race recap #3: race morning scramble…

Race morning, we had a 4 a.m. alarm. Yikes! – as far as I’m concerned, 4 a.m. the world simply doesn’t exist most days. Not surprisingly, it was a not-so-great night of sleep (but at least we had gone to bed early to kind of make up for it…?)

Breakfast for me was an Ensure and ¾ of a bagel with butter. I think there is a possibility that I had a banana too but it’s all a haze. It’s possible I had one bite of a banana and then gave up. Typically I’m not much of a morning eater and especially not much of a race morning eater so I usually have to force myself to eat on race morning. But my stomach must have had its game face on too because it was surprisingly cooperative.

We were out of the house by 4:45 a.m. and made a quick drive and parked without any issues just a few minutes’ walk to the transition area /and swim start (definitely an advantage to being a local) .

IMG_6065

It was foggy and peaceful on race morning, very mysterious looking. You almost expected to see Nessie poking her head out of the misty lake.

volunteers in the mist

volunteers in the mist

But perhaps most importantly IT WAS NOT RAINING! All week it had rained and all week the weather promised no rain and mild temperatures for about 30 hours, including race day but it was followed by another few days of rain and thunderstorms and you know how weather forecasts have a way of being either flat out wrong or just off by a day or two? So do I. I wasn’t holding my breath, but I was ecstatic when it turned out to be true!

race day rain sandwich

race day rain sandwich

It was still very quiet on the walk over to the transition. But as soon as we entered the transition, chaos took over.

First things first – we should’ve dropped our special needs bags off before we entered transition (more on that later…). But instead, our first stop was the bikes. I dropped off my first cheeseburger (yes, I said cheeseburger but don’t go crazy, it was just a little jr. cheeseburger), put my Perpetuem bottle in my water bottle holder and velcroed-in the aero bottle full of water. The 2nd water bottle slot was reserved for a bottle of Ironman Perform (energy drink) that I would pick up at the 1st aid station about 10 miles into the bike course.

race day fuel treat...

race day fuel treat…

Then, I found hubby who was done using the bike pump and we brought it back to my bike to top off my tires. (There were a lot of people who recommended NOT filling tires all of the way on the day before just in case it was hot out and the air expanded and popped your tires, so we erred on the side of caution).

After that, we passed our pump over the fence to our family and they went to stash it in the car and find a good place to watch the swim. Hubby and I headed off to grab a few things from our bike gear bags that we had dropped off on Saturday – I had food that I wanted to pre-stash on my bike so I didn’t have to worry about it during the transition (there would be plenty to do then and more pressure to do it faster…which would probably result in me forgetting something!). Hubby also had some things to pick up and stash on the bike, so we split up and decided to meet on the beach near the warm up area.

I didn’t have to worry about visiting the porta-potties – my race morning nerves were surprisingly calm and my stomach was being very cooperative. I dropped the rest of my food off at my bike and decided it was time to start squirming into my wetsuit. First was the sunscreen, then the bottom half of the wetsuit.

I body-glided my neck and hairline where my suit usually chafes with one of those itty-bitty little body glides they just started coming out with…which at first I thought was handy but quickly decided not to ever buy them again. First of all, they’re tiny and not well attached to the canister. So one swipe and the ¼ inch of body glide fell off and into the grass. And at 3 for $10 or whatever they were, you’re basically paying for the container and a dime-sized or two’s worth of body glide – it’s a total rip off. But I digress.

better to use the big ones than the pocket sized ones...

better to use the big ones than these silly pocket sized ones…

I picked it up off the ground and began applying it and threw what was left into my morning clothes bag with my sweats. I pulled out my goggles, my neoprene cap, my race cap, my water bottle and a gel and headed to drop off my morning clothes bag.

I had 3 bags left to drop before I hit the beach. It was chaos trying to drop off the morning clothes bag but relatively uneventful since it was only other athletes in the crowd, all of whom were trying to move pretty quickly towards their destinations whether it was a morning clothes drop off a porta-potty or the beach. By the time I dropped off my morning clothes bag (in transition), it was probably around 5:50, just a few minute before the pros started and they were starting to call for athletes to move to the beach. I asked a volunteer where to drop off my special needs bags and quickly found out that their instructions of just cutting through transition and out onto the street was incorrect and that I’d have to leave transition and walk a couple of blocks to the street corner where the trucks were waiting for the bags.

The crowds were starting to get thick outside the athlete area as spectators tried to find the best vantage points. I was like a fish swimming upstream – it was slooooooooooooooooooooow moving. I tried not to panic, but the crowds were packed in tight and barely inching along, if they were moving at all. Plus, by this time I was barefoot and desperately trying to move quickly and gently and also trying to avoid getting my feet and toes stepped on and walking gingerly to go easy on my shoeless feet. It took what seemed like forever to get to the trucks, but I quickly handed off my last bags to the volunteers, prayed I would see those bags where they were supposed to be later in the day, and headed back the way I came from for more upstream crowd swimming to get to the beach and the swim start.

I had my wetsuit halfway on, but at this point I was starting to tug the sleeves on. Just in case.

In hindsight, it would have been best to drop off the special needs bags before I ever went into the transition area, way before the streets and sidewalks were packed with spectators. But it all worked out ok. Thank goodness we decided to get up so early – an hour and 20 minutes in transition and I don’t know how I could have been too much faster other than the bag drops.  But I made it to the beach toes intact and  tried to collect myself as the pros hit their first turns about 1000 yards out.

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race day recap part 1: preparation

You may or may not know that Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013 – the BIG DAY – was this past weekend – Sunday, June 23, 2013.

As you might expect, the two weeks leading up to Ironman were taper weeks… though the first week of taper wasn’t as light as I thought (still had a 10 mile run and a 4 hour bike ride). The second week of taper was spent getting ready for company and frankly, my final taper week basically involved cleaning the house, a few short workouts and sleeping as much as possible. We’ve been quite busy with getting race ready, and we also had race fans come into town both surprise ones and planned ones, so I haven’t had time to write about race week as much as I thought I might. So I’ll break my race recap into a few different parts, starting with all of the preparation leading up to race day.

Ironman involves so much more than showing up on race day. True – most races do. But Ironman takes it to a whole new level. With an event 140.6 miles long and no external support allowed, the weeks leading up to Sunday were spent making lists and comparing our lists to other people’s lists to make sure that we remembered everything we could need for the day from chamois cream to race morning breakfast to race day nutrition and hydration to spare cartridges and making sure the right pair of running shorts made it into the run gear bag. Ironman races can take really little things and turn them into REALLY BIG PROBLEMS. A tiny little seam that chafes just a smidge in a sprint tri or a half marathon can leave you hobbling your last miles and the days following.

Despite the weeks of researching and checking and re-checking and adding to my list what seemed like constantly, I kept adding to it – post it notes to remember to make sure sunscreen is on the list, or handwritten notes on my printed copy I had on the fridge reminding myself to make sure I grab extra contacts just in case things went awry in the lake. And as you know, I was a little concerned about the weather leading into the race, so trying to plan for contingencies such as cold water, cold weather, wind and rain made planning even more important.

The week leading up to race day, we put out paper grocery sacks labeled to match the bags we would receive when we checked in and started packing early so avoid any last minute scrambles and identify what we needed to go out and buy before the other 2200 athletes arrived in town and bought out all of the local stores.

packing in advance...

Here’s the list I created for myself:

All bags:

  • sunscreen (I bought little travel bottles of it and put it in every bag we had. It did come in handy in my bike special needs bag on race day but they had sunscreen at both of the transitions and even some volunteers dedicated to putting it on for you if you wanted it! )
  • chapstick
  • washcloth
  • water bottle
  • athletic tape
  • eyedrops

Wearing on race morning:

  • Sweats
  • sports bra
  • tri top and bottoms

Green – Morning clothes

  • race cap
  • neoprene cap
  • goggles + spare goggles
  • timing chip
  • body glide
  • ear plugs (I didn’t use these…)
  • old water bottle/disposable water to take onto the beach and drink with gel
  • nutrition (30-60 minutes out) – I didn’t end up using this…
  • gel (10 minutes out)
  • wetsuit
  • mp3 player (pre-race, leave with family) – I didn’t end up doing this either…too chaotic.
  • Garmin/watch

Blue – Bike Gear

  • towel
  • spare contacts
  • helmet with race # sticker
  • race belt with race number
  • sunglasses (inside of a protective case)
  • arm sleeves (rolled down)
  • jacket/shirt/jersey
  • leg warmers
  • bike socks (rolled down, stuffed inside shoes)
  • bike shoes
  • toe caps for bike shoes (already on the shoes)
  • baggie of endurolyte capsules for first 65 miles
  • 2 spare bike tube (I normally carry 1 and a cell phone to phone a friend. But for race day I duct taped a 2nd onto my frame just in case I had a really unlucky bike leg)
  • gloves
  • chamois cream / travel lube to carry with

Orange- Bike special needs

  • perpetuem powder for 3 hour bottle
  • water bottle (they didn’t have any water at the special needs station – this was to mix with the perpetuem)
  • chamois cream /lube – travel tube to carry with
  • extra tube
  • 2 CO2 cartridges

Red – Run Gear

  • washcloth
  • water bottle to wash the bike grime off my face
  • eye drops (I DID actually pack them and use them here)
  • running socks
  • running shoes
  • vaseline
  • body glide
  • endurolytes capsules for the first 13.1 miles
  • hat/visor
  • new shirt? (I didn’t change my shirt)
  • running capris
  • underwear
  • positive note
  • extra race bib

Black- Run special needs

  • long sleeves / long sleeved shirt
  • vaseline
  • salt and vinegar chips
  • bandaids / tape

Bike – 1st 65 miles

  • Perpetuem – 3 ½ hour bottle, premixed and put on bike race morning
  • 3 stinger waffles
  • Wendy’s jr. cheeseburger (no onions)
  • 3 Gus
  • Almonds

Bike – 2nd 49 miles

  • Baggie with 3 hours of Perpetuem powder
  • 2 Gus
  • Wendy’s cheeseburger
  • 2 stinger waffles

I had a few others things on various lists – coke, candy bars, oreos, etc.  It’s hard to predict what might sound good on race day. But it’s also easy to go overboard and have WAYYYYYY too much stuff and you don’t want to carry any more than you have to… I could have gone without carrying Gus but I didn’t want to be forced to eat any flavors I didn’t want to so I carried what I liked. I also could have skipped the almonds, but I carried more calories than I needed in case I couldn’t stomach something during the race I could replace it without skipping a beat.

It’s quite the list, but maybe someone here will find it helpful. If not, maybe I’ll use it again later. Maybe…

it’s just $50 more…

Once upon a time, I was standing in the kitchen, declaring to my hubby my decision to do a half-Ironman. It was a somewhat random decision and a little out of the blue, so not surprisingly, Hubby asked “Why?” To which I confidently responded, “Well, I know I can swim. And I know I can run. And any fool can ride a bike!

That was then. But now?

Turns out, NOT every fool can bike. SIGH. Almost every fool can bike… I appear to be the grand exception.

Ok, maybe I’m not a completely awful biker but that is how it feels a lot of days. More days than not an individual who I’ve deemed NOT worthy of passing me for one reason or another goes whizzing, I mean WHIZZING past me with what appears to be virtually ZERO effort. Let’s agree that: a) there is a good, valid reason they’re faster than me, like the fact that they’ve probably put a lot of time and effort (and $$) into biking and therefore deserve to be faster and b) I’m not a great biker, probably because I haven’t put in as much into it as the speedy bugger that just passed me. 

Here’s the thing about biking that I’ve discovered. Unlike running, which you can do with really pretty minimal equipment, and swimming, which is almost purely technique-driven, biking is hugely gear-driven in my opinion and way more so than the other 2 sports involved in Ironman.

Weight, rolling weight, cadence, road vs-tri bikes, racing wheels, threads-per-inch, carbon frames and super fantastic components and accessories just to name a few things… All of these things can add up to have an effect on race day. And each of them is “Just $50 more…”. (Actually many of them are just $100 more or $200 more, but I digress.)

If you’re me, you learn about them 5 or 6 weeks before race day.You know, when you’re spazzing out about making cut-off times and freaking out about trying to figure out all of the logistical stuff and squeezing in a couple of last looooong bike rides and its too late to do much about a lot of them.

Cool gadgets. Aero bar hammocks? Whoa, what’s that? (I’m sure I need one…)

The latest and greatest tri shorts? Spandex colorful enough that your family and friends can find you in the crowd of athletes (and flattering enough that you’d dare drape yourself in skin-tight fabric from your neck to knees for the duration of the day (12-17 hours?) when thousands of athletes better looking and in better shape than you and thousands of spectators will see you and judge you based on how well you are pulling off said spandex…). And more importantly, comfortable enough that it’s tolerable for that long?

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

There are stats that will show you just how expensive completing an Ironman is. And I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical of the numbers. The popular figure seems to be $10,000. That seemed like an exaggeration at the time but I may be changing my tune.

But here we are, just 29 days from race day and new gear seems to be appearing at our house – if we don’t pick it up in the store, it magically arrives at our doorstep almost daily (oh, e-commerce, how I love and loathe you…). Cases of energy gels for training. Protein powder. New running shoes. Drink mixes. Water bottles. Shorts. New tires for race day. Neoprene cap and swim booties, just in case the water is freezing.

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

Another bike fit to fine tune a few last minute things (Cha-ching)…which leads to a new bike seat or two to make the aero position tolerable (Cha-ching, cha-ching). You may even be as (un)lucky as me and have to try a bunch of different seats to find the one that will work.

Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.

I haven’t kept track of our spending for Ironman. I guess if I were to add anything to that $10,000 figure it would be to say that I think a lot of the spending is front and back-loaded. Gear to get you up and going. And then all the last minute stuff you discover you “need”.

And that’s where we’re at. Broke, exhausted, grumpy, tired of energy gels and surrounded by a mess of FedEx boxes. There are a lot of things we’ve decided to pass on (like $300 on renting race day wheels to save 10-15 minutes).  But hopefully there are also a lot of things that we’ve “invested” in that besides draining our accounts will hopefully also more and more ready for race day. Here’s hoping…

It’s like this – only my bank account does NOT say 1-0-0-0-0-0-oh so you can’t help but  feel broke when you get home!

sweating the small stuff…

Someone once said, don’t sweat the small stuff. That someone obviously never did Ironman.

There are all of these little things (that all add up and can easily make the difference between making it and not making it). When you think about it, so much has to go RIGHT for you to make it from Day 1 of training, 6 months of training. And there’s a ton of things that need to go RIGHT for you to cross the finish line on race day. These little things compound, especially (seemingly) after about 65 miles on the bike. And all these small things are the things we need to sweat right now.

Clothing issues: to tri suit  for the day or change at each transition? Seams on your running shorts or bike chamois can cause major issues over 140 miles. Bike shoes slightly too small?

Gear issues: Aero bars too close or too far away? How’s the bike seat – do you have a road seat that doesn’t work once you need to spend hours in the aero position? Running shoes – too old or too new? Both can cause issues. Do you know where you chafe?

Temperature issues: How cold is the water going to be on race day? Are you acclimated to it? Have you planned for it (aka – booties, just in case? Ear plugs to keep the ice cold water out of your brain? Are you used to the neoprene cap that makes you feel like a little munchkin is hanging onto your throat for dear life the entire swim?)?

Then there’s the food issues: leading up to race day and of course during the race. Nervous stomach? How am I going to eat breakfast that morning with my stomach in knots? What am I going to eat to keep my energy up and not bonk but also not have gastrointestinal issues that put a premature end to the day? Can I possibly manage to choke down one energy gel every 40 minutes for 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 hours (for me, I’ve come to realize the answer is no)?

Hydration issues during the event: Have you been training with what they will provide on the course? Does your stomach tolerate it or will you use your own? If you’re using your own, how are you going to carry and restock?

Special needs bags – what’s going in them? You don’t get them back and they may get lost in the shuffle so it needs to be good stuff, but good stuff you may have to go without…

Race week strategy. Race day strategy. Survival strategy. All the stuff of many many little things.

As the workouts get longer, the small things become a bigger deal. A seventy mile bike ride last weekend left my lower back KILLING me. I could not have possibly ridden another 40. Something needed to be done. A new bike fit to make the aero position doable for hours upon hours.

This weekend’s 80 miler was a test run for the new fit – the back is much better. But now the saddle is no bueno. Great. Saddle research, saddle shopping.

It was also a test run for different food – non-energy gel food – sweet potatoes, tortilla with honey and almond butter, fig newtons. Mostly good – no Gu-gut bomb, and while I could’ve done a better job toward the end, no major bonk.

But with just 6 weeks to go, there’s a very small (and quickly shrinking) window of time in which to fiddle with things. So there is also a sense of frantic desperation… we are frantically fiddling, researching, and fine tuning with hopes that things will click in the next few weeks and we’ll be golden by race day!  Here we go… sweating the small stuff 24/7 till we’ve got it all figured out!

analyze this…

Last summer, the last triathlon of the year, we were super late on race morning. We had a drive ahead of us and we forgot to get gas the night before. I had a work event that kept us out late the night before and we were in a hotel. It was morning before we realized we had forgotten we would need to grab breakfast. Oh, and have I mentioned before that I am not a morning person?

It was the most unprepared I have ever been for any race. We barely made it in time and when we did finally arrive, we had registration issues to resolve (of course!), and a timing guy to track down, not to mention getting ready for the actual race. We scrambled to find space to throw our bikes and could hear the race director giving the last minute instructions as we threw all of our gear on the ground and were shimmying into our wetsuits and we ran to the start line and pulling on our swim caps and goggles at the very very last second. The race went surprisingly ok… but those were, by far, the worst transitions I have EVER had. And hopefully the worst I will ever have again.

What is the point of this story, you ask? Well, the other night I had a dream. An Ironman dream. About race morning, to be more specific. And in my dream, I was horribly HORRIBLY unprepared. I didn’t know where to rack my bike. I didn’t know what to check in. I couldn’t find my race number. I didn’t know where the course went. I was TOTALLY unprepared.

Dream analyze that…!

You don’t need to be a psychologist.

I woke up with the most AWFUL sinking feeling in my gut. It took me all morning to shake it. Truly.

Suffice it to say, I think that right now, in Week 12 (already!), I’m feeling just a little behind the 8 ball. I know people who are consistently riding 5 hours at a time and I’m just getting up to 3:30. People are talking about doing century rides and running marathons and I’m just now up to a half marathon distance. I still need to dial in my gear – what I’m going to bike in and run in. How I’m going to stay warm in water that will very likely be in the low 60s.

And I’m tired. Oh so tired. Always so very tireZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Ugh. Its hard not to feel behind. Its hard not to doubt.

I guess the good news here is that I have time. Twelve more weeks to get up to speed on the course, the rules, how the day might go, what could go wrong (and what could go right!), to test the gear, do trial runs, to put in the work and have faith that my efforts will get me there.

And race morning chaos? Well. I guess I have 12 weeks to plan for that too!

shrimp soooooooup…

You are what you eat. We’ve all heard it. And look. I’m not proud of it, but it happens every year. I get busy and my diet goes down the pooper. And when that happens, my training struggles.

Likely I don’t have the energy because snacking on cheese and crackers and a handful of peanut M&Ms for “lunch” doesn’t exactly give you strength and lasting energy for sustained efforts such as those required for Ironman training (probably why I’ve been having a rough training week, don’tcha think?!).

Adding to that is the overwhelming feeling that working out this much should (and nearly always does) mean I can eat whatever I damn please. So I do. Is that usually a well balanced, nutrient filled meal? Not unless you count a reuben and tater tots as well balanced…Sluggish runs, here we come!

photo from ebruli, flickr

photo from ebruli, flickr

The ongoing struggle in our household is having quick, easy and healthy meals (and the ingredients needed on hand) and the foresight to plan ahead, making grocery lists and go to the store. This year, I swore I’d do better. The jury’s still out but this week was pretty much a FAIL, with the exception of last night.

Here’s a newly discovered favorite that we’ve adapted to make even faster and even easier and it was a lovely feast that becomes yummier and yummier as the leftovers sit beckoning in the fridge:

Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Soup 

  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 – 1 whole large white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup celery, chopped
  • 2-3+ minced chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce (the recipe calls for 1 tbsp but we can’t get enough of the smoky, spicy wonderfulness of these chiles!)
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 8 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (15-ounce) can great northern beans or white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 24+ ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp (if you get cooked shrimp, you only need to add the shrimp and cook till warm)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • tortilla chips
  • avocados

Preparation

1. Heat a very large soup pot / stock pot over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and saute onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); cook 6 minutes or until celery is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth, beans, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover and cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp; cook 2 minutes or until shrimp are done (or heated through if you used pre-cooked).

2. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice. Garnish with cilantro, tortilla chips and avocado, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings (about 1 3/4 cups soup)

(Sorry for no photo – I was so hungry last night I forgot to snap one before I dug in and scarfed it down! Adapted from Cooking Light – they have a lovely photo you can ogle)

new reasons for guilt…

When you’re training for Ironman, your time disappears. Quickly. You have a calendar, a tight schedule that walks you step by step by step by week by week by week towards what you hope will be those final steps that find you crossing a finish line and hearing those magical words “You are an Ironman”. At first it seems insurmountable. All the free time you had before is suddenly gone and then some. And then, as you go along day after day, it seems doable. Step by step. Giving up evenings and lunches and sleeping and hanging with friends seems ok. Letting the dishes sit for one more day is ok. And you get used to it. For a while. But then you feel guilty for skipping friends. Taking days to return phone calls to family because you’re too busy working and working out. Putting off laundry yet another day becomes impossible. Blogging about your time (as you can see from the date of my last entry) falls to the bottom of the list.

And here we are. Seven weeks in and things have started to fray. Ever so slightly at first. Skipping a workout to see a friend, grabbing a drink here and there. Missing a lunchtime workout because work won’t allow for sneaking away. It’s subtle. Work picks up and a few lunch workouts disappear. But sticking to evenings and throwing in an early morning (dang near impossible for an staunchly non-morning person like myself) every once in a while makes it possible to cover up those misses. But then? Piled on top of that, we had a trip planned to visit family for 5 days last week… An active 5 days, but still only 1 “official” workout.

Here’s the thing about falling off the wagon – once you fall off, getting back on can be a little tricky. Time keeps right on a-tickin’ and the wagon keeps on a-rollin’. It can be hard to get back in the swing of things. So this week, as I was catching up with work that piled while I was gone, there were a few more missed workouts this week. And this weekend, we’ll be out of town again for a birthday celebration (cake and very possibly, no workouts). And whaddaya know, I’m feeling guilty about it. Even though before this little stint, I regularly hit 7 or 8 workouts a week and this week, I’ll still get in a solid 5 workouts. I’ll feel guilty for missing one or two.

When you get used to 2 workouts a day, its easy to feel that a 1-workout day or a rest day is total slackertown. But seriously, don’t fall into that trap. First of all, one workout a day is more than many people can manage on a normal day. And second of all, slackertown is totally an alright place to visit, just don’t become the mayor. Enjoy your time there – rest days are so important. And maybe more importantly, the mental rest days are priceless. So tonight I got my nearly 3 hour bike ride in on my trainer (ick) and tomorrow, I will enjoy the birthday version of slackertown, complete with indulgent foods, some cake, and even a skipped workout or two. But I’ll be back and rested and ready to take on Week 8 (gulp!) with a vengeance!

frozen foods…

As you might expect, training for Ironman means you want (and need) to eat. Lots.

I’m this way without training for anything, so one of the best things for me about any training program (but especially training for endurance races like Ironman) is the ability (and justification) to eat whatever it is you darn please. However, training also puts a severe damper on the amount of time you have to do non-training things, such as grocery shop and cook… minor details.

In previous years when I’ve trained for half Ironman distances, I’ve had weeks where I was just so darn tired from working and training, training and working, that I didn’t want to do anything but SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP when nighttime or the weekend came.

I don’t imagine that this year will be any different and in fact the need to have easy, accessible, relatively nutritious food is doubled with two hungry bears in our household training for Ironman. So on my rest day the other day, I ran out to the grocery store and picked up all sorts of yummies – ingredients for things that could be cooked and prepared now while I have the time and frozen for future convenient consumption.

Behold my progress!

yum yums for later!

yum yums for later!

I am no professional food photographer, nor am I a professional chef. But I can tell you that a frozen lasagna and a container full of 3 bean chili are happily sitting in my freezer now, waiting to fulfill their destinies as fuel in a time crunch in the near future. The third is a concoction of the nuts – oats- chocolate – raisins persuasion that was intended to be saved for future but proved to be too tasty to resist!

I hope to have some more time this coming week to put together some more freezer meals while the workouts are still relatively short. The more I can make, the better!  My future self will thank me…

Do you have a favorite freezer-type standby meal?

transitions…

This past weekend was the last tri of the season for me (at least as far as I know…). It was an Olympic distance and it went, well, it went alright. It was a new PR for me, but I found myself less than pleased with it – it was barely a PR. But breaking down my splits, it didn’t add up – my swim time was just a minute or two slower than what I’ve been averaging this season. Actually slightly slower than I’d like to be, but I need to push myself more on the swim instead of cruising… another topic for another day. My bike was a full 7 minutes faster than my last Olympic distance back in July, and my time for the 10K run was almost dead even with my last Olympic distance race. So. By all logic, I should have hit a new PR by at least 5 minutes and yet…

I had only broken my PR by about a minute. What gives? Ah, darn transitions. The thing I don’t ever train for… Killed me this time!

We had been running late the morning of the race. Really late. And when we got there, we had to pick up packets, only to find out that my hubby’s registration didn’t go through so we had to straighten that out, track down the guy running the timing for the day and set up our transitions, get all wetsuited up and get down to the beach in time for the start. Whew. It was close. Needless to say, I was so rushed that I didn’t pay any attention to where we had stashed our bikes (racks weren’t labeled by numbers, it was a free for all). And I had hurriedly pulled all of my stuff out, not really in any sensible way. Boy did I pay for it. My transitions were all out of whack, especially T1. And that’s what cost me my opportunity to smash my PR. Silly transitions.

Ah, well. That’s the joy of racing, right? Anything can happen. Frankly, I’m not going to be practicing my transitions any time soon. And I suppose I’ll take rocky transitions over cramps or a flat tire any day. But next time I think I’ll make it a point to be there just a little earlier. Even if it means this “s0 not a morning person” needs to get up just a smidge earlier.

eating in a food desert…

I eat constantly. I’ll admit it. And it’s even more pronounced when I’m training (at least then I have a good reason!). I’ll admit I never thought much about the concept of a “food desert” until I started working 35 miles “out of town” at the end of 2011, in the heart of rural America. Food deserts, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a low-income community without ready access to healthy and affordable food, have gotten some attention recently. Ironically, despite the fact that the food we eat is often grown in rural America, many rural towns lack access to healthy and affordable food.

Sure, there’s a grocery store where I work – right across the street even. But the healthy options are not prolific. The produce leaves a little something to be desired. The quick options consist of fried stuff (chicken, French fries and Jo Jos) and of course you can always grab a box of donuts. And there are always lots and lots of processed foods to choose from. Beyond the grocery store, there are a couple of greasy spoon diners and 1 fast food restaurant. Gag. Fried food reigns supreme, with scarce options for healthy choices. For someone like me, that won’t cut it.

Every night before I go to bed, I pack breakfast, lunch and snacks to get me through the work day and the mid-day workout. Which is usually fine. Except that I may have mentioned that training takes up So. Much. Time. And it makes me too lazy to go grocery shopping. Which means that too often, my refrigerator is E-M-P-T-Y, save for some tortillas, and a maybe a couple of beers. And some salad dressings. Enough for a wrap style version of what was once my little brother’s favorite: condiment sandwiches. Gross then. Gross now. (Love you Mikey!)

So yesterday, I got back from a long, hot run,grabbed some water and stuck my lunch in the microwave. Excellent – this is really going to hit the spot, I thought to myself. And then I dropped it. All over the floor. WHAAAAAAAAAT?! Way to go. Lunch went from almost fulfilling to a tease. Four measly bites instead of 12. Or 24. We’ll never know. And that was all I had with me. Even the snacks I usually stash were depleted. It was a long, hungry afternoon. Yes, woe is me.

But it was just the kick in the behind that I needed to restock things on the home front and last night, after my bike ride, I hit the grocery store even though it was late and I was stinky and sweaty and in desperate need of a shower. I filled my basket with produce, ah produce – fruits for smoothies and snacks, veggies for salads and stir-frys – hopefully enough to get me through the weekend even. Apparently, these days, a cart full of produce will get you a comment from the clerk, “Healthy living!” indeed! And today, I packed wayyyy too much healthy food for the day, over planned, if you will, determined not to be hungry after today’s lunchtime swim workout, should I happen to develop butterfingers again!

hip, hip, hooray!

(Quick side note here: I live “in town”, I have a safe and reliable method of transportation, and every day I pass no less than a dozen grocery stores well stocked with health options. Twice- on my way to work and again on my way home.  I recognize that I am fortunate to have infinitely more options than those who live in rural America or elsewhere in the world – all I need to do is plan ahead. I’m well aware that I don’t have an actual problem here, unlike many who live in food deserts who actually do face a significant challenge to eating healthy.

Food deserts are an interesting concept. The lack of healthy and affordable food is certainly an obstacle to health, especially when you add to the fact that fried, unhealthy food is usually cheap and oh-so-very-convenient, making it an appealing option for many across the country, not just rural residents. And let’s face it, a lack of access to healthy and affordable foods, or even just choosing fried anything-and-everything day after day commonly leads to and later compounds problems with obesity and diabetes. Many communities, including the one where I work, are working to find solutions and attempting to reverse the trend by forming fresh food coalitions and community gardens, encouraging physical activity, and hard working to educate folks on the realities of the health problems that are directly linked to the lack of healthy foods and made worse from a lack of physical activity. Hopefully progress is on the horizon, but change is often slow.)