumping as you face the reality of the next phase of your life!

For those of you who don't know, I'm starting a 5 year orthopaedic surgery residency in Charlotte, NC.  The past two weeks have been spent listing to many lectures, becoming certified in basic, advanced, and trauma life support, trying to find my way around a new hospital, procedure simulation labs, and lots of paperwork that comes with starting a new job.  After spending all of this time getting "oriented", I'm more than ready to get on with the show!  I feel like I've asked lots of questions and gotten endless advice and stories about what to expect, but I really just need to experience it all for myself.

The first year of residency is referred to as  your "intern year" and for my particular program, consists of twelve month-long rotations in various surgical sub-specialties.  My year looks something like this:  pediatric surgery, general surgery trauma, ortho trauma, ER, plastic surgery, ortho surgery, medicine, neurosurg, trauma ICU, general surgery, and general surgery trauma.

I'm beyond excited to finally begin this next step of my career!  I'll admit that it's certainly intimidating to suddenly be responsible for patient care (especially after a wonderful 4 month vacation during which I worry my medical knowledge rapidly evaporated from my brain).  But the reality is that they call it the "practice" of medicine for a reason.  Every patient is a teacher with a lesson to be taught, and I have a LOT of learning to do.

My bag is packed, white coat is ironed, and pager has a fresh battery.  Time to be a doctor!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Westpoint Lake Triathlon

I've been meaning to write this race report for about a week now, but better late than never, I suppose.

June 12, 2011
La Grange, GA
Pertinent Facts
Swim:  28:28 (1:54/100m) - terrible, absolutely terrible (read on for further excuses)
T1: 0:49
Bike:  1:13:27 (20.3mph) - okay, nothing spectacular
T2: 0:45
Run:  43:06 (6:57/mi) - the highlight of my day
Finish Time:  2:26:34
Placement:  6th overall female, 2nd F25-29

The Details
Let me back up about a year and recall the death march that was the 2010 Westpoint Lake Triathlon.  Water temperature 90 degrees, air temperature during run 90+ degrees.  It was by far the most miserable triathlon I have competed in, and still a year later the local triathletes talk about the misery of that race day.  You can imagine the great memories I have of that race and the excitement I had to repeat in 2011!  All negative thoughts aside though, this race really did hold a special place on my calendar.  Since I start residency July 1st (think 80+ hour work weeks, lots of call nights, very little time to sleep let alone train), I knew this would be my last planned race of the 2011 tri season (or at least the last race that I was properly trained for).  My training block leading up to the race was nothing short of intense, tiring, and at times, downright frustrating.  Between having to adapt training for a week's vacation and fighting a nagging case of pes tendonitis it wasn't exactly the ideal peak block.  Nonetheless, I felt I had made some fitness gains and was ready to lay it on the line in competition.

Pre-race:  The fun started Saturday when Meghan, Tracy, April, and I had a girls trip/slumber party in La Grange. Sure, we were there to race, but that didn’t keep us from laughing into the wee hours of the morning. Besides, who ever said you need a good nights sleep to have a great race?!

Swim – I don’t have words for this swim. Evidently I took the scenic route around the lake checking out all of the different buoys that were placed rather haphazardly. The course was described to us before the start, yet half of the field seemed to swim at least an few hundred extra meters thanks to the confusion. My form felt good and I felt like I was sighting correctly to the buoys, so I'd be curious just how many hundreds of meters long the course was.  Even the fastest female swim times were nearly 24 minutes (normally 20ish min).  
T1 – After cursing my Garmin's 28min swim time, transition was quick and easy thanks.  After wasting time removing my swim skin in previous races, I was grateful for the time saved by forgoing it.
Bike – The course is pretty much nonstop rolling hills. Unlike many other races where I’ve been stuck in a pack of riders, I rode alone for the majority of the race. My bike computer never picked up my cadence or speed so I was going based on RPE and HR. Looking at the data now (HR of 164 for the first half, followed by a measly 149 the last couple miles )I definitely needed to push harder the second half of the bike. Overall a satisfying time, but lots of opportunity for more focus and pushing the intensity the entire time.
T2 – As soon as I entered transition I saw a couple of my Sport Factory teammates heading out on the run.  While we are great friends and teammates, this is a race, and seeing competition within reach was certainly motivation not to waste any time.
My Dad's attempt to catch T2 on camera.  Evidently he was a little excited in the moment and just caught a glimpse of my leg.  Good effort though - and thanks for driving down to cheer!!
Run – Knowing the brutal heat and exposed conditions of this run, my goal was to focus on my form and leg turnover and block out everything else. Despite pain in my knee with each stride I kept a consistent effort and gradually gained on the field in front of me. Once again, it’s always encouraging to have so many TSF teammates out on the course sharing in the pain. My run split was the 2nd fastest of the day, and more than 5 minutes faster than last year.

Overall I’m pretty happy with my race, especially the run. I’ve got some work to do on the bike to develop more muscular endurance and hopefully prevent the downward sloping HR line. And hopefully in the future I’ll try to stick to the swim course rather than taking a tour of the entire lake.
This may be the last race report I write for a while.  My future holds 11 nights of call within 20 days during July.  And that's just month 1 of 60.  Welcome to intern year in an orthopaedic surgery program!  Rather than race details I may be sharing stories of late night traumas, endless note-writing on the floor, granola bar dinners, responding to my first code, little sleep, and all of the other fun and games that comes with spending your life in a hospital (and NO, it's not anything like Grey's Anatomy!).  In reality, though, I'm very excited to be starting this next chapter of my life and looking forward to the experiences it will challenge me with.  And the fact that a pay check with my name on it is in the very near future makes me VERY HAPPY!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blog-worthy Dinner

The past week has been a whirlwind of packing, moving, unpacking, organizing, hours at the DMV, changing banks, changing insurance, endless trips to Target/Home Depot/Harris Teeter, and orientation for residency.  I have several posts in the works that I'll be sure to post in the next few days, but for tonight, I'll share with you the delicious dinner I whipped up tonight.

I'm not one to follow recipes exactly.  Instead, I like to sort through many recipes and get ideas for good flavor combinations, and then create my own masterpiece.  The ingredients that inspired tonight's menu were wheatberries and farmer's market kale.  Definitely make the wheatberry salad ASAP - I promise you won't regret it!

Summer Kale Salad
5 cups kale, chopped
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp EVOO
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp local honey

1.  Combine lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, salt, and honey in a bowl.  Whisk to combine.
2.  Add half of dressing to chopped kale and massage until kale begins to soften
3.  Add remaining vegetables and mix to combine.
4.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to mix well.  Serve chilled.

Savory Wheatberry Salad
1 cup wheatberries
1.5 cups water
1.5 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp EVOO
1 medium vidalia onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped portabella mushrooms
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup whole foods organic hoisin sauce

1.  Soak wheatberries for at least 6 hours before cooking.
2.  Place wheatberries, water, and vegetable broth in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and allow to cook covered for 40 minutes.  Check at 30 minutes to ensure all of the liquid hasn't boiled off.  Add broth if necessary.
3.  While the wheatberries are cooking, heat a saute pan over medium high heat, adding oil once it is hot.  Add onion and garlic and saute until onion begins to become translucent, approximately 5 minutes.
4.  Add mushrooms and raisins and saute an additional 3 minutes.
5.  Add cooked wheatberries and hoisin sauce and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
6.  Serve warm.

These dishes were the perfect mix of flavors and so simple to make.  Don't be afraid to forgo recipes and let your imagination take hold of your ingredients!

Enjoying dinner from my comfy leather chair while watching the NBC Nightly News.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cancun Eats

If you missed my last post about my trip to Dreams Cancun, you'll want to catch up here first.

So now that you've seen where we stayed and what we did for a week in Cancun, I bring you the most important aspect of vacation - THE FOOD.  If you know me well, you are very aware that I plan all trips and excursions around food.  I love trying different regional cuisines and am always up for trying something new (except OLIVES - the only food I absolutely hate!).

The resort had 4 main restaurants.  The World Cafe served all 3 meals and was the only restaurant open for breakfast.  It is buffet style and always had a vast array of foods to make a plate from.  Breakfast featured several freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, traditional American fare (eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes), Mexican specialties, and lots of tropical fruits.  After my early morning workouts I was always craving this meal!
Please note the green drink - freshly squeezed juices of apple, spinach, and celery.  Yum!

Exhausted from a hard run.  Time to eat!!

Perfect fruit every morning.
There were a few restaurants open for lunch each day.  We rotated between Oceana, Seaside Grill, and most frequently, World Cafe.  Something about a huge cold salad always hit the spot after spending the morning in the sun.  After lunch I'd grab a cup of ice cream and return to my chair under an umbrella for an afternoon siesta.
I met a man in Cancun - he wanted me to stay forever.  He made us sit in the same area of the restaurant each day so that he could wait on us.
One thing I certainly learned on vacation was that anytime is tequila time in Cancun!  By 10am each morning the beach boys were making rounds and taking orders for frozen drinks.  Something about alcohol before lunch just didn't work for me, but I definitely enjoyed some frozen concoctions while lounging in the afternoon sun.  
Mojitos were my drink of choice.
When early evening rolled around, we headed back to our room to clean up for the night and discuss which restaurant we wanted to check out for dinner.  One thing that is great about all-inclusives is that you never have to worry about researching restaurants and driving to them.  Instead, you can walk right out your door and be just a couple minutes walk from several different options.  We rotated between the four restaurants on the resort property, which included Oceana (seafood), Seaside Grill (meats, seafood), Himitsu (Asian and sushi), and World Cafe (buffet style with a different theme each  night).  One of my favorite meals was the Mexican Fiesta held on the beach and included a performance of many traditional Mexican dances.
Ahi tuna steak, carrot puree, and rice pilaf.
Fantastic oceanfront buffet

Tamales, seafood salad, beans, Mexican fruits, quesadillas, churros, and much more.

Really unique desserts.
While the food was plentiful and there were lots of options, there were a few negatives associated with all-inclusive dining.  First, portion sizes were very tiny.  A shrimp citrus salad, for example, consisted of a single romaine lettuce leaf, 2 orange segments, and 2 shrimp.  The dinner entrees often were plated as the cut of meat or fish without any accompanying starch or vegetable.  The lesson we learned was to build a meal with several courses - soup, salad, entree, dessert.  A second area that was lacking at the resort was snack foods. It never failed that I was hungry at 4:30pm and there were no food options until dinner at 6:30pm.  And finally, dessert was really disappointing.  While there were always lots of fancy looking desserts on the buffet and several options to order, they all tasted very similar - creamy and tasteless.  I was desperately craving a rich chocolate sweet, but despite my best attempts to taste everything with chocolate, they were all very disappointing.

So that, in a nutshell, are my vacation eats for a week.  Overall the food options were pretty impressive and pleased a wide variety of palates.  However, if you were staying more than about 5 days, you would likely become bored with the limited menu options.

With all this talk of food, it's time for my second dinner.  Time to raid the kitchen!  

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bienvenido a la Playa

For several months I had been on the prowl for a great summer vacation.  My requirements of the destination were that it be tropical, quiet, relaxing, and have great food.  While there were many vacation packages that were appealing, I was on the search for that really amazing deal that seemed too good to be true.  After pouring thru search results for cruises, all-inclusives, and beach homes, I was quickly becoming frustrated with the lack of "luxury meets bargain" vacations.  One evening, however, I was looking on Luxury Link (GREAT website - definitely check it out) and discovered an all-inclusive package for two to the Dreams Cancun Resort.  I've never been to Mexico, but all of the pictures looked beautiful and it seemed to fit all my criteria.  The reviews of the 5-star resort appeared to be mixed, but it seems as though everyone has the need to gripe about something, so I was up for taking the risk.  After submitting my last-minute bid in the auction and some nerve-wracking minutes waiting, the vacation was all mine!  Add in two round-trip tickets to Cancun, and my Mom and I were off to paradise!

We arrived in Cancun on a Monday afternoon and quickly made our way to Oceana - one of several oceanfront restaurants on the property.  The scenery was breathtaking and the frozen cocktails were just what we were craving.

From there we made our way to our oceanfront room to unpack and get settled.  Upon entering our room we were hit with heat and humidity.  Despite the A/C being set in the low 60s, the room was over 80 degrees and that, combined with the humidity, left us feeling miserable and damp very quickly.  Long story short, we spent hours waiting for the room to cool down, had several maintenance men attempt to fix the A/C, and finally at 10PM were changed to another room.  All would be well and good if the problems ended there, but no such luck.  The new room was a cold 78 degrees and equally as sticky.  Our attempts to sleep that night were miserable at best and we awoke in the morning a sticky hot mess.  Great way to start a vacation, right?!?  It crossed my mind on multiple occasions that first day that staying at home would have been more enjoyable.  Fortunately, after great persistence and numerous complaints, we arrived back to our room that afternoon to see the entire A/C unit broken into pieces outside and a new unit being installed.    The final result was a room that never got cooler than 75 degrees.  While that temperature would ordinarily be very comfortable in my own home, when combined with 100% humidity, was never exactly comfortable.  There's nothing better than taking a shower at night and then putting on "clean" PJs that are sticky and damp from the humidity!  The room itself was otherwise as expected and had a fabulous ocean view.
Interior of our room.  Note the clothes that I had washed and were hanging to dry - they hung there for 4 days and were still not dry when I packed them up to go home!

The view doesn't get any better than this.

We stayed in the Pyramid building on the left.
Our schedule was largely the same from day to day.  I was up by 6:00am each morning (thanks to the bright sun and loudest and most obnoxious blackbirds known to mankind) and took off to the gym.  I was in the last week of my key workouts leading up to this weekends race, so there was no time for slacking off.  The gym itself was an interesting experience - no A/C and no fans!  There were hours of suffering and gallons of sweat lost that week.  At least I got some humor out of the comments (Are you okay?  Do you need some water?) and crazy looks (Did you forget you're on vacation?) from the other guests who made the trek to the gym for their daily 15 minute stroll on the treadmill.  After the sufferfest and a quick shower it was breakfast time - my favorite meal of the day!  I'll save the details of the food for a second post, so stay tuned.  Then came the toughest part of the day, planting myself in a lounge chair to soak up the sun while alternating between reading, Sudoku puzzles, and sleeping.  Oh, and don't forget sending the beach boys to fetch frozen drinks!
Looking a little rough after hours in the sun and wind.  It's a tough life, but somebody has to enjoy it!

Sun, sand, and water.
We ventured off the property to do some shopping.  The first day it was to downtown Cancun and Mercado 28.  We were told the market was perfect for tourists and had any souvenir you could possibly want.  Our trip downtown was interesting to say the least.  Exiting the hotel zone and entering downtown Cancun was certainly a culture shock.  Poverty was abundant and the lifestyle was so completely opposite that which permeated the resorts just miles away.  Despite bartering for some pottery, we returned to the resort empty handed.  We took another adventure via boat to Isla Mujeris (just a few miles away) with hopes of better shopping and beautiful scenery.  The shopping, however, was much of the same and after wandering around for an hour in the blistering heat, we were more than ready to get back aboard the boat and find our way back to our beach chairs and daiquiris!
Me and Mom
In the late afternoons and evenings we enjoyed watching the dolphins in the resort's lagoon, being entertained by the men parading iguanas and parrots, and taking in a Mexican Fiesta on the beach.  

Anyone want this iguana put on there head so I can take a picture and charge you $20 for it?

My favorite night of the trip.  Great performances during the Mexican Fiesta.
The week came and went really quickly, and before we knew it we were enjoying our last afternoon in the sun and farewell cocktails.  Despite the room situation, I had a great time!  I was looking for rest, relaxation, and a tan, and I certainly enjoyed lots of that.  I have so many vacation destinations on my bucket list that I'm not sure I'll be back to Mexico anytime soon, but I'd definitely consider another visit in the future.
Ready to fly home.
A great mother-daughter vacation!!
Nearly half of the hundreds of pictures I took are of food, so up next I'll devote an entire post to our Cancun eats!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Crazy Few Days

It's hard to believe that a week ago at this time I was adding the last few items to my suitcase and preparing to fly to Cancun the next morning.  Flash forward one week and now I'm preparing to move all of my worldly possessions to Charlotte in the morning.  It's 9:30pm and I'm finally sitting down for the first time today.  I promise several posts about my Cancun vacation (the resort, food, sightseeing) but it will have to wait until mid-week when things calm down a bit.  Until then, here's a little preview of my week in paradise!
View from our oceanfront room.
Soaking up the sun.  As you can see, it was a rough week!
Lots of delicious food.
After flying home last night and unpacking, I was up early this morning to knock out my last hard workout before the West Point Lake Tri next weekend.  An hour on the bike, a couple miles on the road, and a short swim = mission accomplished.  My mind and body have never been so happy to see a recovery week!  Then it was back home to pack, pack some more, and yes, pack even more.   Now if only the moving truck would unpack itself in Charlotte tomorrow!  It's looks like it will be a long and hot day with lots of manual labor.

See you in a couple days when the dust settles!