Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Food: pumpkins, pecans and changing leaves!

I haven't written a post on food that included a recipe in a really long time, but that is about to change!

I am officially in the off season, taking a few weeks off and lifting weights in the gym, and letting my foot heal before I start training for the Asheville Marathon on March 3rd and then my half-Ironman race (or races...) I did have to go to the bone and joint doctor and my foot issue is an inflamed joint (the joint above the arch that points the foot and helps to bend your big toe,) I am happy that it is not a stress fracture and that some relatively cheap orthotics might be the cure. I will not be complaining about not being able to run since this was going to be my few weeks off anyway, but if  you want to read a post about being frustrated about not running you can find it here.

To celebrate my off season I have been indulging in my absolute fall favorite food - pumpkin! That means Pumpkin Ale, Pumpkin spice bread with chocolate chips, and lots of pumpkin oatmeal to start my day! Over the weekend I was volunteering at a weekend long music/craft/arts festival for an organization aptly called LEAF (see picture below.)
In order to get a cheap ticket to the festival, I opted to volunteer for 10 hours on Saturday - two five hour shifts, one shift selling beer and drinks at the concession stand and one shift cleaning up at the kids village until 11pm when the cold and starry night was filled with awesome funk, soul, and folk music. That meant that on Sunday I was able to just chill by the lake and have a good time, which included having good food!
Those are tempeh tacos with guacamole and vegan slaw plus rice and beans! They were delicious and as you can see I ate them while watching a bunch of kids enjoying the activities on the lake, including ziplining into the lake! In order to fuel myself for this awesome weekend, I made myself protein packed pecan spiced whole grain pancakes with pumpkin butter... yes, all of that is possible in one delicious meal.

Pecan Spiced Pancakes:
3/4 c. Multigrain/sprouted grain pancake and waffle mix (for convenience I use pancake mix, just make sure that it doesn't have buttermilk/milk if you want to keep these pancakes vegan)
1 scoop Warrior Blend SunWarrior protein powder
1 teaspoon maca powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg)
1tablespooon melted coconut oil
3/4 to 1 cup water (depending on thinness of batter)
1/4 c. raw or roasted pecans
non stick cooking spray
Pumpkin butter (Trader Joe's seasonal pumpkin butter is incredible!)
Raw or roasted pumpkin seeds

Mix all the dry ingredients together then whisk in coconut oil and water until the desired pancake batter consistency is reached. Add the pecans last, breaking some of them into small pieces and leaving others as entire halves. Spray skillet or griddle with non-stick spray and spoon batter onto it. Flip when bubbles start to form on the side facing up. I like to make smaller pancakes, about 4-5 inches in diameter. This recipe makes about 8-10 small pancakes and 4 to 5 larger ones, serving two people.
Serve warm with a dollop of pumpkin butter on top plus a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and berries - maple syrup can be added for sweetness. Enjoy with a warm beverage of your choice!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Triathlon season in review

My last triathlon of the season was yesterday, Sunday, in Anderson, SC and was a very well organized and well run Rev3 event with a lot of participants. They really do treat all their racers, Olympic and half distance, like they are pros - from fantastic volunteers and a well marked course to the smallest of details like a name plate where you rack your bike. There were also pros at this race, the first race I've done with pros since the DC Triathlon last year, which added a cool element to the race, not to mention some briefest of moments where I "raced" alongside them, translation, they blew past me!

On Saturday I live-streamed Ironman Kona and became, as they say on twitter, #konainspired. Honestly it was awesome to watch the pros, especially the women, and if I had been able to stay up later I would have watched all the "mere mortals" (read incredible amateur athletes) crossing the finish line. I read Chrissie Wellington's book A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey last month and became thoroughly excited about the idea of one day racing in Kona. I have known for a while that I wanted to eventually do an Ironman distance race, in fact it is on my goals to do one before I'm 30, but I had never felt the extreme desire to make it to Kona until Chrissie's book. Her entire journey makes for an incredible and engrossing read (which I might get into in a later post,) but her writing about this particular World Champion creating race is illuminating. Watching it then unfold on screen, even through the overly advertised livestream on the Ironman website, left me with a drive to one day run that particular race on that beautiful island.

But back to Sunday's race, I felt fully inspired to tackle this mere Olympic distance race, (and remember that this is only  my second ever time with this distance!) My foot was still bothering me post half marathon training and racing but since this was actually a slightly shorter distance on the run than the previous Olympic+ distance race, that I could get a better time. I did get a better time, but I may have sacrificed my foot for a few weeks... The swim portion of the race was not my best because I wasn't used to swimming in my wetsuit, even though I practiced in the lake the day before. It was a chilly 65 degrees in the water, although the outside air was colder to start, so I don't regret wearing the suit, I just wish I had more practice in it - my breathing felt restricted so for the first 300-400 yards before I stopped to tread water and loosen the zipper in back a little bit, I was not swimming smoothly. The bike went well, a nice rolling hill course, the bike mechanics had helped me make an adjustment the day before so I felt really comfortable in my aero bars. The run was hillier than I expected, I kept an even pace, not pushing my foot, but the ups and downs but a lot of pressure on it. I got passed the girl in my age group that came in third (I got fourth) and was really tempted to up my speed and chase her down, but I held myself back. I did sprint to the finish and somersaulted across the finish line (can't wait to see the finish line pics!)

I went to the A.R.T. (active release therapy) tent after gathering most of my gear and throwing it haphazardly into my car (I still need to wash off my wetsuit...) and the wait was only 10 minutes so I signed up and waited. Really I knew I had a 2 hour drive ahead of me and was hoping to get some of the stiffness out of my neck and shoulders (remember I adjusted my bike so my back wasn't totally used to it) before sitting in a car for a while. The lady who worked on my neck/shoulders did a wonderful job so I went ahead and asked her to take a look at my foot. Well it hurt quite a bit and I couldn't point my foot without pain, basically I had lost flexibility and range of motion in my foot and she thinks its due in part to swelling post race, and scar tissue build up. She kneaded some of the scar tissue out, to where I have been icing my foot on and off today under my desk at work, but I am probably going to see a sports specific doctor about it this week, especially if the range of motion of my foot stays this poor. Luckily I am not signed up for any more races so I can take a long break from running if I need to in order for this to heal. I need it to heal so that I can eventually start my training for Ironman 70.3 Raleigh next summer and possibly the half distance of Rev3Tri Knoxville, because right now I am definitely Ironman inspired!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A New Chapter

This blog is no longer “the healthy undergrad” because I graduated from Tufts University back in May. Since then I was homeless for a couple of months bouncing around between Washington D.C., Dallas, Boston, Vail, and my new city of residence: Asheville, NC.

My move to Asheville as a post-grad was decided before I even obtained a job here, but the job solidified the move. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA working for the city school district as a volunteer and outreach coordinator at the city schools preschool. Additionally, after two weeks on that job I was asked to temporarily take on the job of volunteer coordinator at one of the elementary schools as well because their new hire dropped out. That temporary addition started over two months ago and I still work half time at the preschool and half time at the elementary school although that should finally end in the middle of November. This additional work of course didn’t result in any pay raise since I get paid a stipend, not a salary or even an hourly wage. All I have been getting is the benefit of added and varied experiences working in these two positions.

With all the moving and the job fluctuations alone I have stayed busy, but I have also been training and racing! I started off my triathlon season with a 3rd place finish in my age group at the local Asheville sprint triathlon back in July. In August I ventured to Charlotte for an Amica 19.7 Spring series race (I did their Boston and Newport, RI races last year) and bested both of my previous times in that series. Also In August I placed first in my age group in a sprint race at Lake Lure, outside of Asheville. September held the race I was working towards, my first Olympic distance race at Lake Junalaska called the King of the Smokies Triathlon (the run was over 7 miles so it was really an Olympic distance + race.) Although the field of women in the international distance was small, I unbelievably placed first overall in the women’s race in my first ever at that distance!  To finish September I raced in the inaugural Cherokee Harvest Half Marathon in Cherokee, NC and bested my previous half marathon time even with my training cut two weeks short due to foot pain, (my longest training run in the run up to it was under 9 miles.) And next week I have my last triathlon of the season, the Olympic distance Rev3Tri in Anderson, SC.

The only way I have been able to participate in these races is with the financial help of my parents who supported two of the pricier entry fees. As you can guess, I don’t make much money at all – in fact, I am on food benefits since my stipend covers just a little over twice my monthly rent. Even still I have been able to train and race and feed myself enough to cover that training.

Now that I’ve come to the nutrition part of my life I’ll mention that since the day I moved to Asheville nearly three months ago, I have had a fully plant-based and mostly vegan diet. The only reason I say mostly is because I have not been super particular about honey in the occasional processed products I’ve eaten and if I have accidentally bought or been served at someone’s home an item with traces of dairy or egg in it then I have not been wasteful and thrown it away. But the basis of my diet is plants: beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Before I would occasionally have eggs, and often have cheese (to the detriment of my digestive system.) Now I have not had any digestive issues, I have fueled myself through all the aforementioned races, I feel healthier, my mood is elevated and I crave certain whole food plant based foods – I have honestly had no cheese cravings.

I’m not advocating that everyone adopt a fully plant based diet immediately, but I am advocating taking elements of a plant based diet because you’ll discover new foods you love and might start craving kale chips more than potato chips. I experiment with making a different type of dip/hummus every week – my favorites so far are black bean walnut hummus and sundried tomato hummus. I make my own salsa for my fiesta kale salad. I even bought a nut milk straining bag and make my own almond milk and coconut milk. Oh yeah and did I mention I’m on food stamps? Through the farmer’s market (which accept food benefits by giving tokens for a swipe of your EBT card) and the bulk section of the grocery store, I have been able to easily eat and cook in a very nutritional whole food way. What about eating out at restaurants? I am very lucky that Asheville is a super veg-friendly town, but most restaurants can make accommodations and ethnic food restaurants are usually your best bet (veggie burritos with guacamole instead of cheese are still delicious and vegan!)

My life has gone through a lot of changes in the past few months, some harder than others (being vegan by the way hasn’t been one of the hard changes!) I have always been focused on paths, goals, the next thing, and I still am, but I am also very happy to wake up in the morning, take a look out the window at the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding me and be content with where I am right now. For at least the next 10 months I will be racing, training and eating right here in Asheville and I couldn’t be more happy to have the beginnings of my journey into the post-grad world in this place. This blog will now follow me into life as a healthy post-grad.