Monday, March 29, 2010

Runner's High: Dad

This is us at the opera. This is not what we look like running.
I love my Dad. He is the epitome of the phrase, "Slow and steady wins the race." He's one of my biggest fans, and one of my most constant companions. He started cycling a year or two before I did; he's run for as long as I can remember (off and on . . . okay, more off than on). When I was young, he always tried to get me to go out running with him. On several occasions, he signed me up for local 2-mile races . . . which I may or may not have wanted to do (but mostly the latter).

As of yesterday, he's still trying to get me to run.

Because I overslept yesterday morning and missed the wonderful companionship of the Derby Sunday morning 10-miler group. And so I told myself I would go running on my own. But it didn't take much convincing for me to avoid the 15 MPH northern winds and stay in my bed reading a book instead. I took the dog out for a run (all of 15 minutes in the cold and breezy). Then I spent the afternoon watching basketball.

Let me make it very clear: I did not want to run yesterday.

But I made the mistake of asking my dad if he planned to run. His response? "Sure! I'm ready whenever you are!"

So we went out to do a little 2 miles. I made the additional mistake of telling him I planned to do a 2-mile warm-up, followed by 14 minutes at tempo. After we finished our little 2-mile out-and-back (with me grumping all the way about how my legs hurt and I didn't want to run and my body didn't feel like it wanted to do this), he said, "I'll take your coat in if you want to keep running." Whine . . . sigh. I walked back and forth, debating whether or not I wanted to go ahead with the tempo run, and finally told myself, "It's only 7 minutes out and 7 minutes back; it would be silly not to do it." So I sighed again and said, "Alright, I'll do it. If it hurts too bad, I can always turn around and come back after a few minutes."

What does my dad do? He runs with me. "You can just run on ahead, and I'll turn back whenever you turn back." Of course, once we got started, I had to finish it. So I ran my full warm up, and my full tempo run, and another 10 minutes of cool down, as well.

And I wouldn't have done any of it without my dad.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Beginners' Guide: Synthesis

Beginners' articles, for the most part, come in one of two flavors (no, not chocolate and vanilla): either they tell you the same information as every other beginners' article, or they try to share new tips, most of which don't really apply to beginners. Now neither one is necessarily bad, mind you. In fact, the former is highly useful, and the latter can be useful (eventually).

The problem, I think, is that the people with the information--those of us who have been there, those of us who have done that, those of us who have learned all the things beginners need to know--have forgotten what it's like to be the greenhorn. You remember how in middle school, you just knew that your teachers (and parents and lunch ladies and principles and every other person over the age of 20) had no idea what you were going through? Well, same thing. You get to a certain point in your training, and you forget the kinds of struggles that newbies have. You forget that sense of dread and fear on race day, the confusion of the transition area, the fear that everyone else knows what to do except you.

Point is, those of us who have been there and done that are only so helpful. Sure, we try to answer your questions on blogs and message boards, at pools and in cycling classes. But in the end, you have to be able to bring this information together for yourself. You have to be able to synthesize.

Example? This article offers great tips for beginners. Sign up for a race, get a bike, have someone watch your stroke. Check. Those are all good things. But the article doesn't really break down for you how you're supposed to go from (hypothetically) the Couch to 5k plan you just completed to getting through your first triathlon.

This article isn't going to solve that problem for you, either. Why? Because there's plenty of information out there that already does that. The tips I want to give you are how to start building a mental picture of what it'll take to get you to the finish line your first time around. And here they are:
  1. Read voraciously. Seriously. There are so many websites. There are so many books. There are so many blogs. If all else fails, pull up Google and do a search for what you want to know (i.e. "Do people ever die in the swim?"). Read articles. Check out books and magazines from the library. Borrow books from friends. Ask for recommendations. Follow triathletes on Twitter. Just start putting information into your brain.
  2. Talk to everyone. Okay, probably not everyone has a bunch of athlete friends around. I know some of you are preparing for your first race in isolation. But you have this big, wide, online, global community at your fingertips. Take advantage of it. Ask questions on message boards. Ask questions on Twitter. Ask questions on blogs. You may have noticed that triathletes are a pretty evangelistic bunch. We want you to be part of our sport. So we're happy to answer your questions.
  3. Read between the lines. Now for the tricky part. Some of the articles are wrong. Some of the books are out-of-date. Some of the people don't know what they're talking about. So use your common sense, and always get a second opinion. If you read in a book from 1995 that heart rate monitoring is the hottest, most important new advance in endurance sports training, you might just look around for some new info (i.e. something written in the past 5 years or so). Again, there's so much raw information available, you shouldn't ever trust a single resource (yeah, even me).
And just in case you don't know where to start looking, here are some links to useful resources:
Beginner Triathlete
Triathlete Magazine (InsideTri)
Trihardist's Beginners' Guide

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Recipe File: Jamie's Pasta al Diablo

Pasta in the style of the devil. Yum!

Here's how I do cooking:
At store: "Hmm, whole-wheat pasta sounds good. Also mushrooms. Ooh, look! Mini Naked juices! Cheap mini Naked juices! Score!"
At home: "Okay, water on to boil . . . I'm craving some garlic. Five cloves should about do it. Lots of olive oil, low heat . . . Now what else will go with garlic? Might as well use those mushrooms. Rough chop . . . And that would be really good with some tomatoes, too . . . Let's see what's in the fridge. Leftover chipotle peppers? Perfect! It'll be a spicy one . . . Fine chop on those . . . Ooh, sweet yellow bell peppers! That'll be great! Now all those into the mix . . . Hmm, maybe sun-dried tomatoes instead of fresh . . . Whoa, too spicy! What about some tomato paste . . . Yes, that's better; a little sweeter. And oregano! Oregano will go great with these flavors!"

And that's how I come up with new recipes.

Be aware that this one takes a little while. Figure about 30 minutes on prep time.

2 oz whole-wheat pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
Boiling water (reserve some of the water the pasta cooked in for the sauce)
Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh garlic (I used 6 cloves)
Fresh mushrooms (must be fresh, and I used 3 large ones)
Fresh sweet bell pepper (yellow, orange, or red, as green won't be sweat enough. I'm sure roasted red peppers would be good, too. I used about a quarter of a pepper.)
2 small chipotle peppers (reserve some of the sauce from
Sun-dried tomatoes (I used a handful of grape tomatoes that I dehydrated myself)
Tomato paste
Kleenex (trust me)

Start by boiling water with a generous amount of olive oil and salt over high heat. After it comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook for 6-8 minutes. While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, prep your veggies and other stuff. Roughly chop the garlic, mushrooms, and sweet pepper. Finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes and chipotle peppers. Start a saute pan over low heat with a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil (if you say E.V.O.O. I'm gonna punch you in the face) and the roughly chopped garlic. Keep the heat low, and let it simmer for about 10 minutes (until the garlic starts to soften; this makes the garlic soft and mild and delicious and also flavors the oil). By this time, the pasta should be done. Reserve 1-2 cups of the water from the pasta, then strain the pasta and run cool water over it to make sure the cooking process stops. Set the pasta aside.

When the garlic is soft and starting to turn translucent, add all the chopped elements (mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, anything else you like). Let the mushrooms and peppers soften, and the flavors come together a little bit. Next, add the liquid from the chipotle peppers, about a tablespoon of it (you can do more, depending on how spicy you like it). Let that cook together for a minute or two. Then add the tomato paste. Start with a tablespoon or so, and add more to taste. You want the sweetness of the tomato to balance out the intense heat of the peppers, so be as generous with the tomato paste as you need to. As you add the tomato paste, add enough of the pasta water to start making a thick sauce. Thinner than gravy, but thicker than water. This is a matter of personal preference, but I go for the consistency of beef stew. I used about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and maybe 3/4 cup of pasta water to achieve what I wanted. Finally, add oregano to taste. It should sort of take the edge off of the peppers a little more. You can also throw in some salt and pepper at this point, although I didn't add any.

Once you're satisfied with the flavor and texture of your sauce, take your cooked pasta and toss it in with the sauce, re-heating it a little bit. You can serve with chicken or shrimp, maybe some tofu. I'm not sure how well it would compliment beef or fish. Chorizo would be excellent with this, provided it's fairly mild. I didn't put any protein with mine, though. Some creme fresh or sour cream would probably be good, and help take the edge off.

And I'm serious about the tissue. I went through two of them.

This was more than enough food for me after a 10-mile run, so if you're cooking for more than one, adjust the amounts accordingly.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Race Report: Central Y Indoor Tri

Ah, back into the racing of swim, bike, run in sequence. How I've missed it. Now if we could just move it outside . . .

This triathlon, like so many of the indoor races, broke competitors into small groups (8 people per heat). 500 m in a 5-lane pool, 6 miles on a stationary (not spinning) bike, 2 miles on an indoor track. I was in the 3rd heat, seeded at an 8:30 500m, with a bunch of guys. Out of 8 competitors in the heat, I was the only female. I shared a lane with Lonnie, who was right behind me at the Derby Rock 'n' Route Tri. 

Neither one of us was much fun as a lane-mate, I think. I was definitely encroaching in his space. He stayed right in front of me for the first 200 m or so. Then I pulled up even with him, but never quite passed him. I swam my own pace as much as possible, and breathed bi-laterally to avoid the splashing from him and the guy in the next lane over (the lane ropes at the Central Y are yellow string with bits of blue foam noodle). I stuck with flip turns for the first couple hundred, then switched to open turns, because I was having trouble coming off the wall straight. In the last 100 m or so, Lonnie surged, and I let him. I picked up my pace just enough to stay on his hip, and tucked in a little closer to him. He pulled me home, and I beat him to the wall. Didn't bother with shoes or a towel; just took my cap and goggles off and ran (delicately) up the stairs.

Can I just say now that stairs are the worst part of indoor triathlons? You almost never encounter stairs at real races (UCSB and CSULB are two exceptions that I've seen)! I guess we'll just say it's practice for hills, which is something you don't have to deal with at all indoors.

The bikes were Cybex stationary bikes, standard-issue cardio equipment. These bikes are not at all attuned to the fine needs of triathletes' bodies. We are used to being crouched over and uncomfortable and aerodynamic. You could put Grandma on one of these bikes for physical therapy. It's way different than a spinning bike, even. The strategy with this kind of equipment in an indoor race is to push as hard as you can. A fast cadence will not be as effective as high resistance. So (if you're planning to do an indoor race on bikes like these) just turn up the resistance and push the pedals.

Of course, the disadvantage to that kind of biking is that your legs fill with lactate and feel like lead as soon as you get off the bike. Add to that the fact that you probably have to run upstairs to get to the indoor track, and you have a recipe for pain.

I could barely walk, let alone run, by the time I finished my six miles of Cybex hell bike leg. So I sort of clomped up the stairs and onto the track. My strategy for the run was to go easy for the first 14 laps (1 mile), then gradually build speed through the second half. I started relatively conservatively, but at a strong pace. The guys in my heat were mostly so much faster than me on the run that chasing them down wasn't even an option; the most I could do was try to minimize the number of times that I got lapped. I think Lonnie lapped me at least 5 times (of course, the lap is only 100m long, so lapping doesn't carry quite the same weight). He finished a good 5-6 laps ahead of me, but he and Alan stayed upstairs and cheered me in to the finish.

There used to be a trash can at the end of the first straightaway on the track. It was gone this year. I missed the comfort of knowing it was there after sprinting the last two laps.

I was happy with this race. It was short and fun, but it's not at all an indication of what I'll be capable of this year. It was a nice diversion, and a good time.

There were hardly any women there, it seemed. Only one in the first heat, two or three in the second heat, one in my heat, one or two in the next . . . maybe twenty out of the eighty competitors were women. I placed second out of all the women overall, and about 24-25 down in the overall rankings. First in my age group. Also, this is probably the last race I'll ever do in the 20-24 age group. Starting this year, I'm 25-29. That's only one age group shy of 30-34. Sigh. I feel old.

Total: 42:30
Swim: 8:30
Bike: 19:00
Run: 15:00
Not sure where the T1/T2 times fit into this, and I'm pretty sure that the run was a couple laps shy of two miles.