Thursday, August 30, 2012

Red Top Mountain Triathlon

1500m swim, 42K bike, 10K run

August 26, 2012
Cartersville, GA

A Quick Recap
Swim: 25:27 (1:41/100m) - good swim for me, my first experience with a two loop course
T1: 1:02
Bike: 1:16.46 (20.4mph) - LOTS of hills
T2: 0:37
Run: 46:32 (7:30/mi) - ran my way into 2nd place!
Finish Time: 2:30:22
Finish Place: 2nd overall female

The Sport Factory takes 1st and 2nd overall females!
The Wordy Version
Pre-Race - I arrived in Atlanta on Friday afternoon to enjoy the weekend hanging out with my family before the race on Sunday.  Saturday morning I spent time hanging out with my brother and getting him all set up on a new road bike.  Watch out cycling community - this guy is ready to ride!  The remainder of the day was spent lounging on the deck and resting up for the day ahead.  The weather was absolutely perfect, and I could almost start to feel fall in the air.  Mom prepared an incredible pasta dish with tomatoes, zucchini, and Parmesan cheese for dinner.  It was a winning recipe!  Sunday morning arrived and I fueled up with an ezekial english muffin topped with peanut butter and jam, half a banana, and a cup of tea.  The race site was a short 12 mile drive from my parents house.  After getting my gear organized, I warmed up with a very short run and quick swim to get my heart pumping.

Swim (2nd) - Race morning brought the announcement that the course was being changed from single rectangular course, to two loops with us exiting the water and running 50 yards between each loop.  The start was a time-trial format, with swimmers leaving every three seconds.  It's pretty obvious that people lie through their teeth when submitting estimated swim times.  I was seeded number 21 with eight or so women ahead of me, yet finished with the second fastest swim time - you do the math!  My goal for the swim was go hard from the start and avoid settling into a "comfortable" pace.  I came out of the water from the first loop with a time of 12:30 on my Garmin, kept pushing hard, and was pleased to see 24:30 on the clock as I exited the water from the second loop.  Given my lack of a swimming background, I was both surprised and am very excited to have had the second fastest swim of the day!  I suppose all of those 5am swim workouts are paying off.

T1 (8th) - After exiting the water, we ran approximately 200 yards and then faced a wall of stairs - at least two stories worth.  I moved as quickly as I could to prevent losing any time to the field, but my heart rate sky-rocketed to 182 as I reached the summit of the stairs.  I did my best to strip off my swim skin and gather my bike gear and then set out of transition to attack the bike course.  Based on feedback from my Dad, I knew I was third female out of the water and second female leaving T1.

Bike (7th) - The course description for this ride is "strenuous."  Sounds like fun, right?!  As if my heart rate wasn't already high enough, several steep and long climbs leaving the park left me struggling to get control of my breathing.  Finally, the ups and downs turned into gently rolling hills and I found my rhythm.  Mentally, I struggle on the bike, and negative thoughts tend to fill my head.  Rather than dread all 26 miles of the bike, I broke it down into 8 mile chunks, and I definitely think that helped me to remain focused.

Cruising down the last downhill into transition
T2 (3rd) - In and out as fast as I could muster.  Nothing notable to mention.

Run (3rd) - Leaving transition my legs were certainly feeling the effects of lots of climbing on the bike.  However, after harping on my Dad about harnessing "mental toughness" for his most recent tempo and long runs, I knew exactly what I had to do to have a good run.  Leaving transition, I was in fourth place - approximately a half-mile out of third.  Coming in fourth and missing the podium just simply wasn't an option, so I found my running legs and pushed as hard as I could to close the gap on the women ahead of me.  I made a pass for third at mile three, and then moved into second at mild four.  The last two miles were a tough series of hills and a final steep climb to the finish, but the fear of being caught from behind kept me focused on finding my way to the finish line as fast as possible.

Trying to maintain good running form in my sprint to the finish.

Crossing the tape at the finish line

Post-race: After finishing second in my age-group in my past two races, I was frustrated and looking for better results.  I think that the combination of more challenging workouts and harnessing my "mental toughness" ultimately contributed to greater success this weekend.  Making a great race even better was sharing the experience with my parents, brother, and Bailey.  I thrive on their cheering from the sidelines, and certainly owe them one for braving an early wake-up call and hanging out with sweaty and smelly athletes all morning.  Love you guys!

My and my biggest fan - Bailey!  Such a good girl!

My next "A" race will be Rev3 Anderson in October.  Between now and then I have Tugaloo (still questionable) and Race for Abbey (a small sprint tri here in Charlotte) on the calendar.

See you at the races!

Monday, August 20, 2012

An Engagement Celebration

I flew home Friday for a special weekend in Atlanta with my family.  Saturday we celebrated Royce and Erin's recent engagement.  They both recently graduated from Kennesaw State University and Royce popped the question on our Western Caribbean cruise a few short months ago.

Mom took the lead and planned quite an impressive party, complete with personalized decorations and an extensive spread of food.  The party was a great way to celebrate with both sides of the family and meet several of Royce and Erin's close friends.

Pictures of Royce and Erin over the seven years that have been dating  were placed about the house.

The soon-to-be bride and groom opened two engagement gifts prior to the start of the party.

They received a set of Tervis Tumbler drink glasses from Mom and Dad..
I gave them a  personalized wooden engagement sign that features important dates in their relationship.
Both sides of family as well as members of the bridal party attended the celebration.
It was great meeting everyone!

Joy (Erin's cousin), Erin, and Danielle (Erin's friend)

Dad and Royce man the grill

Bailey took part in the festivities for a short time

The deer made their appearance just as the party began and provided entertainment  to the arriving guests.

Mom finally gets to sit back and relax after several weeks of planning and executing party preparations.

The theme for the party was "Old Fashion Summer BBQ".

The menu featured:
  • Fresh Squeezed Lemonade and Peach Tea
  • Layered Taco Dip and Tortilla Chips
  • Grilled Hamburgers and Hot Dogs
  • An Extensive Topping Bar: Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Pickles (6 types!!), Pepper Rings, Sauerkraut, Ketchup, Mustard, Mayo, and BBQ sauce
  • Hearty Potato Salad
  • BBQ Baked Beans
  • Summer Slaw
  • Fresh Mixed Fruit and Creamy Dip
  • Key Lime and Carrot Cake Cupcakes

The topping bar

Potato salad


BBQ Baked Beans

Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Grapes, Blueberries, Strawberries

Lemonade and Iced Tea served in mason jars.
I loved the added touch of fresh fruit slices!

The whole spread!

Mom, you did a FANTASTIC job!  The party was perfectly executed and the food was delicious!
The personal touches made for a very special party for Royce and Erin.

Me and my "little" brother.  I can't believe that you'll be a groom on May 3, 2013!

What happened to  the days of sorting Halloween candy, playing soccer, pulling heads off Barbie dolls, and sneaking down the stairs on Christmas morning?  I guess we've done a little bit of growing up over the years! 
Congrats to Royce and Erin on your engagement!  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Quinoa Broccoli Casserole

Last week I found myself craving a simple dish that I remember from my childhood - Cheesy Chicken Broccoli and Rice Casserole.  A brief search through some of my favorite blogs and recipe collections led me to this gem - Quinoa Broccoli Casserole.  I made a few of my own additions and alterations, detailed below, but overall the general construct the original recipe.  I'd consider it to be a healthier adult version of the savory classic.  After a busy weekend on call and feeling sleep deprived, this was the perfect plate of comfort.  Even the leftovers have been equally as good as the first spoonful.

I halved the recipe, with the exception of using a generous portion of broccoli, a whole onion, and three cloves of garlic.  For the cheese sauce, I found that I needed to add a half-cup of almond milk to the cheese and egg in order to create enough moisture.  When I make the dish again - and I definitely will! - I'd add even more liquid to the sauce to keep the quinoa moist.  A couple tablespoons of dijon mustard would have a punch of flavor as well.

That's all for tonight, as bedtime is calling.  Good night!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Relax and Refuel

Let's see, where did I leave off?  That's right, I was dragging myself across the finish line at the Stumpy Creek Triathlon after battling hills on both bike and foot for more than two hours.

Before I tell you about the rest of my much more peaceful and relaxing weekend, let me back up and show you how I fueled up the night before the race.  I don't have a standard pre-race meal, but in general it's something simple that I know will sit well on my stomach and not leave me feeling overly full.  Dinner was another plate of the "knock your socks off" balsamic roasted vegetable marinara over pasta and a salad.

Post-race, I spent the majority of the day being a complete bum.  After a shower to wash away the sweat and grime, making a smoothie was priority number one.  After, of course, I swaddled my legs in my Zoot compression socks!  My smoothie included a blueberry mix1, whey protein powder, frozen banana, frozen raspberries and strawberries, frozen spinach, and chia seeds.  It made so much that it filled my glass twice.  I then proceeded to plant myself on the couch, watch Olympics, and take a nap.

Later in the evening, I made the big move from the couch to the leather chair, analyzed race data, and continued to watch the Olympics.  There were some thrilling finishes to several races yesterday, including the women's triathlon (American Sarah Groff nearly captures a medal) and men's 10,000 meters (Farah and Rupp capture gold and silver - both coached by Alberto Salazar).

This morning started as any other "perfect" Sunday - sleeping in, enjoying a cup of coffee, lounging in pjs,  watching the news, and making a hearty breakfast.  Sadly, there was no Today Show and I settled for coverage of the women's marathon instead.  Those women are incredible!  26.2 miles in 2:27.  That's a pace of 5 minutes and 27 seconds per mile.  I couldn't hold onto that pace for two miles, nonetheless 26.2.

Breakfast item number one was a whole wheat cranberry orange scone that was inspired by the frozen cranberries that I found hidden in the back of my freezer.  It was pretty good, but the recipe still needs a bit more tweaking.

Alongside the scone I enjoyed freshly sliced athena cantaloupe and scrambled eggs.  To pump up the flavor of the eggs, I stirred in a tablespoon of hummus as I whisked them.  Have you tried this before?  If not, give it a try the next time you're scrambling eggs.  The burst of flavor really kicked them up a notch.

This afternoon I hit the pool to shake out some of the post-race soreness.  It was a sunny afternoon and I made it to the pool just as they opened and managed to snag a lap swim lane in the outdoor pool.  Between the easy nature of the recovery swim and the sun shining, it was a great hour.

Dinner tonight was a trio of sides and sauces.  Roasted sweet potatoes with barbecue sauce, roasted cornmeal crusted okra with ketchup, and a veggie dog with mustard.  Some might consider it an odd assortment, but it made my belly happy!

And that wraps up another successful and enjoyable weekend.  Back to spine surgery in the morning . . .

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Stumpy Creek International Triathlon

My Olympic distance debut after surviving intern year of residency

1500m swim   27mi bike   6.2mi run
Mooresville, NC

The highlights:
SWIM:  28:29  (1:53/100m)
T1:  1:05
BIKE:  1:25:05  (19.1mph)
T2:  1:00
RUN:  48:14  (7:46/mi)
FINISH TIME:  2:43:52
PLACEMENT: 2nd age-group, 15th/114 women

PRE-RACE:  Last night, as I was laying out my typical pre-race breakfast of peanut butter toast with sliced banana, I came to the tragic realization that there were no bananas in the house.  The horror!  Given that it was 9PM, I was entirely too lazy to drive to the grocery store for a single banana.  Fortunately, I survived the banana-less peanut butter toast and smothered on a layer of strawberry jam for good measure.  The race was a 40 minute drive, which gave me plenty of time to eat and drink some hot tea.  Unlike my last race, I arrived at the site with more than an hour before race start.  After a quick ride to transition, laying out all of my gear, hitting the porta-johns (can someone please explain why race directors think that 8 porta-johns are sufficient for 500 people?), and a short run to warm up, it was nearing the 7am race start.

SWIM:  The course was rectangular and featured a deep water start.  Water temp was a balmy 86 degrees. I positioned myself at the front of the starting line, but still couldn't escape the flying fists and flailing legs for the first 250 meters.  I finally broke into open water and had a rather uneventful swim.  With 100 meters to go I took a mighty kick to the goggles from a nice man doing the breast stroke and suddenly had goggles full of water.  Nonetheless, I was fairly happy to see 28 minutes on my watch as I climbed out of the water.  I had the 13th fastest swim of the field, and that's exciting for someone without a swim background.

BIKE:  The course was advertised as "fast" with rolling hills.  That description is a bit too generous.  I struggled to find my biking legs and never could quite get into a consistent effort.  Of course wiping out in the first corner thanks to the man who swerved for no particular reason didn't exactly provide an encouraging start.  If nothing else, a bloodied knee and leg provided some excitement for the volunteers during the remainder of the race.  The last 7 miles seemed to be a steady uphill climb, and all I could think about was wanting to be off the bike.  The majority of my training rides are indoors since they occur at 4AM, and I think I've lost some of my hill climbing strength as a result.

RUN:  This was a two loop course, with a mile-long steady hill at miles 2 and 5 and several other shorter hills.  I felt decent through mile three, but then began to get a side stitch and fought with that for the remainder of the run.  I held it together pretty well until the hill from hell at mile 5, and gave in and walked for a hundred feet or so to regain my focus.  I passed several women over the course of the run and was passed by none, so I was happy with my effort despite a time that was slower than I anticipated.  

POST-RACE:  Hello finish line - how I love thee!  And those hills - I hate them!  After cooling down, rehydrating, stretching, packing up my gear, and schlepping it all to the car, I was more than ready for some calories.  Sadly, options were pathetic.  Chips, hotdogs, and orange slices.  Yum, yum - sounds like perfect food to refuel endurance athletes, right?!  I downed several orange slices and a few sunchips while waiting for the awards but held-out for a huge nutrition-packed smoothie back at home.  This race was the North Carolina Best of the US qualifier, so it attracted an uber-competitive field.  It's certainly a frustrating process to find my way back into competitive shape after some time away from racing, but I'm thankful to back at it and hungry for success.  

And because I knew how much I would LOVE those hills today, I enthusiastically signed up to relive the pain and torture at the Red Top Mountain Triathlon in three weeks.  Obviously I don't make the best decisions when I'm sleep deprived.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Balsamic Roasted Vegetable Marinara

I just finished dinner, and it was so fantastic, that I had to stop everything and post this recipe.  Whether you're hosting a dinner party this weekend, or simply cooking for yourself and your family, I encourage you to add this dish to your meal plan.  I've had many tasty bowls of spaghetti in my day, the two best being my Mom's homemade meat sauce and her roasted vegetable marinara.  Now I can add this marinara to my childhood favorites.

As I considered what I wanted to eat for dinner in the days leading up to my triathlon on Saturday, I found myself craving a plate of spaghetti.  The secret to the bold flavor of the sauce is balsamic vinegar.  I know, I know, it sounds strange.  Try it though, I guarantee you'll be a fan!

Are you wondering what the green item is that I've tossed with the pasta?  I had a large bunch of lacinato kale in my produce drawer that was nearing the end of its peak freshness.  Rather than have a side of sauteed kale, I opted to toss the chopped kale into the boiling water during the last minute that the pasta cooked.  Easy and nutritious!

Balsamic Roasted Vegetable Marinara
1 zucchini
1 large green bell pepper
3 large carrots
3 large organic tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tbsp  Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Italian herbs
Handful of fresh basil

1. Roughly chop zucchini, bell pepper, and carrots.  Cut the tomatoes into quarters.  Toss the vegetables with a couple tablespoons of EVOO and salt and pepper to taste.  Spread onto a foil lined baking sheet.
2.  Bake vegetables for 45 minutes at 375, tossing halfway through the cooking time so that they cook evenly.
3. Remove vegetables from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
4. In a saute pan, heat one tablespoon of EVOO over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, approximately 10 minutes.  Add the balsamic vinegar to the onions and continue to saute for a few additional minutes.  
5. Pour the roasted vegetables into a Vitamix or food processor and pulse until roughly pureed.  
6. Add the pureed vegetables to the onions.  
7. Whisk together the vegetable stock, tomato paste, Worcestershire, herbs, and basil.  Pour over the vegetables.
8.  Return to a simmer and then turn the heat to low and cook for 1 hour, or until the flavors are well blended.
9. Serve a heaping portion of sauce over your favorite pasta.  Top with parmesan cheese.
10. Enjoy!