Triathlon Things I’ve Learned Thus Far

So it’s been a long while since I posted last – but nothing like now, especially since my first ever triathlon is TOMORROW! So here’s a rundown of things I’ve discovered since April, 3 months ago.

Not only did I achieve my initial goal of completing at least one 5K road race, I’ve completed 6 races thus far in the past couple months!  Two of them have been with my son.

Me at a 5K finish!

After realizing I was running 5Ks in the mid to low 25s I set a goal of getting below 25:00.  I started to focus my running with a speed workout once a week (such as 8 x 400s in the 1:40s) along with tempo runs and long runs. I achieved my goal – not only below 25:00 but just shy of getting into the 23:00s with a time of 24:02! Speedwork once a week with a great group of friends is an important part of training! I’ve also learned what negative splits are (make the last ones faster than the first ones) and a watch that can track laps has been a good tool to have!

Over the course of 5 months I’ve gone from only being able to run about 2 miles before having knee pain to now being able to run 8 miles with no pain! I credit this success to regular cross-training: gradual run sessions with regular swimming and biking, rest, and good nutrition (still meatless going on 9 months now). I have gradually added run time/distance at a rate of about 10% more per week.

I did my first open water swimming in May – thanks to some wonderful friends. My friend Judy loaned me a wetsuit since I didn’t yet have one of my own. We swam in the same lake where my triathlon will be held. It looked a bit intimidating at first.

“I’m swimming way out there?”

Once we were in the middle of the lake I realized what an inspiring experience this was. Here I am looking like a seal, swimming outside with the sun in view each time I turned to take a fresh breath, and I was with friends with the same goals. We swam out to the marker in the middle and then back – – just under 1 mile!

Friends make it all great!

After a couple open water swims I realized that, yes, I could sign up for the Lost Sailor 1 Mile Swim event at the end of May – in the same lake. It was a great day and not only did I complete this event with a time of 31 minutes, I got to experience the group swimming and it wasn’t so bad!

The pink cap is now a regular – it’s bright and easy to fit over all my hair! The goggles (Aqua Sphere) keep the water out and don’t leave goggle marks on my face!

So happy I completed this!

I went to see my two friends compete in their own triathlon at the beginning of June. While it was a downpour the whole time it was good for me to see a triathlon in action for the first time, especially the transition area.

Homemade smoothies with greens mixed are a great recovery meal/beverage post-workout. They pack incredible nutrition that your muscles will just soak up. You really don’t even notice the greens are in the drink. I make mine with a couple handfuls of fresh kale, along with a tablespoon of chia seeds, frozen blueberries and either plain yogurt or soy milk. What a great way to get taste, nutrition, healthful phytochemicals, carbs and protein to fuel for the next workout.

Joining a triathlon club has been helpful! I have met some great like-minded people to train with and learn from. I’ve been able to go to seminars, run clinics and several newbie triathlon clinics. One of my favorite ones was the transitions clinic. Actual practice of T1 (swim to bike) and T2 (bike to run) is a great idea – it’s one thing to think about it, it’s another to do it.

My first ever brick workout: my friend Dan and I biked the triathlon 12 mile course and then ran the 5K course. I had heard that the legs from bike to run is something to experience during training. Wow, my quads felt so heavy for the first 1/2 mile or so but then leveled out. It was good to experience that and have that training opportunity. I’ve tried some other mini-brick workouts: such as 3 sets of 15 minute bike to 8 minute run. I got to practice speed on transitions and also have my legs get mini training sessions for leg work transitions. I found that the heavy legs lasted about 2 minutes before the feeling leveled off and I felt better. Good to know!

I’ve learned too that tapering is an important part of training, meaning that I need to back off workouts just before the big day. So that’s what I’ve done yesterday and today – no workouts. Feels a bit weird to not do a workout but the big day is TOMORROW! So the day has come to put it all into action while having a fun time doing it. I embrace living with a grateful heart!

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My Custom Creation!

I wanted to come up with my own creative twist for dinner, considering my meatless adventures, desire to use good quality plant protein and also getting ideas and inspirations from various recipes I’ve looked through. Here’s what I created, and not only is it very tasty, it’s vegan. Here’s what I did to create it.
I started by cooking a spaghetti squash, first by poking it a couple good times with a knife to get it ready for steam cooking. The last time I cooked one I had used the oven at 375 degrees and put the punctured squash in a baking dish with about an inch of water and covered with foil. I found another recipe that suggested using the microwave on high for about 10 minutes. I tried that but the outside flesh wasn’t quite softened yet, so I went back to the original idea and put it in a pre-heated oven to finish cooking while I made the sauce.

Spaghetti squash done steaming

Some recipes I had researched feature diced tomatoes and various spices to make a sauce so I started with this in mind and enhanced with a couple more ideas (thanks to the great things I’ve learned in my Food Fundamentals course and cooking lab I’ve been taking this semester at the university – thanks Chef Guyette)! I first started with chopping and dicing a variety of veggies (mise en place – “everything in its place”) and got the cast iron pan heated up.

Then goes in the mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) and also fresh chopped garlic. I let that saute for a while with a bit of olive oil. Then I tossed in some diced tofu to get browned on all sides (tofu is a good source of plant protein, one of the few plant sources that contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body). Next comes the quinoa:
About 1/4 cup dry quinoa seed was tossed in to join in on the browning (toasted quinoa seeds can add a nutty flavor, and quinoa is yet another plant source that contains all the essential amino acids) while the veggies and tofu also continued to take on a browning flavor boost.
Once everything was browning up good I was ready to add some liquidy ingredients, starting with diced tomatoes and a bit of water . . .
Then some beans (more protein!) and some spices like basil, oregano, sea salt and pepper. This simmered for about 20 or so minutes to blend flavor and let the quinoa cook.
While that was simmering I was able to cut open the spaghetti squash (with an oven mitt – that baby was hot!). Once you gently scrape out the seeds the squash flesh is so easy to scrape out in strands by using a fork.
 The spaghetti squash looks so much like pasta and is a nice (and nutritious) substitute as well. This was plated and then topped with the veggie/quinoa/tofu/bean/tasty sauce and then garnished with fresh chopped basil. It was really tasty and easy to make. Take-away for today: keep exploring, keep trying new culinary creations, tofu isn’t so bad (LOL) and there are ways to eat meatless meals that are protein-rich too.  I’m glad I tried – this is a keeper!

Fresh Pasta

Chef Julie shows the pasta pressing.

Today I had my weekly cooking lab for the Food Fundamentals class I’m taking. Today we utilized some cooking techniques such as sauteing, deglazing, reducing and we also got to make our own pasta from scratch! Here are some photos I took in class when our fabulous instructor demonstrated the art of using the pasta machine to flatten the dough and then to cut into desired shapes.

Final cutting into pasta strips.

Part of the recipe included sauteing bacon for flavor and I wasn’t completely keen on that (since we always eat the food we prepare each class) – and I was quite thankful when Chef Julie asked our group if everyone was ok using bacon or not – – to which I said I would prefer not to. So my partner and I decided to skip the bacon but came up with an alternative to use for flavoring: we used sun-dried tomatoes and also a bit of soy bacon (though I would have been fine without it). The pasta making was a great experience! – – each pair of students pressed and cut their own, and our final dish came out great with the fresh chopped parsley, fresh grated Parmesan, and yumminess of deglazing our pan with white wine. Great time!

Still delish with no bacon!