Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jamie's Diet Food: Broccoli Soup

Emily's doing this thing called the Dukan Diet, which (I think) is sort of like a low-fat version of Atkins. It focuses on lean proteins and low-sugar vegetables, with some allowances made for whole grains and fruits in the maintenance phase. Since I do most of the cooking, I'm showing my support by coming up with interesting things to eat within the bounds of the diet, so she doesn't get bored with the bodybuilder version of "riding paniagua": chicken and water, water and chicken. This is one of the things I came up with.
Tastes better than it looks.
1 bunch of broccoli crowns (about 1 lb)
4 cups of chicken or veggie broth (I used boiling water and chicken bouillon)
1 whole onion, sliced
1 teaspoon of cooking fat (I used bacon grease, but you could use any cooking oil)
Salt & pepper to taste
Spike all-natural gourmet seasoning (or other generic spice mix) to taste

Slice onions. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions to the oil. They should bubble and hiss softly; they shouldn't spatter or spray. Let the onions sweat in the oil, stirring regularly, until they're soft and translucent and a little brown. This can take up to 20 minutes, but the longer you let them sweat, the tastier the soup will be in the end.

While the onions brown, chop the broccoli into small pieces. I used a food processor to pulverize mine. They don't have to be really fine bits, because they're going to end up pureed anyway. But smaller pieces cook faster.

When the onions are where you want them, add 4 cups of broth (or water and chicken soup base) and the chopped broccoli. Cover the saucepan and let it come to a rolling boil. Add salt, pepper, and Spike seasoning (or whatever you're using). Turn the heat down to a simmer.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup. If you don't like soup with texture, strain the soup through a fine mesh collander. Otherwise, your soup is ready.

Obviously, this soup would be even better with cream and cheese, but then it wouldn't count as Jamie's (and Emily's) Diet Food. Even without cream and cheese, the soup is pretty good. Not particularly filling, so I recommend it as a side dish, or with a nice salad.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Trihardist Vlog Preview: A Short Ride on the W&OD

I bought myself an (inexpensive) action camera! I have some ideas of ways to incorporate it into the blog: I'd like to make some free video cycling workouts; I feel like my audio workouts are a little behind-the-times, now that there are so many cool tools like Zwift and Trainer Road and even GCN's training videos! It's time for me to innovate. I also have ambitions of doing a vlog like Cycling Maven and Vegan Cyclist do. And of course I want to take footage of my races like all the cool kids!

This is my first experiment with the new camera. Let me know what you think, and if there are specific things that you would like to see now that I can do more video!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Race Report: Tour de Tysons (Cat 4 women)

In which I blow up spectacularly on the last hill, maybe a minute from the finish.

This race is so close to home for me, I could have ridden to it in less time than it took to drive. I didn't ride, though, because I had to return a teammate's sandbags (I'm always sandbagging) for the team tent. I was more careless than usual in my race prep as a result, and ended up forgetting my jersey. N00b.

A teammate lent me a jersey (size X-small), so I didn't have to ride the 1.1 miles home and back to get mine. I warmed up about 15 minutes on the trainer. It was uncomfortably hot, but the occasional breeze kept the temperature bearable. I got about 10 minutes on the course, which gave me a chance to take a look at some sketchy pavement in the second-to-last turn. I had been apprehensive about the pavement, which a teammate had reconnoitered earlier in the week, but the race directors took good care of that within the constraints they had. It ended up not being a problem.

I knew the race was going to be hard because of the heat index. It was only 30 minutes, though. I figured I could survive for 30 minutes. I got a great start and led the first lap, fast on the downhill, nice and easy on the uphill. Other women came around me on the second lap, and I let them. I stayed in the front half of the field the whole time, keeping an eye out for significant attacks. I wasn't in danger of getting dropped on the climb, but it was really uncomfortable for me every time. I was able to re-position on the downhills without having to work very much.

I was wrong about surviving for 30 minutes. I made it about 28 before blowing up. I was sitting third or fourth wheel coming around the second-to-last corner into the final hill. My teammate asked if I could lead her out, and I said yeah, I think so. The pace didn't even increase very much, just a slight acceleration; I didn't have to stand and stomp the pedals to keep up. But the road was so hot and so unprotected. It was out of the wind and we were moving too slowly to generate a breeze. Something in my body said, "Nope." And my brain went along with it and said, "Nope." I think I might have even said "Nope" out loud. My body told me to stop and I listened and gave up. Barely pedaled up the rest of the hill. Came around the last corner ashamed and tired. Another woman tried to come around me and I accelerated just enough to hold her off for 15th or 20th or whatever. Pulled past the finish line and into the shade to dry-heave a little, with my legs shaking. Poured water over my head and got back on the bike for a cool-down lap.

I'm disappointed that I gave up so close to the end. It's not like I was going to die if I dug a little deeper. My body was on the edge, but it was my mind that shut me down.

Lessons learned: it's standard operating procedure on hot days for cyclists to stick socks or pantyhose full of ice down the backs of their jerseys, so the ice rests on the neck and cools the whole body. I probably need to do that. I struggled with heat exhaustion on a really hot ride on Thursday, too, so I need to be smarter about managing that; some of the lingering stress from that dumb move might have impacted my performance today. And I've read that women have higher basal metabolic rates between ovulation and menstruation, so that might be impacting my ability to cope with heat.

But the biggest thing is my mental toughness. I don't have enough of it. When the race gets really uncomfortable, I'm liable to pull the pin and give up; I don't care enough to hurt that badly. And maybe I never will really care enough to push past that kind of pain, and I'll join the Cat 4 For Life! club. But probably I'll get frustrated that other people are beating me, and I'll get stronger. Mental skills training will be added to the training schedule, in upcoming seasons.

My teammate ended up on the podium in fifth place, though! So still a reasonably good showing for the VWS women.

I don't have any pictures of me from the race, so in lieu of a race pic, here is a picture of the sandwich I made for myself afterwards:

And I still feel pretty nauseous from the heat. I'm gonna go lay down for a while.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Jamie's Training Food: Spam Musubi

Training food Hawai'ian style
I am shocked--SHOCKED--that I did not mention that I survived Ironman training almost exclusively on S'mores Pop Tarts. I have scoured my old blog posts, and I can find no mention of the fact that I brought two boxes to Spain (wasn't sure I could find them over there) and ate a box and a half on the Ironman bike course. In case you're unfamiliar with the packaging, that adds up to twelve Pop Tarts over 112 miles. I've come a long way from my all-natural, all-raw diet of a few years ago; I figure life is too short to eat like a rabbit.

Philosophy aside, the Pop Tarts worked great. They pack a lot of sugar for their size. They're compact. You can fit six packages in your jersey pockets, if you need to. That's about 2400 calories! I usually put two in the right pocket and two in the left pocket, then re-stocked at special needs (or a 7-eleven on a training ride). The s'mores were my favorite flavor, followed by frosted blueberry. The s'mores flavor dry out your mouth more, FYI. Just in case you want to try.

I completely burned myself out on Pop Tarts, though. I've experimented with several whole foods this season, using Potent Portables as a starting point and branching out from there. I've found a few things that I've liked, but most of them don't work for racing. I use drink mix (Skratch Labs) and gels (currently GU, but I'm still experimenting) almost exclusively when I'm racing; everything else is too hard to eat in close quarters at speed and intensity. I want to try Medjool dates soon, on the recommendation of a few prominent vegan cyclists.

All of which is to say that I use spam musubi in training, pre-race, and post-race. It would probably work fine for triathlons, though, assuming your tummy can handle spam during a race. Be sure to try training with it before you race with it; anything else would be stupid! Don't be stupid!

This is something my Hawai'ian friends made all the time. It's a staple at convenience stores and picnics. Super delicious, compact, with lots of carbs and salt; it might pack too much fat for some of you, though. Try it out and see what you think! I can almost guarantee that nobody else will have these at your next ride or race.

Spam Musubi

  • Rice cooker
  • Rice paddle or spatula
  • Musubi press (seems silly, but they're not expensive, so get one anyway)

  • White rice (Jasmine, Calrose, sushi rice, something fairly sticky)
  • Nori (cut the strips in half, so they're about the same width as your musubi press)
  • Spam (cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick)
  • Furikake (I bought mine on Amazon, but you'll find it at most Asian groceries)
  • Soy sauce 
  • Sugar
  • Cook rice in the rice cooker. It needs to be done before you start frying Spam.
  • Mix some sugar into some soy sauce. It'll take some experimentation to find the ratio that you like. Mine is different every time. The idea is to make a light syrup that will caramelize the sides of the spam. Another option is to season both sides of the Spam with Li Hing powder (a little-known ingredient that is worth having around for sprinkling on sliced apple, pear, jicama, pineapple . . .)
  • Spritz some cooking spray into a pan (or use a non-stick pan). Put the burner on medium-high. Lay out your strips of Spam so they aren't touching in the pan. Cook until the bottoms start to brown, then pour in your soy sauce/sugar mixture. Let the Spam cook until the bottom has caramelized, then flip. Let the Spam cook until that side is also caramelized. Take the Spam out of the pan and keep it on a plate so it doesn't burn. By the way, the sugar/soy sauce mixture will burn in the pan around the Spam. Don't freak out about it. Just turn on your range hood fan or open a window.
  • Lay a strip of nori down longways and put the musubi press on top of it. Spoon in a generous portion of rice. Use the handle to press the first layer of rice. Press it hard! You don't want your musubi crumbling apart in your hands! Sprinkle furikake over the rice. Lay in a slice of spam. More furikake, more rice. Press the whole thing together as hard as you can, then slide the press up and off the block of food. Wrap the nori around, overlapping the edges on the top. The nori will have steamed from the heat of the rice enough that it will stick to itself and seal naturally. You have now made your first spam musubi!
  • I wrap mine in plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge until I'm ready to use them. Then I cut them into quarters if I'm going to eat them on a training ride or halves if they're for pre- or post-race and wrap them in non-stick aluminum foil. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Coming Soon: Skinny & Co. Review

Since I'm taking a few weeks off from cycling, I've had time to catch up on other things, like e-mails. I got one about a week ago from the marketing director for Skinny & Co. Coconut Oil asking if I'd like to do a review. I'm not much into the "all-natural" scene, but what the heck! Coconut oil would be a nice, natural alternative to body lotions after an hour in the pool. And I might try trading my chamois cream for coconut oil on a few rides, just to see what happens. If nothing else, it will probably smell better than Chamois Butt'r.

I've also been promised a discount code for readers and followers. So if I like it and recommend it, you can get a few dollars off.

Stay tuned!

Monday, June 27, 2016


I suppose this should technically be a race report, so here's what happened at the Shenandoah Speedway Points Race:

Got a poor start and spent the first five laps making up for it. Positioned poorly going into first sprint, came across line out of the points. Flatted before the next sprint. Didn't bring spare wheels. The end.

I probably could have found a spare front wheel, but I didn't really want to. I didn't want to do the race at all, actually. I paid $30 and drove 2 hours each way to do 8 laps on a race track. At least there was beer.

This post is really about me being burned out. In previous years, I would either get sick or hurt when I overtrained. I guess cycling affects me differently, because I feel cranky and unmotivated instead of sick.

Point is that I've pushed my body (and mind) too far, and now I need a break. Emily has orders not to let me sign up for any races for at least 2 weeks. I'll see how I feel after that. It may be that I lay off until cyclocross season starts. In the meantime, I plan to do a little running, do a little swimming, watch a lot of rugby, and ignore cycling.

See you in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Race Report: Tour of Washington County TT and Crit

In which I redeem myself and then hang on by the skin of my teeth.

I elected not to stay overnight in Hagerstown. Emily didn't want to travel for the weekend. She spent the first week of June in Seattle, I spent the second week in Wichita, and she's in San Francisco this week. So she was (understandably) not feeling the weekend trip vibe. I caught a little bit of flack for signing up for a weekend stage race. So I elected to drive up and back on Saturday, then up again on Sunday morning. It takes a little over an hour to drive up there, and my TT starting time was 7:19:30. I woke up at 4:40 and left at 5:05 to get to Boonsboro in plenty of time to warm up for my TT.

Also, the drive to Washington County is about an hour and ten minutes. I've learned that I have about 45 minutes from the time I start drinking coffee to the time I have to go the bathroom in an emergency kind of way. Fortunately, I made it to the port-a-johns in time to avoid humiliation.

The 10-mile TT went well for me. I started 30 seconds after the GC leader (reverse alphabetical order by last name, not by road race placement) and one minute after one of the few athletes who finished behind me in Saturday's race. I saw them both at the turn-around, passed my one-minute rabbit at around the 8 mile point, but never saw Angela (who ended up getting first in the GC) again. The time trial was hilly, and I did it in 2:13.1, with an average speed of 21.3 MPH. Not bad, considering the terrain. I got third place and moved up to fourth overall in the GC.

My car has been leaking oil since I came back from Wichita, so I stopped between the TT and the crit to buy a couple of quarts of oil. Put them in the car, bought some food, drove to the next race venue with the intention of taking a nap. As I turned off my car, I thought I saw the oil light come on. And I thought, "Oh crap." So I got out and peeked under the car and it was spewing oil. Okay, not spewing, but dripping pretty steadily. And I was so worried about it! What if it was going to mess up the car to drive it home? What if I got stranded in Hagerstown and couldn't get home EVER? What if I ruined my car and had to buy a new one? Basically, my recovery sucked and I hadn't eaten enough food and I was really tired and stressed from all the racing . . . I couldn't sit still so I started riding the course, thinking the whole time about how I was going to get home . . . I literally made myself sick with stress over the stupid car thing. By the time we started staging for the crit, I thought I was going to throw up. I'm usually pretty mellow about stuff like this, but for some reason I could not get out of my own head going into the last race. I lined up wanting to fall off and get pulled and be done with it.

Then the racing started.

As I mentioned in the road race report, the cat 4 women raced with the 1/2/3s. Same thing in the crit, and there were some really strong women entered. Tour of Washington County offers a yellow jersey, a sprinter's jersey, and a QOM jersey, in addition to pretty good prize money. There was a good 1/2/3 field at this race. Before the crit, several of the girls were talking about Clarendon and Philly. Clarendon is on the domestic pro calendar and Philly is a women's World Tour race. These girls were good.

They took the pace off hot from the whistle. From the second turn, I was already thinking, "Oh no, I'm never going to be able to hang on for this." I needed to finish within about a minute of the 5th-place cat 4 girl to maintain my GC standing, and I thought I saw her in among the 1/2/3s, so I hung on to the back of the peloton for dear life, dangling on every turn. I lost track of time and space. My only thought was to stay in touch with the group for as long as possible. Angela and Theresa, who were in first and third in the GC, were in front of me within view. I looked back after a time--no idea how long--and the only thing behind me was the moto. There were several times where I dropped off the back of the pack and fought my way back on. There was even one time when the moto passed me, but I took a few corners well and accelerated enough to come back into touch with the main group. I was hanging--just barely--but hanging. It was the hardest racing I've ever done.

Theresa, Angela, and I all fell off and got gapped at one point. I was hanging onto their wheels as they fought back up to the group. I was so gassed that I couldn't help them--it was all I could do to hang on! Then (and, based on what happened next, I can only assume that everyone slowed up significantly) we came around the final turn on the course and I somehow managed to slingshot around Angela and Theresa and pulled back up to the main group! I even shot up the side a little bit and got back into the pack!

Then we turned the first corner on the course. By chance, I looked down at my Garmin. 7.85, it said. Halfway through the race. At that point, my mind broke. I could not overcome the thought that I hurt so badly and it was only halfway through. My brain told me that I couldn't do the second half of the race, and I listened.

The gap opened. Angela and Theresa came around me and chased back on. I gave up.

I drifted off the back, gasping for breath, but knew that I would have to keep pedaling at least enough to get back to the start/finish line, and probably past that before the officials would pull me. So I kept pedaling, taking the turns as quickly and smoothly as I could, trying to recover through the straight aways.

On one of those straight aways--this was probably two laps later--I noticed that Angela and Theresa had popped off the back of the 1/2/3s. They were within sight. I'd like to say that I decided then to chase back on, but really I just wanted it to be over. The officials left me in, though, so I figured I could at least try to bridge up to them; I wouldn't have objected to being pulled from the race, but there was no way I was going to quit without the officials making me. Spectators--not just people from my team, but from EVERY team--were cheering me on, calling my name, shouting out time gaps . . . But they couldn't see me slumping over my handlebars on the backside of every lap, gasping for breath like a chain smoker on an autumn walk.

The officials finally pulled me at four laps to go. Theresa and Angela hung on until two to go. Angela got first, Theresa got second, and I got third. None of the cat 4 women finished all 21 laps of that crit with the 1/2/3s. They drilled us good. I'm so glad that bike racing isn't my job. Makes me want to be a cat 4 FOR LIFE.

Hanging in the crit for as long as I did vaulted me into third place overall, with Theresa in second and Angela taking the win. It's cool to place well in the race, but it was a real bummer to have supplanted my teammate, Kim, who kicked so much butt in the road race. She had an extra 15 miles in her legs from finishing the road race, while I got pulled after the third lap. We talked after about how it might be a legitimate strategy in future years to drop off the back in the road race and make up the time in the TT and crit . . . But you never know. Bike racing takes fitness, but even with the best fitness, it's a gamble. Lots of fit riders never win a race. Sometimes it comes down to luck.

Overall, it was a good weekend. I'm glad I could represent my team, Veloworks-Spokes, Etc., and that we had someone on the podium. And I got a trophy! Even though the courses were tough and the racing tougher, I plan to be back on the starting line at Tour of Washington County next year with my fitness, recovery, and mental fortitude dialed in.