Me to Self: Good Job.

15 Jan

It’s been a while. I have SO MUCH to say that I have decided to say very little. Mostly because to attempt to catch this blog up on everything that’s happened in the last six months feels overwhelming and I’m attempting to stay only moderately whelmed these days. So for now, I’ll just say this.

I just realized that I’ve gotten into this weird habit of literally patting myself on the back after I accomplish something. Anything really. Small things like finishing a challenging workout or busting through a writing project in order to make a deadline or I don’t know, [insert small daily accomplishment here.] I don’t know when or why this started but it started and every time I do it I feel weird for a moment and then it passes and I actually feel good.

Perhaps this is like an affirmation. Just, a physical affirmation. Instead of staring at myself in the mirror and doing the whole, “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, etc…” mumbo-jumbo, I’m doing it with a physical gesture of good will and encouragement.

That’s all for right now.

 

Welcome Friends with Vegan/Gluten Free Coconut Carrot Cake

8 Aug

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I’m in a super mood today because a) my show opens on Saturday; b) several of my closest friends and collaborators are in town to see it and; c) I just made the above referenced awesome V/GF Coconut Carrot cake as an “afternoon tea” cake to share with my buddy Victor who is already here and John who is set to arrive in mere moments.

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I made this cake recipe up on the fly but it turned out pretty delightful so I’m sharing. I really love the challenge of baking both vegan and gluten-free. I looked at a lot of similar recipes when developing this one and they all called for either eggs (for the non-vegans) or egg replacer or flax seed goop (for the non-animal consumers). I figured the apple sauce would be a perfectly fine binder and, as always, it is. This cake is moist and has a lovely chew without feeling overly dense. The cinnamon and ginger enhance the cake’s overly “carrotyness” and the toasted coconut adds a nice textural counterpoint.

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For additional texture, add the last tree ingredients listed in the recipe. They’re not mandatory but they will definitely make this cake even more delightful. If you have them on hand, toss ‘em in. I had none of them BUT I don’t think that adding them would radically change either the texture of the finished product or alter cooking time. If you do add them and find that your batter is a too chunky, just add a little non-dairy milk of choice to thin it out. No big thing.

As for all you nut-heads out there, if you must, you may add crushed walnuts or pecans to your batter. I rarely do this because I find that nuts baked within often put people off. I think the addition of one beautifully toasted pecan on top is perfect because it looks lovely and it also gives the non-nut eaters out there the ability to opt out without forgoing an entire treat.

Carrot Coconut Cake

Cake:

1 cup gluten-free flour blend of choice
1 1/4 cu gluten-free oat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine kosher salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup cooked carrots, mashed (some chunkiness is OK)
3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup raw shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup shredded pineapple (VERY WELL DRAINED)

Frosting and garnish:

4 oz vegan cream cheese
4 oz vegan sour cream
4 tbsp maple syrup
3/4 shredded coconut, toasted
15 pecan halves, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 7″x11″ baking pan and set aside. In a bowl, combine flours, spices, and baking powder and mix to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, mashed carrots, apple sauce, and maple syrup. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Stir in shredded carrots, coconut and pineapple. Pour batter into pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely in the pan.

Allow the cream cheese to soften at room temperature and then combine with sour cream and maple syrup. Turn the cake out onto a cutting board and frost (only when the cake is absolutely, totally cool). Sprinkle the toasted coconut over the frosting so that it covers the cake entirely and then place each pecan half about an inch apart on the cake (see top photo). Pop the cake in the freezer for a couple of minutes until the frosting firms up a bit and then cut into 15 fairly even squares. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Enjoy!

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So Far So Good

6 Aug

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Today is the first day in a very long time (well, maybe not THAT long. Almost two months feels like a long time when you’re exhausted and miserable but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really a blink) I feel something like my normal, happy-go-lucky, energized self. I don’t feel 100% there yet but I’d put myself somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-80% and that’s not bad. Trying to be happy about all increments of change in a positive direction, even the mini ones.

I credit this good feeling to a couple of things. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

  1. I stopped falling asleep in front of the TV. In my normal life, I don’t have a TV in my bedroom. In my Steppenwolf life, I do. And at the start of the summer, I just wasn’t strong enough to turn the damned thing off before bed. In the last couple weeks, I’ve been really strict with myself. As soon as I feel like I’m drifting, I turn the TV off and go to damned sleep. I also have a cup of this “relaxing” tea that I bought in Chinatown two weeks ago and lemme tell you, that shit is the shit. Valerian root, baby. Stuff works. Ultimately, my quality of sleep has improved dramatically. I’m up fewer (or no) times in the night and therefore, I wake up feeling a little more energized.
  2. I started running again with regularity two weeks ago. The picture above was taken in my run along the lake. I made a new playlist a couple of days ago and named it “run for your life.” The longer I run, the more I believe that running will save you 95% of the times. That 5% is reserved for the times in your life when you’re injured or burned out. It doesn’t take very much either. I’ve been going out for anywhere from 40-50 minutes in low zones. Just to get myself moving and get that serotonin flowing through all those little channels in my brain.
  3. I got back into the hot room. Bikram has come to my rescue so many times in my life it’s right up there with running as a total soul-saver. And the lovely thing is that Bikram and running compliment each other perfectly. Bikram postures are specifically well suited for the kinds of overuse issues that all runners suffer from. And the detoxifying effects of 90 minutes of movement in 105 degrees can’t be exaggerated.
  4. I cut gluten out of my diet. I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting everyone cut gluten out of their diets. We’re all different and have different internal chemical scenarios and some people really have no issues with the stuff. But after being glutened TWICE this week at two different restaurants, I am almost certain that this pesky little protein is an issue for me. I’d been off the stuff for six weeks and both of the times I consumed glutenous substances (once at a Korean restaurant–it was own damned fault for thinking I could get away with a Korean rice bowl–and again at an Italian place WITH A GLUTEN FREE MENU) I was having dizzy spells within 20 minutes. After the dizziness came that lovely feeling of looking at the world from the inside of a mason jar. Three hours later, I had rocks in my gut. And twelve hours later I was constipated. So yeah, sensitive to gluten.
  5. I’ve cut down my non-fruit related sugar intake to almost nothing and cut my fruit intake down to one or two plums and a handful of berries throughout the day, but not before 11AM. I did this because my energy had been super super low about two and a half to three hours after waking and it was suggested that that was due to a drastic drop in blood sugar after breakfast. I realized that my morning breakfast bowl included apple sauce, maple syrup AND berries mixed into oatmeal. I hadn’t really thought about how much sugar that amounted to until I cut it out and noticed a marked change in how I felt by noon. Most notably, I wasn’t going down for a nap three hours after getting up. Anyway, it’s working for me. So now I start out the day with a green smoothie that has NO fruit in it. This has taken some getting used to, believe me. The smoothie is almost entirely supplements (1 scoop SuperFood; 1 tsp Maca powder; 1 capsule each ginseng, B complex, probiotic and multi-mineral; and 1 tsp complete omega oil) with one cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and two ice cubes. Then about an hour later, I have a couple of eggs scrambled with kale and vegan cheese with a piece of GF toast.

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So now it’s 2:06PM central time and I’ve been able to run, do laundry, make myself breakfast and lunch (the above photographed gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi over sautéed kale, chicken sausage, shiitake mushrooms and tomatoes) and bake a batch of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies for our second tech this afternoon.

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I’m gonna post the recipe (adjusted from the original posted here on The Iron You–my new favorite triathlon blog). Originally, this recipe was vegan, gluten-free and Paleo. But I baked my first batch with no binder and the cookies were just too darn crumbly.

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So I added one egg to the remaining dough (sorry vegans but I didn’t have anything in the house to sub. If you want to make these, add the equivalent in egg substitute or chia goop) and they second batch is holding together better. I also cut the almond meal by half a cup and added 3/4 up of gluten-free all-purpose baking flour. You could certainly leave out the flour. I just don’t know what the hell holds these babies together if they’re all nuts and no binder.

These babies definitely hit the spot if you’re looking for a chocolate fix. There is minimal sugar in the recipe and they’re packed with good fats. Granted, this cookie is no substitute for a real Tollhouse but, as with most diet-adjusted baked goods, you gotta try to forget about the original and just take the new thing at face value. This cookie is not the cookie you grew up with. But guess what? You’re not ten years old anymore. Your body has changed and maybe you shouldn’t be eating cookies like you used to. Just saying.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Almond Drop Cookies
(makes 3 dozen small cookies)

3/4 cups almond meal
3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
½  cup coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp sunflower seed butter
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 large egg
¾ cup vegan chocolate chips
¾ chopped almonds

Preheat oven at 350°F and place a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the almond meal, flour, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, maple syrup, sunflower seed butter and egg until well mixed. Add flour and stir until a soft dough forms. Add chocolate chips and nuts and stir to mix well.

Drop the dough by spoon onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for another 15 minutes. Move to a cookie rack and cool completely.

Oh and just a little note: the black sprinkles on these cookies are actually Hawaiian black lava salt. I picked some up last week and I’m obsessed with the stuff. If you don’t have any (and why would you) don’t worry about it. You can throw a little bit of regular ol’ coarse sea salt onto these cookies and it really works. But if you don’t like your sweets a little salty, then by all means, abstain from the sprinkling.

Oh Well

26 Jul

I knew it was too good to be true. The maca-cacao “latte” I’ve been making for myself as a coffee stand-in? Yeah, can’t drink that anymore. I don’t know why I ever thought that was going to work considering what a clear cut migraine trigger cocao/cacao has always been for me. I guess I wasn’t really thinking about all that. I was just thinking, “Hmmm, this tastes like coffee and it sorta gives me a buzz life coffee, but it’s NOT COFFEE so it can’t be bad.”

Then on Wednesday, I had a latte before our staff run of the play and felt, meh. A little weird. Not awake at all really and then, at the end of the night I was like, “Why is the stage light so fucking bright tonight?!? And like, RIGHT IN MY FACE?” Later that night, i went out for dinner with some playwright friends and while sitting at the bar, chatting with one of them, I realized I couldn’t even see her because I was so completely blinded by the setting sun shooting in through the front windows of the restaurant. I thought this was weird but I didn’t really think any else of it.

The next morning, I slept a little late and woke up with a headache that was similar to a caffeine-withdrawal headache and I was like, “that’s weird! I haven’t been drinking nearly enough caffeine for all that.” So I got up, felt a little groggy, made breakfast and made myself a latte. I couldn’t quite wake up all morning and kept feeling like I just wanted to go back to sleep. I started doing some work and about an hour in, I was totally unable to focus and my head was starting to pulsate.

I started to freak out. I don’t know why. It’s not like I’ve never had a migraine before. But for some reason, yesterday, the fact that I was feeling how I was feeling just like completely wigged me out. I was so freakin’ dizzy, I thought I’d fall down the minute I stood up. So I decided to stand up. Classic.

Because I like to deny that I feel things, instead of just going back to sleep, I got dressed and went to Trader Joe’s. There’s one right down the block from me in Chi-town and since there are NONE in Miami and I love TJ’s, I’ve kinda been going every day. I’m self-medicating with dried mango and organic kale. Anyhoo…

On the way back from TJ’s, I nearly started to cry. Seriously. And I wasn’t even in that much pain. But the light sensitivity and the dizziness and I don’t know, man. I’m a mess. Or I was a mess yesterday. By the time I got back to the apartment, I’d stopped crying but I knew there was nothing left to do but go to sleep. And that’s what I did. From 12:30 to 2:30.

The pain never got so bad that I had to take anything and since the only thing that has ever worked on my migraines is Excedrin and Excedrin is full of caffeine I didn’t want to take anything anyway. By late evening, the dizziness had subsided and I started getting that slightly enjoyable euphoric feeling that us migraineurs get to revel in during the postdrome. It’s the least a migraine headache can do for me considering that I tend to linger in the postdrome for several days and the other symptoms are not that much fun at all.

I went to sleep last night at 11PM and slept until 9AM. I think I woke up three times but I can’t be 100% sure. Today, no cacao. No headache. And I’m messing with when I take my supplements. Thinking maybe that might have something to do with all this too. Bottom line: I can’t have pure cacao. The jury’s still out on chocolate bars with a lower cacao content. I just wanted to write “cacao” again.

In the next post, maybe I’ll tell you about the insane fight I witnessed two nights ago. Everything they say about this city and it’s violence is true. Over and out.

Whence Comes the Energy Redux

24 Jul

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That is a picture of Lake Michigan, taken during my run this morning. My first solo run since the first week of July. And it’s hard for me to even count that early July run as an actual run because it was too short and I had to stop every block for traffic and I felt like crap and it was raining, etc… Honestly, I haven’t been running for almost six weeks now. The last time I logged anything into Training Peaks was, I think, the first week of June. Sorry, Coach.

I went out on Sunday with a friend who is, like me, just getting back into the swing of things after taking some time off. He ran a 200 mile Ragnar last month and needed some time to get his legs and mind back. He was the perfect person to go out with for an easy trot. He’s an obviously experienced runner, born of a family chock-full of running phenoms (his uncle held a world record for the fastest 10k run by, like, an 8-year-old boy or some such craziness) and I could tell that on any other day, if we were both in peak condition, he’d have made me work. Hard. But it wasn’t any other day. It was Sunday. After a long rest period. And we were both happy with an easy, conversational pace and a pleasant 40 minutes along the lakefront.

I had no plans to run this morning but the minute I woke up, I felt the urge. And not only the urge, but also the ability. As in: I felt like I had the power to get up, get dressed and go for a run. The flesh was willing and the mind was strong. Anyone who has ever been active for any length of time knows that it’s a boon when the body and mind are in sync. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes your mind is OK but you’re body is wiped. Sometimes your body is fine but your mind is like, “Fuck you. It’s 5AM and it’s raining. We are staying in bed.” In either of these instances, it’s normally possible for one to override the other and you get up and you get out and you do your thing.

But when both mind and body go AWOL, it’s really hard to motivate. This has happened to me before. Actually it happens more regularly than I think I’ve ever been willing to admit. And most of the time, I muscle through. Why? Because…

Because?

Because I fear what will happen if I don’t. Which is what? Probably nothing. Nobody has money riding on whether or not I’m going to place at the next sprint tri on Key Biscayne. I muscle through because I fear what others will think of me if I don’t. Maybe people will think I’m weak. Maybe people will think I’m lazy. Maybe people will think I’m not a good athlete. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Who Gives a Fuck?

Obviously I do. Or I have. In the (not so distant) past. So for the last month, I’ve been trying to worry less about what my not-training “means” to other people (and I’ve been through enough therapy to know that, at the end of the day, it means NOTHING to other people) and more about what I can do to feel better. So I went to see this acupuncturist/chiropractor/herbal doctor and settled on a plan to eat clean, take a boat-load of supplements, sleep when my body was telling me to sleep, and focus on being a playwright. So far so good. Ish.

When I woke up this morning and felt the desire to run, I couldn’t fight it. I’ve been listening to my body about other shit, so why not listen to it when it asked me to move? I wanted to run. And that made me happy. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of the house so quickly. I was up and out the door in about seven minutes. Just enough time to pee, dress, strap on my Garmin and go. I ran pretty much the same route my friend and I had run on Sunday. Down towards the lake and then along the lakefront and then back. Right around 4 miles. And that felt fine.

For the last, oh, two years, every time I’ve gone out for a run, I’ve had some kind of time and/or pace goal in mind. 10 minute warmup then 1 mile build to lowest point of zone 5, then 1.5 miles all out, then cool down to zone 2. Or 30min at 10K pace + 15 seconds. Or 90 minutes in HR Z1-2 NO ZONE 3! This morning, my goal was to go out and enjoy running. Funny how goals change.

But now I’m on the couch, under a blanket, with my laptop on my legs, writing this blog post, feeling my eyelids getting heavy. I had a smoothie immediately after the run that included frozen berries, almond milk, 1 tsp maca powder, 1 tsp Omega oil, one B complex, 2 multi-minerals, 1 probiotic and a scoop of Perfect Food.  Then I had a cup of mate and two gluten free waffles with sunflower butter. So…where’s the energy?

Why do I want to take a nap at 11:42 in the morning? What am I not doing right? Is this STILL caffeine withdrawal? Should I have ignored my body this morning when it begged me to get out on the road? Did I really so exhaust myself over the course of the last six months that it’s going to take another six months to get my energy levels back up to what they were? And really, what were they? Have I ever really had any sustained energy? Or have I just been faking it? The truth is, I have been tired for the last ten years. But how is it possible that I’ve been training and competing in amateur sports that whole time? Why do I feel alternately great and crappy? Energized and fatigued? Calm and anxious?

These are the questions I’ve got rolling around in my brain right now. They’re sharing space with the questions I’ve got about Oedipus and narcissists and the drama of family dynamics and how to be an adult relating to other adults. And I have to work very hard to make sure that the questions I’m asking about my health don’t completely take over that space; overpower the questions I have to be asking about my work and my writing and my personal life. But this is tricky because those questions all probably, in one way or another, point to the same answer.

I know it’s not just about coffee and it’s not just about gluten or dairy. It’s not just about booze or casein or yeast. It’s not just about migraines and balance issues and yo-yo dieting. It’s not just about hay fever or eating too much soy. It’s not about pestides and GMOs and soil depletion and how none of our food has any nutritional value anymore. Well, maybe it’s a little about all of that. Honestly though, I think it’s far more likely that this is about me, and so many other young American women, fighting to hit one or two or twenty unattainable goals and making ourselves sick in the process.

Playing Catch-up with Baked Goods

21 Jul

I have neglected my posting obligations. Sorry. But it’s been a wild couple of months. There is a much longer post kicking around in here somewhere but it’s so long and unwieldy that I’m going to need to sit with it and then edit it and then sit with it some more before I send it out into the ether. For now, just know this: I’ve spent July thus far withdrawing from coffee (again), gluten (seriously for the first time) and dairy.

After falling off the coffee-sugar-fat wagon back in March, my headaches were starting to get bad again and then in May, I did this fairly long race, and didn’t take any time off afterwards. The spring was super busy and physically strenuous and I totally neglected my nutrition and rest needs. So then I got to the middle of June and all the sudden my body went from just a little tired to pretty much ass out.

Along with the fatigue came that sense of overwhelming dread and dis-ease that has come upon me now three times in the last five years. One fay I feel fine and then the next day I don’t. I’m not sure how to describe exactly what happens without sounding insane and I feel like those details warrant a completely separate post. After all, this post was supposed to be a quick “hi, how are you and here’s a recipe for gluten free chocolate chip cookie bars.”

Suffice to say, these “spells” as I’ve started referring to them, are the reason I started doing Bikram yoga back in 2008; why I went through all that vertigo testing last year; why I ended up with the migraine diagnosis; why I stopped drinking coffee and started drinking green smoothies. So I’m trying to look at all of this as a good thing because every time I feel this way, I’m forced to do some detective work and then ultimately, I learn something about how I’m living my life.

But after last year I really thought I’d never feel this way again. And the spring, while super busy and physically strenuous, was also frigging’ awesome. So when I got hit by the brick that is this nebulous state of unwell, with the dizziness and the fatigue and the anxiety and brain fog and the feeling like I’m drunk even though I haven’t downed a drop of booze and the fear of doing things (like running) that I love because I’m worried something “bad” will happen if I do, I got super bummed. Especially because this moment is not the moment during which I want to feel crappy. This is a moment during which I want to feel at the top of my game.

I am also in a strange city, where I know few people and can’t do what I always do: run to my doctor. In a way, this has been a blessing because it’s forced me to deal with what’s going on in a new way. Because, I don’t know if you know this but when you run to your primary care with complaints of “fatigue, dizziness, anxiety and a drunk feeling,” they tend to want to do one of two things: 1) prescribe an anti-depressant or 2) prescribe an anti-histamine. And even when I got to the ENT last year and went through all those tests, the primary option presented to me after the diagnosis was to take a pill twice a day every day indefinitely and when I said I didn’t want to do that, I was accused of being “medicine-phobic” by the specialist who was supposedly there to make me feel better.

So I took the “change your diet” option and I stopped drinking coffee and booze and I stopped eating cheese and I started eating only good things: mostly vegetables and almost all things I made from scratch in my own home. And it helped. In a couple of months, the symptoms were gone and I wasn’t thinking about ever having felt the way I felt. And I trained for a half-Iron and other races and went to Colorado and came back to Miami and worked and trained and had a kick-ass end of the season and the holidays hit and I gained eight pounds because I was drinking and eating crap for an entire month.

But I didn’t care about the weight because I knew I could just pop myself on another calorie restricted diet and lose it in no time. So that’s what I did January and February. I dropped those eight pounds easy living on boiled chicken. Then professionally things started going REALLY well and I was traveling a lot and then I met this guy and doing the things you do when you start dating someone (of course, I mean drinking and eating to excess) but it was OK because I was training for Haines City so I was pretty sure I wasn’t gaining any weight and that’s all that mattered, not the fact that I was consuming all the things that tend to make me feel like shit and I’m rambling. Here’s the bottom line:

THIS IS HOW I’VE BEEN LIVING MY LIFE SINCE 2005.

Eat everything in sight. Starvation diet. Eat everything in sight. Starvation diet.  Don’t drink any booze. Drink all the booze. Don’t drink any coffee. Drink 8 cups of coffee a day.

Over and over and over again and even when I feel “fine,” I don’t actually feel fine because I’ve been complaining about a chronic fatigue for the last decade. The people who know me will tell you that I’m always out there doing stuff and that I have a tendency to exhaust myself, not take breaks, never take vacations and pick sports that require a shit ton of self-punishment and then constantly complain about being tired.

This post is getting too long and too involved. Here’s the end for now: I found an acupuncturist out here who is awesome. I’ll save the treatment plan he’s devised for me for another post but I will tell you that one of the first things he said to me when we started talking was, “How we feel is 90% diet and 10% everything else and it’s important that that diet be moderate and balanced because if it’s not, your poop suffers and your sleep suffers. And if you’re not pooping and you’re not sleeping, then you’re fucked.” That’s a paraphrase.

I’ve always considered myself a healthy person but when I got into a real analysis of my diet and my lifestyle with this guy, it hit me that the last year has been anything but balanced and this last year is really no different from the year that came before it and the year that came before that one. You see where I’m going with this? Well, if you do, will you please leave a comment below? Because sometimes it sounds like I know what I’m talking about, but I really have no Godly idea.

In the meantime:

Gluten Free/Dairy Free/Refined Sugar Free Chocolate Oat Bars

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1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter (or any other nut butter you like)
1/2 cup raw honey (or agave for all you vegans out there)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 egg (or one egg’s worth of egg replacer for all you vegans out there)
2-4 Tbsp of almond milk
2 cups gluten free oat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 cup dairy free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8×8 baking pan. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream together the oil, nut butter, honey, and maple syrup. Add egg and mix well. Alternately add the dry mixture and the almond milk to the wet ingredients until well combined . Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. These are a very crumbly cookie and are better if you let them sit in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

 

Race Report: Ironman Florida 70.3, Haines City, May 19th, 2013

20 May

It is the morning after. I am race drunk so forgive me if this post doesn’t quite scan.

I got up to Haines City on Friday evening with I Am a Triathlete and her BF, El Dude, who had been charged with the duty of shuttling us around all weekend because he wasn’t racing. We ate muffins on the ride up. I made them. They were vegan. A Morning Glory muffin and a coffee cake muffin. They were both delish. We also stopped at a Panera Bread for lunch. I was not impressed. At any rate….

We went to athlete check-in after dropping our crap at the Days Inn Davenport which was a step above “Flea Bag” and a step below “Comfortable.” Check-in was a breeze so I won’t say too much about it. Finding dinner was a nightmare. But I won’t say much about that either. Ultimately, we ended up at a pizza place owned and operated by a French family from Marseille. How they ended up in central Florida I have no idea but the pizza and the service were both lovely so it was a win.

We took it easy Friday night and then on Saturday, IAAT and I went out for a pre-race bike/run brick out behind the hotel where there was a quarter-mile stretch of frontage road, along with an RV park and a KOA, both of which had awesome paved paths and some rolling terrain that gave us a little bit of a preview of what the race course was going to be like.

After that, we went and toured the race course. But not before we ran out of gas on the way there and had to coast into a parking lot, send the Dude to get gas from a station half a mile away, and kill half an hour in a Beall’s. I bought two ridiculous t-shirts for the Chef and used a bathroom that I wish I could erase from my memory.

We drove the bike course and then we found a place for lunch: Luigi’s in nearby Lake Alfred. I never, NEVER have pasta the day before a race but IAAT always has it for lunch the day before and we were sorta straddling lunch and dinner so I figured it’d be OK if I kept it plain. Luigi was actually in the kitchen and Luigi can actually churn out pretty solid Italian dishes. But someone needs to proof read his menu because in addition to overflowing with spelling errors and typos, it also says nothing about pancetta in the pasta that I ordered. So I actually had to send it back to the kitchen–I never do this. Unfortunately, it was too delicious for a pre-race meal. They were totally cool about it though and even let me keep the first pasta. I gave it to Frank DiPadova who was back at the hotel.

This is getting long.

OK. Pasta dinner, hung with teammates back at the hotel, in bed by 8PM, asleep around 10, UP AT 3:30AM! Time to race!

I want to say something though, before leaping into the actual report, because I think it’s important to be totally honest in detailing my experiences. It’s not always going to be PRs and podiums and positive thoughts. Sometimes your mind rebells but your body comes through or your body falls short but your mind saves the day. And sometimes, both your body and your mind decide they’ve had enough and you’re left with the check.

I’d been having a hard time gearing up for this race mentally. I thought it was just me so I was really happy when IAAT said she’d been having similar issues. We’d both been SO excited for Augusta (our first 70.3) and so committed to the experience that the build-up to Haines City was starting to feel like a real let-down. I guess that makes sense because the first time is always something special but for me, there were multiple factors contributing to my mixed emotions.

  1. My life has filled up with other priorities over the last few months–during the highest volume phases of our training for this race. That is not to say that I didn’t train– I TOTALLY TRAINED–but rather that while my body was engaged, my mind was often elsewhere.
  2. Nautica was my spring A-race. I wanted to kill Nautica so I tried to kill it and I killed it. I knew I wasn’t going to place at a 70.3. So HC became about finishing strong as opposed to really racing. Since I’d already done one 70.3, and I thought I knew what to expect, I coasted a bit. Dumb.
  3. Because I coasted, I got lazy with my diet. When I get lazy with my diet, I stop feeling like an athlete and start feeling like a fat-ass.
  4. During a training swim on Thursday, I felt overwhelmingly fatigued and like I couldn’t catch my breath. That messed with my brain.
  5. On Saturday morning, I read an article in the free newspaper at the hotel about triathlon swimming deaths. I kid you not. It was right fucking there. And the main idea of the article was that when people die in triathlons, it’s almost always during the swim and the people who die are almost always seasoned vets with no signs of existing health issues. I should not have read that article. But I did. Twice. IDIOT.
  6. On Saturday afternoon, the temperature was hovering in the low 90s and the humidity was intense. We were anticipating a real scorcher on Sunday and that freaked me out. Even though I’d put a lot of work into my hydration plan, I was still freaked out about the possibility of the heat being too much.

So IAAT and I were working overtime trying to psych ourselves up for this race and nothing was really helping. And it’s one thing to be sorta not looking forward to a sprint or even an olympic because you’re talking about a three-hour commitment, max and if you’ve done your training, making it through isn’t that hard.  But not looking forward to a 70.3 is a different story because even if your body is game, it’s your mind that’s gonna get you. You have got to be mentally committed to 5-7 hours on the course and if you’re not, fuggedaboutit. You’re toast.

So on Sunday morning, I woke up and was like, “OK fuck it, ya’ll! It’s race day. Let’s do this.” In a way, being less than excited was kind of a good thing because I was really relaxed. I had goals but they were manageable goals. After crunching the numbers, I figured I could probably make 5:49 happen, which was aggressive enough to mean a 70.3 PR but totally realistic based on my recent training times. Honestly, I really just wanted to do a sub-6. I’d have been happy with that. So the pressure was kind of off and the stakes were low.

I set up in transition quickly, hit the potty and was in good spirits. I was psyched about an early wave time (6:50AM), which meant that, if all went well, I’d be done with this thing before the heat got too intense. Luckily, the weather broke a little and temps were expected to hover in the high 70s until around 10AM and then it was only going to top out in the mid 80s so my run might not be horrendous.

We walked down to the lake shore and chatted with some friends and I really was feeling great. Then something terrible happened: I got into the water. This is a picture of the lake from afar:

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This is a picture of Lake Eva taken underwater:

death by water Toni Frissell

OK, not really. But that’s certainly what it felt like. First off, when we stepped into the lake, our legs sunk into about two feet of soft sludge. Secondly, when I put my face underwater for the first time, I was dismayed to discover what I’m pretty sure death looks like. I MEAN IT WAS PITCH FRIGGIN’ BLACK. The Ironman website boasts that the water in Lake Eva is “clear.” This is a lie. Thirdly, the water tasted HORRIBLE. No, I wasn’t drinking it on purpose but during my warmup, I got a little of it in my mouth and it was bad, people. Like, “I need to call my doctor for a preemptive Z-Pack” bad.

And then of course there’s the fact about ALL fresh water that you’re significantly less buoyant in it. I knew that was coming but I don’t think I quite understood how major a difference it was going to make for me after doing all my OWSs in the ocean.

So I’m standing waist deep in this disgusting, stinking muck, I have that article about swim deaths rolling around in my brain, I  have Thursday’s crappy training session at the forefront of my memory and the notion of this being just the beginning of a six-hour epic; and then I finally take a real good hard look at how long the course is–I take in all the turns (6 of them) and all the buoys (I don’t even remember how many) and the reality of it all sinks in. Then the gun goes off and chaos ensues.

HC was my 13th triathlon so at this point I know what the swim start is all about. This one was something special. Bitches were out of their minds! And I was totally mid-pack, probably closer to back of the pack. Yet, I was still getting elbowed, slapped, swum over, etc… Basically, as soon as I started to swim, I panicked. I don’t even think I panicked during my very first tri swim and back then I COUDLN’T SWIM. Plus, I’ve been having such a GREAT time during swim starts recently and have been having such great swims. I was totally not prepared to freak out but I did. Complete melt down.

So I start to breast stroke because at least I’ll be moving forward and I get like 200 meters in and my mind starts to rebell. It says: “We can’t do this, Edith. The task ahead of us is just too fucking enormous.” And my mind is only referencing the swim. Not the bike and run that were to follow. I tried to swim a little freestyle but I couldn’t catch my breath. So again my mind starts in with the nonsense: “Shit, are we having a heart attack? A pulmonary embolism? Is there an alligator down there about to throw us into a death roll? What the fuck is happening?”

Finally I  have a chat with my mind. I say, “Mind, quit it. You know our body has the endurance for this. Just let our body start swimming.”

So I start swimming. I made it to the first turnaround but I was still couldn’t get my breathing in order. I was only able to swim a couple hundred meters before I had to stop and collect myself. And then I started to cramp up. First in the right side, then in the left. I knew that in order to make it through this one, I was going to have to give myself a break. I literally went buoy to buoy for 1200 meters. Did whatever I needed to do to keep moving forward and stay calm and not make the cramps any worse. Dudes from the next few swim waves started passing me and that’s when shit got even more frantic. This was a crazy, CRAZY swim, people. The way the course is organized makes for massive traffic jams at several points and it just seemed like people were trying to get out of that water as quickly as possible with no regard for anyone else in the mix.

In the final straight away, with the exit chute still far off but in sight, I got into some kind of zone and was able to swim despite the cramping. I knew my time was gonna be bunk but I just didn’t care. Oddly enough, I came in at 49 minutes and change and I’d allowed myself 50 minutes after looking at last year’s times so I was on track. But it was still a piss poor showing and I know I could have done better. At least I wasn’t sucked down into the muck.

I feel like there’s not much else to say about this race. The bike was pretty enjoyable and the temperature was perfect. Little headwind in a few spots but I felt good throughout. I took only Perform on the bike. Oh and salt tabs. Those set me up nicely for the run. But it was starting to heat up right at the end and the last six miles were by far the hardest. Despite taking in ample calories and plenty of fluids, I could feel a bonk coming on and I really wanted to be on my feet. So I cranked it out and finished the bike in under 3 hours, which had been my goal.

The run course is three loops around the lake. A little over 4 miles per loop. There is a gigantor hill in the first mile of the run. Oh and of course in the 5th and 9th miles as well. My legs felt good getting off the bike but I definitely went out a little fast. The hill was actually helpful in getting me to back off a bit. There were aid stations about every mile and I stopped at almost every single one. Filled my hat with ice, poured water all over myself, took Gatorade, water, some flat Coke, you name it, if it was a fluid, it went in me or on me. Some lovely people were out on their lawns with sprinklers and hoses going. That was nice.

The first loop was definitely the most challenging. By the midpoint of loop 2, I’d gotten into a groove and was holding my pace between 8:20 and 9ish depending on the terrain. I am proud to say that hill never broke me. I ran up all three times. But the heat was not fun. People were definitely suffering and it was not getting any cooler the longer I was out there. I did my best to pick up the pace on the descents and try to make as much use of the flats as possible but all that thick air made had my HR way high. I knew if I held where I was, I’d run a sub-2 and not finish in a faint.

So I played it safe and kicked it into gear at the finish. I got through the finish line feeling pretty good all things considered. But here’s the kicker, according to my Garmin and the race clock, I finished in 5:47 and some change. However, my fucking timing chip was busted. Or so they told me after the race when I realized I had no splits and no cumulative time. Those of you who know me know me as someone to whom times are important so this is a huge bummer. Mainly because this was a PR on a challenging course under some harsh conditions and I want it on record that I raced and finished sub-6.

I mean, look, at the end of the day, I did what I showed up to do. I actually finished 2 minutes faster than anticipated (I think). And I guess it only matters that I know that and I feel good about my performance.

Oh bullshit. I want my damned finishing time. I have an email out to the race director. I’ll let you know what happens.

It was a good experience regardless of the mental drama. IAAT finished with a smile on her face, feeling victorious. We managed to get a shower in back at the hotel before hitting the road. Overall, I feel OK today. I’m definitely sore but not unbearably so. I’m considering doing a sprint next Sunday, just so I can get one last race in before leaving for the summer. It’s a lake swim and even though it’s just 400 meters, I kinda feel like I need to redeem myself.

Addendum: 6:52PM–Just got word that they found my official finish time and luckily, it jives with what my Garmin said. 5:47:13. That’s 00:05:53 faster than my Augusta time and almost two minutes faster than my goal so I’m pretty happy. Of course, knowing that it could have easily been 8 minutes better had I not wigged on the swim makes me pretty annoyed but that’s my damage. I ended up 17/62 in my AG.

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