Tuesday, March 30, 2010


So February 28 came and went. For those of you non-triathletes, it means nothing to you. But for the rest of it, February 28 was the deadline to enter the Kona Lottery. I had planned on paying my $35 or $85 (there are two ways to enter, costs more for better chances obviously) to have a small chance at getting a lottery slot so that I could participate in Ironman Hawaii this October. But, reality set in and I decided I should really save my money and buy a REAL lottery ticket. You know, to win the big bucks. Then I could buy one of those $10,000ish slots to Hawaii AND my dream house in the Caribbean, etc, etc, etc. Unfortunately that didn't pan out in our favor so we are now out one dollar, we are not millionaires, and my name will not be on the Kona Lottery winner list that comes out in a few weeks. I think I'll go comfort myself with Betty Crocker's Gluten Free Brownies.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Foam roller, how do I love thee?

With all my aches and pains, you'd think I was training for an Ironman or something. Maybe I just managed to ignore them all last year. I mean I did after all manage to twist my ankle at the start of a long run and then run 14 more miles. But this year I am not as motivated. My IT Band hurts. Sometimes in my quad, sometimes in my hip. I guess it only hurts in the knee after long runs, and I'm sure not doing those anymore. I've probably taken more Aleve in the last month than I took all of last year.I'm feeling pretty ridiculous and out of shape these days.

My main source of relief for the IT band pain is using my foam roller. I love it so much that I have three of them. Well, one of them I leave at my parents house because although my mom is brilliant and suggested I use a rolling pin as a substitute during one visit last year, I learned that the foam roller is more comfortable.

How do you use it? Umm, hard to explain. Do a google image search, or just click here, or ask someone at Fleet Feet.

My quest to a 5k PR is on hold while I wait until these aches and pains figure themselves out. I don't care enough about a PR to cause further injury to myself! And while I had toyed with the idea of doing Vineman this year - they have a buy 2 get 1 free entry to the full iron distance tri! - I think that is pretty unrealistic at this point. Maybe next year. :)

Every day I have the urge to go running or on a long ride, but then I remember the pain in my hip and quad and then I just sit on the couch. This morning I did some yoga before breakfast because stretching is always good. I'd like to do this more regularly as my flexibility has definitely diminished.

How do you keep fit and feeling good when you're injured? I'd love some good ideas. I do have a bit of the urge to go swimming, but I don't have access to a pool and I'm a little wimpy about swimming in a lake in March. My husband is a swimmer but he's a hard core swimmer so would probably never dream of buying a wetsuit and I'm not sure who else is crazy enough to go swim in the lake with me. But even if I could swim in the lake, that's just good for weekends (it's too far to drive on a weekday). What can I do to keep from becoming a couch potato?? Help!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nothing exciting going on

I haven't been blogging because I haven't been training. My IT band has been bothering me. Last year it hurt in my knee; this year it's in my hip. I should probably go see a doctor but I've been too busy at work to call to make an appointment. It's on my to-do list for this long weekend.

I've been riding my bike to work, but only halfway. For some reason I feel incredibly lame about this. My commute is 7.5 miles and I'm driving 4.5 and riding 3. It's not quite cutting my driving in half, but it's close. And I'm getting some exercise, although I'm riding in my work clothes so I'm not really working up a sweat or getting my heart rate going much. Last Thursday it was so windy that I practically flew to work, easily cruising at 19-20mph without breaking a sweat. The ride home into the wind was significantly UNfun. At first I was glad that I still had my aerobars on my commuter (my old Trek road bike). Then I tried getting into the aero position. The winds were so gusty that I was way too unstable in aero. At one point the wind was coming from the north so strongly that when I was riding east I almost couldn't turn left into the wind! Crazy wind.

I put some nifty double sided pedals on my commuter bike. They've got SPD on one side and flat pedals on the other side. So if I'm in the mood for a longer ride and detour in the morning, I can wear my SPD bike shoes. Otherwise I can just wear my work shoes. Commuting by bike is really fun, but I'm starting to especially enjoy riding in my work clothes and work shoes. All I do when I get to work is take off my helmet; lock my bike in my bike locker and walk into my office. No changing of shoes or showering. So easy! And you can't beat fresh brisk air in the morning. If you haven't tried bike commuting, do it!

Swimming has sounded appealing lately (in my head). But I'm too cheap to pay for a gym membership right now and I'm too wimpy to go swim in a lake! I miss the Caribbean! 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Birthday weekend

I celebrated my birthday this weekend by taking a last minute trip to see my parents. My mom, being the amazing mom that she is, baked me two gluten free birthday cakes. Almost every birthday that I can remember, I've always wanted angel food cake with marshmallow frosting. Last March my mom made one as her first gluten free cake in honor of my birthday. It was awesome. This year the angel food cake didn't turn out quite right - it collapsed. But she saved it by turning it into a trifle, complete with my gooey sweet marshmallow frosting. She also made a gluten free carrot cake for me though. She didn't ever admit it, but I think the reason she made two was because it's just impossible to decorate on marshmallow frosting and she's really known for her decorations (as well as her delicious carrot cake)!

So here is the inspiration for the cake - the abstract art on an old triathlon tshirt belonging to my dad (he's done countless tris and 50 marathons!) and my Ironman finish line photo!

Ironman Florida pretty much sums up my 30th year. Last year I started my 30th year with a celebratory half marathon. My husband ran that same half marathon this morning as his first half. I PRed last year by almost an hour and it set the tone for the entire year of training hard and having a great time too. Finishing Ironman Florida was really the icing on the cake for the year. And on my birthday it became the literal icing on the cake....Yup, that's a likeness of my finish photo on the top of that carrot cake!

Up close details. Notice how my mom made the bicyclists pink to match my bike?

The cake even had M-Dots!

All three gluten free birthday cakes - angel food cake, carrot cake, and a pop-up birthday card cake!

This year I started my 31st year with a 31 minute run while my dad rode his bike with me. I hadn't planned to run 31 minutes, it's just how long my 2 loop run took! Next year I'll either run 32 minutes, or do the half marathon again. I had a great time with that last year. My friend Jennifer got us matching green shirts and mine said "Birthday Girl" on the back - some of the other runners actually sang happy birthday to me around mile 2! Today was the perfect day for my husband's first half marathon. It's so nice to see the sun. It's starting to really feel like spring.

Happy Pi(e) Day everyone!

Blue Diamond Nut Thins review (gluten free!)

Recently Blue Diamond sent me some Nut Thins. Blue Diamond is a partner with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and Blue Diamond is a sponsor of the NFCA's Athletes for Awareness blogs. Blue Diamond is also a local business for me - I rode my bike past their headquarters countless times last year. It's right between doggie day care and the bike path!

I had seen Nut Thins for sale when we were in Florida for my Ironman back in November. But before the Ironman, I was really paranoid about trying new foods - I wasn't trying anything new during race week. I also then saw them on the shelf at my parents house when I visited for Thanksgiving. My parents have a gluten free shelf in the pantry just for my occasional visits! The shelf is always packed full, and if I tried everything on each visit, well, I would probably gain 2 pounds per day instead of just 1 per day! My mom also loves to bake, so I had a variety of pie crusts and donuts to sample as well, so I sampled those instead of the Nut Thins that visit.

Fast forward to December and I found myself browsing the gluten free selections at my grocery store wanting to try something new. I bought a box of the Almond Nut Thins. These are basically plain crackers made with almonds and rice flour! You get to eat 16 regular sized crackers per 130 calorie serving (and 3 grams of protein)! The Almond Nut Thins were great and on our next shopping trip we bought a box of the Pecan Nut Thins in addition to a second box of the Almond Nut Thins. We love the pecan ones just as much as the almond ones!

Blue Diamond sent me Country Ranch Nut Thins. Normally I'm not much of a fan of flavored crackers or chips. I like basic flavors because I don't eat them very often so I want them to work for a variety of things - eating plain, with soup, with cheese, etc. But I had a box of Country Ranch crackers sitting there just asking me to give them a chance, so I did. Oh so yummy! The Country Ranch flavor is even more addicting than the plain Almond or Pecan crackers! And surprise surprise, they go well with everything. I've crumbled them onto a potato, eaten them with beans and salsa, crunched on them with soup, snacked on them plain, with salmon, etc, etc. These are so good. I'm so happy I got the chance to try these! They are delicious.

Nut Thins are made in a shared facility, BUT as they clearly say on the box "Each production run is sampled and tested to confirm gluten levels do not exceed 20 PPM." That's basically as good as you can get! I would not hesitate to recommend Nut Thins to a celiac. They are absolutely delicious and I've not had any reactions. And my non-celiac husband enjoys them all too. His two cents - the pecan are a little sweet and the ranch are very flavorful. When I came home from work he was eating the ranch ones with cream cheese! The crackers come in an airtight aluminum bag inside the box. (The aluminum bag is covered with food-grade plastic film.) The bag is easy to tear open without any scissors. We haven't worried about putting the bag into an airtight container after opening and we haven't had any problems with them going stale. I think I'll buy the Hint of Sea Salt flavor next or maybe Hazelnut... One thing is for sure, Nut Thins are a new staple in our house!

FTC disclaimer: These products were provided to me free of charge. I was not paid to do this review.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Safety bike gear reviews

To continue from last week's "cold" weather reviews, I wanted to add a few more items that I incorporate into my bicycle commute in the non-summer months. I got a Sugoi helmet cover last year so I could ride in the rain and keep my head as dry as possible. I chose the ugly neon yellow color because it's super reflective. It practically glows in the dark. I feel radioactive when I've got this over my helmet. I bought mine at REI, and it doesn't look like they have the neon yellow one online anymore. I kept this on my helmet until mid-summer when I preferred the ventilation of my helmet over visibility. I haven't actually ridden in real rain with this, so I can't vouch for the waterproofness. But it helps keep my head warmer and it provides 360 degree visibility. You can find this for less than $30 and the neon yellow one is inevitably always cheaper than the cool black cover.

Another purchase I made in fall '08 with the idea that I'd be bike commuting all winter was a pair of bike booties. These are the Sugoi Resistor Bike Booties. List price at REI is $50 though I think I got them for half off somehow. They fit on over your bike shoes. The bottom of the boot is mostly open so that your cleat is exposed and able to clipin to your pedals. There is a small velcro strap that goes across the bottom of the shoe to hold on the booties. Then you zip up the back. In theory they are water resistent but I decided I was too wimpy to test them in the rain. They do keep your feet warmer though because they keep the wind from rushing through your well-ventilated bike shoes. They are fleece lined, but the fleece just matters for warmth since the booties don't really touch your skin at all. The outside is rubbery. I haven't bothered wearing these this year, but last year I used them a lot. (Let's face it, I could be acclimating to the cold, or more realistically it's just that I'm not riding as much as last winter.) As an added bonus, the bright yellow is fairly reflective. Since your road bike probably doesn't have reflectors on the pedals, this is a decent substitute in the winter months when it's more likely to be dark on your bike commute. My main problem with these is that you have to adjust your shoes exactly how you want them before putting on the booties. There's no way around this, it's just how booties are. But forget playing with the Velcro straps to loosen your shoes after 2 or 3 hours on the bike. You have to get off the bike and remove the booties first.

My most dorky bit of safety gear is my reflective vest. Mine isn't exactly like the ones pictured here. Although mine is designed basically like the orange one, mine is actually more reflective. The piping around the edges is neon yellow instead of black, and the yellow stripes have an additional silver reflective stripe down the middle. I can't remember where I bought mine and there is no label. I don't think I got mine at a bike store, but maybe I did... It was the cheapest one I've ever seen, something like $10. The best thing about it is that it is one size fits all, and it's mesh. See those black things on the side that look like tabs? Well, that's what connects the front to the back. It's a long elastic thing (mine is neon yellow, of course). The front is connected with some velcro. Because it's one size fits all, I can wear this OVER my backpack! It actually stretches enough to have the back part of the vest around my gigantic backpack. My backpack usually has about 4 big tupperware containers for snacks and my lunch, plus that day's work clothes, and in the afternoon it'll have my leg warmers and a long sleeve top usually too. It's the kind of backpack that you hit people with when you turn around in the elevator. This type of vest is a lot more useful for me than a reflective jersey would be. Since it's mesh I can wear it in the summer and it doesn't make me overheated (although in the summer it's almost always bright outside when I'm riding). I can wear it over any amount of layers. And it's way less expensive than a reflective jersey.

I also have lights, of course! I've got a great red light for the back which is on a clip, so I can easily place it on whichever bike I feel like riding. It hooks onto my saddle bag. For the front, I have a permanently attached light on my hybrid, but I don't have any front flights on my road bikes. I'm too lazy to take them on and off for races, etc. Also I've had a hard time with those lights because they can be difficult to adjust to aim exactly where you want. Lately I've been using my headlamp though. It works pretty well and I can adjust it to either fit over my helmet - sitting basically where the visor on a helmet usually is - or I have the light be on my forehead. The best part about having a light attached to the helmet instead of the bike is that the light shines on what you're looking at. I feel better about having a light on my head because I can look at a car and I like to think that if a driver is more likely to notice a light that is suddenly aimed directly at the driver.

For the first week of March, I think I did pretty well on my bike commuting. I rode my bike to work each day that it wasn't raining - Monday, Thursday, and Friday. (I also ran Wednesday morning on the treadmill!) Monday's ride home was pretty grey and getting dark - I'd forgotten my headlamp and was getting a little worried about not having one but I survived; Thursday's ride home was great as there were no clouds to cover the sun. Friday I wasn't really excited about riding home. Actually I almost never am. I like to ride in the morning but by the afternoon I'm dreading it. There are definitely a few unpleasant parts to my commute and at times I get nervous about it. Since it wasn't super bright out and I was really not feeling it my husband picked me up from work. Perhaps it was an indication that I needed the rest, because yesterday I wasn't feeling very well at all. We skipped our planned ride and just rested all day. But I got 7 workouts in for the week, so I'm feeling good about that.