Monday, July 29, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Mac & Cheese

I've never had any particular infatuation for cheese.  Sure, like most people, I have fond memories of childhood meals of grilled cheese with soup or hot dogs with macaroni and cheese.  Today, however, my more refined palate prefers only occasional cheese.  When I do indulge, I opt for finely crafted strong cheeses paired perfectly with crackers, fig spread, candied walnuts, and fresh fruit.  Something along these lines, perhaps:

It's important to note that the giant loaf of hot, crusty sourdough bread is missing.
Despite this preference for formality, last week I had a major craving for a dish that I had virtually created in my head - ROASTED VEGETABLE MAC AND CHEESE.

The combination of robust flavors from the roasting of the vegetables and the flavorful yet not too creamy cheese sauce, combine to make a craving-worthy bowl of pasta.  To amp up the protein, I used quinoa pasta and mixed lentils in to the final product.  While it may not be an elegant dish, I'll just say that I made it for dinner Sunday night, and I spent a majority of the day Monday counting down the hours until I could reheat a plate for dinner.


4 cups chopped vegetables (broccoli, onion, bell pepper, shitake mushrooms, radishes)
3 tbsp EVOO
1 tbsp salt
3/4 cup lentils, cooked
2 cups pasta. cooked
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp flour
1 cup almond milk
1 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cumin
1 tsp cracked black pepper
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 cup grated cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Toss chopped veggies with EVOO, sprinkle with salt, and place on a greased baking sheet.  Bake for 40 minutes.
3. While the veggies are cooking, prepare the lentils.  Set to the side.
4. Prepare the pasta.  Combine with the lentils.
5. With 10 minutes remaining for the vegetables, bring a small pot to medium heat.  Add the coconut oil.  When the oil is sizzling, add the garlic and stir consistently until the garlic browns.
6. Add the flour to the garlic oil and stir to combine, making a roux.
7. Slowly add the almond milk, followed by the spices and nutritional yeast.  Continue stirring consistently until the mixture begins to gently simmer, approximately 5 minutes.
8.  Add the grated cheese and cook until a smooth texture is achieved.
9.  Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven.
10. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, lentils, roasted vegetables, and cheese sauce.
11. Pour into a greased casserole dish, cover, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
12.  Serve pipping hot from the oven

** Choose any combination of vegetables - zucchini, squash, greens, tomatoes - all would work well.
** For pasta, I used Ancient Harvest Quinoa Garden Pagodas.  Any macaroni, ziti, or spiral shape will soak up the great flavors of the cheese sauce.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Tomahawk Triathlon

**Just a preview - The day started really bad when I locked my keys, nutrition, and swim gear in my car.  Fortunately, the end of the story is really good!**

Swim: 18:02  (1:48/100m)
T1: 2:30
Bike: 54:29 (20.5 mph)
T2: 0:51
Run: 39:24 (7:55 / mile)

Finish: 1:55:17
3rd Overall Female

Pre-Race:  I learned about this race only a few weeks ago and was instantly attracted to their promise of cash prizes for overall and age-group podiums.  SIGN-ME UP!  Race morning started out as usual - PB&J toast and half a banana while making the 30 mile drive to the race-site.  Since parking was literally 100 yards from transition, set-up was quick and easy and I made my way back to the car to store my gear bag.  In a split second I tossed the bag in the trunk, changed shoes for a warm-up run, and without thinking, closed my trunk.  Instantly my heart sank - my keys were locked in the car.  Unfortunately, also inside the locked car were my gels for the bike/run and swim skin.  With only 45 minutes to start time, AAA was unable to come to the rescue.  I had two choices, stress out and be mad at myself for potentially squandering my race, or move on and make the best of the situation.  Fortunately, I choice the "smile and be happy" option.

Swim (5th overall):  The 1000 meter course was a counter-clockwise triangle in the lake at Cane Creek Park.  It featured by favorite start format - time trial.  I had registered in the elite wave, and was 7th into the water, each of us separated by 15 seconds.  I mentally noted the head start of 30 seconds, 1 minute, and 90 seconds of the other elite women.  It was a contact-free swim and seemed to go well.  Although the distance seemed a bit long, I continue to struggle hitting my goal time based on the pace I can swim in the pool.

T1:  There was a lengthy uphill run from the lake to transition, resulting in my heart rate hitting 180 early in the race.  I opted to take an extra few seconds to put on socks to prevent blisters on the off-road run course.

Bike (6th overall):  Did I mention the intimidation factor when I racked my bike in transition and I was the only one without full disc wheels and an aero helmet?  Did I really belong in the elite wave?  You can bet I was regretting writing a big check for student loans this month - an amount that would have easily purchased wheels and more!  The 30k bike featured rolling hills and lots of farm land in rural North Carolina.  I focused on maintaining a high cadence and consistent heart rate, so as not to trash my legs prior to the run.  I never caught sight of the three women ahead of me, yet maintained my position and was only passed by two guys.  I'll consider that a success! 

T2:  Coming off the bike, my legs felt a bit better than they have the past couple races.  I was just hoping that I didn't crash and burn given the lack of nutrition (still conveniently locked in my trunk).

Run (6th overall);  What a tough course!  The description read - "Give your feet a break and hit the shade on the 8 kilometer scenic run that alternates between grass, soft dirt trails and roads".  Well . . . let me tell you, this was no break for the feet.  My garmin shows 1200 feet of elevation change over the 8 kilometers.  The "soft dirt trails" were completely covered in roots and rocks, nicely painted orange by the event management.  I had a few close calls with a twisted ankle and cursed each and every sharp turn followed by a uphill climb.  Since we were in the woods, I only briefly saw the other women near the turn-around.  At that point I was within sight of two of the three women ahead of me and knew I would need to hammer it for the remaining few miles to have a chance at edging them out.  I heard them announce the girl in front of me as she finished and was concerned that she might have maintained her buffer for 3rd overall.  Crossing the line, there was no doubt I had left everything I had out there and convinced myself to be happy with 4th.  Little did I know, I would soon discover 3rd overall had my name written all over it!  

Post-race:  I walked back to my car to fetch my cell phone and call AAA to rescue my car keys and was greeted with a text from my parents.  They had been watching the live feed online and confirmed my 4th place finish.  Bummer . . . or so I thought.  Any disappointment, however, was overtaken with excitement when I learned that the fire department was on-site and happen to have a lock-out kit with them and saved the day by unlocking my car.  At that point, I was just happy to have my keys back again without having to wait for AAA.  My morning got a thousand time better though when I checked the results screen to see I had run my way into 3rd OVERALL by 35 seconds (and only 35 seconds out of 2nd).  PAYDAY!!  The race swag included a nice check, Inside-Out Sports gift card, and 2XU compression socks. 

Tomahawk Tri is my new favorite race!  Between the excellent event organization, close parking, time-trial swim start, enjoyable bike course, and stellar prizes, you can bet I'll be back year after year.  Now if only it weren't for that devilish run!

Prior to registering for this race, I had planned to race Stumpy Creek next weekend.  Now, I'm thinking I'll pass on those hellacious hills and opt for a bit of recovery and sleeping in on Sunday.  Next up, then, is Red Top Mountain International on August 25th.  That should give me four weeks of solid preparation for a great race.

And now, I think I'll go put my feet up and enjoy a lazy evening.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Week's Worth

Another week is in the books - and a pretty quality one with respect to workouts.  I log my daily swim/bike/run on Training Peaks, and looking back over the past month or so, it's been pretty lackluster in both the quantity and quality departments.  In an attempt to find some racing success in the next few months, I'm trying to kick it up a notch.  Here's what that effort looked like this week:

Monday - Swim 200s (3000 yd)

Tuesday - Bike Hill Climb (70 min), Strength (45 min)

Wednesday - Swim Sprints (2800 yd), Yoga (25 min)

Thursday - Bike VO2 max intervals (90 min), Recovery Run (5 miles)

Friday - Swim Drills (2600 yd), Yoga (25 min)

Saturday - Endurance Bike (30 miles), Core (30 min)

Sunday - Bike Warm Up Intervals (30 min), Run 10k Step-Ups

It took a lot of mental toughness to get through that run today with respectable splits.  This week, I'm reminded of just how exhausted my body can feel after some quality training.  A few more quality workouts over the next few days, and then it's taper time for next weekend's triathlon.

To go along with the training is a week's worth of food.  As you can tell, I've been all about cold meals - salads, smoothies, and fresh fruit.  The combination of heat and humidity makes it all but unbearable to be outside except for the early morning hours.  Thus, fresh crisp produce wins by a landslide versus heating up the oven or stove top.  Fortunately, there's  bounty of fruits and veggies in season for the picking!

Balsamic drizzled chopped salad with tofu
Cinnamon roasted carrots
Homemade gazpacho (full of fresh farmer's market veggies)
Grilled brie and apple sandwich on cranberry walnut bread
Post-run protein berry smoothie for dinner
Tuna salad, crackers, roasted zucchini, figs, and cherries
Chopped salad and grapes
Maryland crab cake, zucchini, and roasted butternut squash
Yet again, the weekend is seemingly coming to an end rather quickly.  I'm off to savor Sunday afternoon with some relaxation, reading, and possibly a nap on the couch.

Did you accomplish all of your workout plans for the week?
Anyone else opting for cold refreshing meals over baking?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ramblin' Rose Rock Hill

July 14th, 2013
Rock Hill, SC

225 yard swim, 8 mile bike, 2 mile run

Swim: 3:31 (1:33/100 yards)
T1: 0:53
Bike: 24:06 (20mph)
T2: 0:42
Run: 12:56 (6:28 / mile)

Finish: 42:05
1st Overall Female 

Pre-race: The Ramblin' Rose Rock Hill Triathlon is the shortest distance I have ever raced, and for that reason I was a bit more relaxed in the preceding days.  (Not that I would ever be considered to be hard-headed about my usual pre-race, highly structured routine.)  Workouts proceeded as usual this week, with the exception of a rest day on Thursday.   Saturday I did my usual pre-race 40 minute bike + 2 mile run brick.  Bailey and Mom joined me for the weekend, and so it was a nice treat to have supporters on race morning.  Sunday my warm-up consisted of a short spin and run and 500 yards in the pool just prior to the start.

Swim:  The pool swim was a first for me in a race-setting.  The format was a time-trial start, and I was fourth into the water based on projected swim time.  The short-course style meant we swam a total of 9 lengths, flipping under the lane ropes.  I still have never bothered to perfect flip-turns and so I have no doubt that the walls cost me some time.  It's hard to judge performance in such a very short swim, but I suppose it went okay.  9th out of 292.

T1:  Back outside, it was a short run into transition and then straight to the bike exit.

Bike: The course was two laps on a four mile loop.  There were three other women who exited transition just ahead of me, but prior to making the turn onto the main road, I had passed them all and moved into first.  The downside to being the lead rider, I would learn, is that the volunteers and cops directing traffic have no idea that you are about to approach their intersection.  As a result, I neared each turn (9 of them on each loop!) yelling as loud as I could to get their attention to wave me in the correct direction.  Aside from a few very close run-ins with cars, a light rain, and pot-hole filled roads, it was an uneventful bike.  As you might imagine, it's darn near impossible to settle in to any rhythm with all of the turns and potential hazards.  I pretty much hammered as hard as I could on the course, and definitely felt the lactic acid building in my legs as I approached T2.  1st out of 292.

T2: As a beginner friendly event, transition was crowded and required some unique navigational skills.

Run:  My legs always feel like trash leaving transition and starting the run, and today was no different.  I thought I would feel fresher given the short distance, but evidently the intense effort of a super sprint still has the same lead-leg inducing effect.  I could have sworn I was running 8+ minute miles, but focused on maintaining form and leg turnover.  After the turn-around, it seemed to be several minutes before I crossed paths with the second place woman.  At that point, I felt fairly confident that I had secured the win, yet without my Garmin (accidentally still on my bike) I took no chances in slowing my pace.

I rounded the final turn and into the finishing shoot with the crowds cheering loudly.  This was my first overall race win and it was really exciting to know that there was such crowd support and enthusiasm for my finish.  1st out of 292.

Don't let anyone tell you that short races are easy.  The high intensity sprint, even for just 42 minutes, hurts!

Post-race:  It's always exciting to have a successful race, yet the true fun for me came with watching all of the other women cross the finish line as triathletes.  Daughters, Mothers, and Grandmothers of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds enthusiastically completed the race.  For many, this is quite possibly the greatest athletic or life accomplishment they have ever achieved.  Ramblin' Rose prides themselves on empowering women to accomplish the challenge of a triathlon, and I couldn't be happier to support such a worth cause.  Congrats to all of the finishers!

If you live in the Carolinas and wish to cross the finish line of a Ramblin' Rose Triathlon, check out the upcoming events in Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and Chapel Hill in the coming months.

Next up, I'll be racing Tomahawk Tri in Waxhaw on July 27th.  Time to buckle down and do some mid-season hard work!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Girls' Weekend

 Mom's visiting for a girls' weekend in Charlotte!  Friday night we hit the Food Truck Rally for dinner.  We started with gazpacho and sweet potato chips from Root Down and then jumped in line at Tin Kitchen for tacos.

We shared plates of Buffalo Cauliflower tacos (cauliflower, hot sauce, slaw, feta, and scallions) and Lobster Tacos (honey truffle butter, poached lobster, sherried wild mushrooms, and fresh herb salad).  The cauliflower taco was our favorite and a recipe that I'll definitely be recreating.

Saturday's are my favorite weekend day and today included all of my favorite things.  Sleeping in, a morning bike/run brick, a caramel latte from Not Just Coffee, and a trip to the farmer's market.

Look who else came to partake in girls' weekend?!  Bailey enjoyed a fun morning hanging out with us and partaking in all of the festivities.

We made our way to Ballantyne to do a bit of shopping this afternoon.  I've heard many compliments of the Xenia Hospitality Group restaurants (Nolen Kitchen, Maverick's Rock Taco) and chose to try another of their locations, Ilios Noche, for dinner.

For an appetizer we shared a platter of their four housemade dips:

  • Roasted Eggplant ‘Melitzanosalata’ - toasted walnuts, red onion, mint
  • Cucumber Yogurt 'Tzatziki' - imported goat's milk yogurt, garlic, dill
  • Roasted Red Pepper 'Htipiti' - barrel-aged feta, chili pepper, arequina olive oil
  • Hummus 'Revithiasalta' - crushed chickpeas, roasted garlic, capers

The roasted eggplant stole the show, but the roasted red pepper came in a close second.  Being the carb-loving ladies that we are, we devoured all of the pita and nearly all of the dips.

I was completely undecided with my entree, but ultimately selected a traditional Greek specialty - Moussaka.  I would best describe it as a Greek lasagna, with layers of potato, eggplant, lamb bolognese, and cream souffle.  The meal itself was quite unlike the food I would typically order, but I really enjoyed the heartiness and creamy combination of flavors.  It was a huge serving and left me with a hearty portion for another meal.

Girls' weekend continues tomorrow at the Ramblin' Rose Triathlon in Rock Hill.  I'm a blog ambassador for the event and have enjoyed spreading the news about the beginner-friendly women's triathlon tour.  After exchanging many emails, I finally met Caitlin from Healthy Tipping Point in person.

Tomorrow's race is a very short one - 225 yard swim, 8 mile bike, and 2 mile run.  Some say short and sweet, but the reality is shorter = more painful.  It's going to be an all out sprint for this non-sprint-loving girl!

An early morning race calls for an early bedtime.  Bailey has already called it quits for the night and it's time that I head to bed as well!

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Rainy 4th of July Run Down Peachtree

Running the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta is an annual tradition.  The street party-like 10k Independence Day celebration in the heart of downtown is unlike any other road race.  Since I was working last year on the 4th, I was especially excited to make the short trip home for 2013.  

Any trip home wouldn't be complete without mentioning how excited my favorite puppy was to see me.  Sadly, I'm not so sure how much she was loving me after I forced her into getting a bath.

After a rainy drive, I enjoyed a casual evening at home with a grilled salmon dinner followed by an decadent s'mores cake.  Dad even lit the chimnea and we watched the flames while dodging raindrops.

Thursday morning we were up bright and early to drive downtown and catch Marta to the race start.  Mom opted to stay home with a headache and a threat of potentially heavy rains.  Dad, Royce, Erin, and I all donned garbage bags and set out to brave the rain.

Fortunately, the weather gods blessed us with a rain-free interval that stretched from just as the race began, all the way until we were walking the last block back to the car.  Of the 60,000 registered participants, there were more than 55,000 finishes - pretty remarkable given the weather.  I had a decent first three miles, running 6:45s, but pretty quickly could tell there was no way I would be able to hold onto the pace.  Since it is the middle of tri season, I didn't specifically taper for the Peachtree, and my legs just weren't up for fast running. I finished in 46:25, about 4 minutes shy of my Peachtree PR two years ago.  

Post-race we were paraded through the mud pit that was Piedmont Park, collecting t-shirts, food, and drink as we went.  Ultimately, I found Dad (who had another great race and continues to become faster!) and a bit later, Royce and Erin.

 Back at home, I enjoyed a fantastic afternoon nap before indulging in an Independent Day clam steam.  Mom did all of the prep work and menu planning, and the boys manned the steamer pot.

Bailey and I pretty much lounged around and took full advantage of a lazy rainy afternoon.  She convinced me she had a really rough morning (up sick overnight, a bath, and thunder-boomers) and needed a buddy to keep her company.  It took a lot of convincing, but I obliged to an afternoon of being couch potatoes.

Six o'clock rolled around and the giant pot of clams, shrimp, "kielbasa" (tofurky), corn, and potatoes, was ready for consumption.  Great job guys, it was delicious!

In addition to the steam, we feasted on a kale and carrot salad and watermelon.  Grandma satisfied our sweet tooth with vanilla yogurt and berries for dessert.

 Friday morning I hit the road bright and early and made my way back to Charlotte.  Despite the rainy weather and sub-par race performance, it was a great getaway and time with the family!

Do you have any Independence Day traditions?