Saturday, April 30, 2011

Memorial Day Murph - A Way To Remember

We are exactly one month from Memorial Day. For many people, that day has come to mean little more than a barbeque, or the unofficial start of summertime activities. But it's more than just a three day weekend, it's a day to remember the men and women who have died in the service of our nation.

If you want to be inspired by one such group of dedicated servicemen, head on over to the Memorial Day Murph site and read about Operation REDWING and Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Michael P. Murphy. For years, Crossfit Affiliates have honored this fallen warrior with the workout "Murph", and now there is a yearly day to do this workout as a means to raise funds for several charities: the Wounded Warrior Project, the Lone Survivor Foundation, and the Lt. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation.

This workout is not for the faint of heart (or body), it involves a 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, and 300 squats, then another 1 mile run. I imagine it's going to take me a fair while to accomplish (hopefully I won't have to take a nap in the middle to complete it). And since I can't do 100 real pull-ups, I'll be using one of the Crossfit pull-up bands to help me out there. But, we've got a month to get ready, so if anyone wants to join me in doing the Memorial Day Murph, it doesn't take a lot of equipment or space, but it makes a big difference.

The Ironmom Extra Mile:  History of Memorial Day

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Curing Allergies With Free Range Eggs

This is the view out of my dining room window right now, and as you can see it's full of trees. I live in one of the worst cities in the U.S. for allergy sufferers. The things that make this city so beautiful (lots and lots of trees and gardens) also make it a pollen factory in the spring. As allergy sufferers go, I count myself pretty lucky, I've only really been affected by a bad allergy to maple pollen, which means that for about four weeks in the spring, my nose and eyes go haywire. 

But, as you can tell, right outside my window is an enormous maple tree, just hanging with pollen bombs releasing this cargo into the wind. One step out the door and my eyes start itching immediately. But since it shades our chickens and provides home for our resident squirrel village, I would never think about cutting it down. I've just endured through maple pollen season.

Until now.

Three years ago, I noticed that my chickens ate the pollen bombs that dropped into their pen like candy. A lightbulb went off in my head. I remember drinking these nasty little vials of very dilute poison oak extract as a kid, in hopes that my awful poison oak allergy would diminish, and I know friends who get allergy shots with the same purpose. What if I inoculated myself against maple pollen by feeding it to my chickens?

Thus started a three year project of Operation Pollen Eggs where every morning when I let the chickens out, I pick as many pollen bombs as I can carry off of the trees and throw them in the pen. The chickens eat them like crazy, I eat the eggs. That's it.

The first year, I didn't notice much difference. Every foray outside left me miserable. But I started it late in the season.

The second year, I started earlier, as soon as I saw the pollen starting to bloom. I noticed something funny. By about mid-pollen season, I wasn't nearly as affected as in previous years though it was still noticeable.

And this year? No pollen allergy at all. None. I can romp around under the maples with abandon. An eight mile run through the forest and not so much as an itchy eye. And this is from a woman who used to want to claw her eyes out after a foray outdoors in May. I owe it all to my free-ranging, egg-laying, pollen-bomb-eating chickie ladies.

The benefits of eating good, clean, local, real food never cease to amaze me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

How To Get Faster, Better, Stronger Using Kaizen

As I coach people on a regular basis, I see them over time improving their skills, strength, and conditioning. But a few improve so dramatically it's like watching a shooting star.

So what can you learn from these shooting stars? What is the secret to their achievements? Once again, it all boils down to kaizen, a Japanese word for "constant, never-ending improvement" I was talking with Dan Mayhew, one of my swimmers, after practice on Saturday. I had just noticed something in his stroke after observing him underwater for part of the practice. Keep in mind, I give stroke tips all the time to my swimmers, this is not uncommon. But what Dan said next is: "I'll add that to my comments file."

Yes, Dan keeps a list of everything anyone's ever said about his stroke. He also keeps videos illustrating the principles about his swimming stroke that he wants to improve on. He is constantly working on those elements of his stroke that he wants to get better. No surprise, over the years I've known Dan, he's gone from a back-of-the-packer who struggled with many aspects of the stroke (give the guy a kickboard and he could kick all day and not go anywhere) to swimming in one of our fastest lanes.

Luckily, Dan works for this cool new company called Vizme. They make it easy to encapsulate text, videos, pictures, and all kinds of information and media in something called a Token. You can share these tokens via email, Facebook, Twitter and all kinds of social media. So here's Dan's swimming token. As you can see, he has a comment file tracking everything anyone's ever said to him about his stroke, from lane mates to professional coaches. After that, he has links to all kinds of videos and tips that he's used to make himself faster.

This is the key to improvement in any sport - the active seeking of information. Then steadily applying that information to get better. My athletes who do this shoot forward in an arc of improvement that's awe-inspiring.

Here's how to harness the power of kaizen in your own sport:

Pay attention: Athletes around you frequently give helpful advice. Some people ignore this, and some get downright upset about it. Notice that Dan tracks it in his Comments file. Sure, perhaps all well-meaning advice isn't worth taking, but if you pay attention to it you may notice some common themes (you can see in Dan's notes that the dropped elbow keeps coming back to haunt him from many different people's observations).

Keep Track: It's hard to notice trends unless you're tracking them. If several people have mentioned something, perhaps it's worth changing or researching. You can use something as simple as a notebook or logbook, or something as cool as Vizme to track things you want to be working on. Otherwise, it's out of sight, out of mind.

Focus on One Thing At a Time: Pick something you want to work on, gather information (whether from your coach, a video, a seminar, an online training tool), and focus on it until you see improvement.

Don't Give Up: That  may seem like simplistic advice, but I think the one thing that derails most folks is simply throwing their hands up in the air when improvement doesn't come as quickly or easily as they'd like. If you work through the tough spots, chances are that the results you're seeking are just around the corner.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Whose Toes Are Those??

There are two great passions in my life, things so overwhelmingly "me" that I can't separate where I begin and they end. One is swimming, and the other is photography. Even without a camera in my hand, my mind is always seeing with a photographer's eye. I can't help it. So it's always exciting to me to see one of my photos get published (especially when I get paid for it, and can squirrel money away in my photography equipment fund).

In this case, it's doubly cool, because:

A) It's an article about barefoot running, which I'm always excited to see get good press. This one is in Outdoor Sports Guide and

B) Those are my feet! And my original Vibram Five Fingers Sprints.

And to tie both of my interests together this year, I just got a little camera for my birthday that can go underwater, at least for a few feet. So hopefully I'll be able to shoot some underwater video for swim coaching, and for articles here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Unleash Your Inner Iron Girl: Training For Your First Triathlon

Ever thought you could do a triathlon, but didn't know where to start? Wanted to do one but weren't sure that you could? Trained for one, but felt overwhelmed by all the gear and advice? Help is on the way!

I'm beyond excited to announce that I am partnering with the Athleta Iron Girl triathlon series, to help women train for their first triathlon. I will be coaching Julie, from Chubby Mommy Running Club through her very first triathlon ever, and I will be sharing my training plan for her, nutrition tips, transition setups, and everything else helpful along the way in weekly installments here on my blog. All you have to do is follow along and play from home. I'll have all the info you need, right here.

Julie will be posting her experiences as she tries on her very first wetsuit and clips into her very first pedals over on her blog, so make sure you head over there to catch the hilarity as it unfolds.

If you are in the Eugene, Oregon area, you are welcome to join us for a kickoff event on May 7th at 1:30 over at Just Breathe, at 2868 Willamette St. You can RSVP on our meetup page, or just show up!

Also, it gets better. We'll have some prizes to give away here and at the Chubby Mommy page, including a race entry to the Athleta Iron Girl Portland Triathlon on June 26. Exciting stuff!

If you're looking to start later in the summer, I'll also be personally training to compete in the Athleta Iron Girl Lake Tahoe event. So if you want to join in the fun of a beautiful late summer triathlon in such a gorgeous location, you can join me there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Aging Up: A Birthday Run Through The Primeval Coastal Forest

 What do you want for your birthday? A dreaded question from someone who doesn't really need anymore stuff in her life. Fortunately, my hubby doesn't take offense if I have no interest in some bauble or another (I'm convinced that he married me because I hate the mall). He knows how to treat a birthday girl right, which in my case means packing the kids and the dogs over to the coast for the day. And apparently God knew that after so many unending days of rain, I needed a clear sky over my head. So though it was not exactly warm or sunny, it was not raining, and that's all that mattered.

After some pleasant hours spent racing sticks down a creek, exploring tidepools, flying kites, and chasing the dogs around, I got to pull on my favorite Five Finger toe shoes and go for a run up this fabulous trail. It starts at the beach, winds up and over this big promontory, climbing high above the lighthouse, and down the other side to a wide stretch of largely inaccessible and empty beach. The forests are lusciously green and primeval, with gigantic wind-twisted trees and beautiful ferny mossy floors. I really can't say much more about it with mere words, other than that it was perfect in every way. And I would've run faster if I could've stopped myself from taking all of these photos with my cell phone. 

So here's a visual tour of my beautiful birthday run.
You go up and over this big ridge. The lighthouse makes sure the ships don't hit it in the fog.

 The trail is so steep that it's full of switchbacks. At some point, the trail builders just gave up on switchbacks and installed some rough stairs. Great for training those glutes, hamstrings, and quads! My dog Sophie takes it all in stride.

Trees grow out of "nurse logs", old fallen trees that have since disintegrated, providing food for the new young trees to grow up on.

Spectacular views of the rugged Oregon coastline are a trail runner's best reward. In this photo, you can see how much elevation the trail gains, since I started running down on the beach!

 The forest is unbelievably green and lovely. Here, the valley falls away beneath me in a sea of ferns, moss, salal,  and evergreens.

Eventually, the trail pops you out onto a windswept beach, where you feel like the only human alive on the planet, dwarfed by the massive Pacific Ocean, and soothed by its roar.

 If you pay attention, you find beautiful little Zen moments all around you. I could meditate on this tableau of a stick and a rock for hours.

Sandstone cliffs to the right of the beach are carved by wind and waves into intricate patterns

In some places, the soft sandstone has been carved out from under the very roots of the trees, leaving them suspended in space.

Seaweed tangles adorn the beach with the woven netting of a former kelp forest

Everywhere along the beach, you must leap across small streams. Each is patterned with beautiful swirls of different colored sand. Every one of these creek bottoms could be considered a work of art.

 I arrive at the end of my run tired but ecstatic. In a state of bliss unparalleled in modern existence. How often do you get to feel like the only person on earth? To run alone and silent through an ancient forest. To look across the expanse of miles of beach and see no one, hear nothing but wind and surf. My spirit is renewed.

We drive to Mo's, a staple of our coast trips. The best chowder house on the Oregon coast. Our friendly waitress snaps a pic of the family for us. I am so blessed to have this wonderful family around me on my birthday.

I have this marvelous Paleo feast of blackened salmon and steamed and seasoned green beans. Double yum! Plus some of Mo's awesome clam chowder.

Okay, so it's not Paleo, but I top it off with Mo's homemade marionberry cobbler with some local vanilla ice cream. Heaven on earth. A perfect way to age up and turn 45. My day could not be any better. I am so thankful to have a family who gave me what I really wanted for my birthday, a beautiful home state with gorgeous parks and trails, and a body that can do amazing things like running up and over mountains. 
I am truly blessed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What You Can Learn About Swimming (and Biking and Running) From This Accountant

Meet Warren. Meet Warren's pace clock. Well, he doesn't actually own the clock, but he's very attached to it. We have to pry it out of his hands at the end of every Master's swim practice and tell him he can't take it home to put beneath his pillow at night. The story of a man and his clock gives us insight into how we might become better at endurance sports...

You see Warren is an accountant, of the very-best-in-town variety. And he doesn't just use his acumen with numbers in his working life, he brings it to the pool with him too. One of Warren's best attributes (besides his speedy pace and terrific draft) is that he is an absolute wizard at pace management. Pacing is one of the skills that many athletes simply struggle with. It takes experience, self-awareness, and concentration to learn good pacing, but like any other skill it can be improved with time. Unfortunately, as any triathlon swim start will show (or the end of the Ironman marathon), many triathletes could take a few lessons in pacing from Warren here.

Our Master's group is preparing for an epic 5+ mile swim of Crater Lake this summer, so we're really starting to ramp up some challenging distance workouts these days. This week's set was no exception. We did a set of ten repeats of:

300 yards at an aerobic (long distance) pace
Exactly 5 seconds rest
50 yards at just past the Anaerobic Threshold
Exactly 10 seconds rest

This set is 3500 yards long, so it's imperative that you start with a pace that can be maintained with good form throughout. Our lane decided we could hold a 4:15 for the 300's (1:25 pace per 100) and a :40 pace for the 50's. Over all of those laps, all of those 100's, Warren's feet hit the wall right on the 1:25 for each and every one.

How did he do it? What does it take to be able to say "I'm going to go out at XXX pace." and actually do it? Here's a few pointers from the master. Though they are swimming-specific, they can be applied to any sport. As it turns out, Warren is also an endurance cyclist who will be riding the dreaded RAMROD this year (which supposedly stands for Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day, but which most cyclists translate as Ride Around Mount Rainier Or Die), a grueling 152 mile event with 10,000+ feet of climbing. So pacing is as critical in that event as well, and anyone who aspires to long-distance cycling, running, swimming, or multi-sport events could take notes:

1. Self-Control:  If you need to go out at a slower pace than you're used to, you have to get in the right mindset. Don't let your ego get in the way. We might've been able to get away with a 4:00 pace for those first few 300's, but then it would've eaten away at us and the last few would've felt like death. This way we felt strong throughout. It's hard to go out slow and feel like you've got a lot of throttle left. It takes self-control. Many a marathon runner or Ironman athlete has lived to rue their early pacing decisions, so this is a good lesson to learn.

2. Experience: The way to be able to pace effectively is to know your paces in the first place. Learn to love your clock (or watch). In the pool, you can check it briefly just before you turn at the end of each 50. If you run, spend some time at the track or use to map out some mile markers on your regular routes. Bike computers and heart rate monitors can give you some great info too. You don't have to become a Clock Slave, but using it judiciously brings more knowledge. The more knowledge you have about your paces and how each of them feels, the easier it is to set out at just the right speed.

3. Constant Vigilance: If you find yourself off of your pace, adjust immediately. Because I was conveniently drafting behind him, I knew what Warren was doing. Each 300 was divided mentally for him into 100s, and he knew he was aiming for 1:25 with each 100. He was checking the clock at our 50 splits, and the second 50 of each 100 was adjusted. If he found himself a second fast on the first 50, our second one was slightly slower. If he was a second or two too slow, I saw the afterburners come on and his kick picked up as we dropped that second or two from our second 50.  This kind of rigorous attention to pacing helps you learn to keep on top of it. Then in the heat of a race, you can make sure you're going out at the speed you want to return in.

4. Negative Split: Have enough in the tank that the last half of your workout (or event) is faster than your first half. You can only do this if you follow steps 1 - 3 above. Too many athletes leave a string of crash-and-burn results behind them as they fail to pace effectively.

If you take the time to learn to pace effectively, you too could be smiling as casually as Warren here after swimming 5500 yards!

In case you're interested, here was our "Finisher 550", the set we swam at above threshold (fast but not all out) pace AFTER swimming the above 3500 main set:

25 on :30
50 on :60
75 on 1:30
50 on :60
50 on :60
75 on 1:30
25 on :30
25 on :30
50 on :60
25 on :30
50 on :60
25 on :30
25 on :30

Friday, April 15, 2011

Does It Matter Why We Run?

Maybe it's perfect timing to read something explosive and divisive like this as I prepare for a Triathlon 101 Clinic aimed at first time triathletes (Julie from Chubby Mommy Running Club and I will be putting this one to help women prepare for the IronGirl Portland Sprint Triathlon). Helping women experience the transformative power of doing their first triathlon is one of the real highlights of the year for me.

But you see, the "real" runner and triathlete over at Frayed Laces (self-defined as "real" apparently because she qualified for Boston and Kona) has her knickers in a wad because other lowly mortals dare to do marathons and then (gasp) have the audacity to call themselves marathoners. Even if they finish in 4 or 5 hours, or more! And they might even eat (bigger gasp) chicken nuggets at the end! Her attitude can be summed up by her closing words:

what I want to scream out is "I train 20 hours a week! I push myself in training to the point of puking! You're doing this once to cross something off your life goal list, and I train harder-harder-harder to get faster each year! I eat, sleep, breathe this sport!"
So, are there too many marathon runners? No, there aren't.  There are too many "chicken nuggets at the end!" marathon runners and not enough "eat, sleep, breathe" runners
As mind-boggling as it is, she thinks that in this world of mounting obesity and a medical/financial diabetes crises looming over our collective heads that will bury our health care system, that too many runners do it for the wrong reasons and should just... well... stop. So they don't sully those of us who are real athletes, you know.

As you might have guessed, I take exception to this viewpoint. You see, the most inspiring moments I've ever had at a triathlon have not been watching someone finish first. They've not even been the times I've finished first. They've been standing at the finish line and watching ordinary people finish. Not folks who can throw twenty hours a week of their lives into the "training" bin, not elite competitors gifted with athletic prowess, but ordinary people with families, jobs, small kids, and other responsibilities. Maybe people who have made the arduous journey from obesity to health. Or from anorexia to health. Or just from the couch to health.

I don't have to tell you that I'm a big ol' sap. I mean, I cry reading Frog & Toad stories to my kids. But when I stand at the finish line of a triathlon or a running race and watch what it means to people to finish, the sniffles start. Waterworks on. And when I've coached those people, seen them go from "I don't think I can run to the next block" to "Wow, I just ran 13.1 miles!" or "I'm afraid to put my face in the water" to "I just finished a triathlon with  a lake swim!", then I'm really sunk at the finish line. I bawl like a big baby.

You see, we're all on this big ball of rock together. It doesn't really matter if someone's faster than me, or if I'm faster than them. What matters is how I feel about my performance, and how I help others feel about theirs. One thing I can guarantee is that even if you're the fastest now, I mean the absolute fastest in the world, someone will come along eventually who will be younger and faster. We all turn 40 and 50, 60, 70, and 80 some day,if we're lucky. Unless we die first. No one is fastest forever.

Or perhaps you'll have an injury that sidelines you, or you'll get pregnant when you least expect it and decide to just become a recreational athlete, or focus on a career that doesn't allow for so much other activity. Any number of things. Some day, you will probably see things from the point of view of just being happy to finish. And I hope when that day comes, the faster athletes give you a high five instead of saying you don't deserve to be there.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chuck Norris, The Ironman, My Kind of Shirt

Meet my new favorite shirt. First of all, I should explain that I often hang out with bunches of teens, many of them karate-heads. Chuck Norris' name comes up in conversation frequently. You'd think the guy's fame would ebb away some day, but not anytime soon, that's for sure. A subset of my son's friends even use Chuck Norris as a sort of mild expletive, as in "I hit my Chuck Norrising head on the door!" All of that combines to make this shirt irresistible to me.

 There may be one thing I've done that Chuck Norris (the "world's greatest human" according to this book) will probably never do, but I am still very impressed with his karate of course. I'm actually reading his book The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems, and it's quite good.

By the way, I got the shirt from the folks at Punk Rock Racing, and they were amazingly fast with shipping and great with handling the transaction! This was my little funny present to myself after completing my black belt.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Seven Paleo Power Breakfasts

Most days my breakfasts look pretty similar: eggs, veggies, maybe some meat or spices. It can get boring, and often I resort to the same old breakfast over and over. Lately I've been experimenting on different combos so that I can keep my breakfast days interesting. Mostly it just requires having a few different ingredients on hand so that I can always switch things up.

So here's a few variations of healthy Paleo-style breakfasts (mostly Paleo, though some have dairy, by which I mean raw goat's milk or cheeses made from raw milk). I add the following to two scrambled eggs (or four if it's for hubby and I):

1. Smoked salmon, spinach, and feta cheese

2. What my kids call "Special Eggs", I scramble the eggs with sun-dried tomato pesto, then add sheep's milk feta cheese and chives

3. Italian-style: Fresh basil, oregano, red pepper, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes.

4. The Bacon Burger: bacon, onions, and ground beef (like a hamburger for breakfast, without the bun!). Slice tomato and avacado on top

5. Taco Eggs: Usually leftovers from the last night's taco salad: sliced tomatoes, ground beef with taco seasoning, grilled onions, roasted chilis. I scramble the eggs with some salsa, and then top heavily with guacamole

6. Shrimp and roasted red peppers with carmelized onions

7. The Mega-Veggie: Sautee onions, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic, then throw in the eggs and scramble

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Triathlon Swimmer's Dream Set

What's better than looking at one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World? Why swimming across it, of course! A group of my Master's swimmers are planning a five mile swimming odyssey from Wizard Island (that thing that looks like a wizard's hat in the middle of the lake). So, to get us ready for this Herculean aquatic task, I'm preparing a series of distance workouts that would test any swimmers' mettle. Coincidentally, these sets are all great for triathletes as well, especially those with an Ironman in their future. Here's the set of the day, my all-time favorite distance set.


200 Swim
10 x 50 : 25 Drill (Superman Catch-up)/25 Swim concentrating on arm entry in front of shoulders (no crossing over midline)
300 Kick
4 x 75 Powerup (Get faster in each by 25s)


3 x    (   500
             50 EZ
          )  @ 8:30 interval . Descend the 500s (each one faster by 10 seconds)

Rest 60 seconds

3 x    (   500
             50 EZ
          )  @ 8:30 interval . Descend the 500s (each one faster by 10 seconds)
Make this second set of 500's faster than the first

100 Cool Down

4600 Yards

My lane really cranked on these, doing them in about 6:49, 6:42, and 6:33 for the 500s. In the lane next door, our resident All-American Master's swimmer Chris, who happens to be 70 years old this year, turned in a smoldering 6:23 for the fastest 500!! I hope if I keep swimming until I'm his age, I can do that.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Chickening Out

If you ask my kids what the best day of the year is, I'm not sure they'd say Christmas or their birthday. They might just say it's baby chick day. Every two to three years, we get to go and pick out some new baby chicks to add to our flock of egg layers. A few weeks before, the kids get the Chick Calendar that tells which breeds are coming in on which day. Since our flock is small, we only get a few chicks at a time, which means we need to get them all on the same day. If you got two chicks one week and two the next week, the second batch would get picked on relentlessly for being smaller. Henpecked is not just a phrase, it's a reality of chicken life, and I can tell you it's more than a little painful. Those beaks are sharp.

So the kids go back and forth on which day we should get our chicks. Should we go for the day they have Americaunas, Barred Rocks, and Speckled Sussex? Or the day they have White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Andalusians? Should we reserve our chicks? Or just go pick them out? So many decisions. I get the baby chick cage, feeder, and heat lamp out of the shed and dust them off, and away we go to baby chicken land.

This year, Mackenzie got two Barred Rocks (the little black puffballs). They're his favorite kind of chicken - they're good layers, have sweet personalities and are pretty. So now Cluck Norris and Chess A. Beak (or Chessie for short) will join Voodoo and Hera as our resident Barred Rocks.

Asa got an Americauna (they lay the green eggs that are so pretty), and a Golden Sex Link (so named because the sex of the chicks are linked to their color as babies, so you can't accidentally get a rooster, which is important for us city dwellers where roosters are banned). So Mercedes joins Lady Cluck as our Americaunas, and Sunny will be our lone Golden this year.

Of course, in my mind, the primary purpose of all of this are those absolutely delicious golden-orange yoked beautiful bits of eggy heaven that I get to scramble and bake with all year long. There is nothing in this world like a free-ranging farm-fresh egg for taste or nutrition. This photo to the left shows a store-bought "free range" chicken egg (top, paler and runnier), and one of our insect, worm, and grass-fed beauties on the bottom. And I love that I can throw raw eggs in smoothies and never worry about contamination.

Of course, around here the chickens are never just for egg production. They're well-loved members of the family!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Is It Breakfast, Or Is It Dessert? Banana Coconut Custard

Athletes love bananas with a passion unparalleled by any other fruit. Paleo lovers feel similarly about all things coconut: coconut oil, coconut milk, flaked coconut, you name it. And if you're an active person, it's nice to have something simple to make, yummy to eat, nutritious, and full of protein, good fats, some carbs, and all the wonderfulness that bananas and coconut bring when combined.

Voila! Enter the Banana-Coconut Custard. I have to admit, I just invented this for breakfast this morning, since I was tired of my usual veggie/egg scramble. Here's the basic recipe:

1 banana, smushed
2 eggs, whipped to a frenzy
4 tablespoons coconut milk
3 tablespoons flaked coconut (large flakes)

I whipped up the eggs, added the coconut milk and blended until creamy. Folded in the well-smushed banana, and the coconut flakes. Then I put it in the microwave for 90 seconds. The middle still looked a little goopy so I put it in for another 60 seconds. As you can see, it rose up in a lovely souffle-like manner and was a light and tasty start to the day. It's a testament to how few sweet things I've been eating that this tasted more like a dessert than breakfast to me.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

First Ever Women's Relay, and The Best Inspiration Yet!

When I first started swimming with the Masters at our pool, I was the only woman there. Day after day, year after year, it was just me and the guys. Now don't get me wrong, I swim with a really fun group of guys. The best, really. But something was missing.

As a coach, one of the things I most hoped for was to increase the number of women in our program. And in the past few years, our women's participation has picked up steadily until now our lanes are a good mixed bag of guys and gals. But still, many women don't come to the meets - some are triathletes, many have young children, some may be intimidated by competing when they're just starting in Masters swimming. So this year, we finally had enough women at the meet to field a women's relay team, and I can't tell you how exciting that was!

Here we are, ready to swim the Medley Relay and the next day the 200 Freestyle Relay (we went under 2:00!), we had such a good time. What an awesome and strong group of ladies to swim with.

Luckily, the last day of the meet went much more smoothly overall. I avoided chocolate milkshakes altogether, and I turned in some times that I was much happier with. A 6:33 for the 500 was 11 seconds faster than last year's time. That's more like it!

But although the fun of the weekend meet was drawing to an end, the inspiration was far from over. To anyone out there sitting on your couch and thinking you can't do something like this, let me introduce you to the 89 year old lady who swam the 100 IM (that's butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and crawl stroke). Check this out!

In order to not DQ (disqualify) yourself, you have to swim these strokes according to a strict set of guidelines, and this lady can do it. Wow, if that doesn't  inspire you to do your very best at everything, I don't know what will. All I can say, is I hope I'm doing this when I'm 89.

Monday, April 04, 2011

A Bad Waitress, An Ill-Timed Milkshake, and the Worst Race I've Ever Had

The Ignisecond: The moment you know you're doing something really really stupid, but it's too late to stop it.

You can tell I wasn't much of a partier in college when I tell you that Saturday's 1000 yard event was the worst thing I've ever done to my body. Unlike other swim teamers in college, I never showed up for a meet (or even a practice) hung over. So I've never really felt like puking in the middle of a lane before. Now I know better.

It all started off at Saturday's meet, when the team decided to go out for lunch. We had been swimming events all morning and were starving. Only three of us were swimming the 1000, and we were in heat five. Since the early heats tend to take 20 - 30 minutes, we would have at least an hour and a half for lunch, right? We went to a place close by and advised the waitress that we were in a hurry, and would need to get some quick food. I ordered a baked potato and a chocolate shake. The baked potatoes are already made up, they just pop them in a warmer. This should take five minutes. One would think.

Half an hour later, still no food had arrived. I had to go and badger the waitress. Still nothing. Finally at 47 minutes into our break, we get some food. Did I mention we were starving? At this point, I'm wondering should I eat or not. But I was so darned hungry and the food was right in front of me, and.... I hate half a small baked potato and drank the shake, figuring at least that would digest quickly. We high-tailed it back to the meet....

....only to arrive as they were ringing the bell for the last lap of the heat before ours. We literally skivved out of our warmups, hurried over to the starting blocks and they blew the whistle for us to get on the blocks. I had an internal debate on the way to the lanes as to whether I should stop and make myself throw up into the garbage can. But I didn't. So there was my Ignisecond. Standing there on the blocks, I knew I should just get down and scratch the whole event. But my team was in a close race for 3rd place, and I knew if I swam well I'd probably get second place, which is worth a lot of points. So I took the blocks and waited for the buzzer. Beeep, and we're in the water and swimming.

Stroke...don't throw up...stroke....don't visualize a chocolate milkshake...stroke....don't throw up...turn. One lap down. Stroke...don't throw up....stroke.... oh God, how many more laps to go?....stroke...don't throw up... turn. That was what it was like for 1,000 yards.  I tried to go as fast as I could, yet knowing that if I really pressed close to the anaerobic edge, I'd lose it.

You will be happy to hear I did not hurl in the pool, thus making the entire swim meet have to vacate the lanes for chunk skimming. And I did complete the race. That's something, I guess. 2 seconds slower than last year. Should've been way faster, based on my 1650 time from Friday night. Still, good enough for second place. The woman who took 3rd place was hot on my heels, only 10 seconds behind me. That's a quarter of a second per length of the pool, or 1 second per 100. I couldn't have swum any slower and held onto 2nd. So I did my job after all. But I never ever ever want to do that again. And I don't think I'll ever look at a chocolate milkshake for the rest of my life.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Ultimate Motivation

Why do I go to Master's Swim Meets? Is it to swim? Well, heck yeah. And hang out with my buddies from the Aquaducks? Yeah to that too. But really, a Master's Swim Meet is the ultimate motivation. I mean, if you have even the teensiest tiniest doubt in your mind that being an athlete makes a lifelong difference, you just show up at one of these meets and see some octogenarian swimmer belting out a 400 IM (that's butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle for those of you playing at home), and how can you help but be motivated by that?

Today in the shower after swimming the 1650, I was talking with a lady who had just finished her heat of the same race. I asked her how it went and she said she was very happy that she swam it faster than last year. Not bad, considering she's in her late seventies. But then here's the kicker. This year she had cancer, and a mastectomy, radiation, reconstructive surgery, physical therapy. You get the picture. And then she comes back and swims a 1650 faster than last year. That's pretty impressive in my book. Move over, Lance Armstrong. Do I want to be like that at 77 years old? You bet I do!

A great start to a fun weekend of swimming. And my 1650 (or the "swimmer's mile")? 22:45. That's 18 seconds faster than last year. Oh yeah.

Off To The State Swim Meet

I'll be in Portland for the weekend with our Master's team for the State Association Championships. If you're swimming Masters here, come find me (in my Aquaduck Sweatshirt and cap) and say hi!

My times from last year that I want to beat (all short course yards - 25 yard pool):

1650 Free: 23:03
1000 Free: 13:47
500 Free: 6:44
50 Free: 30:81
100 Free: 1:10

I'll swim the 1650 tonight, then a mix of events tomorrow and Sunday. I'm also swimming the 50 Fly, and a bunch of relays. I wanted to do the 100 Fly, but just haven't been swimming enough at all. Due to all the karate in the last couple of months, I've been lucky to get in the pool once a week, sometimes twice. So I hope that I can even meet my times from last year, especially in the long events. The short events should be better since I think my strength is good right now.