Friday, February 27, 2009

Home cookin'

I'm a creature of habit and tend to eat the same thing week in and week out. My weekends are usually centered around a long run or two and grocery shopping. I am a perimeter shopper, rarely straying down the middle aisles of Safeway for the tempting goodness of Pop-Tarts (crack), White Chedder Cheez-It (crack on crack), Pringles (low grade crack), or Hint of Lime Tostidos (cracks brother).. to name a few of my vices... and pizza. In addition to shopping, there is food prep to be done for the week - snacks to be parsed out, veggies to be chopped up and divided into separate containers, and main course meals cooked. For the past year, if not more, my lunch consisted of one of the following dishes:

- Skillet tofu (tofu with veggies, tomatoes, chickpeas)
- Tempeh chili (diced tempeh with black beans, tomatoes, spices)
- Soyaki Tofu (tofu, veggies, soyaki sauce from Trader Joe's)
- Sweet and sour tofu or tempeh (tofu or tempeh with veggies with a homemade S&S sauce)
- Tofu and Broccoli gratin (tofu and broccoli and cheese with a wheat germ/bread crumb topping)
- Tofu Parmesan (tofu dipped in egg then a batter of cornmeal and Parmesan cheese and basil and pan fried, .5c pasta, marinara sauce from Trader Joe's).

Every. Day.

Throughout the day I'd have snacks of fruit and vegetables, cheese and tofurky slices, and yogurt and fruit as well as the occasional bowl of soup and some almonds.

We'd usually make 2 of these on the weekend for lunches throughout the week. Dinner was pretty ad hoc and would either be a mini pizza from Trader Joe's or grilled cheese and tomato soup. I don't think I could get tired of either of those, but other days it would be cereal (dinner of champions) or whatever from my lunch bag that I didn't eat. Needless to say, it wasn't very well planned.

I've been on an "I'm sick of what we've been eating day in and day out" kick and started to mix things up again. Lunches have stayed about the same as have the snacks, but it's dinner that's getting the biggest make over. I'm adding more variety and actually cooking something instead of reheating.

I was looking for the store hours of the Yes! Organic Market nearby and started to search their website for tempeh recipes. I stumbled upon this one called Tempeh with Spicy Peanut Sauce and thought I'd give it a shot.

We were hoping to double the recipe to have lunch or dinner for another day, but didn't have another package of tempeh and resorted to using some extra firm tofu.

Here are some additional modifications or notes:

- Used a food processor
- No Serrano chilies; used 2t of red chili pepper flakes instead (for a dbl batch)
- Peanut butter is Trader Joe's creamy, natural
- Used low sodium soy sauce instead of Tamari (it's what's in the cupboard)
- No clue what ginger juice is, and used only 1t of powdered ginger (what's on hand)
- Add at least 1/2c of water to the mix before pureeing it. Add a little more as needed before transferring it to the saucepan.

As the recipe says, keep stirring to prevent it from boiling and burning. I like my sauce a little thicker and didn't add all 4c of water, but thickness is a personal preference.

I thought it was lacking in vegetables, so we steamed up some broccoli. I measured out 1c of brown basmati rice (rice cooker), about 1c of broccoli, half the tofu, and drizzled about .25c of the peanut sauce on top, and voila!

It was a very filling meal and the broccoli was a nice addition. Peanut butter makes everything taste better! Even though we doubled the sauce recipe, I think there's more than enough left over to top a few more dishes. I hope to try it sometime with the tempeh, but it was a winner with tofu.

Give it a try!

**After reheating it for dinner last night, it's probably better to get that sauce a little more watered down than you think since it will solidify in the refrigerator. This picture is taken when I reheated it for dinner last night. MMmm.. tasty!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Passing the Test and Exceeding Expectations

I have very little to be disappointed about with my performance at this weekends Reverse Ring. The weather was perfect day and night and I finished about 5 hours ahead of schedule in 23:30 (6:30am).

I was the last one trudging up toward Signal Knob Saturday morning. I stopped part way to take my jacket off and put it back on so it covered my Camelbak, which was already starting to freeze. I didn't want a repeat of the training run MLK weekend where I was waterless most of the run. I knew it would be warming up throughout the day, so I wasn't too worried, but I didn't want to start off the run on sour note.

I caught up with a couple runners about 5 miles up the trail and hung with them most of the next 20 miles. There was a little conversation about the trails, shoes, and other races, but we mostly kept moving - one foot in front of the other.

I thought the pace was fairly conservative, which I didn't mind one bit. Everything was feeling fine even after twisting my right ankle around mile 25 (Short Mtn). I continued to move on it, albeit gingerly, until the pain subsided. My nutrition plan was a little scattered as was my hydration, which I thought I was keeping in check.

Around 3pm I left Moreland Gap (mile 30) and wound my way up Jawbone. Kerns Mt has been a nemesis of mine and I wanted to put up a good fight. I finally turned on some tunes (Dance Party 2009 - woohoo!) and set it on cruise control into Crisman Hollow Rd. I was very grateful for the aid that was hiked in since the road is closed off and grabbed some chips and a cup of Coke before heading out. The sun would be setting in 10-15 minutes and I wanted to get down Waterfall Mtn before sunset. I made it down right around 6:30pm and finally turned my headlamp on a few minutes later as I made my way up Duncan Hollow towards Scothorn.

Staying on the orange trail and heading toward the Strickler Knob connector trail, I took the time to cover up my light and admire the stars. What an amazing night! I was passed by another runner who was on a mission to get to Camp Roosevelt, which was about 6 miles away. This was a long 6 miles and a bit of a low point for me. Mentally, I was getting frustrated because I wanted to be there already, and trail markings weren't where I thought they would be; sections were longer than expected.

I finally pulled into Camp Roosevelt (mile 46) and took a seat in front of the nice fire. I tell ya, at 8:30pm, sitting feels nice especially when it's in front of a toasty fire. I took the time to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich and slice of cheese pizza while getting my water refilled then changing socks for the last time and lubing up any chaffed areas (don't ask). I was ready to go a little after 9pm and hobbled my way out.

My feet were a tad tender as I started up again and worked my way up toward Edith Gap and again on up toward Kennedy Peak. Once here, I tried to do a little mental math and quickly gave up. One of the volunteers said the lead runner could make it from Camp Roosevelt to the end in 5 hours, then challenged us to do the same thing.

Yeah right

Then I realized how easy the math was going to be and continued the mental calculations. I took twice as long as the lead runner in the fall running of The Ring and thought I'd take at least 2x as long to cover these last 25 miles that he might be able to cover in 5 hours. So 5 hours for him would be 10 hours for me (yes, 10 hours) with at least 2.5 miles per hour. It was challenging terrain and, well, dark out, but I thought it would be do able. And I wanted to do it, or at least see how close to 10 hours I could get. So I ran.

I broke down the ridge into two pieces - the 15 miles to where the trail joins up with the Tuscarora trail, and then the last 10 miles to the end. Based on earlier calculations, I wanted to cover the first 15 miles in 6 hours and the last 10 miles in 4 hours. There were other mental 'notes' of trail intersections along the way, and that's how I was able to break up the monotony of the run and the length of the run ahead of me.

It was a mix of Katy Perry, Pussy Cat Dolls, Tracy Chapman, Johnny Cash, Gwen Stefani, and a host of others that carried me along the ridge line. I ran with confidence and took what most looked like a trail even if it was heavily covered in leaves and hard to decipher. Quick and confident decisions helped since I didn't want to spend time looking around or behind me wondering if I was on the trail or not. I had to keep moving forward.

I made it to Tuscarora in 5:13 and was thrilled to have met that goal. It was about a mile descent to the unmanned aid 'tent' where I grabbed a handful of chips and a little more water before continuing up the trail again.

I hit another low point here when I thought about how much longer I still had to go. I did a bit of an interval run awhile back on this section to get me to the top, and tried to 'go there' mentally on how quickly I moved, how light I was on my feet, and how it wasn't that bad of a climb at all. Soon enough I was at the top and I stated looking back at the lights. Were they house lights or the headlamps of other runners? I didn't want to find out, nor did I want them to catch me as I had passed two runners back around mile 56 and hoped they hadn't made up all this ground!

So I ran.

The next low point came as I hit the trail intersection with Sherman Gap. The sign said 2 miles to Shawl Gap, and it was the longest effin two miles. I knew Sherman Gap was blazed pink, and the Massanutten trail is blazed orange, but the blazes looked very pink. Knowing that the orange trail is also the blue Tuscarora Trail all the way into Elizabeth Furnance, if ever in doubt (and there were many times I was) I looked for a blue blaze even if it meant looking on the backside of trees. I don't think I lost too much time, but I never strayed from the trail, and there were no other trails I could've taken, so I don't know why I was so worried.

I finally got to the intersection with Shawl Gap and Buzzard Rock trails, and I knew I was homeward bound. It was a little more than 2 miles to the finish on a long and winding decent. I thought I was making good time until I saw the lights of a car along Fort Valley Road and it looked a long ways away! I glanced at my watch and had around 90 minutes until the 24 hour barrier and wasn't sure if I'd make it or not, so I picked up the pace and ran scared. I finally got down to Elizabeth Furnace and it took me three tries before I could find where the trail continued. Lack of sleep, delirium, and my 5 hour energy drink wearing off will do that. I crossed Fort Valley Road and walked the remaining 3/4 mile to the Signal Knob parking lot where a honking horn announced my arrival at 6:30am. A finish time of 23:30. What I thought would take me 10 hours took closer to 9.5. I had accomplished my goals.

Immediately finishing, I felt great. I had a permagrin that was hard to remove. My right knee was a little achy and the bottoms of my feet tender, but nothing like the soreness I felt in September at the end of The Ring. I was very chatty with my GF and one of the RD's since I hadn't seen or talked to anyone for nearly 8 hours. Of course, once I got in the car to change and warm up, the eyes fell to half mast and I wasn't as vocal as sleep started to set in.

In the couple days following, my right knee continues to feel sore, and I've been feeling a deep pain in my butt, which I've had before - piriformis syndrome. I'm rolling the crap out of my legs with the TP massage ball and roller in hopes of loosening things up as well some stretching.

I feel like things are starting to come together, and I hope I can figure things out with my piriformis. I definitely have some hydration and nutrition issues to figure out since my hands were beyond swollen when I finished and lips extremely chapped. This is a rest week for me, so I'll use the down time to tend to my wounds, but still get a few workouts in before the weekend.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Next Big Test - 71 miles

Tomorrow I'll be one of 22 people to toe the invisible line at the start of the Reverse Ring. The Ring is a 71-mile circuit run of the entire orange blazed Massanutten Trail in George Washington National Forest. The Ring is held in September when participants run the trail in the clockwise direction. The Reverse Ring is its evil winter step sister, and is run in the counter clockwise direction.

Since I completed The Ring in September 2008 in a glacier paced 28:17, I'm eligible to partake in the winter version of the run. And who wouldn't jump at the chance to do THAT! I gutted out a finish in September knowing full well that I wanted to do the February run. Those last 10 miles were painful, but it was a mental test that I needed, and I'm sure I'm going to have more mental tests this weekend with cooler temps and less daylight.

I'm excited to see how I'll do after my performace 2 weeks ago at Uwharrie. My running has been down a bit these few weeks with a sore right foot. I don't know if it's the new Cascadia's that are the cause, the need for new road running shoes, or increase in jump rope training, but I don't want it to get any worse and I'm not pushing it. Time on the erg and my CrossFit workouts are helping me stay in shape.

The trees won't be as green as they are in this picture from 2 years ago, but the trails will be just as hilly and rocky, and I'm looking forward to every step.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

At home workouts - part 3+

I think I missed a few weeks of write ups, but I've continued doing my Wednesday night workouts.

5 rounds of:
250m row
30 squats
15 KB push jerks (20#)

I think this took me something close to 17 minutes. I finished it up with a 15/15 power wheel workout of knees to elbow and leg curls.

Another workout I did was one my sister did in class last Monday might. I shortened it considerably since I putzed around a bit and still had to make dinner. Oops!

3 rounds of the following with a 20# KB:

1 hand
Push Press
OH squat - looking up at the bell, twisting slightly, and touching the ground with the free hand.
10 swings
*switch hands, repeat the above sequence
100 single unders

It took me about 15 minutes to complete the workout. I was watching a bit of "Lost" at the time and chatting with my sister, so there were a few lengthy pauses, which I've subtracted from the above time. ;) A great workout. I could tell which arm was weaker when holding the KB overhead and my shoulder was all over the place trying to stabilize it. The overhead squat was a good reminder that I need to get in more windmill and TGU practice.

A challenging workout to do when you're short on time.

I've been nixing Tuesday night runs for a bit and doing another workout instead. Here's one from last night..

5x through
500m row
15 - double KB clean, squat, press (20# KB)
5 - pull ups (assisted w/ ghetto bands and a slight jump)

This one took about 30 minutes and hurt. I was sucking wind on the reps of CSP. I had to break it down to reps of 5. It was pretty sad.

This is what tonight's workout is going to look like..

Warm up - Windmills

4x14 each of to following:
1-leg KB deadlift
1-arm KB snatches
1-arm KB military press

At the end of each 1-side sequence I'll do 7 push ups and 7 sit ups before repeating with the opposite arm/leg and 7 more push ups and sit ups for ONE set. .

I'll probably end with a 15/15 Power Wheel workout of knees to elbow and pike ups. I'm already feeling the burn from last night workout and know my core will a sore puppy after this one. Can't wait!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Erging Irks

As I've been using an erg for a good part of my workouts - warm-up, main set, technique, etc - I have become more aware of my form. I don't focus too much on time, distance, SPM or 500m split, but I do try to keep my SPM around 22-24 while trying to keep my 500m split around 2:00. And if either of them drops, I'm not too concerned; and if they improve - great!

What I do focus on the most is technique. Technique is a fickle friend of most CrossFitters no matter the workout of the day. In most cases, many people 'do' the workout. A coach will be there to shout out cues and reminders about head positioning, rack position, driving through the heels, and encouraging them to get through the workout as fast as possible to beat the clock or last months time. But sometimes you have to slow down to get faster.

As someone who does CrossFit workouts, most times I don't bother to look at the clock or write down how long X workout took me. My focus is on my form. Take a push up, for example. It's a basic body weight movement that's pretty easy to modify for all levels. A basic progression might look like this - against a wall, against a bench, on the floor on your knees, "half-seys", full push ups, and plyo push ups. The basic 'start' position is Incline Plane

Equal amount of pressure across both hands, 'pits' of the elbows facing each other, and a straight line from head to heel. Most people will collapse at their neck, between their shoulder blades, and in their lower back. Hold this position and slowly descend while maintaining this straight line - don't let your chest or hips collapse. It helps to have a partner with you to gently press on your lower back to make you work against their touch. How far down can you go before you start to collapse between your shoulder blades or before you start to 'reach' with your head? It's a good thing to do as a 5x5 workout (5 sets of 5 reps) even if you have to do it on your knees or as Halfsey Push Ups (link to a Quicktime video demonstrating halfsey pushups - MBG). You want to maintain the integrity of the initial start position.

So how come CrossFit coaches aren't breaking down erg work to something basic like this? How many have ever been to a CF Rowing Foundations Certification or taken an Indoor Rowing Foundations course through Concept2 Rowing? How many people are taking time on their rest days or after a workout to spend some time on the erg breaking down the stroke? Rowing has been touted as such a great workout, but you can throw your workout in the crapper if you sit your ass on the seat and grab the handle and muscle out an erg piece. Ripped up hands are a sign of stupidity. I absolutely cringe when I see pictures or video of people erging as part of a WOD. Are they even thinking about their form? Maybe. Do they know what corrections they need to make? Most likely, the answer is a big fat no.

Here is some good information about rowing technique from the Concept2 website:

The Catch
- Extend arms straight toward the flywheel.
- Keep wrists flat.
- Lean your upper body slightly forward with back straight but not stiff.
- Slide forward on the seat until your shins are vertical (or as close to this as your flexibility will allow).

The Drive
- Begin the drive by pressing down your legs.
- Keep your arms straight and hold your back firm to transfer your leg power up to the handle.
- Gradually bend your arms and swing back with your upper body, prying against the legs until you reach a slight backward lean at the finish.

The Finish
- Pull handle all the way into your abdomen.
- Straighten your legs.
- Lean your upper body back slightly.

The Recovery
- Extend your arms toward the flywheel.
- Lean your upper body forward at the hips to follow the arms.
- Gradually bend legs to slide forward on the seat.

The Catch
- Draw your body forward until the shins are vertical.
- Upper body should be leaning forward at the hips.
- Arms should be fully extended.
- You are ready to take the next stroke.

Here's a great YouTube video that break down the stroke even more with a kickass rowing stick figure.

A drill you can do is called the "pick drill". It's a standard rowing drill that most crews use to warm up on the water. You isolate different parts of the recovery and drive, which gives you a sense of how they're supposed to flow. You start at the Finish position and use arms only. Row for 25-50m and add in the back, so now you're rowing with your arms and back with your legs extended. After another 25-50m, start with a half slide, and only bend your knees 90 degrees. Really work on getting your arms away and your body over and slooowly coming up the slide. Break down the legs more and go from 1/4, to 1/2, to 3/4, and then the full slide. Keep your shoulders and face relaxed and let that handle practically dangle from your fingertips, but don't drop your hands or arms.

Break down each piece of the stroke. In addition to the 'pick drill', start at the Catch and row with legs only, then legs and back, then legs back and arms. Do about 100m of each and build to the full stroke.

People think the way to get faster on the erg is to row faster. I say 'NO'. Start by refining your technique, and that will help you get faster. Once you get the technique down, you can work on speed and pressure, and you are sure to see improvement in your Fight Gone Bad calorie count as well as your 2K time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

First race of the year - in the books.

I'm a little behind on posts (I get too wordy) and have a few in the works, but wanted to get this short report out there.

This past weekend I was down in Asheboro, NC for the 18th running of the Uwharrie Mountain Run. It's a trail run that a friend of mine in NC first told me about back in 2003. I ran the 20 miler in 2004 and have since run the 40 miler in 05, 07, 08, and again in 09. It has become a favorite race of mine and I look forward to it every year. I think of it as an early test and a good way to gauge my training and my fitness.

Versus previous years, my fitness level is much better. I have been doing CrossFit type workouts 2-3x a week and erging more. I don't ride as much nor am I in the pool anymore, but getting on the erg has taken some stress off my legs. I do want to bike more as the only time I ride is Monday morning to go lead a workout, and that's a 2 mile trip that isn't too taxing. Training wise, I'm getting in the weekend runs, but not running as much during the weeks as I would like to. I've been experimenting with Interval training and adding a variation of interval times to my workouts - :30/:60; 2:00/2:00, and 4:30/2:15 - both on the road and trails.

My GF and I took Friday off to travel. We got to Asheboro around 6pm for the dinner when I realized that I left my contacts at home. I put them in a small cosmetic bag along with a few other items, but left it on my dresser. I have been wearing glasses more often and just picked up a second pair that morning, so I figured I'd suck it up and run in my specs even though I never had. I didn't expect to do well since I might be a little more tentative with my footing.

Race conditions were perfect with temps around freezing right at dawn with them expected to rise to the mid 60s by the afternoon. I stayed as warm as possible until 5 minutes before the start when I took off my tights and lined up with the other runners. I stayed back the first 5 miles and kept an eye on a few runners that I recognized from the year before. They stopped for aid and I moved on. I prefer to run by myself. I'm not a fan of running with chatty people and tried to avoid them. I twisted my ankle early on and did it a total of 4 times (majorly) in the first 14 miles. It slowed me to a hobble a couple times and I contemplated dropping out, but focused on my stride and not WHERE I planted my foot. I kept moving at a good pace and didn't turn it anymore as I got to the 20 mile turn around. I took time to use a port-a-pot and get a new bottle of nutrition and fill up and water. Everything was going and feeling well. I usually change my socks here as well, but was afraid to take my shoe off and have my foot swell up. The low parts weren't very wet and muddy this year and my feet were feeling fine, so I left them alone.

I started heading back after a 4 minute 'layover'. The first 20 miles took me 4:30.

The next three miles has you running against traffic as the other 40 miles are making their way to the turn and the 20 milers, who started an hour later, are on their way to the finish. It's a good boost to hear the 'good job' cheers from everyone and everyone is pleasant when having to make room on the single track trail.

I had an idea of how long each section would take me, but I wasn't a slave to my watch - the time or my heart rate. I was moving based on feel, and I felt good. I used some downed trees as a cue to when I was close to the mile 26 aid station where I caught up with Q, a fellow Happy Trails runner. We took turns in the lead, pacing the other and chatting just a little. We'd both done the race enough to have a good idea of the course and how long each section would take us, and knew it would be about 5-8 minutes more to each aid station than it took us on the way out. The 3miles between aid stations at 23 and 26 took forever and we were both a little glassy eyed when arriving later than expected. We didn't stay too long, though, and pressed on. We met my GF at miles 29 and 32, and she confirmed that I was in 4th place in the women's division. Q first mentioned it to me at mile 26, but I wasn't sure and didn't really pay attention to it since placing in the top 3 wasn't a goal of mine.

We continued to pass more people and took turns up front. He's a faster runner than I, so it forced me to pick up my pace a little to keep up with him, or to at least keep him in sight. I wasn't racing him, I just wanted to keep a comfortable pace. Even when I picked it up a little, I felt fine and never felt like my HR was spiking or my quads were fried. My feet were a bit tender - ankle from all the twists and toes from all the rock kicking - but holding up nicely.

We arrived at mile 32 and told that the 3rd place female had been through about 10 minutes ago. "Let's get her!" I said.. jokingly! but Q didn't think so and took off. I grabbed what I thought was a cup of Coke in hopes of getting a boost of caffeine, but it was grape Gatorade, and I was a bit bummed. Nevertheless, I took off to catch up with Q. Again, we passed at least 4 more people in these last 2.5 miles. At one point I saw him slow to ask another runner a question. I assumed it had to do with any sightings of other female runners and learned the truth** when he shouted back, "she's just up ahead!" That kept me moving even on a rocky downhill section where I'm usually pretty tentative. I knew we were close to the finish when he let out a big yell, and I finally let out a big sigh when I saw the tape marking off part of the trail and the flags directing us toward the finish line about 200m away.

It was then that I finally looked at my watch and saw my time - 9:32

My final time is a PR of 40 minutes from last years race (10:12) and about 55 minutes from 2007 (10:24). I felt awesome. Aside from looking like a dork in my glasses and dealing with the ankle twists, I couldn't stop smiling. It was a great run and a great race. I actually felt like I was racing.

**I high fived Q who finished just ahead of me and asked what the other runner told him. He fessed up and said, "Oh, he said she was long gone. But if I told you that it wasn't going to make you run faster, so I lied. I just wanted to make sure you were passed him so he wouldn't call my bluff." It worked even though I figured she wasn't close.

I found out yesterday that I was about 2 minutes out of 4thplace, so I officially finished 5th out of 12 female runners. I never thought I'd be so close to the upper side of the 50% mark, but I guess that's what happens when all the fast chicks don't show up. Lucky me!

So many factors go into the result of a great race and I can't pinpoint one thing that's the deciding factor in such a big PR. I've been doing CrossFit 2-3x a week (good), I haven't been running as much during the week (bad), I've been sleeping more (good!), I.. umm.. haven't been running as much during the week (bad! - on a 2nd time for good reason), I have been getting in some good, long weekend runs (good!), I've been adding interval training to most runs (good!), I wore new shoes (bad) that were a different brand (way bad!) and only had about 4 road miles on them (wait.. wtf.. you did what??)

Yeah.. *shrug

I'm very happy with my performance and really enjoy this race. It's challenging and it helped me overcome some mental funks I've been in with recent training runs. I wanted to finish and wanted to do well not only to test my fitness level, but to prove to myself that I can do well and that I can run 'fast'. Having a good pacer in Q helped, even if it made him run faster than he wanted to. The ankle turns were bothersome and frightened me, but I'm glad I pressed on and regained my focus. Luckily, it wasn't too sore post race.

I'm looking forward to upcoming training runs and other events. The next big test is the Reverse Ring, a 71-mile counter clockwise circuit of the Massanutten Trail next weekend. I'm also happy to now be up to #23 on the MMT wait list (a bump of 3 slots overnight!). I'm sure I'll get in and will continue to train and prepare for May.

Here's a picture of me around mile 24 or so. I look like such a dork in my glasses.