Quinoa Salad, Take 1

So what have I been doing with all my free time now that I'm not training for anything?  Besides getting my ass kicked by CrossFit classes, I'm doing a little more cooking.

Quinoa Salad with Pineapple-Roasted Pepper Puree

I had an awesome quinoa salad while in Austin and I really want to try to recreate it.  This is attempt No. 1.  I'll give it a B+.  It was good, but not quite great.  Here's the recipe if you want to try it as is.  All measurements are guesses

2 cups quinoa, rinsed, cooked, and cooled
2 cups greens, coarsely chopped
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

2 poblano peppers, roasted under broiler until skin blisters
4 pineapple rings, reserve juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
Pulse all ingredients in food processor

Drizzle quinoa with a little olive oil and toss with greens and crumbled goat cheese until mixed.  Serve on a plate with puree on the side.  Garnish with a grilled pineapple ring and 1/2 sliced avocado.

A few additional notes:  The original recipe used red quinoa, I only had plain.  It also originally called for sheep's cheese but I only found goat's cheese in the grocery store.  Sheep's cheese is probably a little sweeter, goat's cheese is a little more tangy. 

I thought it was missing a little zing.  So I added champagne vinegar to the puree for the leftovers tomorrow.  On the next try, I might add one roasted jalapeno and some lime juice to the puree to make more of a vinaigrette.  I'm going to track down red quinoa and sheep's cheese for the next time, too.


Austin 70.3 - a big, fat DNF

Disclaimer:  This race report took several days, glasses of wine and even a few beers to complete.  Read at your own risk.

I haven't been looking forward to writing this race report but I also felt like I would be taking the easy way out to just try to forget it ever happened.  I'm sure with a few more days I will have a better perspective on this race.  For now I'm angry, frustrated, disappointed, and seriously questioning my chosen hobby.

"But what about all your training?" you ask.  What about the speed work, over-distance rides, the fancy new shoes, the expensive race wheels?  What happened to the best training cycle and recovery strategy?  The new diet?  The gluten-free fueling?  Shit, if I knew any of the answers I wouldn't be the Grumpasaurus Rex that I have been for the last few days.

I will say that the organization the morning of the race was superb.  They had ample Porta Potties and plenty of shuttles to get everyone to the start on time.  Unfortunately, that is just about all the positive comments I have to say about this race.

Part of why I signed up for Austin was that I had never been to Austin but have heard great things.  If you're thinking about this race for the same reason, let me save you a whole lot of time and money: Just go visit Austin and skip the race.

The race was staged entirely out of the Travis County Fairgrounds.  We were no where near the city.  I suppose at one time on the course, you could see downtown for about 3 minutes.  But if you looked up for that long, you would have crashed.  I'll get to that later.  The bike course took us through the countryside where we did get to see not one, but two different power plants.  Oooh.  Aahhh. 

The run course was in full sun between the fairgrounds and the lake we swam in.  It was a 3-loop course (about 4.4 miles per loop) and of the 4.4 miles, 3 miles were on the fairgrounds access road.  Oooh.  Aahhh.

Ultimately, the reason I dropped out was because of my hip.  I knew it wasn't 100% going into the race but I thought it would be OK.  Going up the first hill, it started hurting and it only got worse.  By mile 3, I was shuffling and decided I was not going out for the last 2 loops and risk making my hip even worse.  The fact it was almost 90 degrees, 90% humidity didn't help.  I turned in my chip at mile 4.5 on the run.

But the real story is the bike course.

I've completed Ironman Kansas, Boise, and New Orleans (all 70.3) and Redman 70.3  I've raced in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Vermont, and Wisconsin besides the 70.3 races.  So I've ridden a variety of courses and I'd like to think that I have very realistic expectations when it comes to racing.  Without exception, Austin was the worst, most dangerous bike course I have ever been on.

There were huge cracks, pot holes and slumping pavement.  The race organizers tried to patch the worst of it.  If what we rode on was the fix, I can only imagine how bad it was before.  The coal patches were uneven, rough, and there was loose patch material everywhere.  Since the road was so rough, anything people carried on their bike ended up in the road: full bottles, food, gel, spare tubes, CO2 cartridges, glasses, anything that wasn't fully attached.  So not only were we dodging cracks and God-awful pavement, we were dodging all the shit in the road the 15 previous waves had dropped.  The road was so rough that I lost most of my water before mile 20.  I had to stop and get a bottle at an aid station since I was low before I even was halfway through the course.  I usually keep close track of my fluids since I have over-hydrated before and I had no idea how much I had drank.  Not good.

But it doesn't end there.  There also was a 70 meter gravel section we had to ride through.  On tri-bikes.  At the race briefing the director said, and I quote "There won't be any loose gravel on the course.  We have people out there sweeping the course right now."  I don't think you have to be an engineer to see the problem with that logic. 

On top of shitty pavement, shit in the road, and a shitty gravel section, there were over 35 turns that were 90 degrees or sharper.  I stopped counting at 37.  Over 37 sharp turns on a 56 mile course.

Let's recap the bike course: 2600 racers on shitty pavement, through gravel, trying to avoid shit in the road and navigate over 37 sharp turns.  Awesome.  Like I said, the most dangerous course I've been on.  I saw 2 people being loaded into different ambulances, 2 people who had crashed but gotten back on their bikes (torn clothes, bloody backs), 3 people sitting in the ditch with their bikes (not even attempting to fix whatever was wrong) and at least a dozen flats, maybe more.

It's hard to explain what a rough road feels like.  By mile 35 I was starting to get sore and uncomfortable.  I had 3 rides over 60 miles and 3 rides over 50 miles in my training.  There is no reason that I should have been fatigued at mile 35.  Everything just fell apart. 

The disappointing thing is that the terrain had the potential to be AMAZING.  It was wonderfully rolling hills.  I love a hilly course and this was the kind of terrain that I do well in.  I could tell a big difference in the race wheels when climbing.  I could attack uphill with the same effort.  It's too bad that I spent more energy avoiding rough pavement and absorbing vibrations than I spent climbing hills.  Comparatively, I still did OK on the bike.  Out of 85 in my AG, I was 15th on the bike and I didn't consider that a good ride at all.  Clearly the entire field suffered.

I've never had my bike shoes blister and I've done all my races in them, all of my training rides, and even a 112 mile ride.  Both feet blistered during the bike.  I had never blistered in my new running shoes.  But the run course was on broken pavement, gravel and dirt.  I never took my Zoot shoes trail running, and I blistered from my running shoes.  I chafed under my left arm and I've never had an issue with that top.  Everything about this race was awful.

The first mile on the run didn't feel bad.  But then I hit the first big hill and problems really started.  My hip hurt, a deep throbbing pain in my left hip joint.  My hip flexor was tight which was also unusual.  It eased up on the downhill and into mile 2.  But by mile 3, it hurt and didn't stop.  I was shuffling somewhere between 10 and 12 min/mile pace.  Between my hip and my blisters, my form was terrible.  It was hot and getting hotter.  Aid stations had already started running out of ice and sponges.  Somewhere between mile 3 and 4, I decided I wasn't going back out for my 2nd and 3rd loops.  With my hip hurting, I didn't want to risk making it worse.  And I didn't feel the need to grind out a 1/2 marathon in 2.5 hours when it was 90 degrees in full sun.  I've done this distance before.  I had nothing to prove.

I'm glad I dropped.  Based on how my hip felt Sunday night and Monday, it was the right decision.  But I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me.  Clearly, it has bothered me a lot.  The trip actually got worse after the race, but those details don't matter.  Let's just say this was a very expensive trip and I wish I had never gone to Texas.  I dropped the f-bomb more times that weekend than I usually do in a year.

I don't know when I will travel to race again.  I have a hard time justifying something so selfish and expensive when it could go as poorly as Austin.  Maybe I'm spoiled since I've never had a race where everything just fell apart and I dropped.  Maybe I just don't handle failure well.  But what's the point?  I put in months of training to drop out.  I did speed work, I drank protein shakes after my hard work outs, I cut out gluten, I wore compression socks.  I had the best level of fitness I've ever had and for what?  I didn't even finish and I should have PR'd.

I need another beer.


All dressed up

Just a quick post before Kelly and I leave for Austin.  Thelma is sporting some new wheels.  No, I can't afford 404s, they're rentals from Cycle City.  But don't she look purty?

There's been a few last-minute changes.  The run course was changed to a 3 loop course due to the drought in Texas.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  The high is now 88 (the average high is 78) and I know how I feel about that.  My friend Erin is flying to Dallas to make the drive back with me, which is awesome since it really wouldn't be safe for me to drive solo 12+ hours the day after a 70.3.

Recently, I saw a Prefontaine poster with one of his many quotes: "The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die."  While I know it's a little over-dramatic, since I've been training for a PR I think a suicide pace just might be what's in store, at least it will feel that way on lap #3 on the run.  That is, if you'd consider a 9 min/mile a suicide pace. :)

See you after Austin!


Running Mantras

Besides my speedy new kicks, I've fallen into using running mantras on my tough speed sessions and as corny as it sounds, I think it makes a big difference.  The more I do quality rides and runs, the more I find my inner dialogue sounding like a cheerleader.  I think I miss running regularly with Kelly more than I'll admit.  She's usually the cheerleader while I'm huffing and puffing half a block back.

But based on the success of my last few speed work sessions, I would say the positive thinking is working.  Since it works so well for me, I thought I'd share a few of my favorites. Some have been stolen from magazines, TV sports coverage and other runners.  I don't have any swimming mantras, probably because if I stop concentrating, I'll loose track of what lap I'm on.  Do you have any great mantras that get you through tough places?

Do the job at hand.
Girl's got game.
Time to work.
Dig in.
Push it, push it, push it.
Engine's running, pistons' pumping.

I will not give up.
The faster I run, the sooner I'm done.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
Quick steps, light feet.
This is where it counts.
Quicker, faster, stronger.

And when things are really falling apart and all I can think about is finishing my work out, then my mantras usually turn to food:
Bison burger and sweet potato fries, sweet potato fries
Pizza, pizza, pizza
Chicken pad thai

And if all else fails:  B double E double R, U N, beer run, beer run!


Running Shoes or Ruby Slippers?

I'd like to show off my newest gear, Zoot Ultra Race 2.0.  I've had them for a few weeks and did several track sessions and tempo runs in them.  The longest I've done in them is 9 miles but I plan on wearing them for Austin.

They only weigh about 7 ounces.  They're triathlon running shoes, so they have a sock liner and are meant to be worn sockless.  They have a quick-lace system and drain holes in the soles.  The also have a hole in the tongue and heel so you can pull them on easily.  In the sole, there is an arch-shaped carbon fiber piece.  (I'm not quite sure of the benefit other than it forces you onto the front of your foot.)

These are a minimalist shoe, like all my other running shoes right now.  They're even lighter and lower profile than the Kinvaras, which is saying a lot.  I love the sockliner and have had no issues with blisters or hot spots. 

It seems like the soles are a little more durable than the Kinvaras as well.  I feel like I chew through my Kinvaras quickly since the lightweight sole can't handle a lot of miles.  The Zoots so far still look brand-new.

I was pretty surprised with the lace-lock system.  I've had bad luck with lace-locks either coming loose during a run or being too tight right across my ankle in order to keep the shoe tight enough the rest of my foot doesn't slide around.  The lace-locks stay in place and when tightened, there isn't a tight spot at the top.  They also have fairly small ends so they don't flop around when I run.  I put lace-locks on my Kinvaras and I hate how much the plastic piece on the end flops around and hit my foot with each step.

So what's the downside you ask?  Well, price for one.  I found these online for half price.  Full price they're $140, which is more than I'm willing to pay for a pair of shoes that will last less than a year.  The other downside is availability.  There's no local stores that I know of that carry Zoot shoes, so I ordered mine online and hoped they fit.  Luckily, they fit my foot perfectly.  But to be honest, I love these shoes so much, I might switch to these for my regular running shoes, not just speed work.

The biggest advantage might not even be a real one.  They are so  freaking light, and I didn't start using them until I was well into my training, so all my runs have been great.  The mental effect of me putting these shoes on is a lot like Dorothy putting on the Ruby Slippers.  Except when I put my shoes on, "home" is 7:50 min/mi tempo pace or 6:20 min/mi interval pace.  There is no place like home.