Thursday, January 2, 2014

Thoughts on Food

When I was in first grade I ate three apples a day. That was it. I remember clear as day sitting folded on the floor with my legs under me, chest against my thighs... I liked the way my ribs felt against them. I could feel them flex and move with every breath.

I also remember getting in trouble after my annual check up. Between the ages of 6 and 7 I had lost weight and yet grown taller. My mom was embarrassed, "She's just a picky eater." "She just isn't ever hungry."

To be honest, I don't remember being hungry. I just liked apples... and the feel of my ribs.

My obsession with food and body has grown since those early memories. Sometimes, in very self destructive ways and other times in very healing ways.

At 29 years of age, I can say that I love food and my body - though I still find myself in conflict with both. Truly, I am in awe of both. My journey has lead me to learn a great deal about food and I want to share a thought that I'm trying to internalize.

Over the years I've come to the opinion that the things I eat should have a good life before they become my food. From there I had to learn what it meant for my food to have a good life. My research lead to learning about grass fed verses grain fed animals. After 2 years as a vegan (long ago at this point), I learned that I just love beef and I feel better when I eat beef. But what does it mean for a cow to live a good life. What is natural for a cow.

Believe it or not, it is the cow that has taught me the most. If I'm going to eat a cow, it should come from near by, it should be pastured with other cows (but not too many), it should be feed grass, and the end of it's life should come by a hand that loves and cherishes the beast.

Initially, I thought, "Oh, good for the cow!"

Later, I learned, "Oh, good for me!"

As it turns out, an organic grass fed cow is leaner and has significantly more omega-3-fatty acids than a grain fed cow. Omega-3's are the mac-daddy of the essential fatty acids.

Check out these sources for more info:

Recently, I became an aunt, which of course means that my hubby and I have spent far to many conversations talking about and critiquing something of which we know nearly nothing about. One such topic was alcohol consumption while breastfeeding. I have friends that were told "absolutely not!" and others that were given guide lines and yet others that were told "Go for it! Alcohol doesn't pass into the milk!"

My husbands argument was that the beef we eat and the milk we drink is altered by the diet of the cow, then surely the milk of a mother is altered by what she eats and drinks. Wow. Totally makes sense!

I am no mother, but like a cow my flesh is made from the building blocks provided to it through what I eat. Humans are resilient beasts and can eat nearly anything, but I wonder what if I were "grass fed." How would my fat composition change. How would my bones, muscles, and even my brain respond? Why can I so easily commit to buying beef that has been feed and treated optimally and yet I can not feed and treat myself as such?

My lesson to internalize: It matters what you put into your body, because it will become your body!

Now the challenge: Wading through the mountains of research to discover what is truly best for the human body - and I have a feeling it's not beer and chocolate!

Until the next tale,


Friday, November 29, 2013

A Race Day of Firsts

A race day of firsts and not the kind you're thinking of - I did not finish first. However, I think everything except my finish place was a first...

First Turkey Trot!
First goal race in the SNOW
First time eating butternut squash as a pre-run breakfast
First time starting a warmup somewhere other than the race venue (left from home)
First time running with a Garmin (I got the 910XT!!!!)
First time running with a heart rate monitor
First time NOT knowing the staring line had been moved!
First time MISSING the start of the race
First time zig-zagging through 800 runners (see above)
First time I've been ANGRY at mile 1 during a race (see above)
First time not getting past by a single person
First time finishing (last 100 or so meters) on a sheet of ice
First time winning a PIE (it was pumpkin!!)

Gun time/results: 20:46, 5th OA female, 2nd AG
Chip time/results: 19:53, 2nd OA female, 1st AG

My string of firsts taught me a lot, of which I am truly thankful for.

For a more indepth (and better!) recap, checkout Jenelle's, my training/racing partners, race  report!

Did you "Trot" on Thursday?

Until the next tale,



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mental Prep

Yesterday I rolled out of bed and got in a snowy, easy 6 miler. I've been tapering for over 2 weeks and my body feels fresh, ready to perform. A morning 6 miler is not the time to do so. Constantly having to dial back the effort and keeping my eager legs in check meant that I spent the entirety of my run thinking about the reason I could not run free. A Thursday morning Thanksgiving 5K - The Pie and Glove - is what I'm saving up for. Since I could not push my body, I opted to push my mind... or at least prepare my mind.

Much of the mental prep for a race happens hand in hand with the physical prep. Every rep, interval, tempo, mile I pushed through affected my body as well as my mind. Most times one was strong while the other wavered, on occassion they both showed up and revealed that I was no longer the athlete I thought I was - I was now stronger. As my easy morning miles prepared my body to be fresh and sharp on race day, here is what went through my mind to ensure it, too, was fresh and sharp on race day.

1) Pain. This year, like last year, my goal for this end of the year race is to find the pain cave and conqure it. I like to think of it as racing out side of myself, or beyond what is known to me. I want to confront a new level of discomfort so that I can uncover a faster, baver me. Often times on race day, my body is only doing what it can already do... I've just set it up to have a high chance of sucess. This time, I want to flirt with danger. I want to push to the breaking point (in as smart of a way as possible)and see what happens. With the right amount of mental endurance, I'll discover something new about myself. Something that in the past has been too risky to find. I will embrace the pain.

2) Relax. June of 2012, I learned the difference between running hard and running well. It was in a race... I was straining for second and first was up the road. I knew that at my current effort, things would not end well. So I relaxed. I let my arms swing easily. I stopped pounding the ground and begain rolling over it. I leaned forward and let gravity speed me. I did slow, but just barely. After a few minutes the pace became comfortable so I ran a bit faster, still relaxed, still rolling over the earth. I continued building speed, without straining, until it was time to kick. Running well and running hard are definitely two different things. In the long run, running well is faster. On Thursday, I will run relaxed, I will run well.

3) Experience. The weather forecast for Thursday is bleak. Winds, ice, and cold temperatures do not make for the best race conditions. While I have a lofty (for me) time goal (break 19:00, which would be a 45 sec PR) I realize that there is far more that can be achieved from this experience than a PR or a sub 19:00 5K. Obviously, I hope to learn while in the pain cave, but I also gain just from toeing the start line with my competitors. When postured towards learning, it is hard to find a finish line that doesn't come with lessons. I want to be receptive to my mind and body, to the 5K distance, to my competitors, to the volunteers, to the spectators, to the roads, ice, winds, and freezing temperatures. I want to embody the experience and learn from it... I want to be changed by it.

Until the next tale,


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Running Times: Training block 2

I'm beginning to think that my "off season" is far too long, but on the other hand I have no idea how people train and race triathlon 11 months of the year! I think my main problem is that I still consider triathlon to be swimming + biking + running = triathlon. I think in reality triathlon = triathlon. What do you think?

November seems to be my "doubting" time of year. I always seem to convince myself that I've wasted another year of training by doing everything wrong and therefore am hopelessly behind for the year to come.

Sorry, no closure to that statement, just rambling.

I bet you're super on board with hearing about my second training block since my goal race back in July - since I've just declared I feel like a bit of a failure. Promise I'll include what I've LEARNED as well as what I've done. In fact, I'll start with two things I've learned.

1) Training blocks definitely work! In my last post, I gave this overview of training blocks: The general premise is to spend a 4-6 week block focusing on one of the three events while maintaining the other two events. To focus on an event means 5-6 days/week training that event, as that is generally how many days/week required to experience significant gains in skills, speed, strength, and endurance (assuming you’re working all of those systems). In order to maintain previous gains in an event, you need only two session/week. I saw significant improvements in my cycling, in what seemed like a short period of time. That sounds smart, right?! Absolutely! I think there are some things I could have done better, but I chalk up my first training block as a sucess.

2) Training blocks only work if you do them right. And you say, well duh, Ericka. Well... this leads me into my second training block: running... read onward to learn what not to do:

I am on the verge of completing a 11 week running block - which is likely too long of a training block, especially since running is my strongest discipline. Six of the 11 weeks have been spent hitting 65 miles per week, with two weeks of build and 3 weeks of taper. Here is an example of my weekly training:

Sunday: Long run – 16.0 miles
Monday: Easy run 10.0 miles
Tuesday: Tempo (10x4min at tempo with 1 min jog recovery) 10.0 miles total
Wednesday: Intervals (6x1200 meters with 200 meters jog recovery) 10.0 miles total
Thursday: Off or optional recovery workout
Friday: Hills (14x 250 meter hill repeats with jog back recovery) 9.0 miles total
Saturday: Easy run 10.0 miles
week's total: 65 miles

Let me tell you, this is a solid running week... it will make you a faster runner. In fact, I know that I'm a faster runner than I was last year and running wise, I'll finish November as the best runner I've ever been.

That's exciting, right?! ...Sure, if you're a runner... notice anything, well, missing from all of those running miles? Like non-running miles. Like in a pool or on a bike...?

In eleven weeks I have spent less than 2 hours in the pool. Shame, shame. Thanks to a few nagging injuries I've spent a little more time on the bike... maybe 10 hours total. But if I could run, I did run. In this training block I have sacrificed my triathlon fitness for run fitness. My cycling block is all but lost to me and my approaching swim block will have to start from square one when it could have started at square four (or something like that).

Training blocks work... but only if you do them right. Lesson learned... hopefully!!

Until the next tale,


Friday, September 27, 2013

Training after a goal race

From January 1st through July 14th, I trained with focus and gusto. I had one goal in mind: Be fast at Musselman 70.3. Considering a 5 month foot injury that lasted from November through March, I’d say I meet my goal. It feels good to meet goals. Often the accomplishment of one goal leads to more aggressive, future goals. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to make future goal that are pretty far off… as in a year away.

I’d say one of the keys to a successful season is defined off season goals. I have failed at this. My goal of get faster in each discipline is far from defined, though my plan is quit detailed. Something for me to work on!

Last January, I learned about training blocks as tools for improving triathlon skills. The general premise is to spend a 4-6 week block focusing on one of the three events while maintaining the other two events. To focus on an event means 5-6 days/week training that event, as that is generally how many days/week required to experience significant gains in skills, speed, strength, and endurance (assuming you’re working all of those systems). In order to maintain previous gains in an event, you need only two session/week.

I recently finished a 6 week bike training block and I have definitely seen some significant improvements in my cycling – including the bike split at Willow Creek Triathlon, after which I told my husband “But I can’t ride 23.7 miles per hour!” Wisely he responded, “Well you just did.” After only two weeks of bike focused tempo sets, painful intervals, and heart racing power sessions, I had greatly improved my cycling ability. I will add that building cycling muscles has slowed my running a little, but I’ll get that back in my next training block – such is the life of a triathlete!

What has my cycling training block consisted of? After hitting a training peak of over 20 hours while preparing for Musselman, I have no desire to spend hours on the bike. I needed a break from the endurance side of cycling. I’ve tried to keep my workouts to an hour of high quality work – it’s kept me sane!

An example week:

95 minute long runThe Machine: a 1.8 mile run, 10 mile bike, 1.8 mile run, 10 mile bike, 1.8 mile run all at tempoAM Swim Bike: 5 min wu, 10 min single leg work, 7x 30sec sprint from stop (10 sec standing, 10 sec seated) 4:30 min tempo, 10min cd.AM Run: Speed session AM Swim3 hour bike ride + 15 minute tempo run

PM Bike: 10min wu, 40 min ride w 10-15 sec jumps (high effort and high cadence) every 5 minutes, 10 min cdPM Bike: 10 min wu, 7x3min speed interval w 3 min recovery spin, 10 min cd

How do you approach your off season?

Until the next tale,

Monday, August 26, 2013

Willow Creek Triathlon – Race report!

I feel like I’ve raced a lot this year. Or at least a lot for me. With every race comes the feeling of obligation to write a race report. Meh. I do what I want. I don’t really want to write a race report, but I do really want you to know how awesome the Willow Creek Triathlon is.

Cliff notes: It’s awesome.

This small race, with just over 200 participants, is nestled in the beauty of the Allegany State Park. Tall, mature trees, beautiful streams, marshes, and lakes, winding, rolling roads, and volunteers and spectators with an contagious passion for the event all make this a near dreamy experience – the 300 yard swim helps too!

I love the combination of novice and seasoned athletes. There are so many young athletes, families getting fit together, friends tackling a new adventure, and seasoned competitors in pursuit of the championship trophy - the Tom Maholic custom made Case Bowie knife. It’s so fun to be part of the community that comes out to support this race, it’s cause, and to put in some hard work that is well celebrated at the finish line.

A side note: I also spotted Mary Eggers - I knew she'd be there because I follow her blog and on twitter. She's definitely one of my heros - a past pro/elite, hardworker, funny, smart, and as I got to learn a truly kind, carring, and passionate person. I feel bad when I bug strangers (who I feeling like I know thanks to social media and the internet), but I'm glad I bugged her. It kinda totally made my day.

Before the race begins, we have the typical pre-race instructions, followed by the not so typical prayer, then the national anthem, and lastly the news that this year’s race had raised over $30,000 for disabled veteran and that in the eight years that the race has been run, a total of $111,570.29 has been raised to support disabled veteran! Yahoo!

Before I knew it, we were lined up at the water’s edge. I had positioned myself fourteenth back for the time trial start (meaning every 5 seconds one person goes until everyone is in the water). My time to run into the water came before I knew it and I was off for the 300 yard swim.

I tried to swim hard and allowed myself to really kick (since that’s where I seem to get most of my swim speed from) as the swim was short and would be over before I even found a rhythm. I think I sighted well and swam hard making it out of the water having passed a few people and being passed by a few. Swim time: 5:32, 1:51/yard, 26th overall.

The timing mat was early in the transition and then it was a long run up through the beach house to the parking lot to grab my bike, slide on the helmet and get to it! I had a little trouble mounting my bike, but once I was up and riding, I felt good and set off to catch some competitors. (No T1 time as there are only timing mats at the start of the swim, end of the swim, end of the bike and end of the run.)

The bike course is beautiful – rolling hills, rivers, streams, wildlife… just perfect. I went out hard with the intent of really hammering the bike. Competitors were well spaced to keep me focused and riding hard. By mile ten I’d passed everyone in front of me except for my teammate, Bruce, and I WASN’T going to be able to catch him, so I ran from the threat of speedy women behind me. Before I knew it, I was coming into transition. Bike time: 38:33, 23.7 mph, 4th overall (includes T1).

Another unique thing about this race is that it’s a point to point, so T2 was 15 miles down the road from T1. I had left a T2 bag containing my running shoes and race number with volunteers at check in. As I pulled into transition, I called out my number. “96, 96!” And to my delight, my hubby found my bag and ran it over to me. I just love seeing him during a race and it was extra cool that he was kind of “involved!” The running shoes went on, the helmet came off and I was headed back out to the road for the 3 mile run.

During the run I definitely paid for the fast bike spilt – my legs were not interested in going… at least not fast. I tried to keep my form together, use my arms on the uphills, and just shut down my brain and set my body to auto pilot… it knew what to do. It wasn’t long before I had a half mile to go and I picked up the pace. The closer I got, the faster I went until I was rounding the corner to the finish line, gritting my teeth as I willed my failing body to push just a little more. I finished and saw the clock. I had made my time goal – by a lot. Run time: 21:47, 7:16 pace, 7th overall (includes T2).

I was pleased with my effort and instantly felt like a badass, but then the day, the race, the accomplishment all ceased to be about me. My timing chip was taken, I was handed a bottle of water and then I shook these hands:
Veterans shaking each and very finishers hand to thank them.

They shook every finishers hand. They thanked me for participating, for helping raise money for disabled veterans, and congratulated me on my performance. Breathless and foggy headed, I rebutted them, “No, thank you for what you’ve done, for my freedom, and for the opportunity to be a part of this!”

The rest of the day was full of cheering in the remaining participants, chowing down on food and beer, celebrating veterans, life and freedom, morning loss and honoring lives that were cut short. There were stories, moments of silence, dedications, and awards all in honor and thanks to veterans.
Bruce, first place male! Yay, matching knives/trophies!
I was lucky enough to add the Tom Maholic Award to my collection. (Does two knives count as a collection?) All in all, it was a beautiful day full of wonderful (and talented) competition and a refreshing sense of community.

Total time of 1:05:52
1st female
4th overall
And gratefully reminded of my freedom and those who protect it.

Until the next tale,


Friday, August 23, 2013

5 tips for coping with a friend's new training plan

5. The talking. And the stories. They're coming and if you're going to stay friends, you're going to have to listen. Be preemptive and ask how their latest training session went. If they can get over themselves enough to realize that you asked for the update and they didn't just word vomit it all over you, they'll appreciate your interest in what is now consuming their life. Affirm them in their hard work and then MOVE ON to talk about something else, but fully expect for their training to pop back up in the conversation 2 to 103495895 more times.

4. Be specific when making arrangements. Training plan = SCHEDULE. The 'let's get together sometime' and expecting them to sporadically call for a evening hangout or be available for said hangout when you call, is not a likely scenario. Make a plan and expect them to stick to it like their Sunday long run.

Behold, the all powerful training schedule.

3. Guard your eyes. There will be spandex involved! Some people start running as an excuse to wear spandex. Others swear it off in the beginning, but eventually that one sale item catches their eye - the price is irresistible, the fit is beyond perfect... eventually a love for form fitting active wear is born. At first it's restrained to the home, but soon it makes its way out to meet you for Saturday coffee or a Sunday brunch and then it's everywhere. They can't help it. It's the running... it's poisoned their mind!

2. Recognize the commitment. You've made commitments before. Big ones. But to your friend, their new training plan is equal to Bruce Wayne embracing his alter ego and becoming Batman to protect Gotham and flush evil from the streets! (They're likely to have the gadgets to match!) Don't be offend, they don't really thing that training for their race is a bigger commitment than the house your buying or the person you're marring or the baby you're expecting or the job you're taking that will move you half way across the country.

1. Join them! Tired of them always being 'booked' because they've got a key workout that will make or break their race goal or having to listen to their recount of Yasso 800's? Don't schedule around their workouts - join their workouts! Even if they're fast/slower than you - consider warming up together or finishing at the same time/place for a post training session stretch. Now you both get to be the word vomiting, spandex wearing, schedule abiding super hero.

What tips would you add to this list?

Until the next tale,

P.s. Thanks to all of my friends for 'coping' so well... probably would have been more accurate if you wrote this!