Thursday, January 29, 2009

Groove Missing

It started last Saturday during the 20 miler. I ran it, there were no issues but I never found my groove. Like I said in my blog - I just plodded along.

Now, two swim practices later, still no groove. Usually I find it during the first set and settle in for the duration. Nope, nada, zilch.

It's not that I'm having trouble with the workouts. The runs are going great. In the swim I'm keeping up, even considering moving up a lane. OK, so I haven't been outside riding in awhile but I do make spin class and I keep up with the workouts and I get on the trainer on Sundays. So it's not difficulty (not saying it's easy), I'm not bored, I'm not burned out. Perhaps it's apprehension about my 1st marathon and IMS? Or maybe I'm not pushing myself enough? Or, maybe this is just a phase and is a normal part of training. Who knows.

This doesn't do justice to the feeling - it's hard to describe. All I can say is my groove is missing. If you happen to see it out somewhere please send it back home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Item #58 - Cook 101 things … (3/101)

Smoked Mozzarella & Italian Sausage Lasagna

More comfort food! Again, – best recipes ever. All of my changes are in italics.

Sauce – I made 1 ½ times the sauce but kept the same amount of sausage.
3 Tbs Olive Oil, divided
1 Lb Italian Sweet Sausage, casings removed
2 Oz Sliced Prosciutto, chopped (used 4 oz)
2 Cups Chopped Onions (1 white onion, ½ a red onion)
1 Celery Stalk, Chopped (2 stalks)
3 Garlic Cloves, Chopped (6 cloves)
1 tsp Dried Oregano (1 ½ tsp)
¼ tsp Dried Crushed Red Pepper (½ tsp)
2 Tbs Tomato Paste (3 Tbs)
1 28 Oz can Italian Style Tomatoes in juice, tomatoes chopped, juice reserved (plus a 14.5 oz diced fire-roasted tomatoes, plus ¼ cup of roasted tomatoes from Wegman’s olive bar)
2 Tbs Chopped Fresh Basil (couldn’t find fresh basil so I used about 4 Tbs of the tube stuff of Italian Seasoning)
Added ½ Cup Chianti wine

12 10x2-inch Lasagna Noodles (Used Wegman’s fresh lasagna sheets)
1 15-Oz Container Whole-Milk Ricotta Cheese (Used Skim)
2 Cups coarsely grated Smoked Mozzarella Cheese, divided (about 4 Cups)
1 large Egg

Olive Oil (Used PAM)

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage; sauté until browned, breaking up with fork, about 6 minutes. Add prosciutto; stir 1 minute. Transfer mixture to bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in same pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and next 4 ingredients. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add tomatoes with reserved juice, basil, and sausage mixture. Add wine. Reduce heat; simmer until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Didn’t add salt & pepper (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For lasagna:
Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet. Stir ricotta and 1 ½ cups mozzarella in bowl. Season with salt and pepper; mix in egg. OK, this is where I completely messed up. I did not pre-boil the noodles so I skipped over this paragraph. After the lasagna was put together and I started clean up, I saw the tub of ricotta. OOPS! Added the ricotta by lifting the layers but did not include the egg.

Brush 13x9x2-inch baking dish with oil. Used a disposable foil lasagna pan to prevent drips and ease in clean up. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce evenly over bottom. Arrange 3 noodles atop sauce. Spread ¾ cup cheese mixture thinly over noodles. Spoon 1 ½ cups sauce over. Repeat with noodles, cheese mixture, and sauce 2 more times. Cover with 3 noodles. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup mozzarella. Topped with a little Parmasan. Cover with foil. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Chill.)

Preheat oven to 350. Bake lasagna, covered, 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until heated through, about 15 minutes longer. Broiled for 5 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

Even with the ricotta debacle this was FABULOUS! Quite honestly, I had so much mozzarella in this I don’t think it really needed the ricotta at all. The smoked mozzarella made the dish. So dang good! Unfortunately, I’ve only made lasagna three times in my life so even though this was great I probably won’t make it again.

Item #58 - Cook 101 things ... (2/101)

Turkey Chili with White Beans
Northern Virginia is in a winter storm warning which means one thing – comfort food. I got this recipe from (my favorite recipe website) and chose it mainly because it had cocoa powder in it which sounded very interesting for a chili recipe.

Turkey Chili with White Beans
Bon Appétit | February 1997
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped – (only used one (I thought I was going to ½ the recipe))
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey (only used 1 lb.)
1/4 cup chili powder
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (14.5 oz can of diced garlic/onion tomatoes)
3 cups beef stock or canned beef broth (3 cups chicken broth)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (8 oz tomato paste)
3 15-ounce cans small white beans, rinsed, drained (1 can white, 1 can kidney beans)
Chopped red onion (Did not use)
Chopped fresh cilantro (Did not use)
Plain low-fat yogurt or light sour cream (Used the Sour Cream)

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Add turkey; stir until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon. Mix in stock and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat before continuing.)
Ladle chili into bowls. Pass red onion, cilantro and yogurt separately.

Other changes/notes: Added mushrooms when I added the beans but I wish I added them for the 45 minutes of simmering. Added cayenne pepper (about a teaspoon) to give it zing. Would have added more diced tomatoes but the cupboards were bare. After I added the beans, I let it simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Served with the sour cream, low fat shredded cheddar cheese, and some Jiffy Corn Muffins (for 59 cents these are the best instant corn muffins)!

You’ll notice that while the meat and beans were less then called for I kept the spices the same. I did that because I planned on making less chili. Originally I halved the spices but I found the meat too bland so I went with full spice. I think adding the ½ lb of meat, another can of beans, tomatoes and another onion would have made the chili too thick.

Overall, and I quote Dude, “This is d@mn good chili”.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vanity Plates

I either read it somewhere, heard it in passing (or I’m completely making this up) that Virginia has more vanity plates then any other state. I can believe it based on the amount I see during my commute. Over the past couple months I came up with my top 7 (7 because that seems to be the max amount of letters).

PR2RICN – As a Puerto Rican I laughed out loud when I saw this. I then called my mom and she says she’s getting this in FL.

MCDORK – Honesty is the best policy.

INFIDL – This was on a vehicle of someone who, based on the array of bumper stickers, is proud to be an American. But, really, aren’t you just asking for someone to declare Jihad on you?

ROKNVAN – Don’t come a-knockin’.

GRNLTGO – I wonder if his other cars have RDLTSTP and YLWLTSPD

NHERIT 0 – I hope the kids of the guy in this Mercedes have a back-up plan because he’s apparently leaving nothing behind.

IRNWMN – I want this one (after IMS), unfortunately I know the person who has it. Other variations are available – I wonder what I’ll end up with…

Monday, January 26, 2009

Holy Cow - I actually ran 20 Miles

And I’m still walking! Really, for all of the hype, it wasn’t bad at all. The first 10 miles I couldn’t find my happy place so I just plodded along. No pain, just didn’t really get comfortable like I usually do. Rested a little too long during the refuel then headed out for the final 10. We ran the final 5 miles a little faster then miles 10-15 - but I think that's because it's more downhill. The hardest mile was 18 to 19, then it was down to the final mile and nothing could have stopped me.

After the run I drank a Recoverite, a bottle of chocolate milk, changed immediately into recovery tights and headed for Whitlow’s. I was so hungry that I really have no recollection of eating – just wolfed the food down.

Dude had a Jiu-Jitsu tournament and I didn’t want to miss his events so I went straight there and ended up staying until about 6:30 that evening. The good part was there were mats for stretching so that’s how I spent the majority of my 4 hours there. Finally got my hot shower, took some ibuprofen, drank a beer and fell asleep.

By Sunday most of the soreness was gone. I spun for 2 hours then back into the recovery tights. I LOVE THEM!

Woke up Monday feeling great. Ready to start my last build week before the marathon.

Overall, I can now fathom the marathon - I’m even looking forward to it…well, kind-of.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ski + Snowshoe = 2 Run Workouts

MLK weekend seemed like the perfect time to do my last non-tri related weekend so Dude and I headed out to CO to ski and snowshoe.

I use to be a pretty good skier. Apparently 3 years away from the slopes changes things. Add the fear-factor of getting hurt and delaying IMS training and let’s just say I was skiing very slow and cautious – in other words like a beginner.

Nevertheless, I got talked into skiing a black diamond (something I use to do regularly) and I believe I actually said out loud “this was a piss poor decision” about 100 times. From the lift it looked there were options to avoid moguls. WRONG. My process for surviving the moguls was ski across the tops to one side, sit down, turn, and ski across the tops to the other side. It took close to 10 minutes to get down a very short mogul field. Everyone else was waiting for me, but in their speediness they missed the cut-off to the steep but no mogul section. So on we went until we came to what I’m calling a cliff of moguls. It was steep. And there were huge moguls. I started to hyperventilate and pondered how much it would cost to have ski-patrol come up to rescue me. I then did what any sane terrified skier would do in this situation - I took off my skis and started to walk to the tree line. I knew on the other side was the slope I originally wanted to be on. Finally made it and easily skied down the remainder of the run. Love the steep runs – vow to never ski a mogul again.

So, we skied for 5 hours, which equates to probably 3 once you take out waiting in line, riding the lift, resting on the runs. Heart rate is relatively low considering gravity is doing most of the work (although my heartrate was high Z4 when looking over the mogul cliff). All in all, I decided the day was equivalent to my needed Z2 5 mile run. And the 5 mile snow-shoeing on Monday equates to my Monday 45 min Z2 run.

Optional Rant: The luggage fee was enacted over the summer due to soaring gas prices. Those prices are back to normal yet the fee has not been removed. Add that Continental has a $15 FIRST bag fee, plus $25 for each additional bag. Oversized (and that would include ski bags) are an additional $100. So, to take our gear plus clothes to wear when not on the slopes it would cost $140 PER PERSON EACH WAY! Needless to say we left the gear at home and rented when we got there.

Friday, January 16, 2009

101 in 1001 - #58 - Cook 101 things ... (1/101)

I don't like Rachel Ray. Not personally, more a jealousy thing. I wish I had a talent (and personality) that I could make millions with. My opinion: her recipes are simple, she's too bubbly, and why make up an acronym and EVERY SINGLE TIME you use it, you say what it means (even in her books). "EVOO, that extra-virgin olive oil."

That being said, I've only seen her show about 5 times and 2 of them were repeats of the episode with Turkey Cacciatore Burgers. Basically, it's ground turkey, mushrooms, Parmesan, red bell, garlic, onion, worcheshire sauce, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, parsley all mixed together, made into burgers, then served on baked portobello mushrooms with mozzarella cheese. Here's the link to the official recipe:

Changes I made: Based on other reviews I added an egg to hold everything together but it came out too wet so I added breadcrumbs. There was a strange shortage of poultry going on at the local grocery stores so I used ground chicken instead of turkey. I used smoked mozzarella for extra flavor. And I forgot to buy parsley so I used dried Italian seasoning.

Overall, it was darn tasty. I used a food processor to chop everything so there was no huge chunks of veggies. I think that would have been off-putting. It didn't look all that appetizing while cooking because of the egg factor. Next time I'll only use the egg white. I'll also shred the mozzarella (smoked was a great choice) and mix it in with the meat. Yep, I said it, next time.

In honor of #58 of 101 in 1001 I've established the Fat Running Chef Scale:
1=Never Ever Again
2=Try One More Time
3=Good But Needs Tweeking
4=OMG This Is So Good Calories Don't Count

And the Turkey Cacciatore Burgers get:

Following the Black Line

I’m not fast by any means but I do enjoy the swim. When I concentrate on my technique during practice my thoughts are:

Superman – Eyes on the black line - Right elbow bent, cup hand, pull back with fingertips not crossing mid body (like I’m climbing a rope) - Extend back - Graze Hip - High Elbow – Reach forward

Left elbow bent, cup hand, pull back with fingertips not crossing mid body - Extend back - Graze Hip - High Elbow – Reach forward

Right elbow bent, cup hand, pull back with fingertips not crossing mid body - Extend back - Graze Hip - High Elbow – Exhale - Breathe Right - Reach forward - Eyes on the black line …

Had to redo math & update numbers. And repeat 5.1 times alternating breathing side. Turn around and repeat 6.1 times. Repeat this for however many lengths needed for the practice.

With the black line guiding me I swim. It’s repetitive and boring, yet rhythmic, comforting, and strangely relaxing.

Race time is different. Each race starts with panic - technique flies out the window, breathing is overrated, I’m in protective mode from getting hit by others, and I’m fighting for position - it’s pure adrenaline pumped nerves. Then suddenly a deep calm falls over me. My thinking is not as detailed as in practice but I repeat “stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, sight” over and over again.

Without the black line guiding me I swim - it’s repetitive and boring, yet rhythmic, comforting, and strangely relaxing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

25 Things

I saw this on a friend’s blog and FB (and she saw it on a friend’s blog and FB, and so on, and so on). It’s titled "25 Things," which were 25 quirks, goals, habits, and general "deep thoughts." It was interesting and I’ve been coming up with my 25 things for the past couple of days. In no particular order:

I am terrified of the Ironman race. It’s less then 6 months away and I still can’t get my head around the distances. The good news is I’m stubborn so unless there is a catastrophic medical or mechanical issue I will finish.

For all of the hard times that I’ve gone through in my life, there are only a handful of moments that I’d want a “do-over”. Those hard times are what makes me Me.

When I was a little kid I wanted to be a boy. Not that I liked girls, I just thought boys had better toys and got to play more sports. In the same vein, I’d like to have a 1950’s wife – someone to keep the house clean, have supper on the table, etc.

If you really want to know how I’m feeling, look in my eyes. I can fake a smile but my eyes will give me away.

I despise women that act stupid. I’m not talking about women that are not smart, educated, etc. I’m talking about women that portray themselves as ditzy. I think they give ALL women a bad rap.

I’m not a huggy, cuddly person but there’s no place I’d rather be then in Dude’s arms.

It makes me happy that when I talk with my family we always end the phone call with I love you. I think people should do that more often because you never know what lies ahead.

Joining Team Z was a great decision. I love the camaraderie, the training, the competition, the networking….

As a financial analyst you’d think I’d keep better handle on my personal finances. I still rely on my Ex for advice on what to invest in and questions on my taxes.

I love what I do for a living but I wish I was challenged a bit more. The challenge seems to come from time-lines vs. difficulty of the tasks.

When I’m counting calories, I don’t count liquids except for alcohol - then only ½ of those.

I am horrible at keeping in touch with people and I’ve lost many good friends due to it. That makes me sad and I hope they don’t think it’s because of anything they did!

I use to drink a lot – and by that I mean A LOT. Now, when I see people drinking like I did I only hope that they “right” themselves soon.

I’m a firm believer in you are what you make of yourself. Don’t blame your childhood, upbringing, financial situation, ethnicity, history, etc. No excuses people, it’s your life!

I’d still love to retire while in my 50’s but this year my net worth seems to have decreased by at least 40%. Thank you Mr. Economy!

Sometimes I get off a really, really funny one-liner. Unfortunately, those are few and far between. That doesn’t stop me from trying which is probably very annoying.

I’m a “mother-hen”. I like to take care of people, organize things, cook for others, etc..

Since my divorce I make my bed every morning. This is weird because in 10 years of marriage I only made the bed when company was coming over - and only because you could see into the bedroom from the kitchen. It’s also weird that I don’t make the bed at Dude’s house. Just mine – what’s that about?!

Since I was a kid I’ve had this premonition that I’m going to be a victim of a violent crime. I think it’s because a friend of mine was murdered but the feeling has never gone away. Yet, I often still run alone at night. DUH!

I love to eat - and that is why I do triathlons otherwise I’d be as big as a house!

I have never wanted to have children but I have a lot of opinions about child-rearing. It boils down to be a parent first – you know nurturing, guidance, rules, consequences, and boundaries. Kids today wouldn’t have lasted a second in my parent’s house and they were lenient compared to my friend’s parents!

I’m addicted to my DVR. To the point I hate watching TV at other people’s houses – what do you mean I have to watch commercials?!

I shave my legs every day. I’m not a hairy person it’s just that the tiniest bit of stubble will keep me awake at night.

I was once told I was selfish, irresponsible and immature. It was said because I don’t want to have children but I’d have to say, I am selfish, irresponsible and immature a lot of the time!

I swear I have ADD. Not medically diagnosed, but for example, I was the middle of correcting a work file when I started typing this list. And since starting I’ve gone back to the work file, worked on another one, checked my email, drank some coffee, etc., etc., etc.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recurring Dream

For the second time I’ve had this dream that I show up at the Ironman race without all of my stuff. And I’m not talking about one little thing – I show up without the essentials.

The first dream I showed up in sweats with my bike. I goofed around rather then setting up right away and with just a little bit of time left I went to set up. I opened my bag and all I had were arm and leg warmers. Did I mention I was in my sweats – which means I basically have running shoes and a hat. No swim gear, bike shoes/helmet, nutrition, etc. I had nothing. In the dream I rushed around and was able to buy some stuff (nothing in my size) but then I waited until the race started and I pilfered through everyone else’s stuff to get the rest of the gear that I needed. I ended up starting the race about 45 minutes after every one which was good in that I didn’t have to go through the mass start swim.

In last night’s dream, I was getting setting up in plenty of time and I kept wondering what I was missing as I was unpacking. Turns out it was my bike, all of my nutrition, and ironically, my arm and leg warmers (it was chilly and I needed them). I don’t know how this dream ended because I woke up in a panic and spent most of the rest of the night wondering if it would be too early to start packing now.

So seriously, can I start packing? I do have a list started already but I’m thinking I should start putting everything in my bag right now.

Any of you Ironman veterans reading this – is this normal????

Monday, January 12, 2009

Much Better

Finally got in most* of the training during a build week. The * is for the fact that strength training does not count. I missed track (weather) and my Mon/Tue runs were what could only loosely be defined as run/walks – more walk then run because my legs were still hurting from the 18 miles last Sat.

So here comes the weekend and the training plan calls for 10 miles but I was really disappointed with myself after last weekend and I want to get in between 14-18.

I thought all week about what caused my muscle breakdown last week and it came down to liquids. In a 10 mile run, I usually drink 4 fuel belt bottles. In the 18 last weekend I only drank 5. Hmmm, perhaps I was slightly dehydrated?! So this week I vowed to drink on a more regular schedule.

And it worked. Yes, there was still some pain but that’s expected after running 18 miles. But I was certainly more mobile afterwards then last week. Changes I made:
- Drank 9 fuel belt bottles during the run, plus a big bottle both to/from
- Did not rest in between loops for near as long
- Took a cold bath as soon as I got home followed by a hot shower

So I don’t know what exactly made me feel better but the combo of all the changes have me feeling pretty good. Finished the weekend with 2 hour spin on Sunday.

So now it’s Monday, 12 Jan 2009 which means I have exactly 6 more months till IRONMAN Switzerland. And yes, every time I think about it, I get a little nauseous.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Let’s start by saying it’s a build week and I managed to swim once during the week. Yep, that’s it. No excuse – just pure laziness!

So here comes the weekend and the plan is to run 18 miles and bike between 2-3 hours. My plan was to run 19 or 20 miles since it felt so good to run 16.

Who’d have thought that running two additional miles would hurt so bad. I’ve heard tale that everything after 18 miles in a marathon is pure pain and now I believe it. Couple weeks ago we did 16 and it was fine – felt great – was just looking forward to running 18. Ha!

The first 17 miles was great just like always, then the twinges started. Even though I was wearing my compression shorts there were these shooting pains up both thighs, but the left was worse. Add that my right knee was starting to swell. Oh, this isn’t good. But I kept going when all of a sudden Nicolas passes us, looking fresh as a daisy. We ask, how far have you ran – he nonchalantly answers 17 as he pulls away. Well, I can’t have that so I try to keep up with him and pull away from the group I was running with. I managed to stay with him for a little bit, but gradually fell back. Stayed within shouting distance which was good since he didn’t know the way.

Finally finished, stretched and headed to Whitlow’s for lunch. Had a chocolate milk (best recovery drink ever) and a Corona Light to numb the pain. Also had a wonderful open face turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes – Whitlow’s lunch is better then their breakfast.

I make it home and take the hottest shower ever. And as if the pain of running wasn’t enough I managed to fall down my stairs with my laundry basket. So I spent the rest of the day icing and heating my joints. Decided against going to Annie’s going-away because I just didn’t have the energy.

I’m now very concerned about the marathon. After yesterday I can’t imagine running another 8 miles. On the plus side, Jason hurt himself running so he is gong to try to get the 18 in next weekend and I will join him. On the plus side, my nutrition seems to be right on track.

Sunday I spun for 2 ½ hours and managed to hurt a completely different set of muscles. This is suppose to be fun, right?!

It’s official – I am seriously questioning my sanity for signing up for IRONMAN!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day

13 years ago today the most influential man in my life passed away. Russ was my dad - well official title was step-dad - but he was my dad. He came into my life when I was 4 and sadly left my life when I was 24 - not near long enough. So today, just like every new year's day, I allow myself time to think about him.

He had a curl that came down on his forehead, like one of those 50's movie stars. He was always smiling. And smoking - I think more out of habit then for the enjoyment of smoking. He had a big mustache that got whiter as the years passed. He was a horrible dresser. I'm talking cut-offs (not even jorts - cut-offs with strings hanging), black dress socks, and white sneakers. That was the weekends. For work it was what could only be called dungarees (colored jeans) with a matching short-sleeve button up (he was an engineer so I guess that was acceptable) with a clip-on tie. Russ was the smartest man I've ever known. Engineer, mathematician, genius. But he couldn't teach me algebra. It didn't make sense to him that I didn't get it. Why these memories? They just keep running through my head today.

13 years ago today the most influential man in my life passed away. He inspired me and continues to inspire me. So today, just like every other new years day, I am sad.