Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My 2010 Racing Schedule

I was inspired by Brandon Wood to blog my upcoming 2010 race schedule. I am jumping ahead here because I still have to do my 2009 recap, but I'm a forward planner more than a look-backer. It's obviously subject to change as the only one I've actually paid for so far is Steelhead (which is my A race). So, here it is, a preliminary look at my 2010 race schedule!

The season starts with a yearly tradition - I'll definitely be racing the Flying Pig 13.1 in Cincinnati, OH. My sister and I ran this last year and there were more hills than I anticipated so I didn't make my super-secret goal. I'm planning to do more than finish this year, so look for me to kick some butt! There is a slight difference this year, when I finish I will be cheering on my sister who is taking on the full 26.2 this year!! (Side note: No matter how many times I type it, I NEVER spell Cincinnati correctly on the first try.)

That will be followed by the Capitol View Triathlon in Madison, WI. This is my race that means the most to me in terms of redemption. Last year, this race kicked my ass in no uncertain terms. I was unprepared for the swim and lost my legs on the bike. I was a mess and finished dead last. I'm coming back and I'll be ready this time.

Then, it's the big show - The Steelhead Half-Ironman Triathlon - my A race. One might wonder why on earth I'd want to do a 70.3 (that's miles - 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run) without the ability to "quickly" complete an Olympic distance. I am not sure of the answer other than it's what I want to do. This distance is what I've been working up to since my start. Sprints and Olympics are fun and great, but this is the distance I want to race. For me, it holds a lot more seriousness in my mind. Anyone can train and race a sprint or oly, I really believe that if you try you can complete it. The 70.3 distance is my line in the sand, I guess. My preliminary goals are to complete the race, not suffer through it, and beat Nando (again, mwahaha). Other goals TBD.
Following that it's up for grabs. I will be missing the Naperville Triathlon that I have done for the past couple of years because it's a week after Steelhead. I'll consider the Chicago Triathlon again at the end of August, but I'm not sure if it will be too soon & I don't have anything to prove (except maybe that I can beat Nando again by more than 4 minutes). I may just volunteer at the two races or cheer on friends that are racing. Then, it's my new tradition of season finale: the Kentucky Bourbon Chase!! This is an overnight, 12-person team 200-mile relay race through the (very hilly) Kentucky Bourbon trail. It is gorgeous out there, and my team last year was an absolute blast!

So, there's a lot of miles to be conquered next year and I'm focused this winter on dropping weight and getting an excellent base so that when I start my training, I am not holding myself back. One thing is certain though, I am going to be running and biking a lot of hills in preparation in hopes of making my foe, a friend.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Problems with Animal Circuses

Years ago I became a supporter of PETA because I found out they work to end the misery of animals in circuses. How could anyone have a problem with something as simple as a circus? Here is a letter to the local Kiwanis Club that is sponsoring a circus as a fundraiser that outlines some of my concerns. Some of the content comes directly from PETA's content that they provide. It is a great resource, please do check it out!!

I am writing to ask that you consider ending circuses that use animal acts, such as the Kelly Miller Circus, for your fundraising purposes. While I understand it is meant as a fundraiser, there is nothing "fun" about the mistreatment animals living in the circus are forced to endure. Your organization is an admirable one and serves the community well. I am asking that you consider what it is that you are actually promoting before you lend your credible name to these events.

According to documentation compiled provided by PETA, “Kelly Miller Circus has failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Kelly Miller Circus for failure to handle animals in a manner that is safe for the animals and the public, failure to provide veterinary records, and failure to provide structurally sound enclosures. Kelly Miller Circus leases animals from its sister circus, Carson & Barnes.” According to the documentation compiled by PETA, “The Carson & Barnes Circus animal care director was videotaped viciously attacking elephants with a bullhook, shocking elephants with an electric prod, and instructing trainers to embed sharp, metal hooks into the elephants’ flesh until the elephants scream in pain.”

(Ref: and )

Child development experts warn that the circus can be harmful to our children. Dr. Melvin Levine, director of the Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning, says that when children watch animals being hit—such as when elephants are jabbed in the sensitive skin behind their ears or in the tender area under their chins with sharp, heavy bullhooks—their impressionable young minds are at risk. Children see this device, as well as electric prods, whips, and heavy sticks being used to control animals, and come to believe that it is acceptable to humiliate or physically intimidate, even to injure animals.

Additionally, most people do not realize that when circuses set up camp in our town, they bring with them transient workers picked up on the road—often criminals.

Does this sound like it will put the “fun” in the Kiwanis fundraiser? I am not interested in shocking anyone, and I understand people think this antiquated form of entertainment is amusing on some basic level. But, circuses were originally created to travel from place to place to entertain people. Perhaps they haven’t noticed but we have an abundance of animal and family friendly activities to pursue on any given day. What is wrong with a human circus option, similar to the Cirque de Soleil productions? I would be pleased to help you brainstorm other ideas in the future to assist in your fundraising efforts.

Circuses are cruel. They teach children that animal cruelty is acceptable, which is a danger to their development, and they are a risk to the safety and well-being of the community.

Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, August 31, 2009

My Personal Triumph at the Chicago Triathlon

I was SO nervous. I don't think I was this nervous ever before. I woke up before my alarm and headed out the door at 4:06 AM. In the car ride to the race, I managed to knock over my coffee onto my TMobile G1. My LIFELINE! Argh. It kept functioning for a while and then finally it gave up. I managed to get a text out to my husband and to my friend Nando before it died completely. Not a good start. So now I'm kind of a mess about my phone (I feel naked without it). Anyway, once Nando found me, I felt better and relaxed a little. We had to wait about 2 hours before we started, so we people watched. As time went on, I was less nervous but still never completely not nervous. It was SO cold outside - was easily in the low fifties (Fahrenheit).

The Swim
There was no swim warm-up for this race. I am a BIG believer in swim warm-ups. I can't race the first few hundred meters properly without one. My first few hundred meters during the actual race then become the warm-up.

I hopped off of the platform into the water at about 7:57:38. The water at 63 degrees was warmer than the air and felt like a blessing. My swim wave started at 8 AM sharp. A nice round time for me to estimate my finish time easily en route - yahoo!

I started the swim and got a rhythm, I looked up at about 200 meters and thought "I am never going to make it". I kept going. The first 400 meters were SO slow for me. Just before the 400 meter mark, my arms started to get tired. They always get this feeling just before they are ready to lay down a proper distance of swim, so this made me feel better. (Odd, I know.) I kept going and sure enough, BAM.

When I got out of the water, there was about a .25 mile trek to transition. I walked at first reflecting on how proud of myself for getting through the swim I was, and then started jogging.

The Bike
The whole bike course is on Lake Shore Drive which is beautiful but bumpy in some places. I did the first six miles not realizing I was in the middle ring of my crank, like a dork. Once I hit the big ring, I was pedaling much faster. It was a great ride and at the end I felt like I could do 24 more. Very pleased!

The Run
I must have still had adrenaline pumping because I was able to actually start the first half-mile out at about 10 min/mile. I slowed way down after that and had to run/walk until about mile 4. Overall, I pushed myself as much as I could, slowing down when I felt my heart rate speeding up.

Lessons Learned
I am awesome. :-) That's it!

Since this was my end of triathlon season, here are the things I am planning to work on in the off-season:
  • Weight-loss (usual goal)
  • Get bike fitted properly for aero bars
  • Learn to ride with aero bars :-)
  • Improve Run speed and endurance
  • Improve Bike speed
I fixed my phone with letting it dry out and doing a soft system restart. It's not perfet, but it works!! YAY!

Final Results

DistanceInternational (Olympic)
Clock Time03:34:38
Overall Place3641 / 4243
Gender Place970 / 1292
Division Place 223 / 286

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wow. Vegan MacNCheese & Vegan Bolognese!

I am on week 3 of my vegan experiment. It's flying by and actually becoming a habit now. I really like the way I feel too. Also, I think it's definitely helping my training and overall performance. Hooray!! I don't know how long I plan to do it, or if I even plan to stop. I'm just kind of going with it. Anyway, I'm getting more and more favorite vegan foods and learning to recreate my old standbys in a healthier, happy way.

The other day I found
Teese, a soy cheese made right here in Chicago. It's nommy for sure. I used their cheddar sauce, mixed with a cup of soy milk, half a container f vegan cream cheese, added some
diced poblano peppers and let it simmer. Then, I poured it over some (cooked, obviously) whole wheat elbow macaroni. It was awesome! I made a whole pound, so we had leftovers for days!

Tonight though I made an AWESOME vegan bolognese sauce that I was so stoked about. Bolognese is a traditional meat sauce, and it's freaking delicious. It's also fattening as hell and not at all healthy. I took a lot of care in preparing it and watched it like a hawk for a whole hour and a half, tasting and tweaking as I went. If you're going to make it, I suggest the same.

Here's (roughly) how I made it. If I list measurements, that's what I used. If I don't, it's to taste. Capisce? Good, here it is:
  • Virgin Olive oil
  • Medium Yellow Onion - diced
  • (Med carrot if you want, I omit - diced)
  • (Med Celery Rib if you want it, I omit - diced)
  • 4 pieces veggie bacon, cut into small pieces
Put some olive oil in a large saucepan, heat until shiny, then add the above ingredients. Cook until the onions are nearly translucent. Once cooked, put them in a glass bowl on the side.
  • 1 package Upton Naturals Italian Sausage style seitan (I can't say enough about this brand, it is amazing. They also make freaking awesome tamales. You need to eat them. So good.)
  • 1/2 package of defrosted Boca crumbles (if you cook them frozen they have too much water)
  • 2 large garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 3/4 cup white whine (chardonnay works)
  • 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • basil (I use a combo of fresh & dried)
  • thyme (dried)
  • oregano (fresh & dried)
  • kosher salt (or sea salt)
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup of Silk Soy creamer (original flavor)
  • Parma! Vegan Parmesean
  • Box of pasta, cooked (I use spaghetti, semolina not whole wheat)
Add the rest of the olive oil to the saucepan and heat until shiny. Add the Upton sausage and the Boca crumbles and cook for about 5 - 10 minutes. Return the onions, etc in the glass bowl to the saucepan. Add the garlic and continue cooking over high heat for about a minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes (and their juice), the vegetable stock stock, and the bay leaf, thyme, basil, & oregano. Add salt & pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat for 1 hour. If it looks too watery, boil it down with the cover off until it's less liquidy. You want a thicker sauce. When it looks good to you, discard the bay leaf. Stir in the soy cream and cook for a few more minutes.

Start the pasta during the last 15 mins of cooking, keep the sauce warm until the pasta is cooked & drained. Put the sauce over the noodles, add the vegan parm, and enjoy!

If you make it, please do let me know what you think!

For dessert, I made Cherrybrook Kitchen's Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla frosting. NOMNOMNOM!! I bought the mix & frosting at Whole Foods. I will SO totally be buying them again (and again and again).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Like a Shark with a Laser Beam...

This will be short - I am sleepy: Day Two! Still going strong - no problems. Today I walked out of my office and a lady gave me a flyer about Compassion & Veganism. COINCIDENCE? I think not!! I'm carrying on...

One thing I have noticed: laser-like focus! Holy moly. I have had no problems concentrating at all, which is very odd for me.

Today I ate:

Jamba Juice Steel Cut Oatmeal w. blueberries & blackberries (no brown sugar crumble)
Leftover gnocchi
Edamame salad (soooo good)
Banana (or Banasna as it were)
Vegan Meatloaf & Roasted New Potatoes


The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of “real food for real people,” you’d better live real close to a real good hospital.
—Neal D. Barnard, MD, President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Monday, July 27, 2009

How it all vegan... *

So, first day down. SUCCESS!! This has been a super simple change. It was expensive (those of you that witnessed my grocery store rants on Twitter know this already). I spent about $230 on groceries. Once I got everything put away, I realized I don't need any super fancy plan that is going to cost me a bazillion dollars, I can totally do these things on my own & just use some of these recipes. That will save me a ton of dinero. Anyway, here's what I ate today:

Rip's Big Bowl
I made it based on the Engine 2 Diet & it was AWESOME. It had rolled oats, grape nuts, shredded wheat, Total cereal (my substitution), bananas, kiwi, walnuts, raisins, grapefruit, and soy milk. Sooooo good. The full recipe is here.

Cherries... nomnomnom

Made some whole wheat pasta with olive oil, garlic, sea salt (my own recipe - not on a plan), and then made some hummus (garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, sea salt, garlic, blend in food processor). I found these Ezekiel pita pockets yesterday at Whole Foods and they are awesome. I shoved some hummus in them and ate those too. Deeelish!

Hours later I reeeeeked of garlic.

Uncle Eddie's Vegan Chocolate Chip with Walnut cookie - these cookies freaking rule! (They are my fave cookie even when I'm not veganing. My other favorite & incidentally vegan item is Sweet & Sara's Smores. OMG to die for - seriously.)

Dinner was fast & easy. Muir Glen Organic pasta sauce (Garlic Roasted Garlic - more garlic, I am going to stink tomorrow) over frozen potato gnocchi. I made a baby spinach salad in it I put: kalamata olives, banana peppers, avocado (cuz I wanted cheese but the Guru says this is better, and my tastebuds agree), alfalfa sprouts, and heirloom tomatoes. I have some soy yogurt that I might throw some frozen cherries in later, or I might no do dessert (not normal). Or I might have an Uncle Eddie's - we'll see.

So, today was good and easy. But, I worked from home & was able to make all my own food - that helped. Tomorrow, I will be in the office. I am heading there equipped with a bounty of vegan deliciousnesses. (Including some leftover gnocchi for lunch!)

One good thing is that I work just a couple blocks away from the West Loop Whole Foods, so I can pick up some more Sweet & Sara Smores if it's nice enough for a walk!!

*apologies to the writers of "How it all Vegan" cookbook, available here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Skinny Bitchin' and Fire Engines

So, things only have to happen a few times before I start to take them as hints from the universe to do something. Most recently I keep running across discussions about plant-based diets, specifically the ones featured in Skinny Bitch and the Engine 2 Diet books. I have had the Skinny Bitch books (Original and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch) and just bought the husband "Skinny Bastard". (And then @KatyLampson decided to Skinny Bitch it and she's in Texas. So I figure, why not?!)

Then, I kept coming across interviews and articles where Lance Armstrong kept mentioning Rip Esselstyn. (My understanding is that Lance uses Rip's eating plan but incorporates some percentage of animal proteins as well.) Anyway, when I looked him up, I found that he was the founder of the Engine 2 diet - another plant-based way of eating that is meant to improve your health and mood, etc. So I figure, what the heck - let's give this a shot! I mean, if it's good enough for Dave Scott - six-time Hawaii Ironman Champion, it's good enough for me!

As a little background, I am a meat and potatoes kind of gal for the most part. I had been a vegetarian before for about 2.5 years then phased fish in to my diet. It started when I watched Peta's Meet your Meat video and ended with a run-in with a steak burrito suizo that put me right back on the meat wagon. Since then, I have gone back & forth. I will say that as a vegetarian, I was down to a size 4 (which at 5'8" is pretty awesome) and felt great. When I went back to my meat eating ways I put on weight (which was further compounded by a consulting job that had me traveling all the time and eating out every day). So, I figure it's time to get serious about getting healthy. I mean, I'm not getting any younger, right?!

To get started I have printed out the week one menu and shopping list (how easy can it get, right?!) from and will hit the grocery stores tomorrow. We (my husband & I) will be embarking on what should be a 4 week introduction to a healthier lifestyle.

What does all this mean? Well, I am going to try to blog it as I go through to keep track of how I am doing, feeling, etc. etc. I am excited because I have been working with HolisticGuru and already have some great recipes that I can use right off the bat. That plus these shopping lists and weekly plans that are already written out from Engine 2 should give me an easy way to shift into the new way of eating & thinking about food. Then, I can incorporate some of my own creations, things from the Skinny Bitch repertoire, and other cook books too.

This seems like it will be exciting and challenging, as well as having the benefit of making me healthier. But, let's be honest, a big draw for me is dropping the weight once & for all. It's getting tough hauling my bootay up those hills on my bike!!