August 2010 Archives

Hangin' out

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I woke-up this morning and went for a run - only my second run of the week, as I've been trying to take it easy after the race last weekend. It's my hope that by relaxing and recovering for a while that my legs will "mend" and feel better than they have over the past two months or so.

So, I did an easy 4.5-miler this morning; the weather was perfect - low 60s, no humidity, no wind, and lots of sunshine... all at 6:30am... it was gorgeous. When I returned from the run, I fed the cats, brushed my teeth and got ready to take a shower. As I was getting ready to hop into the shower, it dawned on me that Mack wasn't anywhere to be found - normally she's "first in line" for food.

I started to panic - had she somehow snuck outside? Was she sick or injured and hiding somewhere? Was she in a closet? So I ran around the apartment, opening all of the closet doors, checking in the bedroom closet, looking under the bed and couch, all the while calling for her. I looked out on the deck, ran down to the garage, and was really getting nervous when I heard a faint, "meow" coming from somewhere - it sounded like the bathroom... I checked the tub - nope. I looked behind the toilet - nope.

"Meow," I heard it again - it sounded like it was coming from next door??? And then I opened the cabinet under the sink and found this:

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Ugh! I must have left the cabinet open earlier in the morning and she must have crawled in to explore. Truth be told, as soon as I found her, I closed the cabinet door, ran to get my phone so I could take a picture, and then took the picture - so, it was a bit "staged," but the story remains the same. What a crazy cat... she's more or less fearless (the complete opposite of 'ole scaredy pants Shiloh). I had to coax her out of the cabinet - I have a feeling she would've stayed in there for a few hours if given the chance.

The rest of the day was rather uneventful - work was "business as usual." I left a tad early to get a haircut, and then arrived back to the apartment at around 5:15 or so. I fed the cats their dinner, and took a few minutes to relax on the couch. I looked over and thought this would make a good picture:

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Just after taking the picture, I noticed that it was nice and shady out on the deck and the temperature showed 80F, so I grabbed a Siggi's Skyr plain yogurt, added 1 Tbsp of McCanns Irish Steel Cut Oats, mixed them together and went outside to enjoy the nice weather. I sat on the deck for a solid hour, just watching traffic and relaxing - it was quite nice, to say the least.

As I mentioned earlier, I've been "resting" my legs a bit this week, so I only ran twice (for a total of 8 miles), rode once (19 miles), and swam twice (maybe 1500m). I've also been focusing on my diet - I think the key is going to be watching my glycemic load - keeping the blood sugar level and steady. So, I've been researching low-glycemic load foods, while trying to not go completely "low carb."

Imagine my surprise when I learned that black beans offer an ideal low-glycemic load solution. Yep - 1 cup of cooked black beans provides 227 calories, 15g of protein, 15g of fiber, a glycemic load index of about 10 (which is low), and a nice mix of complex carbs (no sugars).

I've not been a black bean fan in the past, but I figured I'd find a recipe and give them a shot. After some searching, I found a recipe for "cuban black beans" that looked simple to make and didn't include any extra items like oil, corn, rice, and so on.

I made the beans on Wednesday night, tried them last night and fell in love. I had them tonight, along with a grilled chicken breast (with 2 tsp of salsa), a broccoli veggie mix, and a tomato. Here's dinner:

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463 calories, 3g fat, 52g carbs, 12g sugar, 17g fiber, 51g protein. The majority of the sugar came from the broccoli mix - 6g, followed by the tomato with 4g. Thankfully the sugars in those are relatively low-impact as well, so no spikes. :-)

Dinner was tasty, but I couldn't help but think how deliciously wonderful a fish fry would've been instead... but alas, I've been eating terribly for most of the summer and I really need to get back on the wagon. Next weekend is the Taste of Madison... argh - guess I won't be going to that, either. :-(

Tomorrow's supposed to be a lot warmer, so I'll be getting up early to ride and run. I'm not sure what else I'll do tomorrow - maybe go see a movie or something?

Monday, August 16 marked the final game of the Madison Mallards' baseball season, and I was lucky enough to attend it with a few of my best friends. While I only made it to four or five games this year, this one may have been the best of them all - the weather was perfect, the game was good, I had good company, and we sat in the Duck Blind (a seating section that's all inclusive of food and drink).

Here I am with Dan and Tara - we took this picture at around 6:00pm (the game started at 7:00pm). The sun was setting, the temperature was in the low-70s, and there wasn't a hint of humidity to be found - it was so perfect.

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Mark (my friend from work) was due to arrive closer to 7:00pm; he was stuck at work and was slightly delayed (traffic didn't help - seemed as though everyone was trying to get out and about on this nice evening). So, with time to spare, we did a little "shopping" - with the final game of the season, the Mallards sell some of the items from the stadium (namely signage and trinkets). I was able to score two small signs for $15 - I figure I'll find a place to put them in the apartment.

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They had a bunch of really great other things available - Dan had his eye on a couple of larger signs but we figured it would be difficult to lug the signs around all night, so he passed. We made our way back to the Duck Blind and waited for the game to start. Mark arrived in the meantime, so the gang was all there. Here's what the field looked like from our seats:

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And one last picture - the gang's all here, and obviously enjoying themselves:

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In other news, I ran another half-marathon today (Saturday, August 21). It was the second annual Madison Mini Marathon; I saw it last year but didn't register in time to race in it (it has sold out both years), so this year I made sure to register early. They limited registration to 4400 runners - apparently my early registration worked as I received bib #132.

I was nervous about this race as my legs have been absolutely trashed lately - no energy, no stamina, and just sore all of the time. I'd tried everything to help with recovery - extra protein, extra carbs, extra stretching, massage, recovery supplements, but none were doing me any good. I did a long run last weekend and hated every second of it, so the thought of pounding out 13.1 miles had me worried - I figured I'd run the race, hope to finish, and not care about how I placed.

As luck/fate would have it, I saw a few of my "fellow teammates" from the Madison-Chicago 200 race - I ran into them about 5 minutes prior to the start and it was great to catch-up with them, even if it was only for 2-3 minutes.

On a side note, I'm always amazed by how inconsiderate so many people are... prior to running into Heidi, Kim, and Anja, I saw a guy trying to start the race... with his DOG. I mean seriously?! You're going to try to run a half-marathon with your dog in tow? Nevermind that the rules clearly state: "no pets allowed on the course" - let's use some common sense, ok?

A race official tried to kindly remind the gentleman that dogs weren't allowed on the course, and the guy threw a fit. He huffed and puffed about it, and then ran off (probably to his car, and I hope he didn't leave the dog in it) while screaming obscenities at the race official... crikey - the more I encounter people, the more I like animals... I wish the race official would've let the dog run the race without the owner. Holy cats (or dogs).

Well, the race started promptly at 7:00am (on Langdon Street, near the Memorial Union) and I took off, along with 4000 other people.

We ran "up" Langdon, around the capitol, down State Street, past the Kohl Center, through the Arboretum, around the UW-Hospital area, and back to the Memorial Union. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good - at about the 12-mile mark my left knee started to feel a little funky, but it wasn't anything unusual, so I picked-up the pace a bit and tried to finish strong.

My time was a semi-disappointing 1:52:38, for an average pace of 8:32/mile. My last half-marathon time was 1:53:something, so while I improved a bit, it wasn't what I had hoped for. Although, given the condition of my legs prior to the race I guess I can't complain too much.

In the end, my time was good for 773 overall - which put me in the top 20% for finishers. I picked-up my finishers medal, grabbed a bottle of water and then made my way home. The place was a zoo - there was a huge party afterward, complete with the customary "post-race beer" that seems to be so standard here in Wisconsin... beer? after a race? at 9:00am? No thanks.

Upon arriving home, I decided to head over to the pool to soak for a bit, with the hope that the cool water would help my legs recover a bit. So, I went to the pool, gently swam for about 20 minutes, and then went home. The pool water wasn't all that cool, so I fired-up an ice bath at home - ran the tub as cold as it would get and then poured a 20-lb bag of ice into the tub.

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(for the squeamish, I was still wearing my swimming suit while in the tub - I figured the suit would help insulate me a bit... it didn't, by the way - it was still incredibly cold)

So, all-in-all, not a bad race... here's my customary "race gear" picture - note the hole that I wore in my favorite Smartwool running socks. :-(

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I spent the rest of the afternoon resting on the couch, wearing my compression gear and elevating my feet. I think I'm going to head over to the Sun Prairie Corn Fest for a bit - I was supposed to go with Jed but I just found out that he can't make it, so I'll be flying solo. :-(

Don't really have any good, concise stories to share so I'll just do a brain-dump of sorts... we'll start with training, eating, and recovering.

It's no secret that I probably have some type of eating disorder... I love food - looooove food. And I really seem to love the foods that are just awful for me - donuts, cookies, cupcakes, fish fry, fritters, popcorn, and peanut M&Ms all come to mind as some of my favorite "binge" foods. Without exaggerating in the slightest, I could easily eat a dozen donuts in a sitting, or 5-6 huge cookies, or pounds of deep fried fish.

So I force myself to stay away from these foods, but about once a week, the cravings get the most of me, and I go on a massive food bender. I track every single thing that I eat on Livestrong, and after a day of pigging out, it'll be nothing for me to have consumed 7,500 calories. Not real smart, and not real good for me...

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I then get angry with myself and vow to stop eating badly, and along with the internal lashing that I dole to myself, I crank-up my training efforts while becoming extremely strict with my diet for the rest of the week. Immediately following my binge day, I'll usually do a massive "brick" workout (60+ miles on the bike, followed by 10+ miles running) with the hope that by spending 5 hours working out I'll undo some of the damage that my pig-out caused.

And that leads to over-training, which leads to me being ridiculously sore, which when combined with the low calorie intake for the rest of the week leads to me wanting to eat more to help with recovery, and thus the cycle repeats itself. I can't give myself time to recover because I know that a binge is just around the corner, and so I'm always in a state of hurt... In an effort to treat the hurt and to aid recovery, I use all sorts of "crutches" - recovery drinks (glutamine/protein/carb blends), compression gear, glucosamine supplements, and so on. Rather than treat the symptoms, I need to address the issue and get back into a more realistic regimen.

I've gone back and looked at my old training and diet logs and discovered that as soon as I started to ramp-up my running (to 8+ miles per day), my binges became more frequent and severe. My theory is that running 50+ miles a week while eating around 800 calories per day for 6-days out of the week must deplete something and cause an imbalance of some sorts (highly technical terms, I know), which leads to my monstrous cravings for really bad food.

Prior to the 50+ mile/weeks, I was able to manage my diet really well. I didn't have such crazy cravings and I was able to be responsible. So, after this season's racing is over (I have a few big-distance races remaining), I'm going to rollback my running to around 4 miles per day.

With any luck, that'll help with the cravings, will cause me to eat more responsibly, will ease my overtraining pains (my back is a wreck, and my knees/hip flexors are always killing me), and should result in an all-around better situation. I'll still try to maintain a 800-1000 calorie/day diet, but by reducing my mileage it should be easier to manage over the long-term.

Granted, I won't be in "half-marathon" form all year round, but I'll definitely be in "easy 10K" form, which will allow me to get back up to a half-marathon with 5-6 weeks of training should the need arise. I'm also going to pack on more biking miles, because biking seems to be a lot easier on the body than the 50+ mile running schedule.

We'll see how it goes.

Changing gears to topic #2...

As I didn't have to work this weekend, I took a trip to some of the local farmers markets, as well as a trip out toward Black Earth for some sweet corn. I stumbled across this family farm that has the absolute best sweet corn I've ever had in my life - it's literally like candy - you can eat it 100% raw and it's still unreal.

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I bought 4 ears of this heavenly sweet corn for an unbelievable $1.50. The folks that run the stand are super nice and very knowledgeable - I asked a bunch of dumb questions about the differences between sweet corn and "field corn" and they happily shared their knowledge with me. I also asked how many acres they tend to and how much of it is sweet corn vs. field corn; they pointed to the field 5 yards from where I was standing and said that they usually plant their sweet corn "within" the field corn.

They go "about 9 rows in" and plant "3-4 rows" of sweet corn, which they then harvest completely by hand. They can pick about 100 ears per hour per person, and they pick it each day, early in the morning. The corn that I bought came from this very field just earlier in the morning:

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From Black Earth I made my way back to Madison where I hit a few farmer's markets. I scored some Bison tenderloins, some locally grown chicken, dirt-grown tomatoes, organic mushrooms, and some freshly made pretzel rolls. I scoured the markets for some asparagus, but alas there was none to be found. Oh well, I still had the makings for a really nice dinner... but what to have for dessert? How about grilled peaches? I stopped by Brennan's and grabbed a peach and a pint of blueberries (for morning cereal use).

I roasted the mushrooms, along with some Penzey's Spices California Pepper for a flavor boost.

While the mushrooms were roasting, I brought a pot of water to a boil for the sweet corn and also preheated the grill. While those were coming up to temperature, I made a glaze for my peach - I took 1.5 ounces of Appleton Estates 12-year spiced rum, stirred in a tablespoon of brown sugar, and reduced it over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. I finished it with a touch of local honey and left it to simmer, until I had about 2 tablespoons of liquid left.

I salted and peppered the Bison and threw it on the grill for a total of 6 minutes, which brought it to an otherworldly medium rare (123F). I let the bison rest as I boiled the sweet corn and sliced a tomato. I cut the pretzel roll in half, warmed it in the oven for a few seconds, and was ready to dig-in:

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6 ounces of grilled Bison tenderloin = 200 calories
6 ounces of roasted cremini mushrooms = 60 calories
1 large ear of boiled sweet corn w/ butter spray = 180 calories
1 pretzel roll = 190 calories
1 medium tomato with Mrs. Dash salt-free seasoning = 33 calories
Total calories = 663 calories

A little more than I would've liked to have eaten, but I (you guessed it) rode and ran a lot today, so I'll be OK. I washed it all down with a Diet Root Beer from Point Brewery (man, that's some awesome root beer), and then dug into my dessert - a glazed and grilled peach with 1 tablespoon of my brown sugar/rum/honey glaze (total 179 calories):

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So, even with my monumental dinner feast, I'm still sitting at 1,278 total calories consumed for the day (Recoverite formula following my workout; cereal + protein drink for lunch; and then this dinner), with 3,812 calories burned.

Changing gears again: I saw the movie Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio, and while it was decent, it was incredibly long. I found myself wishing it was over after about 2 hours. Yes, it's intelligent and really well produced, but it got old after a bit; or at least it did for me. I did get to watch it at one of the best movie theaters ever, the Sundance 608 theater at Hilldale. That place is awesome - reserved seating, always nice, perfect sound, and a more mature crowd.

Shifting again: I bought Apple TV for the apartment. I figured that since I don't have cable, I could justify spending a few bucks on the Apple TV unit and renting a season of Man V. Food in HD - the unit and season rental cost about what 2 months of cable would cost...

The Apple TV unit is pretty neat - it allows you to upload all of your iTunes and MP3 files to it, so it not only plays movies and TV shows, it'll play your music as well. It also has a photo album system for your pictures and a bunch of other things. It's pretty nifty and despite only being 720p resolution, the image it produces is fantastic.

And finally, to bring it all home, I finally finished mounting my TV and soundbar, and I believe the apartment is about 99% set-up. I'm not totally crazy about this arrangement, but it seems to work:

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That's it for now. I'm sitting on the couch with the windows open, enjoying the nicer weather (71F, low humuggity), watching a really dumb show on ABC, reading Men's Journal, and crafting this blog entry. I'll catch you later this week.

It ain't as easy as it looks...

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For reasons unknown, I thought it would be a really good idea to pick-up a part-time job... at the time, I thought that I had a lot of "free time" on my hands, and that I might enjoy something like cooking or bartending, so I put out the feelers and eventually landed a part-time job cooking food at a local restaurant.

...and that "career" lasted about 5 weeks.

Folks that visit my blog know that I love food and love to cook, so it seemed like an ideal opportunity for me to combine something I loved to do with something that would pay a little bit of money and get me "out of the house."

But what many folks may not appreciate (myself included) is how much more challenging and different it is to cook in a "commercial" environment than it is in a "home" environment. I certainly under-estiamted the skills required to cook during a busy breakfast or lunch - when you've got 80-90 people ordering all sorts of different things all at once, things get crazy in no time. And I quickly went crazy - I couldn't keep up with orders, I forgot things, I obsessed about things that didn't matter... and after this past weekend, I hung-up my spatula.

I really enjoyed the experience; it was interesting to see how things work in a small kitchen and I very much liked the people I worked and interacted with. They tried to show me tips and tricks, but as one of the guys put it, "You can't be as detailed oriented as you are and hope to survive as a short-order cook." I think he was right.

It also didn't help that I worked primarily on weekends, which meant that my schedule would go something like this:

3:30am - wake-up, dress, stretch
4:00am - go for a run
5:25am - return from run, take a quick shower, feed cat
5:55am - drive to pool
6:05am - swim for 20-25 minutes
6:35am - rinse off at pool, dress
7:00am - work at part-time job
3:30pm - finish part-time job, head home
4:00pm - hop on bike
7:00pm - return from bike ride, shower, feed cat
8:00pm - eat, rest, watch TV

(Repeat for Sunday)

Definitely made for long days and short weekends, and got to be rather stressful. I also noticed that it took a toll on my legs - something about exercising for 5 hours each day and then standing on your feet for 8 hours straight didn't work out too well.

Part of me wishes I could've "cut it" as a cook, but ultimately it's for the best. I'm a better patron (and part-time fish fry critic) than I am a cook. :-) So now it's back to the normal weekend routines, which should be nice. And the next time I get to thinking that I have too much free time on my hands, someone pass me a book or a puzzle instead.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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