Wednesday, November 12, 2014

working on the engine

"A carbon bike, carbon cranks, carbon pedals and carbon bottle cages will make the bike lighter and faster but the cheaper and easier way to make it lighter and faster is to NOT eat the cheeseburger!"
-- unknown on
It's too bad nobody told this person that cheeseburgers are delicious!  But yeah.. so one of my main focuses going into Ironman is nutrition.  As someone who is already anticipating the flirt with cutoff times, getting leaner will certainly contribute to my speed (not necessarily a 1:1 ratio, but less weight to carry around, more aerodynamic, less energy spent supplying extra fat with oxygen, etc).  So, I've enlisted the help of a nutritionist, and am happy to say that I am off to a good start:
Since the beginning of summer...slow and steady wins the race!
It's really just been the little things: choosing better snack options, ordering in food less, you know the drill.
Road trip snack plan: mine on top, Jon's on the bottom :-)
One small hiccup to my big "I'm gonna cook all my meals now" plan is that my stove broke over the summer.  And I didn't bother to do anything about it.  This wasn't 100% due to laziness (well, maybe 80% lazy), but it seems that my appliances are all the originals from when the house was built in the late 1970's, and they don't make any the same size anymore (d'oh!).  When I finally got around to calling a handyman (last week), a 15 minute conversation suddenly turned into me agreeing to a $35K remodeling job - Yikes! 
The new layout design!
So anyway, no stove [until early Spring] means that I have to get creative with how I make and prepare food.  Luckily the microwave, toaster oven and slow cooker are all fully operational.  Also, I don't do complicated.  Hell, I barely follow a recipe.  For this effort to be sustainable for me, I need simple and fast.  Buying produce is a wasted effort in my house as half of it gets tossed in the garbage when it goes bad after a few days.  So, I stocked up on a bunch of canned goods (black beans, diced tomatoes, salsa, marinara sauce) and frozen veggies (broccoli, corn, peppers) and got to work:
Southwestern chicken in the pot and ready to cook!
  • "Southwestern Chicken" - yum, this is absolutely my new favorite.  Throw chicken breasts into the slow cooker and cover with salsa.  Add in beans, tomatoes, corn.  Low for 8 hours, take a couple forks to the meat and wah-lah, shredded chicken!  I throw it on a tortilla and add cheese.  Done.
  • Breakfast Burritos [for dinner] - and all-time favorite that I've kind of given up for breakfasts b/c of my effort to not buy food at work.  I add tomatoes and peppers to the egg and "cook" it in the microwave.  Then I heat up some tempeh "bacon" strips in the toaster oven and combine it all on a tortilla with cheese.  Delicious.
  • Cheese Tortellini - super easy when you buy frozen tortellini, but the catch was the lack of stove.  So, I bought one of those microwave pasta cooker thingies.  Throw on some marinara sauce and you've got the quickest dinner known to man, even if you have to wait an extra 3 minutes to cook some broccoli for the side.
My nutritionist - Rebecca - gave me a goal of 12 more pounds by the end of the year.  That's going to get tricky with the holidays coming pie? pumpkin roll? cookies?  Yes please!  (all in moderation, Jen, all in moderation)  Wish me luck... game on.

Monday, November 3, 2014

miscellaneous off-season ramblings

OK, I'm not going to lie.  It hasn't been all blood, sweat and tears since I finished with my last big event in San Diego.  After a nice weekend in Key West, there was some laziness and lounging around... quite a bit of it actually. 
That's us with Eddie Montgomery (from Montgomery Gentry) and his wife in Key West!
But, as the coaches say...

"don't sleep on fall training. Without it your winter and spring will involve a painful 'restart' process!"

So, after about a week, I dragged my lazy butt off the couch...

30-day ab challenge

I tried and failed to get partners in crime for this challenge...but I decided to do it anyway.  Hoping it will make riding in the aero position a touch easier...???
...and I am happy to report that I completed every single day of this challenge! 
To sum up, that's a total of:
  • 1610 situps (actually, I did tuck-ups instead of situps)
  • 2120 crunches
  • 904 leg raises
  • 1397 seconds of plank
All in all, I spent a total of 3 hours and 23 minutes doing abs during October!  And one of the best things about this was that I could do a plank even on my bad foot!
Also known as the foot torture chamber...
When I finished PT, I knew I wasn't completely healed, but had hit a plateau and my therapist didn't think she could do any more for me.  She did put me in touch with a colleague of hers who designs apparatuses for injuries similar to mine.  I haven't been as consistent with using it (10 min x 6 times per day) as I should be, but still... progress!

I was so happy about completing the ab challenge that I gave myself a new goal of 30 runs in 30 days for November.  The rules are simple: each run [or walk] must be 1 mile or 15 min (whichever is longer), and multiple runs per day must be separated by an hour.  So far, so good, and I have even done more running than walking (hoping that forcing the activity will also help my back).

moving on up!

...I'm talking about swim lanes.  I actually postponed this as much as I could, but the coaches finally made me.  I really enjoyed my lane-mates in lane 3 and knew swimming wouldn't be the same without them. 
One of the few days I got to the pool early :-)
Not that I ever disliked my new lane-mates.... it's just different.

But then Linda moved up a lane also!!  And honestly, my new lane-mates are super nice as I start getting to know them, and [at least] one of them is even signed up for IMMD!

And, moving up does mean I'm getting faster though and that's a good thing!  Jon is right, I may bitch and moan about my alarm going off at 4:30 AM, and fighting the bats to get to my car (OK.. full disclosure, that only happened twice.. random!), but once I get there, I put in the work (well...usually).
This is completely random, but it made me think of the time Dan and I were in Spain (2009) and
thought we were getting attacked by bats!!  (might've been bats, might've been birds, we'll never know)
My goal is to get to the pool once per week until January when I'll start doubling up again.

more whining about my back

For the past few weeks, my back has really started acting up again.  I feel like it's stuck in some kind of catch-22.  I was OK during the summer when I was training a lot.  Then get to the off-season and my training goes down and my back hurts worse than ever.  Except.. it hurts too much to actually do anything!

One of the best things about the off-season is getting to do some different types of activities.  On one of the nicest days of Autumn we have had, Sweeney and I set out on a short hike in the Shenandoah.  We (I) couldn't make it to the top.  This hike hurt more and more with every step, and it was frustrating to have to turn around early.

I made an appointment with Dr. Mazahery to see what I can do.  I've gotten an ESI.  I've done physical therapy (twice), I've been to the chiropractor (three of them).  I have tried spinal decompression therapy, electrical stimulation, traction therapy, massage, foam roller, ice, heat, epsom salts.
More x-rays, another review of my MRI scan from last spring, and Dr. Mazahery suggests that I get another cortisone shot.  This one went in a little higher than the last one, and I don't think quite as deep (this one hurt, but not quite in the same way as the last time). 

I have lost the ability to be optimistic about this, but it seems like there is no further treatment plan.  Yeah, I could do physical therapy again or go see another chiropractor, but my back is not surgical (yet).  Fingers crossed this works.

I told Sweeney that we are going back to that hike and I will make it to the top of the mountain!!  I've been doing the stair-climber thing in my office gym to help train my back to that climbing motion.  It really bothered me that I caused us to turn around that day... I am not a quitter!!

I made it to track practice!

Track is the one type of group workout that I have been nervous about attending, simply because I am not a runner and have been nervous that I won't be able to get through the session.  I would periodically glance at the training plans and see 3 x 1200m or mile repeats, and realize that in my normal run/walk style, I don't necessarily run 1200m in a row... I'm supposed to do three of them?!
Since the team is just starting to ramp up again after the fall "A" races, the workouts are shorter.  I decided I was going to do this.  I set my alarm, packed my bag and was ready to go.... only I woke up to rain, turned off my alarm and said "eff this" - Fail.  But then.. last week, I finally made it!  My workout was 10 min zone 3, which I was able to jog all of, and then 2 x 400m in zone 4.. and I did it!  I'm not sure how it's gonna go when those intervals increase, but I realized that nobody is really watching you all that closely, and if I can't make an entire set, it will be OK.

So there you have it.  My semi-lazy off season is off to a reasonable start.  Though, I do need to get my ass back on my bike (literally).  This is the area that I have been hoping to make the biggest gains in over the winter, but that's not going to happen if the bike just sits there collecting dust.