Monday, August 2, 2010

Barb's Half Ironman Race Report!

This is going to be even longer winded than my last race report. I am totally glowing right now. For having only spent 11 weeks training, I am absolutely, completely elated with how the race went. I had some dark moments on the run, but that was to be expected.

Friday the 30th (day before the race)

Mike and I got up at 5AM. I wanted to leave around 5:45 but of course I was bumping around the apartment like a total zombie. I made a list the night before of everything I needed to bring and decided I would wait until the morning to get it all together. All in all, not a good idea...I know, I was shocked as well. Unfortunately I have no photos of myself bumbling around looking for things while Mike stood there anxiously looking at the time saying, "Can I help you somehow?", but I probably looked something like this:

Anyway, it was getting on to 6:15 and I got all intense about eating. I knew we'd be in the car for about 8 hours so I wanted to make sure I ate a proper breakfast. Today would be super important as far as nutrition was concerned and I had a lot of obstacles that were going to make it difficult, so I insisted on eating a bunch of yogurt and nuts before leaving. We left about 45 minutes later than planned, but with 9 hours until the race briefing I wasn't too worried.

About 40 minutes into the drive I realized I left my pump at home and had a total meltdown for a minute or 2. OK, no big deal. We'll just stop at the bike shop that's doing race support and buy a new one. Meltdown #1=over. I had plenty of time before the briefing to get the pump, make it through packet pick up and deal with all the usual pre race nonsense. It was hot and sunny. As usual, I stood out in the general triathlon crowd. I always think it's interesting that so many people dress in their bike or run clothes the day before the race to go to packet pick up and race briefings. I was walking around in a purple dress and knee high black boots with compression socks on underneath. Hipster undercover athlete. I guess that's been my deal for a long time now anyhow, but the athlete side is winning out as I get older. Still, I don't see myself ever going to packet pick up in bike shorts :). Beyond that, it was awesome to see so many women at a race. Barb's Race is the only all female half ironman race in the country which is part of the reason why I did it. It is also on the same day and course as the full Vineman Ironman so I was excited to be racing alongside people doing a full ironman. It was all around very inspiring.

I wanted to drive over the run course before we headed to our hotel which was 25 miles away. It's a damn good thing we did because it changed my plan for the following day. If I had taken pictures, the run course would have looked a lot like this:

It was far hillier than any course I have ever run in my life. At first, I was like, "OH, this is kind of like the run in Central Park", and Mike was like, "Are you sure about that?" In other words, he was in awe of how goddamn hilly it was and I was trying to stuff down the nerves by turning it into something less than it was. The best way to deal with situations like this is to acknowledge the monster is a monster and respect it. After a few more minutes of driving, the hills kept coming (seriously, it was unbelievable) and I decided I needed to really hold back on the bike and adjust my expected finish time from between 6:30-6:45 to between 6:45-7 hours. I was going to finish this thing regardless of how daunting this run was looking. I closed my eyes and pictured myself running up and over hill after hill...that's how I fell asleep around 10:30PM. For those interested, I ate a seaweed salad, bananas, a lara bar, shrimp and avocado roll and a bunch of water for dinner. I spent a lot of time getting all my crap set out so I would be ready to go the next morning. This is what it takes to get through a half ironman:

And this is what would keep me comfy on the bike for 3-4 hours:

Seriously, funny name but it really worked fantastically. A big shout out to the makers of Hoo Ha Ride Glide. Riding a bike for anything over 2 hours can do some serious damage to your lady parts if you're not careful. This shit is necessary after a certain point. In other news, look how tired I am! Jeez.

Mike and I stayed at Applewood Inn for the weekend and it was really great. A bit more money than I wanted to spend, but the room was quiet, clean and cozy and the breakfast was amazing. It's a bit pricy during high season in wine country on the weekends but during the week and off season it's more reasonable. Plus, for those triathletes doing Vineman and Barb's Race, it's only a mile away from swim start which is key.

Saturday the 31st (race day)

I've made a lot of sacrifices getting ready for this race. Not the least of which has been a complete lack of social life for the past few months. This is just part of training for the next level up. Unfortunately it just so happens to coincide with my leaving Los Angeles. I've felt a real disassociation from a lot of my friends both in New York and here in LA getting ready for races. It's a lonely business when no one (except for Tara!!! God, I'm so HAPPY I had you to ride bikes with!!!) in your social circle is into something that consumes a significant amount of your time. When I get back to New York I'm joining a tri club because it's just too hard to keep doing this without a support system. Anyway, this was heavily on my mind as I got my things together to head to swim start. I had to make it all worth it or I'd be really disappointed in myself. Which is exactly when meltdown #2 happened. I went to pump up my tires and I couldn't get the bike pump to work properly. I freaked out for a minute and then Mike calmly pointed out that bike support would be at swim start to deal with any last minute issues. Done and done. They took care of my tires in a jiffy. I barely had time to get my wetsuit on and down to start the race by the time I made it through the bathroom line.

No time to get freaked out at all. Mike took a few pictures I walked down to the water (which was warm and calm) and swam out to the other side of the river.
Then all of a sudden it started. I was caught completely off guard chatting to some girl next to me.

1.2 mile swim

I started swimming and waited for the usual heart rate craziness/mild panic to set in...and waited...and waited. Meanwhile, I was swimming past people and the panic never happened. My stroke felt smooth, my breathing was steady and my heart rate was completely normal. I got kicked a bunch but instead of getting worked up and losing control of my breathing, I got pissed and swam past the people who were kicking me. When did I become a decent swimmer? Amazing. It continued like this the whole time. Eventually I was passing a lot of people who had begun the race in the wave before mine. Don't get me wrong, I didn't win or anything, but I had a real swim breakthrough this race. I didn't want it to end. I felt like I could have swam another mile no problem. I came out of the water and decided to let the wetsuit strippers help me. That was hilarious. Next time I might skip that. (39:50)

Transition 1

Where are the wobbly sea legs? Not here! I jogged to my bike easily. My legs felt great. And yet I managed to spend nearly 10 minutes in transition. What was I doing? Putting on make up? Doing my hair? I ate a bunch & drank a lot....I guess that took 10 minutes? Who knows. All I know is that my legs felt fine and I was stoked to get on my bike.

56 Mile Bike

The next 3-4 hours would be spent on my questionable steed who I've taken to calling the "Silver Bullet" in my head in hopes of improving our relationship. Unfortunately I think she knows that next season I'll be purchasing a replacement and she'll be relegated to a beater.

I took this ride really easy knowing what the run course ahead held. The bike course was super fun, hilly and winding through the vineyards. It was shady and the weather stayed cool for most of the ride. Nothing much to report here. I stopped twice at aid stations-once for a few minutes and the second time only for about 1 minute to grab a water and stretch my legs out before Chalk Hill. Chalk Hill was not the monster everyone made it out to be. When I reached the top, I was ready for more...a little disappointing but I guess that means I did my training right. I easily passed at least 7 or 8 people going up that hill. I didn't get out of my saddle and I didn't even come close to hitting lactate threshold.

Overall, I was also really good about nutrition on the bike. I ate and drank a lot and it made all the difference. When I got off the bike I felt pretty fresh, which was great considering the run I had ahead but a small part of me was a little disappointed and wished I had pushed the pace more. 3:34 (just under 16mph average)

Transition 2 AKA the great mistake

I, again, took almost 10 minutes in transition here. I felt great and this was throwing me off. Seriously! This race is twice as long as any race I've ever done and yet I felt better than I have in my Olympic distance races. Very confusing. I am owing it to my diligent nutrition on the bike.

The great mistake...I decided to double up on my socks for my run to try to prevent blisters and hot spots from popping up. I find that, consistently, I get blisters on all my 8+ mile runs and I knew that doubling up my socks would help prevent them. I tied my sneakers and the right one felt a little too tight, but, alas, I did not stop to redo it. Man would I be regretting that around mile 9.

Half Marathon

For the record, I have never run more than 11.5 miles ever. After getting off a bike, I have never run more than 6 miles and I have never EVER run after a bike ride of more than 30 miles. But I felt really good and confident despite the mini Alps I had to conquer ahead of me. The run started off really well. My plan was to stop at every other aid station (there are aid stations approximately every mile) until I absolutely had to start stopping at all of them. I stuck to my plan for 7 miles and then started to feel thirsty. I was running all the hills except for one really steep one. I walked up it quickly (as fast as a lot of people were running it). I was passing quite a few people for the first several miles. Around mile 7.5, I started slowing down but kept running. At mile 8.7 I hit the first turnaround and walked for a bit. I ran for another 1/2 mile and then my foot completely cramped up. Oh shoelace, why did I not retie you? I had a few minutes where I actually though I might have a stress fracture. I could barely put weight on my foot and then my calves started cramping up. Total body shutdown...well, that's an exaggeration, but at that point in a race you're prone to drama. I started feeling really sorry for myself. Lame. I walked for awhile. At that point, it seemed like the entire course was somehow uphill. I hit another aid station and asked how far to the second (and last) turnaround and they said 1/2 a mile. So I started running again. I built myself back up and got excited that I had less than 3 miles to go. I could run less than 3 miles. I kept going and going for what felt like forever. I started hitting bigger and bigger hills...where the hell was the turnaround??? Finally I made it to another aid station and was told by one of the volunteers that I had run an extra mile. WTF??? I almost started crying. So, instead of 13 miles it looked like I would be running 15 miles. This may not sound like a big deal, but at that moment, with the way I was feeling physically, I could not even imagine how I was ever going to make it. That really got me down for awhile and I limped away like a sad wounded puppy. I walked for a lot longer than I would have had I not run the extra mile out of the way feeling sorry for myself. And then with 2 miles left I started running again and ran most of the remaining distance. The last mile I picked up the pace enough that bystanders watching were saying "Great pace 1502!" which made me feel better and I ran to the finish line. 2:17 (that's subtracting the time I took on the 2 extra miles)

Above-here I am thinking, Holy crap, please give me some water.
Below-Oh look! There's Mike! Hi!!!

Total time: 6:53:24 directly in the middle of my goal finish time


Yes!!! I had the biggest, most genuine smile on my face for about 5 minutes after crossing that line and then my legs started feeling absolutely crazy. I didn't know what to do with myself physically. I didn't want to sit or stand or lie was nuts. I've never felt anything like it before. I got some food that I forced down because I knew needed to eat even though I wasn't hungry and watched some of the other racers finish. A lot of people have asked me if I've cried when finishing a race. The answer is no, I'm too tired to cry usually. But I have definitely teared up watching other people finish races. Seriously, watch some coverage of Ironman Kona in October and if you don't get emotional watching people cross the finish line then you're officially a robot.

I was more tired than I can ever remember being by the time we got back to the hotel. I slept for a really long time. I'm still tired, but I'm also REALLY proud of myself and I can't wait to do another one. For the record, my foot just stopped hurting today from tying that lace too tight. I won't be making that mistake again.

A huge thank you to Mike (of course) for being supportive and patient during all of this, Tara for being my super rad bike buddy (click on her name to follow her on Tumblr getting ready for SF--->LA charity bike ride!), my Daily Mile friends for their words of encouragement and inspiring workouts, Crossfit Pasadena for instilling new levels of pain threshold in me and all of my friends who took a moment to wish me luck or ask how my training was going.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Race Day Round Up

San Dimas Triathlon 6/13/2010

This may not be the most interesting entry to most of you, so I won't be hurt if you skip it. Also, it involves a bit of "too much information", yet another reason why you can feel free to pass. However, if you've ever considered doing a triathlon longer than a sprint, you'll probably find this informative and interesting. Mostly I'm writing this entry for myself, in order to list the things I need to address in my last 7 weeks of training for my Half Ironman.


I woke up at 5. I managed to get 6 or so hours of sleep which is definitely more than before any race I've done. I had some coffee, yogurt and almonds for breakfast and took the dog for a quick walk. My stomach was not feeling great. Something wasn't digesting properly, to put it nicely. I don't think it was nerves because I wasn't feeling nervous. Apparently I got that out of the way on Friday night. After all, I haven't been training for this race and the 2 weeks in India off from any endurance was a definite dent in the work I'd been doing beforehand. Anyway, excuses excuses right? The point of this race was to figure out what I needed to focus on going forward in my training and if my current equipment would comfortably support me through a HIM and that's exactly what was accomplished today.

I drove to the race, got check in and transition set up with enough time to make it down to the lake and check in with the water for a few minutes. As always, confining myself to pool training bites me in the ass in the early parts of the swim leg. I even felt it just doing a few practice strokes. My heart rate rose quickly, my breathing was erratic and I felt a little panicky....nothing unusual though. I swam around until I calmed down, got used to the water and reacquainted myself with my wetsuit. The water was perfect.

Swim Leg

This was a pretty small race as far as number of people goes, but all of the women started at the same time which made for some crowding, elbowing and kicking at the start. I have a hard time keeping my cool in these situations. It raises my heart rate which, coupled with the open water, makes it hard for me to get my breathing under control. Nothing freaks me out more than sucking wind while swimming. This was a tough course in the sense that the route was awkward. I had to do a lot of sighting and follow a lot of buoys. I definitely swam more than a mile that's for sure. First half of the swim was a battle for control over my body. Second half of the swim I finally found my rhythm and picked it up. I passed a lot of people and I felt good. When I finally made it out of the water (36 minutes) I felt as if I could've kept going.

Training Focus: 3-4 open water swims in my wetsuit prior to race day in July
More tempo swims in the pool pushing through rough breathing no stopping


I'm not trying to win. I just like doing I like racing? Total masochism really. Anyway, I'm not a transition nut. If I'm thirsty, I'll down a bottle of water at my bike before heading out. If I feel tight, I'll take a moment to stretch. No big deal. Until Specialized calls to sponsor me or something I will continue to take transition lightly. That being said, this transition involved a steep hill coming out of the water. Bare feet, cement, debris covered sand...meh, I made sure I didn't step on anything. 5 minutes

Bike Leg

God I love when you come out of transition on your bike and immediately onto an epic hill. No really, get it over with. Unfortunately, the bike was 3 hilly loops, and I found out at the end of loop 1 that transition hit half way through the steepest hill. Painful. First loop I had shifting and chain issues. I had to pull off twice to fix it, which added a good 5 minutes or so to my bike time. The second loop felt fast and the third loop felt neverending. I estimate there was only about 1-1.5 mile of flat per loop. The rest was moderate to decent grade hilly. I'm a strong bike rider and this was not a good performance for me. I felt good on the moderately steep hills, but on the steeper ones I slowed to a crawl. People flew past me on the steep hills. Also, I miss my 700 wheels on the downhills, 650s just don't pick up speed the same way. Overall, I was not comfortable in my saddle. I had to keep adjusting. Also, my bike shoes are totally destroyed. Both of them are ripped at the velcro and I had to keep reaching down to tighten them in order to get full power on pedal strokes. I definitely wasted some energy there. 1 hour 41 minutes My usual time for a 40K is 1:25, add in the stops for dealing with equipment and the hills...I still could do better on the bike than 1:41. My bike mojo is not in full effect yet.

Training Focus: HILLS!!!!!
Fast turnover work on very moderate exactly the point where it's uncomfortable
- hold the pace there for several minutes
Longer distance rides once a week - 30+ miles
Equipment: New saddle (Specialized Ruby Women's Saddle)
New bike shoes


Again, I took a minute here, drank a bunch of water and washed my salty sweaty face off. My stomach was feeling a little wrong at this point. Too many shot blocks? I ate more than normal on the bike. Maybe it was the Nuun? Usually I drink Accelorade or Nutromax. It seems unlikely it was my nutrition though, since I was feeling not so good when I got up. 4:30

Run Leg

Never have I wanted or needed a run to be over like this. The first mile was tough getting my legs. I have not been doing bike-run bricks yet, so this was not a surprise. I was doing 100 breaths on, 20 breaths off ,willing my muscles to transition to running mode. The run was also hilly with sections of trail running. It was a very pretty run but tough, especially after the hilly bike. I started to feel my legs after mile 2. Of course, as I started running harder my stomach started cramping up. I would stop and double over for a minute trying to relax. After passing the water station at mile 3, I was desperately in need of a bathroom. Luckily I didn't have to wait too long. I was barely able to keep it together walking at that point. Visit to the ladies room number 1 didn't do the trick. I ended up stopping at bathrooms 4 times in the last 3 miles. It was AWFUL. And frustrating!!! My legs were there. When I was running they felt alright considering, but my stomach kept stopping me. All in all, a LONG painful run. Pushing through while dealing with that is extremely hard. I had several moments of wanting to drop out, but I didn't. 1 hour 21 minutes - that is 30 minutes longer than my run normally would be. Ouch.

Training Focus: Longer tempo work
Brick work!!! Especially post hilly ride. Once a week hilly bike 10-15 miles followed by a 3-5 mile run
Equipment: Still considering a trisuit
Change socks from bike to run (normally I do this but I thought I'd try not today which was a bad idea)
Compression socks for recovery

My stomach problems didn't end with the race. I barely made it home post race, in case you're wondering. All in all this race did exactly what it was meant to do. I'm happy I pushed through the "run" but I am now hyper aware of how much work I actually need to do in the next 7 weeks.

Recovery Meal

Pizza! I think I earned it. As you know, I don't condone rewarding a good workout with crappy food, but this is a special case. Tomorrow it's back to lots of good, healthy vegetables and organic low fat proteins. Yum.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Omega 3 in DHA Form

More on Why Omega 3 Fatty Acids in DHA form are Rad

While perusing Facebook status updates this morning, I found a link to this fantastic article care of the fine folks of Crossfit Endurance:

You may recall, on April 28, I wrote a blog entry (actually there were 2 blog entries dedicated to this because it's so important) about the necessity of balancing your intake of Omega 3 and Omega 6 and how it is essential you are getting your Omega 3 in DHA and EPA form. In case you missed it, take a moment to go back in the blog and check out those 2 entries here and here. And thank the Economist for informing people!

Coming up next week, keeping on topic with the ocean, I'll be writing about shark fin soup and all the crazy awfulness that it causes. Less about health and more about environment for a second. I think the ocean deserves some attention. Until then, wish me luck in my triathlon on Sunday!

This is real by the way. Some guy actually made a scuba suit for his cat, as well as his dog, for that matter. Seriously, check out scuba cat on youtube and if you're anything like me, you'll end up wasting the next hour clicking on links to crazy shark videos.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dirty Dozen and Seafood

The List

About a month ago I promised I'd provide you all with a list of fruits and vegetables that you should really strive to buy organic (very cutely referred to as the "dirty dozen") and others you could probably pass on and save a few dollars. I've found that plenty of other people have done a lovely job of this for us all, so I'm providing a link for you to peruse at your leisure here. In addition to those listed I also recommend buying all of your animal derived food organic as well. This way, you know your money is going to a farmer that does not use hormones, antibiotics and other yucky practices in raising their cattle/pigs/chickens etc.

Farm Raised vs. Wild: The Seafood Dilemma

Jan Van Kessel Still Life

If you've read former entries in my blog, you know that seafood (fish in particular) provides us with a wealth of essential nutrients and vitamins. In light of the BP Gulf disaster that is currently occurring, I thought this would be a good time to discuss the moral and health issues that come with ingesting seafood, whether it's better to be eating farm raised (for environmental balance reasons) or wild (healthier and more "humane"). Some of this information is fairly new information to me, and definitely has me rethinking my bi-monthly purchase of farm raised shrimp from Trader Joe's. Shocking, I'm sure.


PCBs are man made chlorinated compounds used as coolants & lubricants in a variety of electrical equipment up until 1977. In 1977, they were banned due to their obvious and serious environmental & health impacts, but are STILL present in our environment. Fish absorb PCBs through their food and, in turn, we absorb them by consuming contaminated fish. It has been found that farm raised fish, especially salmon, ingest far higher amounts of PCBs through their feed than wild fish. Frankly, alarmingly higher amounts.

What Exactly is Meant by Farm Raised?

Farm raised fish are actually raised in the ocean in pens. The situation is very similar to the way chickens are raised for their meat and eggs, only in the water. They are crammed in, have very little room to swim around and are much more prone to disease and infection because of this. The fish are fed antibiotics, are fattier than wild fish, have lower nutritional value and contain higher levels of mercury & PCBs as mentioned above. In addition to all of this charming stuff, farm raised fish escape, infecting wild populations with disease and generally wreak havoc on an already delicate and damaged ecosystem. Lovely! As if the creatures in the ocean didn't have enough crap to deal with already. FYI, farm raised salmon is fed food coloring to give it the same rich pink color that wild salmon have. Lame. Long story short, farm raised fish are not only bad for us health-wise, but they also suck for the environment.

As far as my super cheap farm raised shrimp habit from Trader Joes is concerned, read this nastiness and this as well. Buying wild American caught shrimp is best. Not only is it fresh caught as opposed to farmed, but there are laws limiting the amount of bycatch. Bycatch is one of the saddest negative impacts of net fishing. Check this little guy out:

Victim of Bycatch


In light of the above information, it is obvious that farm raised seafood is not environmentally sustainable and has negative impacts on our health as well as the ocean. So, wild caught it is. That leads to another huge issue-overfishing. I recommend checking out this website along with doing more of your own research. Inform yourself and do what you can. The more people out there who actually think about where their food is coming from, the more of a difference we can make. Our ocean is essential and directly tied to our health and well being and we are destroying it. Everything is connected and impacts each link down the chain after it.

Motivational kitten says "Keep that farm raised crap away from me!"

Friday, May 14, 2010

India and Travel Motivational Kitten

I had a really great week of training. I did double workouts 3 days this week and it went fabulously until I got to the third day, which had me running in the evening. It was a total nightmare. Weirdly enough, despite the fact that I had to stop 4 times to stretch my calves, my time was good. I was shocked when I walked in the door and saw how fast of a time I managed feeling so beat up. I am really hoping to destroy the Olympic distance race I have on June 13th. I'm feeling pretty confident right now. Crossfit has made a HUGE difference in my fitness and it's definitely translating to the endurance end of things. Yea!

I leave for India and Hong Kong tomorrow morning and while I would love to spend some hours in my hotel room sharing the good, healthy word with everyone, I am pretty sure there won't be time for that. My schedule there is intense to say the least (it's a work trip, not a vacation unfortunately). I return on the 27th and I'm sure, by then, you all will be dying to hear about how important it is to buy your mushrooms and berries organic.

Travel Motivational Kitten says when you feel like this after a long flight, a light workout will make you feel a million times better. I will be telling myself this while I'm jumping rope in my hotel room at 10PM after 20 hours of flying. I'm sure the people below me will appreciate it and understand completely.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To Organic or Not to Organic

Where to begin here...

I am one of those people who has a tendency to read articles on say CNN and then, usually when it's about something that gets me all fired up like health care or gay marriage for instance, I punish myself by scrolling down and reading all of the ignorant, inhumane, grammatically challenged comments. Why do I do this? I'm not sure. Maybe I like to get even more fired up, who knows. I am a sagittarius after all. Any psychological breakdowns of this habit of mine are welcome.

See! Here I am, getting ready to shoot arrows at all of those ignorant commenters!

I read an article recently somewhere along the lines of this article, and the comments following it were all about how organic food is a scam, waste of money, anti American etc etc. First of all, what? To my knowledge organic produce never claimed to have higher vitamins, nutrients etc., did it? Please chime in here if I'm mistaken. I kind of thought it just seemed a lot better environmentally AND for my body if I was eating something that wasn't completely covered in pesticides. Isn't that the point of buying organic? Not to mention the health of the people who are growing it and living near it. I mean, if you really truly believe that our industrialization and rampant pesticide spraying does not/has not/will not affect your health, I say you're crazy and I'll say it happily to your face. How could it not? Here, here, here you don't even have to read the entire article, the titles should say enough. I can't even express how frustrated I get when I read things like the commentary on how organic foods are not "better" for you (in terms of vitamins and nutrients) and this gem here. Calorie measurement and nutrition are not the focus here. It is about concern for your environment and for your already unnaturally taxed body. People should be encouraged to eat organic foods period. I realize they are more expensive and, in all honesty, I don't buy everything organic. But, I do what I can and you owe it to yourself to do the same. In this world our bodies are constantly bombarded with unnatural elements that we have no control over. We can't stop cell phone waves or satellite beams or even plastics that leach into our food and water. We should all be aware of that and have enough self love and respect to think about what we are CHOOSING to put in our bodies.

"If you're buying organic food because you thought it came with ladies inside, you're in for a disappointment" Random Article, October 2009

Food, the way it's grown and where it comes from, has huge impacts physically on our bodies, environmentally and politically (more on that some other time). The best case scenario is to buy as much as you can from your local farmer's market. It is the most thoughtful choice economically and environmentally (beyond your own garden). Locally grown not only financially stimulates smaller farmers, who completely and utterly deserve all of our support, but it also significantly lessens environmental impact. Think about all of the fuel and pollution that goes into flying stockpiles of out of season fruits and vegetables from one part of the world to another. This is one reason why I love Whole Foods. It says right on the sign where the food came from, and you can decide if you want to spend your money on limes from 30 miles away, or limes from 3000 miles away.

I realize this is a lot to think about. I'm not saying you should stop buying food that was farmed far away. I realize that for most people (including myself) this is unrealistic. I am saying that you should think about it (do you REALLY need those grapes in January?) and when there is an option, choose the one that was farmed closer to your home.

Let's take a timeout for Coffee

Coffee is a really special thing that I will never stop drinking. Seriously. I have one cup a day and it makes me feel like a human being who is capable of functioning. I heart coffee and I know a lot of you guys do too. So, please read this article about what exactly the labels on coffee mean (fair trade, shade grown) and why they are important to look for.


There are a lot of terms floating around out there such as hormone free, nitrate free, cage free, antibiotic free, usda certified organic, free range, fair trade and with coffee specifically: shade grown (see above linked article). How do we know what means what? Not all of these claims are regulated closely.

USDA Certified Organic

When you see this symbol on single ingredient foods, naturally, it means they are 100% organic. Foods with multiple ingredients are labeled more specifically:

100% Organic: all ingredients are organic
Organic: 95-99% of the ingredients are organic
Made with Organic ingredients: 70-94% organic
If the product has less than 70% organic ingredients they are allowed to list what ingredients are organic individually, but the main face of the packaging cannot make any claims to being organic.

USDA Certified Organic is as trustworthy as you can get. The food must go through strict checks and regulations to be approved to use their sticker.

Free Range

This term is not really regulated. It does not mean the cow who became your steak or the chicken who laid your egg strutted around in the sun all day. It basically means nothing. If the chicken was given access to outside for 5 minutes a day then the company can slap the free range claim on the packaging. This doesn't even mean the chicken actually went outside for 5 minutes. It means that they opened a little door in the overcrowded hen house for 5 minutes and the odds a single freaked out little chicken actually walked out it are pretty much zero.

Cage Free

While technically better than cages, the situation is not great either. Rather than being crammed into a tiny cage with 5 or 6 chickens, your cage free chicken has been crammed into a shed with thousands of other birds. Ummm....well, that doesn't really seem any better to me. It kind of seems worse. I will spare you the details of the other torments your cage free chicken goes through.

Illustration by Ralph Steadman for an edition of Animal Farm
No hormones

This is specifically referring to the growth hormones fed to cows to speed up the development process so they are ready for slaughter quicker. It is illegal in this country to give these hormones to chickens and pigs so if you see this claim on a package of chicken it means that they followed the law! How nice of them! Growth hormones are bad stuff, so I would recommend when buying beef to look for this claim. It is also present in non organic dairy products. Organic dairy products are hormone free.

Creepy right? I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.

No Antibiotics

I think you get the picture here.


This always seemed suspect to me. I see it on the chicken breast at Trader Joe's and I'm baffled. Yeah, it's chicken. Basically it means the product contains no artificial ingredients or color and was minimally processed. Oh, OK, so it means nothing. Thanks! Love the font!

Nitrate Free

Nitrates and nitrites are chemical curing agents added to meats to give them that nice pink color (hot dogs) and that smoky cured taste we all know and love. Did I mention they're chemicals? And known carcinogens? Although, they are present in very low amounts, I am always on the team that roots for avoiding the unnecessary and therefore support the purchasing of nitrate free meats such as turkey, prosciutto, hot dogs etc.

Did I miss anything? Can I be done now? Oh wait!

Grass fed

The animal was fed grass rather than corn/"meat" (read: the crap off the slaughterhouse floor) etc. This is a lot nicer on the animals digestive track and anything to avoid the menace that is corn sneaking into something is always a plus in my book.

Next time on the blog I will give you a list of foods you should really make a big effort to buy organically and ones you can skip on and save a few bucks, if you must.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Wall and Injuries Suck

I am spending a lot of time lately thinking about that half marathon running leg of my triathlon in July. Exercise is just as much about mental strength as it is about physical strength. I have a big tendency to quit mentally when I'm running if I'm having a bad day. I've been training for that by putting myself in some serious discomfort while running and not letting myself stop no matter what. It's amazing how big of a difference you will see in your physical performance when you gain mental confidence in yourself.

The wall and why it matters to everyone:

It is important when you're working out that you push yourself through and beyond the walls you hit. The moments when your brain is telling you you need to stop, but you override it and force yourself to keep going are monumental and essential to getting stronger. Many studies have shown that alarms go off in the brain telling you to stop well before you physically need to. This is not to say you should push yourself to the point of complete physical exhaustion. But, it is to say, that you are completely capable of continuing physically, even when you reach your supposed end point mentally. One of the best ways to extend yourself beyond that voice telling you can't, is to create a plan of attack and commit to it. When you go out running/swimming/cycling, have a goal time or a goal distance you want to do it for. Or better yet, have a time goal, that you know you can reach with some extra effort, for a specific distance. This will help you to push yourself a little harder. If you're doing a strength conditioning workout that includes 50 push ups, before you begin, commit to a number you will do without stopping no matter how hard it is and then you can break the remaining number up into a few sets. Creating a mental plan of attack, as well as visualizing yourself successfully completing the workout or race ahead of you based on that plan, is key in keeping those mental demons at bay. People who mentally quit before they even begin are in for a long, hard road in achieving fitness goals. Really, it's just like regular life. You create small, reasonable but challenging goals for yourself in the short term in order to reach long term goals. The key is paying attention to and celebrating those short term goals. That is how you keep yourself motivated on that long path.

Tracking Your Progress and Keeping Yourself Motivated

This makes me laugh. See! Dinosaur attack! Just like I said in my last post, be prepared. T-shirt design

In general, if you're just wandering around the gym doing whatever and have no idea of what's getting better and what isn't, you probably aren't going to stick to a workout schedule. Everyone needs to see some sort of progress in order to keep them going and it has to be more than just trying to fit into a size 6. If that is your only goal and your only measurement for success then you're not only selling your experience of getting in shape short, but you're also setting yourself up for frustration.

1. Write down your goals short term (short term can be every other week) AND long term
2. Keep written track of your progress
3. Time yourself whether you are running 1 mile, swimming 3 or biking 50. The next time you go out and do it, aim to beat your previous time.
4. Every other week give yourself a test: what's your max number of push ups? squats? pull ups? lunges? If you keep up with your workouts you will see those numbers go up quickly.
5. Take body measurements and check them every few weeks
6. Pull out those jeans that maybe haven't fit for awhile but you're so close! It is really gratifying when you finally pull them on no problem.
7. Take before and after pictures. Seriously! You don't have to show anyone but yourself.
8. Educate yourself about the good you are doing for your body health wise and all of the potential injuries and illnesses you are lowering your risk for by exercising. It cannot just be all about appearance. I think about how awesome it will be if I'm in my 80s and can still run, hike and wear a bikini (OK maybe a one piece) or just simply exist on my own independently and confidently. No newspaper boy is carrying my groceries in the house for me dammit!
8. DO NOT simply rely on the numbers on a scale to make you feel good or justify your workout efforts. There are a lot of reasons for this that I am not going into right now, just trust me. I weigh only a few pounds less than I did before I ever started working out, but physically I look way different. I wish I had taken before and after pictures.

That's me in my 80's. Serious Vertical leap.

Injuries Suck

Illustration by J.J. Grandville

Yeah, they do. Big time. I was supposed to run a 10 mile race Sunday. On Thursday I did this really lovely workout involving running hills, jumping rope and jumping pull ups, and while I thought this was awesome, apparently my knee was all "WTF??? Quit pummeling me you 32 year old wide hipped female!" Shortly thereafter, my knee felt like crap. So Sunday morning rolled around. I got up at 5:45 and got all ready to go. Last second I decided that running 10 miles was not in the best interest of my mildly damaged knee, unless I was in the mood for upgrading the injury. So, I grabbed my bike shoes and my swimsuit and did a nice long cycling/swim brick. Despite the lack of running, my knee was seriously hurting for the rest of the day. Enough that I could barely walk the dog and had a hard time falling asleep. I was pretty bummed out. There's nothing worse than being hurt AND feeling sorry for yourself, so today I got up and did the CFE WOD in the pool. Swimming is a wonderful thing by the way. It is great for healing and rehabbing injuries, as well as putting your body through a tough cardio workout if you really go for it. Today I did ladder intervals and it was intense. My knee did not hurt afterwards and still does not hurt. Crossfit tomorrow? Yeah probably. Fingers crossed. Otherwise I'll be spending a lot of time working on my swimming, which is not a bad thing at all.

Update: Knee is holding up despite the fact that I kicked its ass with bike interval training, jumping lunges and sprints. Hopefully it will stay that way!!

Motivational Kitten

Motivational kitten says so what if I'm injured! I'm not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself in front of the TV. Yeah!!!

Omega Fatty Acids Part 2

Omega Fatty Acids Part II:
Omega 3 (in EPA and DHA form) is your BFF

In addition to the reasons your body needs Omega 3 in order to function normally, there are also a number of health benefits provided by consuming it. Please keep in mind, there have been numerous studies proving, as well as disproving, some of the benefits below. I will expand on this a bit more with each individual item.

1. Reduces the risk of heart disease
-This has been proven through numerous clinical trials and studies. Let me remind you that heart disease is the number 1 killer of Americans, so this is nothing to sneeze at.

2. Lowers levels of bad cholesterol naturally
-There are many studies that have proven that this is true. Studies of particular populations of people who consume high amounts of cold water fatty fish have conclusively shown that they have higher levels of HDL cholesterol (aka good cholesterol) and lower levels of triglycerides (bad cholesterol-fat in the blood) as compared to the general population. Studies have also shown that consuming Omega 3 in fish oil form lowers triglycerides.

3. Reduces blood pressure
-Numerous clinical studies have shown that consuming 3 grams of Omega 3 in fish oil form per day can reduce high blood pressure.

4. Helps lower risk of a stroke
-This has been proven through numerous studies. However, the "too much of a good thing" rule applies here. People who consume more than 4 grams of Omega 3 per day can actually increase their risk of a stroke. 3 grams per day seems to be the magic amount from the research I have done. So rule of thumb:


5. Helps balance good vs. bad cholesterol levels in diabetics
-Many people with diabetes cannot efficiently convert Omega 3 in ALA form (IE, from plants, seeds, nuts & oil) to EPA and DHA form (the form your body needs Omega 3 in order to utilize it). They also often have an imbalance of good vs bad cholesterol levels. Consuming Omega 3 in fish oil form or by consuming fish has been shown to help correct cholesterol levels in diabetics. However, diabetics should speak with a doctor first before adding a fish oil supplement to their diets.

6. Treats symptoms of arthritis
-More and more studies are being done showing that people who suffer from arthritis may benefit from a diet high in Omega 3, which is essential in the synthesis of anti-inflammatory hormones. However, this information is still considered to be in its preliminary stages and is not to be confused with a cure. The debilitating progression of arthritis still occurs, despite the intake of Omega 3. It can be used to treat the symptom of inflammation and the pain caused by it.

The following benefits are still being studied and, in general, the results should be considered inconclusive at this point. However, there is potential that consuming Omega 3 also has the following health benefits:

1. Helps increase levels of calcium in the body and improve bone strength- potentially good news for people with osteoporosis and super important for all the ladies out there

2. Increases beneficial effects of prescribed antidepressants

3. Decreases relapses and mood swings in people with bipolar disorder when taken with prescribed treatment

4. Helps decrease behavioral problems(such as temper tantrums) in children with ADHD

5. Helps treat psoriasis along with prescribed medications

6. Relieves symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

7. Reduces menstrual pain

8. Reduces the risk & slows the progression of colon cancer

9. Reduces the risk of breast cancer

10. Reduces the risk of prostate cancer

Again, I want to reiterate, these benefits are still being studied and results are not yet conclusive. And I also want to reiterate that ALL of the benefits listed are through consuming Omega 3 in EPA and DHA form. If you are a vegan purchasing supplements, please check to ensure the Omega 3 present is not in ALA form. Vegan friendly DHA and EPA are sourced from microalgae.


Spicy marinated Cod Fish Tacos with rice and beans on the side


1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
3 chopped jalapenos (chop 4 total, 1 for salsa see below)
3-4 limes juiced
1/2 clove chopped garlic (chop extra for salsa see below)
1 chopped shallot (chop 1.5 shallots, .5 for salsa see below)
to taste:
chopped basil (I use 1 tbsp packed)
chopped cilantro (I use 3/4 cup packed) chop extra for salsa, see below
cayenne pepper
chili powder

Mix all of the above in a shallow glass dish large enough to accommodate 1lb of Cod fish arranged in a single layer

Score surface of the cod lightly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Salsa/Pico de Gallo whatever you want to call it

2 large chopped tomatoes
5 chopped scallions
1/2 chopped shallot
1/2 chopped mango
1 jalapeno
1 lime juiced
to taste:
fresh garlic

mix everything in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator


1 c black jasmine or brown rice
cook in:
2 c low sodium vegetable broth
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt

cook for normal amount of time


I usually heat up a can of organic black beans. It's the easiest way. The real way would be to purchase dried black or pinto beans, soak them overnight and cook them in your own seasoning.

With about 10 minutes left on the rice, remove the fish from the marinade and cook in a saute pan over medium to medium high heat for about 3 minutes per side or until it is just cooked through (the fish will begin to flake or separate naturally). When you flip the fish, add some or all of the marinade to the pan. If you add it right at the beginning it will overcook or burn.

Additional taco toppings:

chopped spinach
sliced avocado


I prefer blue corn but you can use whatever you want. Heat them right before serving on the stove burner about 45 seconds per side or until they start to brown.

Serve the rice and beans on the side.

Lots of color in this recipe, and you will be getting a great dose of B12 and Omega 3. It takes time to cut everything up but the good thing is, you can create the marinade and salsa ahead of time and then the rest is easy. I highly recommend using fresh herbs as regularly as possible.

Motivational Kitten

You never know when you're going to be attacked by a dinosaur! Motivational kitten says get in shape and be prepared for the unexpected.