Friday, February 25, 2011

Getting ready for the Georgia Marathon…

First things first, yesterday while I was professing my love for fruits and veggies from my CSA, I forgot to mention it was my Dad's 75th birthday. Happy birthday Dad!

Is it just me or do races have a way of sneaking up on everyone? You are blindly following your training plan when one day you look ahead to the next month and realize that your race is only 3 weeks away. Gulp.

The Georgia Marathon, formerly know as the ING (if Prince can change his name so can this race…), holds a special place in my heart. It was my first half marathon in what seems like ages ago but was only 2008. I still remember the excitement of running down the chute to the finish line, hyperventilating with excitement and choking back tears of pride. Going to the expo I felt “half” as good somehow, like the little sister to the rock star marathon. On race day, as the half marathon runners split from the full marathon runners on what is essentially a tour of Atlanta on foot I knew I wanted to run the full at some point. March 20th is that day.

March 20th will mark marathon number FIVE! Amazing only because marathon one was such a painful experience I can’t believe I convinced myself to run another one. I have my last long run this weekend and then I will be in taper mode. Admittedly, my training was a little disjointed as I had the Goofy Challenge in the middle of the training plan. In the end, it probably helps that I have that base coming into training. Mentally, I think I used it as a crutch and probably took off a little longer than I should have before ramping up for this race. I’ll let you know how that plan worked on race day. LOL.

With the name change, the Georgia Marathon is now sponsored by Publix instead of ING. They have made a couple of fun changes to the race one of which involves cupcakes at the finish line. What is not to love? They also have created a VIP area. For an additional fee of $75 you receive reserved parking, private restrooms, private gear check, pre and post race buffets and free post race massages. It reminds me a lot of the Disney Race Retreat only a little cheaper. I probably won’t do it this year since I am in a budget lockdown but love the idea of it.

Lastly, just in case I am leading the race I will be making sure that I follow the race course and not the lead motorcycle like the leader did last year. The motorcycle made a wrong turn causing the leader to miss an out and back leg which led to his disqualification. Not the first time that has happened in a race. Can you imagine how badly that motorcycle driver must have felt? Note to self, carry a race map.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture...

It is almost salad season! I got the email yesterday from my CSA announcing that salad season starts in 4 weeks. We have had very warm weather as of late so things must be starting to bloom which makes me so very excited!

Last summer, I contacted a local farmer about purchasing a CSA share. This was my first experience with a CSA so wasn't sure what to expect. Basically, a CSA is a way for you to get fresh off the farms fruits and veggies. The benefit to the farmer is that it helps his cash flow as you typically pay a month at a time or sometimes for the entire season up front. Last year was not only my first experience with a CSA but also the first season my farmer (as he has come to be known at our house) did a CSA. Fear of the unknown on both parts I suppose. I was afraid I might get nothing but squash every week but took a leap of faith.

I was pleasantly surprised to get a variety of items each week. Granted, there were quite a few weeks where there was more okra than I knew what to do with but overall I began looking forward to picking up my bag each week to see what we were given. The weeks varied with the growing season. Throughout the summer (May through October), we received fresh eggs, basil, watermelons, eggplant, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and many other things some of which I had to google to find out what they were. As the summer drew to a close, I was sad to see the CSA end.

I first heard about CSAs by reading your blogs and then googled it to find one near me. Local Harvest has a great site with CSA information and a CSA locator if you are interested. A CSA can include anything from fruits and vegetables to meat. Established CSAs tend to sell their shares quickly. They obviously have limited crops so they limit their shares accordingly. Some CSAs deliver each week while others require a pick up. To me, this is an important factor to consider. I initially went with a Saturday AM pickup but found that it interfered a bit with my Saturday morning runs and tennis matches so changed to a mid-week pickup for this year. Costwise, it was about the same as what I spent weekly on vegetables at the grocery and I got a lot more. You do not choose what you get in your bag. As my friends with kids like to say, "you get what you get and you don't complain". I always saw it as an adventure, you don't know from week to week what you will be eating. I cannot say enough good things about my CSA, it was well worth the experience. If you are at all interested in a CSA or just curious as to what might be in your area, be sure to check out Local Harvest.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Masters Swim...

Lately, I have really had the itch to get back into the pool. Not for a lazy dip like you would on vacation (although that would be nice too) but for some real lap swimming workouts. Tuesday was the day to commit! I got up a little earlier than usual in order to be at the gym by 5:45 AM. Since I have been “self” coaching I have been getting there closer to 6:15. My snooze button habits are beyond control. I find that if I have a class to attend or if someone is expecting to meet me at the gym, it is so much easier to get up and out the door. Masters Swim starts at 6:00 so I gave myself some extra time to wet my hair in the shower and apply conditioner before pulling the cap over my head. Ladies (and gents who may color their hair), it really does help keep your color from fading in the chlorine – my helpful hint of the day.

I grabbed my gear bag and headed to the pool. I introduced myself to the coach who was either very disinterested or just tired. I am going to chalk it up to just tired as he warmed up the tiniest bit towards the end of the session. I have attended Masters in the past at another pool which was pretty intense. The crowd in that group was mostly people who swam during high school and college. There were some triathletes but typically that group was lifelong swimmers. In comparison, I would call my new group “masters light”. The group at the gym appears to be all triathletes, a mix of both experienced and beginner swimmers. I quickly made myself at home in the comfort of the middle lane. I am nothing if not consistently middle of the pack.

Our set looked a little something like this:

200 m warmup
8 x 25 – 2 of each stroke (one kick, one swim)
3 x 50 – free (six kick drill down, swim coming back) on 1:05
3 x 100 – kick (alternating fast kick and easy kick by 25)
2 x 300 – free (100 swim, 100 one arm drill, 100 swim) for time
50 cool down

It felt great to be back into a coached workout. I can lap swim all day on my own but really don’t push myself the way I do in a group. The coach seemed to be good at offering pointers throughout the workout, not just handing out a preprinted workout and letting you go at it. Overall, it was nice to be back in the pool. It was totally worth the goggle marks I carried with me for the better part of the morning. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weekend Update HM #11...

Have you seen this new sports drink/beer? I think I will stick with powerade/gatorade, thank you very much...

This past weekend was one of those that make you thankful you work in the banking industry. I will be happy to celebrate any Federal holiday that results in a 3-day weekend for me! The weekend went a little something like this…



More Tennis

Even More Tennis

Lots of laundry and Cake Boss watching

I started off Friday night at a “post-Valentine’s” round robin. I guess last Friday night didn’t work out for a “Valentine’s” event so they created a “post-Valentine’s” event. Now that I think about it, perhaps it was a clever strategy to get all the decorations and treats at half price… hmmm…. Either way, there was a great turnout and I ended up playing what amounted to four sets of tennis before leaving for home around 9:00 pm. I like to party hard on Fridays, can you tell? LOL

Saturday AM, I was up early to meet my sister and her friend at the Run the Reagan race. The Run the Reagan is a pretty cool race because it is run entirely on a local highway that they shut down to car traffic for the day. They are always extremely well organized and have great post race activities. It is a very family friendly event. My sister, Amy, and her friend, Val, cheered for me at the start of the Half Marathon as they waited for their 10k to take off. Amy and Val are running their first half marathon next weekend at the Disney Princess. I loaned them my spibelt and Ifitness belts to use during the race. As I handed it over, they had that look of “ummm, I really don’t want to wear a fanny pack during the race”. I remember it well. I felt the same way until I realized how many packs of GU they could hold and the alternative was me carrying them in my hand the whole way. Suddenly the fanny pack looking belt seemed like the best invention ever!

The race was uneventful. Hard to believe it is my 11th half marathon. WOW. With the exception of a 10 miler at Stone Mountain last weekend, I had not run hills since November so the hilly course was definitely a challenge. After I finished, I could feel the difference in my legs between the way I felt after the flats of Disney and the hills of this race. Ouch! Overall, I felt good about the run. My time was 2:12 which is not even close to a PR but was 25 minutes faster than my half at Disney and 10 faster than my Thanksgiving half so even though time isn’t all that important to me, at least I am moving in a positive direction!

Sunday was tennis followed by more tennis. My mixed doubles team had our last match of the regular season. We were in a “must win” all matches of the day situation if we wanted to get to playoffs. We fell a little short and ended up winning 3 of the 2 matches so our season is done. I jetted over to a tennis lesson to finish up the day.

For President’s Day, I had great intentions of cleaning, organizing and accomplishing. The reality of the day ended up being me reading blogs (I had 1000+ in my reader – yikes!), tossing loads of laundry in the wash and getting sucked into a marathon of Cake Boss. I now have this uncontrollable urge to drive to NJ just to see Carlo’s Bakery. Maybe Buddy will offer me a job! Hope you had a great weekend too :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Gym Trainer, a love story...

Sometime ago, I was introduced to the My Gym Trainer workout binders. I can’t remember which blog reviewed them as I have crossed into the over 40 crowd and can barely remember what happened last week. Suffice it to say, I am indebted to them for the review. I purchased a binder of my own sometime late last year. At the time, I was spending my time piling on the miles for my Fall Marathon and then the Goofy Challenge so really didn’t have time to work it into my routine like I wanted. A few weeks ago, it became time to crack open the binder. My apologies in advance if this sounds like a commercial, I just love the book THAT much.

My Gym Trainer is a binder of workouts for four weeks. The program comes in Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Not knowing exactly which category would suit me, I went for the middle of the road with Intermediate. I have some experience with strength training from attending boot camp classes but as my instructor used to say, “you look stronger than you are” so the advanced program intimidated me a bit.

The workouts are printed on laminated cards that come in a binder. I love that you can pull out the card and take that with you to the gym. Each day has approximately 20 to 30 minutes of strength followed by 20 to 30 minutes of cardio. There are 6 workouts a week which rotate through core, arms and legs on the strength side and treadmill, elliptical and bike for cardio. For example, day one you would focus on legs followed by a treadmill workout. Day two would be arms followed by the bike. As with any strength workout, it can be as hard or as easy as you make it. You aren’t given specific weights for each exercise (i.e. 50 pounds) but instead it would say 10 leg presses using heavy weight.

The strength workouts are laid out in two sections with 3 exercises per section and you rotate through them three times. For me, this is perfect as it sort of mimics the boot camp format I am used to for my workouts. The cardio is very straightforward and gives enough of a challenge to keep it interesting. Most of the cardio workouts are interval based so you are constantly changing speed or resistance. I love the intensity of the workouts and feel they are challenging; however, if you want more than 20-30 minutes cardio, you could easily repeat the cardio intervals and get a supersized workout.

All in all, two enthusiastic thumbs up for My Gym Trainer. Did I mention that they include pictures of the strength exercises? The pictures have been a big help to me. I don’t know about you but I occasionally will see a workout in a magazine and have to google the name of the exercise to find out how to do it and see a picture. I love having it all right there on the card. I have spent a fair amount of time in boot camp classes that regularly use weights and the machines at the gym but when I went on my own to save money, I didn't have a lot of confidence to put together my own workout. I constantly tear workouts out of magazines but they rarely make it to the gym with me. I love that this gives you a whole month of workouts that you can repeat. If it seems too easy, ramp up the weight or double the cardio. Definitely worth a look if you are interested in doing some strength training.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sunny Weekend Workouts...

The forecast this weekend calls for a whole lot of sunshine. High marks for the weather forecasters as they got it right!

First things first... A HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to my sister Amy! She has been training for the Disney Princess Half and crossed into double digit territory with her 10 mile run this weekend. WOO HOO AMY!

As I sat at work on Friday daydreaming about what I would do this weekend (while working diligently on my job of course *cough, cough*), I realized that I had a half marathon coming up on the 19th. I also realized that it had been more than a month since I ran more than 2.5 miles. Oops. Nothing like being behind the gun to test the limits of your endurance.

Lately, I have been a regular at the gym. I concentrate on strength training followed by 30 minutes of cardio. I have really been enjoying exploring other areas of the gym and building up the guns (LOL). Since I have taken a break from distance running post-marathon, I was looking forward to running 10 miles this morning. Don't you love that feeling? Towards the end of race training, long runs can start feeling like work so it is nice to be excited about a long run. Two loops around the mountain and I checked the run off my list.

On my home from Stone Mountain a friend of mine who is a tennis pro called to see if I wanted to hit later in the day. We have sort of a bartering relationship. I create a lot of flyers and email marketing for them and in exchange I get free lessons from time to time. I am not one to EVER pass up a lesson so headed that way after a pit stop at home to shower and eat. So very glad I went as I got a lot out of it and plan to annihilate my opponents tomorrow and then sign up for the Women's Pro Tour. (ha ha)

In closing, I will leave you with this little clip. I played a woman named Karen a couple of weeks ago in tennis who mentioned that the name Karen was popular with ladies in my age bracket because of a sitcom in the mid-60s called "Karen".

The theme song cracks me up. The only thing CR said was "look you both have the same bangs". He is just jealous because he was named after Ricky Ricardo and now I have a TV show namesake too. The story is that his older brother who was 8 or 10 at the time was asked what they should name the baby. He said Ricky Ricardo. LOL. He is still bitter and refuses to watch "I Love Lucy".

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How is your Tuesday?...

Mine has been overflowing with good news! Do you ever get in a rut where it just seems like it one thing after another knocking you down? You just kind of bide your time making the best of things and hope for some good news to keep you smiling. I got TWO bits of good news today that will keep me going for a while :) Think of this as a Now and Later candy. You know, eat one now save some for later. In the interest of brevity and saving something to blog about later this week, I will tuck my second piece of news away and save it for later.

My triathlon group is in need of a swim coach for the upcoming season. The one we had previously moved to the other side of town which, in Atlanta, is 45 minutes to an hour away. No one can blame her for not being able to make the drive. I volunteered to take her spot so I will be the swim coach for our group. I am really excited to help out as this fits into my "giving back" plan for 2011. The group tends to be new triathletes so it will be cool to see them progress and improve especially with the swimming since that tends to be the weakest leg for most new triathletes. I cannot wait to get started!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Everyone in the pool...

Have you heard? A recent study out of the University of South Carolina shows that swimmers live longer compared to people who take part in other physical activities. "Swimmers had the lowest death rate," explains Dr. Blair who took into account age, body mass index, smoking status, alcohol intake, hypertension, other medical factors and family history. "This is the first report that examined mortality rates among swimmers in comparison with other types of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle. We conclude that men who swim for exercise have better survival rates than their sedentary peers." Check out the article in Daily News of Open Water Swimming. Suddenly, the goggle marks and smell of chlorine on my skin that stay with me for hours afterwards seem like a good trade off!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I'm loving this Wednesday...

Y'all there is a new love in my life. CR knows all about him and he seems to be fine with it. I like to call my love "the griddler". It is his given name from his parents at Cuisinart.

I had a little George Foreman grill for years. The problem with George was that it wasn't that easy to clean. As much as I wiped it down, I never felt like it was actually clean. Enter the griddler. It grills so you can have those cute little grill marks. You can reverse the plates if you don't want the marks. You can also lay it flat to cook more items at once or pancakes. And.... Wait for it..... The plates are removable so you can put them in the dishwasher. (Angels singing). If all that isn't good enough, I got it at Amazon for 70% off after Christmas as a birthday gift for myself.

Mostly, I have been making paninis, waffles and turkey burgers on it. Tonight, I thought I would try some black bean burgers. (As you might have guessed, CR was in no way involved in this process and ate red meat instead. More for me...).

Black Bean Burgers (adapted from allrecipes)

1 - 16 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion cut into wedges
1/2 green bell pepper cut into 2 inch pieces (*)
3 cloves garlic
1 egg
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 t hot sauce
1/2 c bread crumbs

1. Preheat your griddler. These can also be baked at 375.

2. In a medium bowl, mash the black beans with a fork.

3. In a food processor, finely shop the onion, garlic and green pepper. Add to the black beans.

4. In a small bowl, stir together the egg and seasonings. (side note - A full tablespoon of cumin and chili powder seemed like a lot to me as I was making this dish but in the end was just the right amount and not overly spicy.)

5. Stir in the egg mixture to the beans. Add about 1/2 cup of bread crumbs or until the mixture seems sticky and able to hold its shape. I was expecting the texture of a hamburger patty so wasn't quite sure I had the recipe right as I was making these patties. They will be a bit messier and won't hold together quite as much so don't expect them to be super firm in the uncooked state.

6. Divide into 4 patties and place on the grill. If you are using a griddle that cooks both sides at once, they will be done in about 8 minutes. If you are cooking in a pan or the oven, it will be about 9 minutes per side.

7. Remove from the grill and enjoy!

(*) I didn't have green pepper so omitted that ingredient and instead stirred in 1/4 cup corn. They would be excellent with both the green pepper and corn.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brown Baggin' it...

Starting in January, I have been making a concerted effort to cut back on spending. When I looked at my monthly budget, it was glaringly obvious that food was a good place to start.

My daily routine consists of leaving the house at 5:30 in the morning to go to the gym. From there, I head about a mile down the road to work. At least 3 nights a week immediately after work, I have tennis matches or practice. All this means I am eating breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner away from home. Let’s face it, our days are full enough by the time you get home who wants to put together 3 meals and snacks for the next day? For me, it added up to a lot of meals eaten out.

I go through periods where I am really good about packing meals and then fall off the wagon for a while. I am guessing there are others out there in the same boat trying to figure out how to fit it all in and not spend a fortune eating out on the go. Here are a few things that have been working for me:

1. Prep the bulk of your food at one time. On Sunday evenings, I usually take about an hour to make meals and snacks for the week and pack them in containers so I simply grab and go every morning. For example, I might cook a few chicken breasts, some brown rice and veggies and then put a little of each in plastic containers.

2. Yogurt and cereal is an excellent grab and go choice for breakfast. Following with the prep on Sunday theme, I put a little cereal in 5 small containers along with chia seeds or any other stir in.

3. Snacks. You know the drill… prep 5 containers of carrots, nuts, hummus, fruit, hard boiled eggs or whatever strikes your fancy. I was fortunate enough to win a supply of Honey Milk a while back. I love the light chocolate as a snack. It is in the neighborhood of 150 calories and a good mix of protein and carbs.

4. Keep a few staples at work. I always have a few snacks in my drawer at work. A couple of packets of oatmeal, peanut butter, trail mix and larabars all are great choices and can get you through the afternoon or a long morning.

For me, the key is doing it all in advance. I can’t count on my desire to prep meals when I get home from work/tennis at night so having it ready to go is a lifesaver. Be creative with your choices, you might be surprised at how good your brown bag lunch can be!

For my next trick... How to pack 2 gym bags in less than 10 minutes!