Monday, March 31, 2008

T-Minus 6 Days

One week from today I will be hanging out at my parents' house in Oklahoma resting. More importantly, I should be able to officially call myself an endurance mountain bike racer at that point. Only six days until the Ouachita Challenge, and I'm anxious and excited, but not freaking out too bad. Actually, I honestly say that the biggest thing I'm worried about is that I will finish and not be last, but at some point I'll loose one of the stupid little tokens that you have to turn in at the end of the race. That would be just my luck.

My training schedule over the last couple of months is making it feel a lot more like the most expensive and logistically challenging group ride I've ever been on, rather than an actual race. I want to finish and I want to beat at least one person and I will happy. After this, I will know what to expect and can set bigger goals. I did do some anxious Googling of the start list, but quickly came to the conclusion that it is a waste of time.

The race will go something like this: Carey Lowery will beat me. The other 20-something women in the race may or may not. Just pedal the darn bike.

I pretty much did what I was supposed to do during my last week of training. Things were a bit difficult, since the moutain bike trails are muddy and the gravel roads are flooded, so my training options got pretty narrow. I had myself pretty warn out last week and had to take an unplanned day off Thursday. It was kind of okay since my workout assignment was two hours off-road to work on my technical skills, which was just not going to happen due to the conditions I just mentioned. My legs were still pretty dead for my three hour ride with hill intervals on Saturday, but I spent yesterday mostly napping and watching reality TV with just a one-hour easy ride, so I'm feeling much better now. Today is a scheduled day off and I'm hoping to kick butt tomorrow on my last real workout before the race.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Look Mom, It's Vegan and I Made It Up Myself!

Sort of. I took a Morrocan Spice Oil recipe from Vegetarian Times, mimicked Alton Brown's method of stir-frying kale, and added my own twist to make a delicious and healthy Morrocan-inspired feast. It is seriously the best meal I've made in a long time.

Morrocan Style Beans 'n' Greens

2 cups dry chickpeas
1 Tbsp tumeric
1 Tbsp cumin seeds or dried cumin
2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 Tbps salt
1 Tbps pepper

2 pounds curly-leaf kale
Morrocan Spice Oil
3 cloves minced garlic
More red pepper flakes
zest and juice from one lemon

Rinse and cover chickpeas with 2 inches of water and soak overnight. Drain and recover with fresh water. Add tumeric, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until chickpeas are soft. Drain, drizzle with Morrocan Spice Oil, and lightly mash with a potato masher.

Remove stems, chop, and rinse kale. Heat 1 Tbsp Morrocan Spice Oil in largest heavy pan you own (a larger broiler pan over two burners is best, but use what you have). Add garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes to taste and stir. Add kale and stir fry for about 5 minutes until tender moving constantly and evenly distributing garlic and spices through greens.

Serve chickpeas on a bed of stir-fried kale and eat. Toasted pita bread would be a nice side with this.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Week of Pain Concluded

After seven weeks of semi-sloth, I made it through my "Week of Pain" more or less unscathed. I still would not classify myself at either happy nor zen, but least my fog of depression seems to have transitioned into a kind of functional irritability. Still pushing forward towards the happy and Zen.

I have been a very busy girl lately, which would explain my lack of blogging. Most of my at-work time last week was spent interviewing candidates for a couple of temporary summer employees that we will be hiring. It's very exciting getting to choose and train my own team members for the first time, but also very exhausting trying to find the right ones.

Over the last couple of years, I have compared my search fulfilling and profitable employment to dating. Well, as the search for love goes both ways, so does the search for employment. So at this time, I'm no longer playing the role of rejected lover, but more of the casual online dater. I've found a couple of good candidates, but no true love yet.

Outside of work has been pretty much sucked up by the usual functions of training, eating (and cooking), sleeping, and trying to sneak in a few minutes of quality time with my husband. Between those things, miscellaneous errands, and my pursuit of Happy-Zeness, I've had very little time for blogging or mass media. In general, that's probably a good thing, as long as I don't freak out from deprivation of movies, pajamas, and junk food, the things that I have heretofore relied on for comfort.

The training has gone surprisingly well. After the rain-soaked TT intervals, the floods continued for another day, only with a 15-degree temperature drop. So Wednesday was supposed to be a 90-minute recover spin, but for some dumb reason I decided since it was recovery I could somehow make though watching a movie on the trainer. I really should have just bundled up and ridden outside because the trainer ride lasted all of 25 minutes. In fairness to myself, riding the trainer was hurting my knee and it was logical that I wasn't really doing a very good recovery ride if what I was doing hurt.

Thursday was yet another "real workout", although it was pretty informal. I was assigned to two hours of short and long hills. I was supposed to stand and attack on short hills and climb the longer ones in the saddle. No real instructions beyond that, other that I should accumulate at least 10% of my saddle time in Zone 4-5 by the time I was done. It was hard, but fun, since I got to choose my own recoveries and attacking short hills was a nice change since I rarely do any climbing out of the saddle. I ended up with 25% Zone 4-5 time, as well as meeting my personal goal of accumulating least 5 minutes in Zone 5.

Friday was an easy day on the rail-to-trail and Saturday was a 2.5 hour formal hill workout (Coach Dave loves to pile on the hill work in the pre-season). It went well, despite being in the 30's and getting pelted with sleet for a bit in the middle. I did have a tailwind on both hills though, so that was nice.

Yesterday was supposed to be a long dirt ride, but much of the route was flooded and I couldn't get my heart rate out of the 140's anyway, so I cut it to 90 minutes. I ended up with about 9 hours for the week, which seems like about two day's worth for everyone else, but it's good for me.

I try really hard not to get hung up on hour totals, as my training plan is lot more concentrated than that of the average cyclist. I'm pretty sure that if I can ever consistently work up to 15 hours a week of Coach Dave training I'll be pretty flippin' fast. The my biggest Coach Dave week so far has been around 11 hours and it was the week immediately preceding my two-month breakdown. Take from that what you will.

So my "Week of Pain" is done and this week's schedule is similar, but maybe a little more kind. At least it won't have the shock factor that last week did. Tuesday and Saturday are more hill reps on the mountain bike and Thursday is supposed to be two hours of moderate-effort technical work on the mountain bike. I have serious doubts about whether that will be possible. We will need at least 3-4 days of no rain and no sub-freezing temperatures for the trails to be rideable and the forecast isn't looking good. I suppose I'll figure something out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hell or High Water

Big wheels keep on turnin'
Pissed Lindsay keeps on burnin'
Rollin', Rollin'
Rollin' down the river
I really can't think of a more accurate description of my workout tonight, except for the fact that technically it was Lampkins Ridge Road and not a river, but due to the weather it might as well have been.

I've been struggling with my conversion to Happy Zen Lindsay for the last week. Not that I'm expecting to convert that quickly, but I'm disappointed that I haven't put in more work towards that end. It sucks when you're too busy, stressed, and depressed to do things that will help you stop being busy, stressed, and depressed.

Nevertheless, I also decided that I can't take any more mental health days from training and it was time to embrace my "Week of Pain". Early in the day today I decided that my number one priority would be getting home and getting on the bike, even if it meant putting off some of my more therapeutic "to do" list items another day. I know darn well after the last couple of months, that Hard-nose Badass Suck-it-up Lindsay has a shelf life of five days at the very best, but I figured I just needed her for today and I would spend some time with Happy Zen Lindsay before my recovery ride tomorrow.

So I arrived home today in full Hard-nose Badass Suck-it-up Lindsay mode. However, I knew Adam was coming home early to leave for a concert in Indianapolis today, so I figured I'd just hang out and leave after he did to avoid the whole, "You're riding in the rain?" discussion. Being married to a bike mechanic has it's ups and downs. Unfortunately, I think he took my aloofness to be signs of depression and launched into a trite speech about, "Aren't you looking forward to nice weather and being able to train outside everyday?", which wouldn't have really been the best way to cheer me up even if I had been depressed. So the "You're riding in the rain?" discussion was launched after all. His alternative suggestions and chiding me for riding my good mountain bike tires on the road too much got me through me a bit off-track. Then a time-out to email the vet about Mrs. Bigglesworth's urinary tract health didn't help matters and by the time he was out the door I was ready to vent.

Of course, this minor disagreement or whatever you would call it would have normally just annoyed me a little, but I'd been teetering on the edge for about a week and half. General work stress and an annoying new employee that's been placed under my supervision have been working me up and I'm starting the find the dark emotional cloud that's been stalking me since January harder and harder to deal with. So in the solitude of my own home with only the cats to witness, I let Angry Lindsay loose. I screamed and stomped and threw a few things that I knew wouldn't break. Then I realized that this time was I was not going to let the gallons of adrenaline coursing through my veins turn me into a sobbing pile of Jello until I had completed my workout. Thus the hell or high water. Even after getting behind schedule, not being able to find my cycling cap, and not being able to air up the rear tire of the 'cross bike I had almost been guilted into riding due to a freakishly short valve stem, I jumped on my mountain bike with the full intention of doing my schedule time trial intervals.

I had 5 X 5K on the schedule, which I shortened to 4 X 2 miles since workout time would be more equivalent when converted to a slower bike. I also had to do an even number due to the out and back nature of my ride and not wanting to get caught in the dark. It actually went really well considering my poor fitness. Of course, the one advantage to poor fitness is that is makes it really easy to keep your heart rate above 185 when that's what you have been assigned to do. The other advantage was despite all her faults, Angry Lindsay can put out some killer athletic performances. If I can ever combine consistent training, peaking on race day, and getting completely irate about 30 minutes before an A race, there will be course records set.
In the end lactic acid has a magical way of clearing adrenaline and calming the angry beast. So does riding in thee rain (I would make a good Belgian except for my aversion to leg warmers) and I got my fair share of each. More importantly, I finally got a really workout in for the first time forever. Hopefully, the first of many.
I do feel weird sharing my emotional troubles with the rest of the world, but lately I feel like I need to share with someone. It's probably better to share with mostly strangers anyway since even if they do judge you harshly, it's not like the consequences are particularly severe. Of course, I'm not actually as crazy as this post makes me sound, as I don't have actual multiple personalities. I think people who do give them different first names.

However, stress, anger, and depression are things that I've struggled with my whole life and the last few months I've been experiencing a flareup. It's just the way I'm wired. I'm doing my best to help myself re-wire, but we'll just have to see how it goes. It should be interesting.

Friday, March 14, 2008

That's Not Ham in Your Beans

This week's recipe is neither vegetarian nor particularly a recipe. Yes, I know I'm getting lazy, but I discovered something extremely cool (to me at least) last weekend and wanted to share.

Quite some time ago my mother-in-law brought us package of a bulk bean mixture similar to the "15 bean soup mix" type of things you might have seen in the grocery store. My mom used to make this sort of bean soup pretty frequently when I was younger and I really liked it, but it usually involved some ham. Adam doesn't partake in pork products and I wasn't sure how to cook proper bean soup with them. So the beans sat and sat. I even had a discussion with another semi-herbivorous co-worker a few weeks ago about how it's hard to make good beans without the use of pork. She'd apparently tried turkey bacon and it hadn't worked at all.

Then last Friday I was watching "Good Eats" on the Food Network and Alton Brown used a smoked turkey leg in a pot of collard greens. I thought it was a really good idea and decided to try it on my bean soup. Despite his assertion that smoked turkey legs should be available in most large groceries stores, I had my doubts, but I was able to find them in the frozen section at our usual Kroger. At around $5 for two gigantic legs, they were also a pretty good value.

The bean mixture came with general instructions, but no seasonings, so I improvised to my tastes and decided to go with a Cajun-esque theme. After soaking the beans overnight, I sauteed diced onions, carrots, and green peppers (the Cajun "trinity") as well as some minced garlic for a little extra something. Then I added the turkey leg, the soaked beans, a Tbsp of Cajun seasoning, a tsp cumin (Adam's suggestion to play up the smokiness), salt, pepper, and a can of "petite diced" tomatoes. I then added enough water to cover everything by about an inch, stirred, and brought it to a boil. After it reached a boil, I covered the pot and turned the heat down to the absolute lowest my stove would go. I simmered it for the rest of the afternoon (4-5 hours?) until the beans were tender and the turkey was falling off the bone. I removed the turkey skin, the bone, the long shards of cartilage that are apparently part of a turkey leg and broke up the meat into small chunks.

The result was absolutely delicious and I'm glad that discovered a way to make good beans without pork.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On the Road (Bike) Again

Last night my road bike saw daylight for the first time since October. It felt very foreign, like a light, responsive little munchin bike, after only riding my 'cross and mountain bikes all winter. However, I think the snow and ice are pretty much over and I know I won't be riding trainer again for awhile, so "Jake" was shelved for the summer and the TCR got it's first twitchy, windy ride of the season. It was pretty nice being on a clean, freshly overhauled bike with a new chain, bottom bracket, and crankset. I also have a set of new Continental road tires with "black chili" compound, but they haven't been installed yet.

Adam got me a compact crankset for Christmas and I finally got to test it out yesterday (compact gearing is pretty irrelevant on the trainer). It's kind of funny that after two years of grinding through the hills of Bloomington he finally decided to make things easier on me. I jokingly told him that he should hold off installing it, as I would be needing to trade it in for whatever Mario Cipollini used by spring. That was when I was still faithfully slaving away at the "Hour of Power" and various other trainer workouts on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I kind of crapped out on the next phase of my base training, so at this point I'm in not-so-great shape and couldn't tell much difference with the easier gearing.

As for being out of shape, it looks like I won't have to wait until Ouachita to pay the price for that. I got next week's training plan from Coach Dave and it appears that mountain bike season waits for no woman. The plan is moving right along and it's up to me to catch up. On the menu is: two hours with 5 X 5K TTs on Tuesday, two hours of hills Thursday, two and a half hours with 5 x a half-mile 8+% hill and then 5 x a one mile 3-4% hill on Saturday, and 3+ hours at moderate pace on Sunday. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are kind enough with light strength work and easy spinning, but all I can think when I look at my calendar is OUCHEE!

I guess it's better now that in the middle of a race though.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What's Up With That?

I missed my 9:30 bedtime again last night, but only by 3 minutes. My sleep quality wasn't the best as I was cold (I had a load of laundry in the dryer and was down to the pajama dregs) and not used to going to going bed that early. I still felt better than yesterday, so we'll see how the experiment goes. Of course, I would have made it to bed on time if hadn't spent 10-15 minutes pouring over old heart rate files dealing the following conundrum.

Of course, I'm sure I could find a message board to post on somewhere, but it just felt like it would be more fun to submit it to the vast endurance-racing knowledge of the blogosphere. The question: Why are the finish times for the Lumberjack about 1.5 hours faster than the Mohican on average, despite the fact that the Lumberjack has 60 more miles of singletrack and 2000 more feet of climbing (at least according the respective race websites)?I started discussing this with a fellow Bloomington MTB-chick and aspiring edurance racer a few weeks ago. Our discussion was based purely on percentage of singetrack and we came to the conclusion that the Mohican must be much more climby.

I filed it away in my brain until after what I considered to be a very climby dirt road ride that came in at about 4000 ft. over 45 miles. So I decided to check out the course description on the Lumberjack website. Low and behold, it reported 13,000 ft of climbing over 100 miles, a much bigger percentage than my training ride.

So now I'm just really confused. Can someone whose experienced these races please explain to me "What's up with that?"

Monday, March 10, 2008

Let There Be Light

The Uniform Time Act of 1966, signed into Public Law 89-387 on April 12, 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson, created Daylight Saving Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. And it allowed cyclists with 8-5 jobs to train after work without getting caught in the dark and we saw that it was good.
That's it. The whole "lack of light" training excuse is done for another eight months. Woohoo!
Of course, it's not all sunshine and rainbows just yet. Adam and I both had a horrible time falling asleep last night and I was barely able to stay awake at my desk the first few hours of the morning. On top of that, I made a vow last week to start getting 8.5-9 hours of sleep, even on weeknights, so I picked a pretty crappy time to start trying to go to bed at 9:30. So far, I have not been successful a single night. However, I really think that it will help my mental and physical health if I can stop procrastinating in the evenings. I also went to the library and checked out "Meditation & Relaxation in Plain English" and "Five Good Minutes an Evening". While I'm hoping that I'm just going through some late-season Seasonal Affective Disorder that will be clearing up soon, it's probably a good idea to take some proactive steps toward curing the funk I've been in the last eight weeks. I've come to the conclusion that I've got to get my mind right before I can expect my body to perform the way I want it to.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Really Late Non-Vegetarian Recipe of the Week

I've really been searching for some delicious new vegetarian recipes, but I've not had much luck lately. My go-to source for recipes is normally Food Network, but they have so many recipes that it's a blessing and a curse. It has a lot to choose from, but a lot to get bogged down by, as well. They have recently improved their search features, but there's still not a lot of nutritional thought put into what comprises a vegetarian entree on that site. I've been browsing the recipes on Vegetarian Times , but a lot of it is a little boring for my adventurous palate. I guess I'll just have to start making stuff up. I'm trying to think up some sort of cassarole with beans, veggies, and a lot of spice/flavor. I'll let you know how that turns out.

Anyway, until then I'm recycling old standbys and I'm planning on making these sometime before the week's over. They have lots of flavor and are surprisingly moist, so I serve them bun-free, but that's up to you.

Southeast Asian Turkey Burgers

1 large garlic clove
2 slices bread of your choice
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro sprigs
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco or similar hot sauce
4 light hamburger buns

Mince garlic. Into a blender tear bread slices and grind into fine crumbs. In a bowl with your hands mix garlic with bread crumbs and remaining burger ingredients until just combined (do not overmix) and form into 4 (1-inch-thick) patties. Place on an indoor grill, about 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Backswing and the Upswing

Things were looking bad there for a while. I spent a good portion of the last 2-4 weeks looking and feeling like a real-life embodiement of those "Depression Hurts" commercials except I was shoving a lot more food into my mouth. I can't really even say what what was wrong. The most craptastic weather of recent memory didn't help, but I think a lot it had to do with my overconfidence in being Superstar Winter Training Girl. When things got tough, I sat on the couch and ate ice cream. That was the backswing.

Now I'm back on the upswing. The sunny weather and the realization that I was weeks away from my Expert Class debut helped get me going again. I've got four days back on the wagon under my belt and just a few more days left before Daylight Savings Time starts. I'm trying not think about adding up hours and just focus on getting on my bike everyday except for Monday and Friday. Those are my plyo days. If I keep doing that day after day I'll be fine.

In addition to the cheery weather, Adam surprised me with pink cable housing on my mountain bike. I think it looks pretty good with the black and silver (excuse the dirt). He's been suprising me with occasional bike gifts, which are almost always pink, since about our second or third date. I think he's trying to turn me into Mountain Bike Barbie (if only Barbie would actually try mountain biking), but generally I like his taste.