Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stomach of Steel . . . Or Not

It's been a while since I last wrote anything much.  The title of the post that I started writing but never finished was "10 Lessons I'd Rather Not Have Learned from the Stomach Flu."  Somehow I'm guessing that is one topic that you'd rather not hear about.  I do not want to relive that wretched and violent illness ever again, so we're going to just skip over that weekend of misery and pretend it never happened.

I survived on peanut butter toast and the occasional smoothie when my stomach finally accepted some nourishment, thus real food was nearly non-existent up until this weekend.

Work is going well and I'm really enjoying the orthopedic oncology service.  It can be a really depressing service with too many life-altering diagnoses, but the patients are rewarding to interact with and the surgical experience has been good - though a bit sparse.

Finally some signs of spring!
Now if we can just get some warmer temperatures to match the sunny blue skies.
Training has been fairly consistent, with the exception of the bump in the road courtesy of the GI illness.  I only completely missed two workouts, but it took me a few days to spring back to my usual self and recover from the effects of dehydration.  It's incredible how much dehydration can alter performance. My first bike after being sick was the same exact trainer workout as the week before.  The result, however, was an average power 40 watts lower to just to keep my heart rate from climbing out of the prescribed zone.

Week 10 - 9 hours, 11 minutes
Swim - 6700 yards
Bike - 5 hours, 20 minutes
Run - 13.71 miles
*Missed my 6 mile brick run and 3 hour base bike due to being sick*

Week 11 - 12 hours, 15 minutes
Swim - 9500 yards
Bike - 8 hours, 8 minutes
Run - 15.6 miles
*Missed 10 mile endurance run on Monday due to being sick*

Fortunately, I'm feeling 100% back to normal now and had good workouts this weekend.  Saturday was an interesting brick that was indoors due to rain:  5 x (30 minutes @170 watts, 1 mile zone 2-3 run).  Today we were finally greeted by sunny skies and I braved the high winds to enjoy a really great base ride with my brother and a couple friends.  The 40 mile ride was by far the most enjoyable of 2014!

I took two vacation days and created a long weekend to escape to Atlanta.  Although not exactly the warm spring break weather I would have preferred, it has been enjoyable to decompress, sleep a little later in the mornings, and even celebrate Royce's birthday.  For the birthday boy's dinner on Friday, we feasted on spaghetti, garlic bread, caesar salad, and a key lime bundt cake.  The return of my appetite couldn't have come at a better time!

Happy 26th Birthday Royce!  You're quite an accomplished young man and continue to impress me with your persistence, ingenuity, and hard-work.  Between your business instincts, financial knowledge, and budding flying skills, I couldn't be prouder nor grateful to have you as my "little" brother.

Saturday's trip to the farmer's market and Whole Foods provided the inspiration for the weekend's dinners.  First up was grilled oysters - a treat that will always remind me of summer vacations to the Florida Keys and eating dozens of the raw variety on saltines with cocktail sauce and lemon.  Grilled artichokes, salad, and garlic bread rounded out our meal.

After my 3-hour bike on Sunday, food was the only thing on my mind.  Spaghetti leftovers and veggies were the perfect way to refuel.

An afternoon nap and some time in the sunshine on the back deck were also excellent recovery strategies.

The last meal of the weekend was a great one!  Crab cakes with dijon aioli over sautéed kale, sweet potatoes, and roasted okra.  With the exception of the crab cakes, everything was freshly harvested by local farmers.  We're finishing out the night curled up in blankets around the fire pit.  Eventually the south will finally be granted some warm weather, but until then, we're doing our best to stay warm.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Celebrating Charities Through Food

Charlotte has two upcoming food-related events with proceeds benefiting very deserving charitable organizations.  I'm looking forward to partaking in both of them and hope some you you will be able to join me.

First up is the Sweet Tooth Festival happening on Sunday, March 23rd from 2-5pm in uptown Charlotte at the Omni Hotel.  Imagine twenty-five bakeries and candy purveyors offering table after table of chocolate, candies, and cake.  And, for those of you concerned that you'd leave with a massive sugar-induced coma, you're provided with a box to take home a selection of treats as well.

Tickets are $30 and all proceeds benefit RAIN.  RAIN is one of the largest HIV non-profits in the Carolinas providing direct client services and is widely recognized for its unique model and expertise in working with persons living with HIV and AIDS and with volunteers within the faith community. 100 percent of proceeds from the event benefit the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network.

Tickets are limiting and selling quickly, so be sure to click over to their website so you're sure not to miss the Sweet Tooth Festival.

Next up is an event that I look forward to all year long - Charlotte's Taste of the Nation.  This will be the third year in a row that I've attended, and I seriously cannot recommend enough that you consider attending as well.  The evening commences Wednesday, April 16th at 6pm.

After entering the Wells Fargo Center, you are inundated with endless options for cocktails, wine, beer, savory bites, desserts, and coffee.  Many of Charlotte's best fine dining restaurants compete for the title of best small plate, guaranteeing that you will leave with happy taste buds and a very small stomach.  Here are just a few of the restaurants that will be present.

Proceeds from all Taste ticket sales benefit Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" campaign, with funds trickling into our local charities - Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and Charlotte Community Culinary School of Charlotte.  

Tickets can be purchased here, and both general admission and VIP tickets are available.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Let the Build Begin

If the second half of this past week is any indication, the build towards longer distance racing has officially begun.  Despite a few days of recovery at the beginning of the week, I still managed to hit a total of 14 hours of training over seven days.  The combination of a TRX workout on Thursday, a long bike on Friday, and a brick on Saturday, left me feeling more sore and tired than I have in a while.  

Here's exactly how week 9 of Ironman Chattanooga training went down:
Total: 13 hours, 50 minutes

Swim: 11800 yards
Yardage was a little higher than average just because I moved my Monday swim for the upcoming week back a day to Sunday due to a busier anticipated work schedule.  Friday's set included 4 x 500 and I was pleased by some consistent splits, included 7:22 for the last 500 (average pace 1:28/100).  

Bike: 7 hours
Hour of power workouts continue and I'm making gradual but steady progress.  Tuesday was 4 x 8 minutes at 190 watts.  Friday evening, I took my bike out on the road for the first time in many months for a 50 mile trip through south Charlotte.  And then on Saturday night, it was an additional 2 hour transition brick ride.

Run: 8.5 miles
Mileage was low this week, intentionally to give my legs some recovery from the half-marathon.  Despite dreading mile 30 minute brick run on very tired legs, once I got started I felt surprisingly good and descended with each mile.

Strength/Yoga: 2 hours
I tried an hour of TRX strength on Thursday, and OMG . . . I discovered muscles that haven't been that sore in quite some time.  Now if only those bands weren't a ridiculously overpriced $180, there'd be one in my house very soon.  I also incorporated two 30 minute yoga sessions to help stretch out after the weekend half-marathon and then the long bike.

Backing up to last weekend, my pre-race dinner was grilled salmon over roasted broccoli slaw and a brown rice medley.  Without a doubt, the best meal of the week was my post-race treat - a to-go order from COWFISH!  Their "Heavenly Veggie Burger" is topped with avocado, arugula, and roasted red peppers on a whole grain bun.  Given that it is a burger-sushi-bar, my choices for side dishes were naturally sweet potato fries and seaweed salad.  SO DELICIOUS!!

All of the other meals paled in comparison.  Breakfast one morning was scrambled eggs with spinach, strawberries and kiwi, and a sweet potato biscuit.

Continuing the egg theme, but for dinner, was a massive veggie scrambled that contained broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, mozzarella cheese, and herbs.  Avocado toast paired nicely for a savory twist on a breakfast meal.

 Finally, I spent a significant amount of time this past week working on my grand rounds presentation - "Driving in the Setting of an Orthopaedic Injury."  This particular night I worked straight through dinner while munching on a salad and flatbread cracker with hummus.

Is it freezing cold and raining or snowing where you live?  Here's to hoping that this is the last of the cold and rainy weather we see this winter and that spring is soon to arrive!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

NC Half Marathon: Race Report

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, NC
March 9, 2014

Since I'm not able to be in Atlanta to run the Publix Half Marathon with my PTS Sports teammates next week, I went in search of a local half-marathon and stumbled upon this race.  While many people were enticed by the promise of running on a NASCAR track, I (being the NASCAR-uninterested person that I am), was satisfied with a race that didn't require hours of travel time or complex parking issues.  Being a triathlete, training hasn't been specifically geared toward the half-marathon, but I've been building some mileage and certainly knew I that I had the fitness for 13.1 miles.  Speed, however, was a bit uncertain.

Race morning started as usual - peanut butter and banana toast on the drive to the race site.  I'd had one complete rest day and then just some short strides in the two days leading up to the race, but my legs weren't quite feeling as fresh as I hoped.  Not that this was an A race, but I was hoping for a little more freshness.  I did an easy mile jog and some stretching to warm up and then found my way close to the front of the pack at the start line.  My race plan was 8 miles at 7:25-7:30, 2 miles at 7:20, and then the last 5K sub 7:15 pace.  My previous PR was 1:36:28 and a new PR was the goal of the day.

The entire 13.1 miles is run within the grounds of the motor speedway, which made for lots of turns and some mind-numbing repetitive stretches.  I settled into what should have been a comfortable pace for the first few miles, yet it just never felt as comfortable as I anticipated.  Mile 4 was a struggle with a long gradual ascent around the speedway.  At this point, I could already tell a PR wasn't in the day's cards.

Mile 1 - 7:27
Mile 2 - 7:33
Mile 3 - 7:16
Mile 4 - 7:42

Miles 5-7 felt much better, and I began to think I might have a stronger second half of the race.  Then we entered the drag strip, which meant running a mile down a flat road and then turning around and running a mile back.  Miles 8 and 9 always seem to be the toughest for me in every half-marathon I've done, and the boredom of that long stretch combined with an ugly climb heading into mile 10 meant that was true yet again.
Mile 5 - 7:29
Mile 6 - 7:29
Mile 7 - 7:25
Mile 8 - 7:45
Mile 9 - 7:59

Miles 10-12 were more circles around the speedway and consistent, yet slower than anticipated miles.  Despite a gel and fluids, attempts at a faster leg turnover and descending splits just weren't happening.  I focused on the women in front of me, and took pride in passing two in the final miles.  The last mile was on the track itself and I pushed to pull the last bit of speed out and finish strong.

Mile 10 - 7:36
Mile 11 - 7:40
Mile 12 - 7:36
Mile 13 - 7:25
Last 0.1 - 6:46

Finish Time: 1:38:50

50th / 1167  overall
7th / 642   females
1st / 86      F25-29

Although I was hoping to nail a new PR today, I can't say that I'm terribly surprised or disappointed with my result.  I can't expect more than I've trained, and all of my long runs have been around 8 minute pace.  I'm pleased with the consistency of my splits, ignoring the two miles with long climbs.  My overall placement among women was satisfying, and I was surprised to take the age-group win once final results were posted and the first two women in my age-group were on the overall podium.

Enjoy the medals, Dad, as this is likely the only NASCAR paraphernalia that your daughter will ever own!  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mom's Cooking

Is there anything better than taking a trip back home and enjoying meal after meal of home-cooked favorites?  As much as I enjoy cooking for myself, there's just something special about those meals that you have memories of eating as a child.

I made a short trip home last weekend to do some training with the PTS Sports crew and get an updated bike fit.  Fortunately, I also had some time to enjoy with the family.  Post-swim and 2 hour bike I polished off the plate above in about 2 minutes flat.  Warm whole wheat pitas topped with black beans and an avocado-tomato-cilantro salsa is a meal that is always comforting.  Simple, yet so satisfying!

The weather for the weekend was nearly perfect - sunny and upper 60s during the day.  Mom planned a Saturday family dinner appropriate for a summer evening - veggie burgers, roasted sweet potatoes, and slaw.  The slaw was a unique twist on the traditional, with shredded brussel sprouts, pine nuts, and hard-boiled egg tossed in a caesar-like dressing.  Roasted sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods!

For about a week or so I had been craving a burger, so when Mom was whipping up a batch of them on Saturday, I was beyond happy.  Just looking at this picture leaves me wishing I had a similar plate to enjoy right now.

That night we gathered around the fire-pit and soaked up its warmth as the air temperature gradually dropped.  We bundled in blankets and munched on gingerbread while chatting.

Sunday morning I managed to be cooked for yet again as the girls enjoyed a lazy morning while Dad went flying.  The hearty breakfast included scrambled eggs with spinach and scallions, paleo morning glory muffins, strawberries, and blackberries.

Last week's workouts ended with a 12 mile run along the banks of the Chattahoochee River at Cochran Shoals.  Without a doubt, this is my favorite place to run in Atlanta.  In addition to providing beautiful scenery, the river also proves to be an excellent place for an ice bath post-workout.  Here's a look at how the remainder of week seven's 13+ hours of training concluded, including the completion all 11 workouts.

Swimming (9600 yards) - Saturday's 10x100 (holding 1:20s) and 10x50s (on 0:40) was a tough one, but evidence that my swimming speed is benefiting from the strength work I've been doing.

Biking (4 hrs, 53 min) - Thursday's FTP test (aka hardest and most miserable hour on the bike) was my first now that my Quarq is installed.  The result - FTP 189 watts and 3.32 watts/kg.  Coach's response - "lots of intervals in your future".

Running (24.8 miles) - Between a fartlek run, 5k pace treadmill intervals, and a long run, my legs were feeling pretty sluggish by the end of the week.

Strength (2 hours)

This week's meals have been a hodgepodge of ingredients thrown together thanks to some later nights in the OR that left no time for cooking.  Tuesday I roasted a trio of potatoes - sweet, japanese sweet, and red skins - and enjoyed eating them on several nights.

My favorite sandwich - Great Harvest Dakota bread, hummus, smashed avocado, tomato slices, and cracked pepper - also made a comeback.

Lastly, two Vegan Cuts boxes arrived on my doorstep last week.  Royce and Erin gave me a three month membership for Christmas and it has been such a great gift.  These boxes included a variety of snack bars, chips and crackers, chocolate, macaroons, peanut butter, teas, and my favorite Skratch drink mix.

I'll leave you with this week's Swim-Bike-Run recap.  As week 8 comes to a conclusion, I'm beginning to sense just how quickly time is passing.  Ironman Chattnooga is less than 7 months away!

Swimming (10,100 yards) - Several longer sets are pushing me to maintain speed over a longer duration

Biking (5 hours) - Learning to love those intervals!

Running (14.4 miles) - Monday's 5k treadmill pace intervals was the sole missed workout this week.  The combination of a late night in the OR and tired legs were ample signs that rest was the better option.

Strength  - 2 hours

Totals - 12 hours and 10 for 11 workouts

Next weekend I'm running the North Carolina Half-Marathon at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.  Is a sub-1:35 in the cards?