Growing up, I wasn’t what one would call athletic. Sure, I played outside and rode bikes with the neighborhood kids, but I was a slow runner, a bit on the pudgy side, and not at all coordinated.
I had a brief soccer-playing stint in middle school, but I was pretty terrible at it; my feet and the ball seemed to always be moving in separate directions. Shortly before the eighth grade though a neighbor suggested I check out a local swim team. I loved swimming, but it had never occurred to me that swimming was a sport that I could compete in. My mom got some information about the team, and less than a week later I showed up at my first practice. I was hooked.
off the blocks… circa 1994
It wasn’t a totally smooth transition. I had to learn how to do flip turns, and master the butterfly. But swimming was something that felt natural. I imagine it’s the same feeling that basketball players feel with a ball, or runners feel on the track. For the next five years, I swam three to five days a week, generally logging about two miles a day.
I gave up swimming when I went to college. I had my heart set on Northwestern’s journalism program, and I knew I didn’t have it in me to swim for a Division I school. Since then though, I’ve continued swimming, sometimes with a master’s team, but usually just on my own. Being in the water still feels like second-nature, though I’m not nearly as fast as I was at 17.
my “home” pool these days
Now that I’m tri training, my goal is to log at least one swim workout a week. But I realized recently that I can’t just wing it in the water. Just like with my runs, I need a training plan. Since the swim is the only part of the race where I’ll use my arms, I need to work on maximizing using my upper body in the water, so I can save my legs for later in the race. I also need to train for distance, so the 10×50 yard sets I generally do probably aren’t going to help me much.
Last week, I did some internet perusing and came up with a set of six workouts to get me through the next month. The workouts generally start and end the same: a warm-up of 200-swim, 200-kick, 200-pull, and then a cool-down of 200-pull. The main sets vary: some focus on speed, and some focus on stamina. Since most triathletes struggle with the swim, I though it might be helpful to post them when I do them, along with thoughts on what to focus on as you go through the workout.
swim workouts for the next few weeks
The set I did last week was pretty simple:
warm up: 200-swim (freestyle), 200-kick (alternate flutter kick and breast stroke kick each lap), and 200-pull (alternate 50-yards free, 50-yards back stroke)
I use my warm ups to focus on technique: keeping my hands close to my body, making sure my fingers are closed, and doing stroke drills to maximize efficiency.
main set: 5×200 swim (freestyle, back stroke, breaststroke, back stroke, freestyle- no rest between 200s, simply switch stroke)
My main goal here was to swim consistently and try to focus on maintaining my speed with my upper body, rather than relying on my legs for power.
cooldown: 200 pull (freestyle)
Total yards: 1,800
My favorite drill with a pull bouy is to drag my fingertips on the top of the water and think about keeping my elbows high and hands close to my body. Here’s a full description and video of this drill.
I’m still recovering from a shoulder injury and working to rebuild my strength, so I’ve been alternating freestyle (which tires me out fast) with back stroke (which doesn’t bother my injury as much). I think it’s good to mix it up and do different strokes, but you could do this workout with all freestyle.
The last thing I wanted to do yesterday was run 12 miles. There was laundry to fold, curtains to hang, a kitchen to sweep… In short, plenty of excuses to keep me off the streets.
It’s not that the laundry or curtains or anything else was particularly pressing. Rather it’s that the thought of running for two hours sort of freaks me out. I know it’s silly- I have friends training for Boston that are running much farther distances these days, so complaining about 12 or 13 miles seems kind of trite. But it’s the truth.
Of course, the only way to combat this is to make 13 miles seem ordinary. So each weekend I’ve been doing a “long run” of between 8 and 13 miles, with a goal of running 13 miles at least once a month. Yesterday, I did 12.
Once I was out the door and running it wasn’t so bad. I ran along the harbor to Southie and around Castle Island, then up through Fort Point Channel, onto the Rose Kennedy Greenway, through Government Center down to the Common and Public Garden and then up Comm Ave. to Hereford. It took me about two hours, and I felt mostly good. While my pace wasn’t stellar, I was focused mostly on getting the miles in, and I definitely felt better on this run than I did a month ago when I ran 13. In the future, I need to start doing these with a group to help me speed up.
Training last week was definitely better.
Tuesday: speed work at track; 4 miles
Wednesday: bike 80 minutes
Thursday: swim 1800 yards, 65-minutes spin class, run 3 miles (brick)
Friday: run hills, 3 miles
Saturday: bike 60 minutes
Sunday: run 12 miles, 90-minute yoga class
Total: run 22 miles; bike 205 minutes; swim 1,800 yards
Hopefully, the next week will look a lot like this one.
Yet until recently I’d never tried to make one at home. Sushi has always been a “going out” food, probably because I’m not too keen on handling raw fish at home. But I’ve been eating more vegetable-only rolls lately, and so when I saw nori at the Asian market a few weeks ago I thought, “I can do that.” So I did, and it was wonderful, and now I wonder what took me so long.
This is really about as easy as making tacos. A few things to note:
- Make sure your grains are luke-warm or warmer. The flavor and texture are better that way.
- Don’t overfill. This will lead to breakage and leakage. If you need more food, make another one.
- Do what you like. Add your favorite vegetables, make a soy and wasabi dipping sauce, slip in some protein (hello, shrimp?), if that’s what gets you excited.
- While the ice cream cone shape you get in sushi restaurants is really sexy, I find it easier and neater to do a more burrito-esque fold. First, fold the bottom up over the filling, then fold each side in. To seal, dip your fingers in some warm water and run over the seam. Voila!
Vegetarian hand rolls
Two sheets nori
1 cup grains (I used quinoa and brown rice), room temperature
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
vegetable assortment of your choice. I like shredded beets and carrots, pea shoots, avocado, and grated ginger
soy sauce to taste
Heat grains so they are at least room temperature or luke warm (this makes them easier to mix, and I think they fast better this way). Add rice vinegar and sesame oil and mix well. Spread half the grain mixture on a sheet of nori and top with desired vegetables, being careful not to overfill (less is more here). Fold bottom of roll up over filling, and then fold each side over the middle. To seal, dip your finger in luke warm water and run over the edges of your roll. Dip in soy sauce, if desired. Eat as soon as possible, the nori will get soggy if left too long.
One of my absolute favorite things after a day of skiing is a good beer. I’m not generally a big beer drinker, but there’s nothing like having a beer in front of the fire after a long day in the cold.
After a glorious day on the slopes last weekend, Mike, Z, and I extended our après-ski with a trip into Littleton to visit Schilling Beer Co. A friend introduced me to this local gem during a trip up north a few months ago, and I was glad for an excuse to return. Mike and Z have just finished a stint in Germany, and so they know good beer. Schilling did not disappoint.
Owned by a trio of brothers and a life-long friend, Schilling prides itself on combining brewing science with European traditions to make the best beers possible. In my opinion, they’ve done a pretty excellent job. The beers are flavorful and well-balanced, but what I really like is that they have beers that you won’t find at a typical local brewery. While everyone seems to be obsessed these days with IPAs and brown ales, Schilling draws inspiration from classical Belgian, German and Polish brewing traditions. These guys have spent a lot of time in Europe, and their beers show it. My favorite is the Erastus, an unfiltered Tripel that’s a bit yeasty and citrusy, and generally just delicious.
The tap room is located in an 18th-century mill in downtown Littleton, right on the Ammonoosuc River. The place feels like a cross between a mountain cabin and an Ikea; very sparse, but also very natural. The tables are small enough to make it easy to cozy up with friends, but big enough for lots of beer glasses and plates. It’s a great balance.
To round out the drinks, they have a menu of pizzas and plates all cooked in their on-site wood-fired stove. The food is simple, but high-quality and delicious. A pizza and a bowl of lamb stew was ample for our party, along with an obligatory slice of chocolate peanut butter layer cake.
Schilling plans to add a beer garden this summer, and will start selling growlers. There’s also plans in the works to start distributing in Boston soon, so hopefully in the future I won’t have to trek all the way up to the White Mountains to get my hands on their great product.
Weekends usually fly by, but this past weekend went especially fast. I can’t believe that I woke up this morning in New Hampshire!
I headed to Bretton Woods Friday after work with my cousins, Mike and Zuz, and my friend Danielle. D and I were signed up to do a race Saturday, and Mike and Z were eager to do some skiing, so we split a hotel room and made a weekend of it. I’m so glad that we did. I tend to get bogged down in thinking about the things that I should do- laundry, hang curtains, etc. and was thinking last week that it might be better to stay in town. But getting away was actually great- I came home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
I can’t remember how I learned about the New England Winter Wild series, but as soon as I did I knew I wanted to do it. The races take place at ski areas throughout the winter, and the races go up and down the mountain. They seemed like the perfect way to put my #weatherproof and #hillsforbreakfast training t0 the test. Danielle, always up for an adventure, agreed.
Still, when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Saturday I questioned my judgment. It was still dark when we arrived at the mountain, and a balmy 35 degrees.
There are several ways you can tackle the Winter Wild races. They have categories for cross country, AT, and “full metal” (ie traditional alpine ski gear), as well as snowshoes and Yaktrax. D and I kept it simple and opted for Yaktrax. I guess we could have gone “full metal” but that seemed torturous.
Before we knew it a guy was yelling into a bullhorn and we were off, running past dormant chair lifts and up a ski trail. I think I ran about 100 feet before I realized that if I stopped and walked I could go faster. The snow was soft and kind of slippery, and the trail was a lot steeper than the typical hills I run (I was later mortified to discover this was a green trail. I thought for sure it was blue).
We could see the top of the chairlift, and I kept my eye on it as I made my way up the trail. When we got there, we started running, only to discover that there was more uphill. Bummer! We kept on, and I was super excited to be keeping up with a girl on skins. Finally, after 31 minutes, 1,500 feet of elevation and 1.5 miles of trail, we were at the top.
The first bit down wasn’t much easier. My legs were heavy, and the trail was steep. I took my time in spots, not wanting to roll an ankle or break a knee. But after a while it flattened out, and I started to feel a lot better. By this point the racers had really spread out, and D and I were running alone down a snow-covered trail canopied by evergreen trees. We felt like the only ones in the race.
The end came quicker than we thought- two miles, and 18 minutes of running later. We crossed the finish just under the 50-minute mark.
We stood around the finish for a while, but eventually headed into the lodge to warm up. There were bagels and nutella, and a raffle where I won some beer from 603 brewery. As part of the race, Bretton Woods sold us lift tickets for $25, so after heading to the hotel for a shower and change, we met up with Mike and Z and did some of the best skiing I’ve done this year. It was the perfect end to the ski season.
Though the Winter Wild series is finished, the group that puts it on also runs the Western New Hampshire trail running series. I may have to give one of these a go…
The race ended what turned out to be a slower than normal week of training. I woke up with a cold last week that left me pretty miserable Monday and Tuesday, and set me back a bit.
Wednesday: stadium. 30 sections
Thursday: yoga, 60 minute spin, 3 mile run (brick)
Friday: 6 mile run
Saturday: 3.4 mile run, ski
Total: run 12.4 miles, spin 60 minutes
Not what I’d hoped for… This week, my goal is to get back on track: run 20 miles, spin at least twice, and get a swim session in.
What’s the best non-traditional race you’ve competed in?
I may have been a bit overzealous when it came to New Year’s resolutions this year. As I sat in my living room on January 1, basking in a post-holiday sugar high, I thought about goals for 2014. I still haven’t broken two-hours in the half marathon, and a string of injuries and illnesses meant less running last fall. But when I thought about my fitness, and what I really wanted to do, I thought about triathlons.
I’ve done a few Olympic distance ones, but I’ve always sort of been interested in something longer. And now that I have some half-marathons under my belt, I figured why not? So without thinking about it too much, I signed up for the Timberman 70.3.
The race is on August 17. I’s a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run. It will be the longest, and likely hardest, race I’ve ever done.
En route to a new PR at the Super Sunday 5-miler
My training strategy for the winter was pretty simple: to get my legs as strong as possible. My current weekly goals are something like this:
- Run 20 miles per week
- Bike (spin class or trainer) twice a week
- Swim once a week
- Yoga at least once a week
As time goes on I’ll be upping my time on the bike. But I am really starting from zero, so I have a lot of work to do there.
My training last week looked like this:
Monday: Run 6 miles, do a circuit workout with November Project.
Tuesday: Bike, 60 minutes on the trainer.
Wednesday: I had to do some work early (like 6:30 a.m.), so I skipped NP and did a circuit workout at home. Later that day, I ran 3 miles and then did 15 sections at Harvard stadium. I also had PT.
Friday: Swim one mile
Saturday: Run 7 miles, Spin 60 minutes
Sunday: Sick day/ rest; 30 minutes yoga.
Run: 16 miles
Bike: 120 minutes
Swim: 1 mile
Yoga: yes, though not a class plus a bit of cross training (stairs and circuit)
I don’t know if I’ll post my exact daily workouts each week, but I will post weekly totals. Some people might find it helpful, and I think it’ll help keep me accountable with my workouts. Feel free to peer pressure me, it works wonders.
As you can see, I fell a bit short on the running last week. I’d planned to do a brick workout (bike then run) on Sunday, but I woke up feeling terrible, so I did some yoga and stretching at home.
Theraflu and tea, always a winning combo
I’m currently home in bed, nursing a cup of tea and blowing my nose every five seconds. I’m hoping with a bit of tlc this clears up fast.
And… I’m back. Sort of.
I’m not sure what happened over the pat six months, but I stopped blogging. Yes, in that time I was very busy living- running races, travelling, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and hosting my family for Christmas. But to be honest, I think my hiatus was fueled more by the fact that my feelings about cooking and eating have changed a lot.
as seen in Harvard Square
My life was very different when I started writing this blog almost five years ago. Since then, I’ve switched jobs, bought a house, and taken up running. Food and cooking are still important, but I increasingly find that my life has gotten broader in ways that didn’t seem to fit into the confines of a self-proclaimed “food blog.” I considered just giving it up, but I missed the writing, and the community aspect of it. I’m also gearing up for a triathlon this summer, and would like a space to keep myself accountable, and to write about my training.
Atop Ryan Summit, Joshua Tree National Park last month
So, I’ve decided to return, but to focus on whatever I’m fancying at the moment, be it food, or running, travel, or simply writing for the sake of writing. I hope you’ll check in on occasion, and comment on the recipes, give me advice on how to get faster, or just laugh at my bad jokes. It’s good to be back!