Friday, May 30, 2008

Bike Commuter

"Did you jog to work?!"  His assessment missed the mark, but his shock was undeniable.  I looked down.  Canvas sneakers, capris, and all my bike gear tucked away in my messenger bag...  I don't look like a jogger.  Maybe I smell?

"No, I rode in."  heh.  "It's only 4 miles."

"You RODE in?!  Isn't that Dangerous?"  You could hear the capital D.   He wasn't concerned for me - he was shocked that anyone would brave the wild open roads without a steel cage.

Phsaw "No..."  The elevator doors open.  We part ways, and I can see he's still baffled.    I feel like a minor fraud, as this was only my 2nd commute by bike day of the year.  Look at me, being all proud of my 3.8 miles.  pshaw, indeed.  I'll have to keep biking in, so I can add Bike Commuter to my accomplishments.

I know - I ride to work and take the elevator?!  I didn't have two hands free and our office has Very Strict policies about holding the hand rail.  I guess when you work in an office that can't trust its employees to climb stairs safely, no wonder they can't imagine cycling as a safe method of transportation. 

Monday, May 26, 2008

Second Race

After Saturday's ride, the knee hurt.  a Lot.  By Sunday morning, it was fine again.  Limited use until Monday night.  Race day.  I take in 3 laps in warmup, and it's noticeable.  I'm worried.  Not many people out tonight; what with the long holiday weekend.  8 Novice women have signed up.  7 make the line, and we briefly confirm that none of us are brand-new novice types.  We're off.

We quickly form a pace-line.  I'm 5th wheel.  Settle in.  Half a lap, the line maintains.  Settle in.  I tell the knee to behave, and I'm relaxed.  I'll just follow the line.  Lap 2, smile for the camera!  Static pace-line.  Lap 3.  Steady speed, about 21 every time I glance down.  Lap 4.  I drink.  Lap 5.  We roll on.  It's all the same.

Bell lap, and the girl behind me wants to be near the front - she goes as we are neutralized.  We flunk Neutral; the only mini break or disturbance to our order happens as we cross the checkered line while the men fly by on the inside.  New lineup.  I'm still at 5, #1 is now #6 (is she recovering for a hard sprint?) and #6 is on the front.  Good for her.  Wow, lap 5.   I haven't heard from my knee in a while.  Holy crap, I'm going to be in the sprint.  Holy hell, there went my heart rate, and I'm not working hard.  I try to tell the adrenaline that it's too early - we aren't even half way thru the lap yet!  Settle in.  Settle in.  Deep breath - settle in!!  It doesn't work.  I hold my line, we hit the back corners.  It's building.  Who's gonna go?  When will it start?  Final turn ~ the pace picks up, and grows slow and steady.  Is this a sprint?  Should I try to go?  Could I if I wanted to?  It's getting faster.  We're passing the distance markers now, I gear up, still trying to figure out what to do.  I need to get out of my head.  It's too late.

I settle for maintaining my placement; I push hard enough to keep 6 behind me - I kept expecting her to come around, but it doesn't happen.  I consider standing for a sprint, but my adrenaline was used up long ago.  I'm just hammering away on this gear to keep my place.  We cross the line, and it's over.  5th place in a small and strung out finish.  I finished, and there is no pain.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

38.36 miles

It's late spring, but the cool & cloudy morning meant red tint sunglasses & many layers.  Today's ride had a number of options so I could cut short however and whenever I needed to.  This would be the road test for my knee.  I stopped yesterday and had it taped; unfortunately it stretched out overnight so it didn't provide any benefit.  We gather for announcements, quickly break in to groups and I identify the first batch of 17s.  I'll start there. 

Low yellow grey clouds still hug the west hills.  They say it'll burn off, but this still looks sticky and slightly menacing.  Mile 8 - I'm okay, keeping pace, not pushing at all.  Mile 11.  "Hi.  Nice day for a ride."  Right on schedule, my knee announces itself.  It's not hurting, but it's noticeable.  The overpass is in front of us - I gear down and spin over it easily.  I ignore the knee.  Maybe if I put it out of my mind, it won't hurt.  That works until we roll through the next town.  I drop off the back.  I chose to ride my own pace, and find 12-15 mph manageable.

My knee and brain have a small fight.  "Go back."  No, not for mild irritation.  "C'mon, let's stop.  Remember how it feels to ride pain free?  Let's wait for that.'  No.  I need the miles.  "Who'll know?"  I won't give up, but I will take it easy.  Let's keep going, slow an easy.  Brain wins.  I turn right, I continue on.

Past the abandoned wooden shack, past the woodland that hugs the road, in to the farm valley.  Brown cows on the right.  Fields of grass float up the hills to the wooded ridge that is the horizon above me on both sides.  On I ride.  I mark my progress.  First hill, and I survive.  I listen for the knee.  Easy spin and coast.  Easy spin and spin and coast.  I keep checking my mirror, but I'm alone.  I'm slow enough that I should have been caught, but I don't mind.

"I pinch."  There it is, the knee is back.  I remember that pain from my race.  Within 3 pedal strokes I turn around, pull in to a driveway and dig the Advil out of my saddle bag.  Okay, fine, we go back now.  We are plural.  This pain isn't me, it's just here for the ride.  I'm not angry, I made it further than I'd anticipated, and it isn't too far from home.  Besides, all the faster groups will pass me on the way back if this is a real problem.  I'm fortunate - it is okay.  Somehow it doesn't hurt as bad since it pinched.  I don't know if that is beneficial or a warning flag; I chose to be optimistic.  

I ride back thru the valley.  I notice fields of christmas trees growing in tidy square plots.  Rhododendrons in bloom - white with amethyst centers or tropical pink.   A field of ruby clover extends out to a lush green grassy hill.  Pheasant struts swiftly to the protection of the undergrowth.  A very fuzzy orange black and white caterpillar inches across the road.  The sky is suddenly blue, the sun warm knowing summer will closely follow.  This is the peace of a solo ride.  Body and mind calm, bike silent as I find my way back home.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Favorites - Makeup Edition

I ran out of my every day mineral foundation.  I knew it was about time to reorder, but was lazy.  I finally admitted that the blend I use in winter just isn't cutting it, so it's time to place an order.  I don't remember the last time I bought makeup in a store!
  1. Everyday Minerals - The best and most cost effective mineral makeup I've found.  I've tried many.  Free starter kit to test it out, fabulous kits to get you started, and enough colors to ensure a perfect match.  Don't order without checking out their weekly specials.   The concealers are amazing - and don't forget the finishing powder!
  2. JFR Cosmetics - Mascara for those with Auburn to Strawberry Blond hair.  Perfect.
  3. Eyes Lips Face - Remember those mail order makeup kits back in the 80s?  Super cheap, and you could get a ton?  Well, this is even better.   They started out as $1 makeup and accessories (excellent source for cheap brushes) and have grown.  I love the wet gloss lash & brow clear mascara, $1 nail polish, blotting papers, and eyeliner brush.  However, their minerals are more expensive than my #1 choice once you factor in volume.
Hair?  Trader Joe's SPA Moisture shampoo & conditioner - super moisturizing, only $2.50 per bottle.  I've used this exclusively for about a year.  I will cry if they ever discontinue it.

Perfume - This is too cool:  the Demeter Fragrance Library.  My first was Gin & Tonic - light, crisp, bright and perfect for summer.  I've also picked up Cherry Blossom and Vanilla Ice Cream.  I want Rain! and Snow! and something Almond!  They don't turn on my skin (most perfumes do) and they smell incredible.  Forget the shoe closet, I want this entire collection!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Saturday Ramble

Today's ride was beautiful, short, and slow.  The sunscreen turned my arms and legs into gnat traps - little black freckles are gross.

I lead out the 15 ramble on our club ride - tho I was expecting to do a gimp ride with Carlo as we nurse our wounds and take it easy.  So I level set with the group, threw out the maps and took a flat ride out to the blueberry and clover fields.  It was early enough that we had calm air and warm sun.  We took a short break, I made sure everyone hydrated to stay ahead of the heat, and then we rolled thru the circuit and made our way back to the coffee shop.  Nice thing about being the first group back is not having to wait in line or snipe chairs outside.  We relaxed and chatted until everyone else rolled in - sweaty and tired as the heat and wind picked up considerably.  After lunch we rolled home ~my grand total 21 miles averaged 12.5.  Definitely didn't over do it.  

We decided to forgo cooking dinner ~ met our friends at a little Thai place.
Fell in Love with the Yellow Mango Cashew Curry.  Heavenly!  

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Portland loves the Sun

Finally - some warm weather!  The freckles on my cheeks and knees are coming out of hiding.  The shoulders are still covered - will probably be June or July before those get enough sun.

Everyone is out - long walks on lunch breaks, taking off early to enjoy a little sun, bikes everywhere, and dog parks filled to capacity.  We scramble to find our shorts, check the expiration dates on the sunblock, and talk to everyone we meet about the crazy weather this year.  In: discussing it.  Out: the phrase global warming.   It's nice to have a break from lousy smarch weather.  And yes, I know it is May.

BBQs are grilling, the neighbor's AC is buzzing, calla lilies blooming, and bugs and birds chirp in abundance.

Hooray, sunshine - please stick around for a few days!


In celebration of nice weather, and to reinforce the return to healthy eating, our menu has been full of salads and vegetables and fruit.  I'm back to my daily caloric goal, and my body has rewarded the change.  As of this morning, only 2.8 pounds from my June weight goal.  I will put in a core workout this afternoon (abs, pushups, planks) but no hitting the gym until I get to PT.  I know I'll want to do some leg work, and I'll tell myself that I'll take it easy - but that really doesn't happen.

I'm also enjoying my food for what it is.
Greek Yogurt with granola and fresh strawberries.
Fresh Raspberry, Almonds, Mixed Greens & Baby Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Chipotle Marinated Beef, Rosemary Potatoes, and Mustard Greens.
Simple.  Delish.


I did my first walk thru of Whole Foods at lunch.  I was impressed by their meat department - very excited by the variety of poultry, and regular stock of buffalo.  I suppose I should learn to shop their fish market; was far too spoiled by huge halibut and salmon steaks in prior years.  Macadamia Crusted Swordfish with Mango Salsa, anyone?  That just might make it on the menu next week.

However, they have Far Too Many kitchen gadgets.  Tempting ones.  The kind that are sure to double the grocery bill if significant will power is not applied.  Not to mention the samples - couldn't go half an aisle without a taste test available - either via open stations or trays being passed around the store.  That could easily have been 300-400 calories!  Glad I finished my lunch before the walk thru.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cupcake Truffle Bombs

With two birthday celebrations in one weekend, what else is there to do but make cupcakes as a gift? I settled on a chocolate strawberry flavor combo, and after a little searching I settled on these. They destroyed my kitchen.

Round One: I have Ghirardelli cocoa in the cupboard, so I buy Ghirardelli chips for the ganache. I've had prior success with cake flour, so I substitute. As I start mixing, realize I'm nearly out of cocoa powder, so I back fill with Hershey Special Dark. (Ugh - I know. But if you want Oreo dark cookies or a super dark graham crust for your cheesecake, this is It.) I fill up the cupcake wrappers, toss them in the oven, and mix the ganache. Strawberries are chopped, mixed in, and I toss that half in the fridge. I'm hoping that some magic will happen and it'll firm up. Oven timer starts to chirp. My cupcakes are funky and baked all over the pan (too full?) and the ganache never sets up. It's soup, and the one bit of very ripe strawberry has introduced a funky taste to the entire batch. Fail x2

Round Two. New can of Ghirardelli cocoa. I follow the cupcake recipe to the letter, this time they are satisfactory. Very light, which has me a bit worried if they'll hold up to the filling. I redo the ganache using my standby truffle recipe. I chop the strawberries, drain them in paper towels, and this time I have a nice, thick filling for the cupcakes. I assemble, frost, add sprinkles before topping with strawberries, and they look Pro. The fancy 4x cupcake box helps too. I tried the strawberry and it did not meet my expectations, but I'm told they were divine. The truffle mix was very moist, resulting in a pudding consistency even after attempting a firmer mix. The payoff wasn't worth the effort for these; even if I hadn't botched round one.

[Insert Photo]

Round Three - the experiment. Can you make truffles with coconut milk instead of heavy cream? I make a direct substitution, and... Success! Half of the cupcakes are transformed into coconut truffle filled calorie bombs. I mix some sweetened shredded coconut into the ganache, stuff them, glaze them, frost them & sprinkle with more coconut that's been mixed with a little cocoa powder. I'm satisfied, and box them up as gifts. I didn't get to try the coconut version, but expect that they'd be a better consistency than the strawberry.

*I have not learned to clean as I go. I couldn't count the number of ganache bowls scattered around the kitchen by the end of this process.
*While the components for each of these were satisfactory, the cake was too soft and crumbly for the filling. Maybe that's why the original ganache was so runny? I can only imagine those would have to be served with a spoon.
*Coconut Milk Truffles will be featured in this year's holiday sweets

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Shiny Apple

I have a number of updates to make.  My first race, a cupcake creation from which my kitchen is still recovering, and the fact that I'm now posting from a brand new iMac.  wooo!  However, my brain hasn't figured out how to use it yet, so simple things like copy & paste are failing.  Seriously.  Oh yeah, and my old laptop died and I haven't migrated things off of it yet, so I'm a little short on music and photos and the familiarity of having everything at my fingertips without having to think about it.  I'll get there - meanwhile I'll go back to reading Mac 101.

First Race

I haven't been on the bike much since the Monster Cookie a few weekends back. Turns out my left cleat wasn't true, and it's very likely my seat was off since I'd found a new saddle to use. The cumulative score? Lateral patella compression syndrome in my left knee. Lots of ice, advil, and an appointment with the physical therapist. It also meant a bike refit, so off I drove to Veloce. We put on new handle bars - and I am seriously in love with the Salsa bars; the drops are now perfect! New silvery handle bar tape to match the silver on the bike. Fiona is tuned and stylish. She's ready to ride. Every day I walk past her in the garage, I want to ride. Yes, I name my bikes...  And cars.

I will be racing - but that isn't my personal motivator, or accountability.

I eat my words. How many calories in humble pie?   Because I should have raced before That proclamation.  

Monday night was the Women's Novice Clinic.  My husband and I pre-ride the course, review final tips and tactics, and I roll over to the small gathering of women waiting for the start.  There were all kinds at the clinic - we ended up with 35? at the start.  Three juniors, half the field in tshirts and black shorts, and half of the remaining field all on one team.  I look on them with green eyes - that should be me, chatting with team mates, looking intimidating, and whispering about strategy.  Our mentors start the pep talk.  We learn what a race is - basic vocab like "start line" and "finish line" - I kid you not.  They showed us how to corner, what a pace line means, and ran us thru a mini pace line practice that really didn't go anywhere, and suddenly it was time to start.  We huddle up, and orange tshirt up looks at me "we're all starting at the same time?!"  Yep.  The nerves are back - this is it, the start of my first race.  Matt comes over for some last minute encouragement, and I'm so jittery I almost fall over when he leans in.  me: Don't lean on me!      him: Oh - your knee?     me: no - I'm jittery.  Woops - starting line man is wrapping up, time to scoot up and off we go. 

From the barrier start to the start/finish line, I settle in to 4th position.  I finally clicked in my left cleat, but being this is my first ride on the new pedals I don't sweat it.  We've got a small pace line and I glance over my shoulder to see how the field looks.  No way am I going to crash on the first lap - so I stay up front & keep an eye on the team with the numbers.  The pace picks up; everyone is anxious to get thru the race, and we're at the first corner.  This group is afraid of the apex, and leaves at least 2 widths around every corner.  Noted.  The field moves into the middle of the tarmac, the leaders slow while the field gets anxious and pushes up - I get passed on both sides and bumped around a little - but we stay upright.  There is no sharing the work off the front and it's really sloppy so I slip over to the wall and slow up enough to watch how this will unfold.   One cheeky girl pushes to the front with something to prove, and takes a 10 bike length break away.  She isn't going anywhere, and I'm not about to chase her down on the first lap.  As we're approaching the next set of turns our mentor gets it going - "Oh look!  There's a break away!  Let's chase her down!"  A few at the front are motivated, about 4 from the big team jump and I catch the train.  Matt's voice is in my ear ~ don't do the work.  don't do the work.  don't do the work.  We catch her, roll thru the corners and without effort I'm back in top 3.  I slow up, put myself number four, and enjoy the tail wind as we start lap two. 

2 & 3 were uneventful.  I easily held my position, and realize that the knee is just starting to get noticeable.  Not bad, made it this far with it quiet - and it really doesn't hurt.  I just know it's there.  Lap four I decide to play in the field a bit, see if there is space that I can get a better draft - and to feel out the field to see how fluid it will be if I need to climb thru the numbers at the finish.  Everyone is still together, which is great not having to worry about a chase, and my heart rate is solid.  Not working too hard, it isn't thumping, and I'm feeling pretty good.  I put in a couple small efforts, play around the corners, and find it very easy to move wherever I want.

Lap 5.  Two to go.  The gal behind me is winded, asks how much more we have.  "This is the end of four."  I hope she knows we are riding 6, but decide to let her figure that out on her own.  We go past the line, and as I glace over I realize that there is a table with lap numbers on it.  I really should learn to look at that rather than counting laps like I've done so far.  I keep to the top half, on the inside of the field.  As we are cruising along the back stretch I chat with the very tall girl in red & black.  I ask how her legs are, and with a big doe eyed smile "they're great".  Okay - wanna go?  She takes off, I hook on her wheel & push her as we approach the turns.  Over my shoulder I hear "wow, that's a great break away!" coming from a number of people.  The chatter doesn't stop, we're out front, and as I turn to see how much space we've built up, tell her to let them catch us so we can get back in the pack & make a true break later on 6 - I see the men blowing thru.  Frack.  We pull out, the women are all freaking out trying to figure out how to neutralize.  I sit up, 3 other women roll up and the field is a little behind them.  Lots of chatter, lots of comments that if it weren't for neutral the break would have worked.

Bell lap.  I see the bell.  I see the lap number, but barely register what they say.  As the double pace line turns into a cluster approaching the first turn, it happens.  My knee pinches, and the patella yanks all the way to my eyes - yeeeouch.  damnit.  I'm done.  I coast thru the turn, and try to ease up.  Maybe I can limp at the back of the pack, maybe I'll have enough to still make something of this.  Push.  Push.  Pain.  I'm done - there's no way this knee can sprint, and I'm falling off the back.  The Vanderkitten mentor gives me her wheel, and I'm trying to soft pedal 24mph along the back.  I get on to the back of the pack - and it's still completely together.  

Final pass thru the turns.  I take my line, and I'm suddenly mid field again.  Final turn, we're on the straight away, and I've floated to the back to get out of the way.  I'm pedaling with my right leg.  My left cries out every time the knee comes over the top of the pedal stroke, and I finish dead last.  As I roll over the line, OBRA tells me "9 more laps."  No no, I'm done! 

I turn in, release the left leg, and one leg push to the recap.  We chatter, the mentor offers to sell a racing book for $16, tells us to eat & get warm.  The general consensus was "wow, that is so confusing!  I have no idea what's going on out there."  Apparently!  I want my legs - I want my endurance back and a knee that can go more than 10 miles.  I want to Tear It Up, and leave the novice pack behind.  I want to sprint my lungs out and Finish! a race, not just roll over.

Racing?  I love it. 

Saturday, May 3, 2008

New Goal: To create ongoing goals

One year and one month ago, I joined a friend on a fitness and weight loss challenge. She introduced me to Body for Life, and finally I had a plan - something tangible to help me achieve weight loss. In 8 years of marriage, I'd grown to my largest size ever. Not that I was huge, but I certainly wasn't as healthy as I wanted to be. Sizes were slowly creeping up, and I was starting to hide from cameras and mirrors. Sure, we spent time at the gym.. we rode bikes, and ate "pretty well".. but I wasn't making any progress.

I set some goals for that summer - and my accountability was to be able to confidently wear sleeveless tops at a convention that summer. Mission accomplished! The benefit was I had finally made Significant progress in the direction I was after - Proof that I could actually lose body fat. The problem? I didn't have another accountability milestone to help keep me on track.

I didn't repeat BFL, because I found it conflicted with my cycling goals. So here comes January 1, and we set some cycling goals for the year. I will become a proficient A19 rider thru the summer Saturday rides, with a stretch goal of stepping up to A21. By June - Century ready. Club century in July, Harvest in October. I will climb and no longer be intimidated by Bald Peak. By September, Cross Crusade - prep with Alpenrose training. Complete my races, and achieve 2 Top Five for my category. Body Weight below 140 by June 16. Clean Eating - with a plan on how to support these goals; extra effort on healthy lunches. Cross training to include both weights and running.

Thru a combination of better food tracking, a specific workout plan that mixed weights, aerobic cross training, and cycling (still need to dedicate time to yoga or pilates) I was back to making progress. When the catalog arrived with the Cutest pair of wide leg, embroidered pants - I decided to order a pair, and to order down a size. I'd have to keep working, to keep losing the weight to be able to fit in to them. I found my golden ring, and the exciting time when body changing noticeably as inches slip away finally happened.

The jeans arrived.

The jeans were too big. They have about an inch excess around the waist, and being wide leg there is nothing else to keep them up. Hooray? Notsomuch. Here comes the backsliding.

While I am thrilled to have achieved this - I still only have a slapped together 'what am I doing this week' fitness regimen. Since I beat my goal, and had a couple back to back bad eating events, I've lost a bit of that strict, healthy eating plan... and simple, processed sugars are once again my downfall. I need to find my next golden ring. While I still haven't reached my original weight number goal (no scolding - every extra pound counts when you are climbing up Bald Peak) I somehow lost the direct motivation since I hit that size goal.

I will be racing - but that isn't my personal motivator, or accountability. I must eating well and improve my fitness to enable me to race, but it is not enough.

I need to purge the kitchen again. I need to eliminate self sabbotage opportunities.

On the positive side, I am really enjoying the increased volume and variety of veggies in our diet, and looking forward to the fresh fruits that are coming in to season. I Know how to eat right, to treat my body well and I really enjoy working out. I just need to find that next thing that will help me boot the excessive sweet tooth. Shame that chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes are void of nutritional service.. because baking and creating beautiful desserts is such a joy.

I am regrouping. My goals above stand - and on reflection, I am still on track. I just need to realign my head, rededicate and establish the next 3 sequential steps of accountability and rewards... and to always have at least three out on the horizon.

Sweet Potato & Fajita

I'm usually successful in picking out new recipes. But on rare occasion I stumble across something that becomes an instant favorite, can't get enough of it meal. Last night was such an occasion.
My stand-by fajita marinade has a very similar base to this recipe - so I decided to stretch it. I made a second batch of the spices from the potatoes, added 1tsp crushed red pepper and 1 Tbsp lime juice to about a pound of thinly sliced flat iron steak, and stir fried them to juicy perfection. I pushed the beef up the side of the wok and used the remaining juices to stir fry sliced red pepper. Because we had a giant bowl of chips left over from our party, we had fajita style nachos topped with the beef, red peppers, yogurt cheese, and avocado.
I love the addition of ginger to this mix - and the yogurt dip* from the potatoes is a fabulous sour cream substitute when using a thick Greek yogurt.
*must love cilantro