The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bits and Pieces

I LOVE the feeling of spring emerging. I have been on my bike (155 miles in March!!!). I went hiking. I took pictures of my son playing baseball. I love seeing color at the very tippy top of the trees. I love hearing the frogs singing whenever I ride past a pond. I love sweating when I am wearing 2 or 3 layers of clothes to stay warm. I love knowing I have the spring and the summer ahead of me. I love being back with the GOB (Girls on Bikes). LOVE LOVE LOVE.

I have been trying to visualize how I want to look and perform when I am swimming. I see myself in the pool as if I am the coach standing on the pool deck. I see my long powerful strokes, my rotation, my head down, my breathing linked to my arms, and an easy flutter kick. And I think it is helping me swim better.

Speaking of swimming….. have you ever tried to swim with a large rubber band around your legs, just below your knees? Neither had I, until last week. And quite frankly, I hope I never have to do it again! The only way to move across the pool is to turn your arms really fast, keep your head down so you feel like you are swimming underwater, and rotate until you are almost doing the backstroke. After this one, my arms were sore for 2 days.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Big Fat Junkanoo Metric Century

One of my goals for this cycling season is to ride my first metric century (that’s 100k or 62 miles). This is actually taking precedence over triathlons. I am still committed to swimming with the Masters Team and I try to run a few miles once a week, but more than anything, I want to be on my bike. I felt it 2 weeks ago when the temperature shot up into the 60s and I went out for my first ride. I felt it this past weekend when I was ready to ride on a morning when the temp was only 27! Luckily we deferred until the day morphed into a totally beautiful afternoon. And I felt it the following day when I rode with my cycling friends, as we all struggled to conquer the hills on a 20 mile ride. So I am starting to put a plan into place to accomplish this goal. First, I am recruiting other club members who want to join me, other slowpokes, who may or may not have ridden a metric century. If I’m going to be spending more time on my bike, going out for longer rides, I would like some company. I expect there are quite a few club members who are in the same place. They would like to get stronger and welcome a challenge, but a full century is just too much (unless it is really flat), and they lack the speed to go on longer club rides (because the longer rides are typically faster as well). But you have to be willing to commit the time. Going out for a 35-40 mile ride when you only ride 12 mph is gonna suck up a good piece of your day. We can obviously support each other and hopefully share the responsibility for leading rides. I don’t mind being the “organizer,” but I don’t want to be the person making all the decisions about where, when and how much to ride. Second, I have started to put together a schedule of rides that work towards this goal. There are already some club rides that are a little bit longer than usual, and some events that present opportunities.

I guess I have spring fever! I’m not sure how long this heightened motivation will last, so I might as well use it to create a plan to achieve this goal. Tapping into the power of community and making a commitment to myself and my community of slowpokes; it’s the Big Fat Junkanoo working its magic.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Trickle Down Fitness

I took a spin class on Wednesday and I felt awesome. It was only 45 minutes but I felt like I was able to go hard without my heart rate going crazy. Then in the pool yesterday, we swam for over an hour solid and spent about 15 minutes practicing turns. We quit a little early, and I know I could have kept going, I had alot left in the tank (but I decided to spend the extra time in the hot tub!). So, the time spent in the pool has paid off and I feel stronger in a cardio kind of way (although not in a hill climbing kind of way). It was a Big Fat Junkanoo moment. The commitment to swimming and the community of swimmers that helped me get through those workouts-- that's what made me stronger. This cross training thing really works!

What I am still learning to accept is that all this hard work is not going to make me faster. I swim slow. I ride slow. I run slow. Sometimes I get discouraged because I am so slow and all the effort doesn't make me faster. I have to keep telling myself that its not important. Most of the time I have myself convinced, but then something will happen that invites comparison. For example, the coach will time us and I realize how slowly I swim compared to everyone else on the team. And I know I shouldn't be comparing myself to anyone else, and if I do want to compare myself to other people, how about all the women my age who think bobbing around in the pool with a noodle is exercise. But sometimes being slow despite the effort is really frustrating. I wish some speed would trickle down.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Taking it Outside

I was in the pool at 8 am because I am a swimmer, that's what I do. Today the coach talked about "erasing lateral bias" mostly because my turns are much better from my right than from my left. Today's practice wasn't as strenuous as most because the coach had more to say. We ended with 100 free, and for the first time, he actually told me my time, gave me a concrete way to measure my improvement. I have improved to the point where I can actually think about improving.

But it seems that all the swimming has not translated into riding up hills. Today was unseasonably warm and I jumped on the chance to pump up the tires and take my bike out. Yes, today was a day to take it outside. I didn't ride very far, only 11 miles, but even the little hills felt big. I would have thought that my swimming fitness would translate into cycling fitness, the whole crosstraining concept. Well, I am leading my first club ride of the season tomorrow, 20 miles. Maybe it will feel a little easier tomorrow.

Friday, March 06, 2009

For March

February was SUPPOSED to be about stepping up the intensity, but it didn't happen. Traveling didn't do much for the nutrition side of the equation either. So March is here and I'm on the same page. But at least the book is open and I'm writing.
This weekend is going to be unseasonably warm. The bike is coming out. Yes, Dolce and I are rolling this weekend.

Nourishing Frugal Recipes -- Soup Beans

Once again I am participating in Nourishing Gourmet's recipe carnival, this time focusing on frugal recipes. In my mind, nourishing frugal delicious foods start with a mindset. For me, the frugal part is almost automatic. I first made the decision that I was going to find the time to prepare nutritious meals for myself and my family. I enjoy cooking, so it was really about the time and not the cooking/food prep. Once I decided to cook using real food, the nutritious and frugal parts really just happened! I am also committed to being physically fit, and I know that I have to provide my body with good fuel. Eating crappy food and going to the gym is like banging your head against the wall.

I am not a creative cook, I don't just open the frig and start throwing things into a pot. I am very much a recipe girl. My husband teases me because I read cookbooks. The only time I get a bit more creative is when I make soup (which is often). That is the time when I will open the frig and start throwing whatever I have into the soup pot. The most recent change I have made to my cooking habits is to use homemade stock for my soups.

I also try to keep a positive attitude about doing as much as I can. I work 4 days a week, commute into NYC, and often go to the gym after work. Sometimes we order pizza and it becomes special because it doesn't happen often.

So here's a couple of recipes-- first up is Good Ol' Southern Soup Beans, not to be confused with bean soup. Soup beans are usually served as a main dish with cornbread, but you can serve them as a side dish. You could certainly serve them over your favorite grain, too. I like to freeze portions and eat them for lunch with a small salad and a chunk of sourdough bread. Yummm! These are made in the pressure cooker, but you could do it on the stove or even a crockpot. The pressure cooker does add to the frugal quality of this recipe. The second recipe is for Fajita Seasoning Mix. Making your own seasoning mixes is fun and frugal. I use it for steak fajitas but its also my secret ingredient in chicken soup. Add some corn and throw in some cilantro to complete the Mexican flavors.

Good Ol' Southern Soup Beans (Pressure Cooker)
1 lb. dried beans (pinto preferred, but almost anything will work)
1 ham hock or other meaty soups bones
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
1 Tb butter
6 cups hot water

1. Presoak the beans,rinse and drain.
2. Melt butter in the pressure cooker. Add onion and garlic, cook until soft.
3. Add beans, ham hock or other soup bones, and water. Put lid on pressure cooker and seal it. Bring heat up to high.
4. Once pressure cooker comes up to pressure, reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes.
5. Remove pressure cooker from heat and quick release the pressure. Remove the lid and test the beans. If necessary, cover and return the pressure cooker to pressure and cook another 5 minutes.
6. Remove the ham hock/soup bones from the pot. Discard the skin and bones, chop the meat and return it to the pot.
7. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot with corn bread.

Fajita Seasoning Mix
3 Tb cornstarch
2 Tb chili powder
1 Tb salt
1 Tb paprika
1 Tb sugar
2 1/2 tsp crushed chicken buillon cubes or powder
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mix and store in a glass bottle. Makes the equivalent of 3 packets of store-bought fajita seasoning mix.