Escape From Alcatraz Race Report

Home stretch of the 8 mile run,  with the Goldgate Bridge in the background! The 30mph winds did a number on my hair! Still always manage to smile no matter how much pain I'm in! 

Home stretch of the 8 mile run,  with the Goldgate Bridge in the background! The 30mph winds did a number on my hair! Still always manage to smile no matter how much pain I'm in! 

 

The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon one of the most iconic races amongst the multisport community, one which you have to qualify to participate in due to its challenging course. It consists of a 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz Island, 18mile bike through the hills of San Francisco and 8 mile run which includes more hills, trails, stairs, deep sandy beach, and another staircase consisting of sand! In my 8 years of competing in triathlon, I has always hoped to one day toe the line, or I should say toe the edge of a ferry at Escape from Alcatraz.  This race was always attractive to me for 2 reasons:

1.       The challenge it presented to swim the 1.5 miles from Alcatraz in cold, strong waters in which you must be a strong swimmer to complete. Mind you, Alcatraz was built there due to the waters being thought as unmanageable for any inmate to be able to swim across and escape! 

2.       The unusual distances compared to your typical triathlons.

                              Sprint (.5 mile swim, ~15 mile bike, 3.1 mile run)

                              Olympic (1 mile swim, ~24 mile bike , 6.2 mile run)

                              Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run)

                              Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run)

                               **Escape from Alcatraz (1.5 mile swim, 18 mile bike, 8 mile run)

 

At the pre race meeting on Saturday... thousands of athletes lining the lawn. 

At the pre race meeting on Saturday... thousands of athletes lining the lawn. 

This race was always very attractive to me because of its longer swim and run in comparison to the bike portion.  I am a strong swimmer and runner, and do a lot of trail and beach running which are both part of the run course. The bike is much shorter, but very hilly and technical which I am good at. It also doesn’t allow for people to get that far ahead due to the constant changes in elevation and stop and go of sharp turns. The run course is has many changes in terrain and elevation which are also to my advantage, being strong on hills, stairs and in the sand! Swimming has become my strongest leg, which over the years of competition I have mastered swimming in open water of all conditions, so this race was exciting for me to be a part of.

Ending out our 12 mile day of walking through the streets of San Fran! There was a park we walked through with great views above the bay. This is me with Alcatraz Island in the background! 

Ending out our 12 mile day of walking through the streets of San Fran! There was a park we walked through with great views above the bay. This is me with Alcatraz Island in the background! 

 

       Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon is not your everyday race that you can just sign up for on a whim. You have to qualify to get in, which takes being a very serious competitor. For years I had wanted to qualify to do this, but I had never been able to do the one qualifying race that is on the east coast, until last year. I qualified at the Westchester Olympic distance triathlon last September of 2016, and was given a slot to Alcatraz which I had just a couple weeks to decide to sign up for or not! This came with a hefty race entry fee along with all the flight and travel costs to get myself and all my equipment to the west coast. Signing up for races so far in advance always causes hesitation as well, what if I can’t train as much before it? What if I’m injured? What If something comes up? But I signed up of course! We decided we would make a trip of it, kind of like a continuation of our mini- honeymoon we spent in southern California, this time up north!

Golden Gate Bridge! What beautiful scenery for a city! 

Golden Gate Bridge! What beautiful scenery for a city! 

               

        From the time I signed up, throughout the 8 months until race day, I kept in good shape and got extremely strong in the pool. Over the years the swim had become my strength, and this year I really felt I stepped it up a bit, swimming regularly with a Masters program and working a lot on my other strokes (butterfly, back and breast strokes that is). I definitely could have biked more, especially over the winter, but that’s pretty typical of me.  As for running, that’s always my least consistent, but continues to be my strongest leg! I am lucky to be able to get away with the little run training that I do, but continue to hold strong paces. 

Beginning of the run, feeling good . Held sub 6min/miles for the 2 miles out to the stairs , trails and beach sections. Then it was all UPHILL from there! 

Beginning of the run, feeling good . Held sub 6min/miles for the 2 miles out to the stairs , trails and beach sections. Then it was all UPHILL from there! 

         Fast forward to June 8, and we are on our way to San Francisco! We land around 8pm and take a short 30 min uber to our air b and b. We were located in the most perfect spot for both seeing the sights of San Fran, and for convenience of being near the race site.  We walked about 12 miles the first day we were there, starting with an awesome breakfast at Sweet Maple ( I highly recommend if you are in the area http://www.sweetmaplesf.com/ ) lots of walking to the golden gate bridge park, the race site, Ghiridhelli square and ended with a swim in aquatic park , and an early bird dinner overlooking the bay. Let me just say now, being in bed by 830pm was a trend on this trip! Day 2 entailed all the usual pre-race prep. Picked up my bike from tri bike transport (which was so well worth the $$ to ship it) , got my race bag full of escape from Alcatraz garb and my number, listened to the athlete meeting, cooked dinner at our place and went to bed EARLY. 4am wake up to have a quick breakfast, go to the bathroom and head out.

 

                  RACE DAY! Was ready to rise, and had no problem getting up to shove food in my face and get out the door! The temperatures out there were cooler than those on the east coast in June, brisk mornings around 55 degrees and highs in the mid to late 60s which would mean it’d be a chilly race. I bundled in my usual sweats and even wore a winter hat. I got to transition area to set up, and head to the buses which would take us to the pier where we boarded the ferry to Alcatraz. A lot of people were wearing booties and extra thick swim caps for warmth. I initially just had my wetsuit, but brought a pair of swim booties just in case. I may be a strong swimmer, but my body doesn’t always react well in super cold water. I had luckily swam in aquatic park 2 days before the race to acclimate a bit, and did so without my wetsuit! I swam about 20 min and I think all the hype about the race being so COLD was worse than it actually felt. This gave me a boost of confidence for when I was to jump in on race day.

Taking a swim on Friday at aquatic park right in front of Ghiradhelli Square, with Alcatraz in the background. After a lot of build up about how cold the water was out here, I decided to be like a local and take a swim without my wetsuit! I figured if I could get in without it before the race, Id certainly feel fine on race day. Got in about 30 min no problem.! 

Taking a swim on Friday at aquatic park right in front of Ghiradhelli Square, with Alcatraz in the background. After a lot of build up about how cold the water was out here, I decided to be like a local and take a swim without my wetsuit! I figured if I could get in without it before the race, Id certainly feel fine on race day. Got in about 30 min no problem.! 

The San Francisco Belle that I was SUPPOSED to be jumping off!! 

The San Francisco Belle that I was SUPPOSED to be jumping off!! 

                About 2000 athletes fill the pier and filter their way onto the San Francisco Belle which we would be jumping off of to swim across the bay. There is a feeling of excitement and nerves that fill the air…which is quickly broken by an announcement on the loud speaker. “The coast guard has issued a small boat advisory in the bay…(which was followed by a silence, and then repeated)…The coast guard has issued a small boat advisory, and the conditions are too rough to allow the swim portion of the race to go on, the swim has been cancelled , and all racers must exit the boat.” I think I saw a sense of relief on some faces and major disappointment in others, mostly disappointment as this race is really all about the swim! Never in the 30 years of doing this race has the swim ever been cancelled! I knew the water would be rough, as that is the premise of the race and Alcatraz island being placed where it is! But, the conditions that morning were unlike days in the past. The kayakers couldn’t even get out into the water to their positions because they were being blown over and white caps coming up over the boats.  Supposedly there had been unusual currents in the bay this time of year due to the weather and runoff into the bay. There was no way they could throw 2000 people into the water. I was completely shocked and bummed out. I really wanted to see how I did on this swim. They held the bike and run portions, starting with a TT bike start. This took a bit of time to get organized. Once I set off on the bike, it was a weird feeling to not be soaking wet and a little frazzled from a hard swim. 30mph winds were blowing at us while we biked. At one point I was going downhill and not moving! This made for an even slower bike time then I usually have! Once I hit the run though I felt in my element. I went hard the first 2 flat miles and passed the most people on all the hills, sand stairs and beach portions as this is my strong suit. I ended up having one of the fastest runs among BOTH women and men AG!

Jeff and I after the race! 

Jeff and I after the race! 

               

After dinner at Mission Ranch Inn! (no phones were allowed in the restaurant! :) 

After dinner at Mission Ranch Inn! (no phones were allowed in the restaurant! :) 

After the race it was SUPER windy and all I wanted to do was get some food and move on with our trip down the coast! Jeff and I had rented a car and drove down to Carmel by the Sea, about 1.5 hrs from San Fran. We stayed in a great hotel called The Hideaway (highly recommend) which was one of many quaint, cozy inns nestled in the main town. We stayed here for three nights and covered every square inch of town and coastline during this time as we were on the go every day! We filled our days with lots walking, hiking and biking (oh, and Jeff would include eating as well!). One of our favorite days was biking to a great hiking area called Point Lobos, about 6-8 miles from the town of Carmel that covers the most spectacular coastline I’ve seen. We biked there, hiked 8 miles and biked back. To end the day we had a great dinner at a Ranch outside of town called Mission Ranch Inn. It was a perfect mix of farm and beach (my two favorites), overlooking a field of sheep that leads to the ocean. We had a nice dinner on the porch watching the sunset. A perfect way to end our last night in Carmel!

Coastline of our hike in Point Lobos! Highly recommend to anyone visiting that area. The water was the most beautiful hues of blue I've ever seen! 

Coastline of our hike in Point Lobos! Highly recommend to anyone visiting that area. The water was the most beautiful hues of blue I've ever seen! 

 

One of my favorite things... SWEET POTATOES!

3 Variations of sweet potatoes I eat...all organic, and cut in wedges for easy snacking! I typically always buy them from Whole Foods.

3 Variations of sweet potatoes I eat...all organic, and cut in wedges for easy snacking! I typically always buy them from Whole Foods.

I am often asked about my diet, what I eat, what I don't eat and why. Its always a funny conversation because many people have thought I must not eat any carbohydrates or fats, and I have to laugh. I think they assume this  because of the "leaner" body composition I've adapted from the training I do, and they associate that physique to be due to a diet low in fat and carbohydrates. That however, is FAR from the truth!!! which brings me to why I am writing a blog about one of my favorites staples in my diet, sweet potatoes!!

As triathlete and lover of everything health and fitness, its no surprise I follow a very clean, regiment diet that fuels my body in the best way possible. I eat a whole, nutritious foods that's come from their natural state, nothing processed or packaged with ingredients you have never heard of. This includes unlimited amounts of vegetables, fruit, legumes, fish, small amounts of poultry, and good fats from avocados, nuts and oils. The only foods I do not eat are red meat, pork and dairy. By eating a "clean" diet, you reduce the bodies need to have to waste energy trying to digest and eliminate and foreign ingredients , such as those in packaged foods.

Why Sweet Potatoes?

Our bodies number one fuel source is carbohydrates, so its no surprise that a majority of athletes diets are heavier on the carbohydrates than those who are sedentary. This includes your fruits, vegetables (especially starchy) ,whole  grains, breads, legumes, pastas etc. One of the most highly consumed carbohydrate for athletes, is sweet potatoes! Not only are they an excellent source of carbs, loaded with nutrients such as beta-carotene and Vitamin A, loaded with fiber and have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Sweet potatoes are complex carbohydrates, which digest slower and have a better effect on blood sugar then other carbohydrates.  This makes them great for fueling a big day of training, as well as a great post workout recovery food.

My favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes are sliced up and roasted as seen above. No need for any oil , I just cut them into wedges and bake on a sheet pan so they don't ooze all over my oven. This makes them great for grab and go snacking and easy portions. There are also many varieties of sweet potatoes, the most common orange, white, purple, or Japanese which have purple skin and white flesh.  I love all varieties, especially the all purple ones, which contain even more antioxidants then the others due to its deep, dark purple color. They are great just baked whole with some cinnamon, cut up and roasted, steamed and mashed, or diced up into chili or soups. I eat mine for breakfast, lunch, snacking and dinner!! Enjoy!!

"Side dish" Workout

Pictured above: how to hold kettlebell/weight for goblet squats. In this circuit I added a overhead press .

I like to think of my workouts as being comprised of a main or "key" workout that is my goal to get done for the day, and everything else should compliment that workout. For example, my main workout is typically a swim, bike, run or two of those. I may have a hard interval run on tabs for the day, which I will follow up with a 30-40 min core oriented strength workout.  These "side" workouts are to compliment the main...just as your side dishes compliment your main entrée! Below are examples of what I mean:

Main : Long Swim     Side: 30 min light run + 30 min Core

Main: Interval Run     Side: 30-40 min bike pre- run + 30 min Core/strength post run

Main: Brick (Bike followed by run)    Side: 1500yd post brickswim

Main: Long Run                  Side: 60 min Full Body Strength

Main: Hard Swim             Side : 45 min bike + 30 min HIIT

 

Today I did a long, hilly run outside, which I followed up with a quick 20-30 min full body workout.  See below!

5 rounds of the following:

  • Burpees (10/15/20/25/30)
  • Goblet squat w/press (20)  then without press (20)
  • Straight arm Scaption with band (10)
  • Standing hip adduction with band (30)
  • Decline Pushup (10-15) into Diagonal mountain climbers (30)
  • Reverse crunch + Windshield wipers (20 each)

This was a good workout to tack on to a run as it challenged my anaerobic system and muscle groups that I didn't utilize running. I typically always like to do a good core workout after most of my swim, bike, runs as a strong core is the powerhouse to everything else I do, and can be challenged most every day!

 

Coconut Chocaroon Chip Cookies

coconut cookies .png

 

Although these may not be the most photogenic of cookies….I had many requests for the recipe! My husband loves chocolate chip cookies, but I am often stuck between wanting to make him the good old fashioned, unhealthy ones and recreating recipes to make them super healthy! Often enough, I make a healthy version, and they are just as good as the traditional!

These “Coconut Chocaroon” chip cookies are a healthy version of two classics, the chocolate chip cookie and a coconut macaroon combined. I thought of this recipe one night when I was trying to think of a dessert I could concoct out of random ingredients I had at home. I had a bag of coconut flour, dark chocolate chips, and coconut flakes. I had never used coconut flour before for anything, but it literally tastes just like a coconut macaroon.  I really like the Bobs Red Mill brand (pictured) which was what I used for this recipe. I figured there must be a way to use the coconut flour in a cookie recipe, and I was right! This is what I came up with:

Coconut Chocaroon Chip Cookies
Ingredients:

1/3 cup melted coconut oil

1/3 cup honey, agave nectar (I used agave)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs, slightly beaten

¼ cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup coconut flour

¼ cup quick cook gluten free oats (sprinkle in more if batter is too wet)

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup shredded coconut

½ cup dark chocolate chips

 

  1. Mix all wet ingredients together in one bowl, and dry ingredients in another. Combine and add the chocolate chips and coconut flakes.
  2. Scoop into balls and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet. I lightly flatten each with my hand so that they bake evenly.
  3. Bake at 350 for 20 min

These cookies are full of flavor and nutrients! It’s all you want in a chocolate chip cookie without the excess sugar, fats and “empty” calories from white flour. After baking, I let cool and store in the fridge! Eat well and feel well!!  

My Favorites: TYR Nest Pro Goggles

TYR Nest Pro Goggles I have been wearing for years, in clear with light blue lenses

TYR Nest Pro Goggles I have been wearing for years, in clear with light blue lenses

I have many favorite things, most being athletic gear such as my bikes, running shoes, swimsuits and most importantly my goggles. There is nothing worse then being midway through a swim set and getting a leak in your goggles, or leaving the pool with a nagging headache from how tightly you had to keep them just to stay on your head (permanent goggle marks are inevitable for me anyways!). Even worse, is to have this happen during a triathlon while being swarmed by hundred of knuckleheads in the open water! To me, there is nothing better then a good pair of goggles, ones that don't leak, suction cup your eyeballs out of your head, or pierce the inside of your nose with their oddly shaped lenses.

For me, the best pair of goggles are the Nest Pro goggles made by TYR (see below!)

Back up to my backups of Nest Pro goggles thanks to my team at TYR!

Back up to my backups of Nest Pro goggles thanks to my team at TYR!

I have been wearing these goggles for as long as I have been in the sport of triathlon, which is about 9-10 years now! And to attest to how great they are, I don't think I have gone through that many, and still have one pair that I first started with , that has polarized lenses for sunny open water swimming (and I still use them!). I have worn them in many of their varieties of lenses. The polarized are much needed for early morning open water swimming when the sun is bright and any outdoor swims, the clear and light blue lenses are great for indoor pool swimming,   My favorites are the ones pictured above with the light blue lenses. It brightens things up just so slightly and is great for both the pool, and overcast days at the beach (or any open water!).

One of the best features of these goggles is how comfortable they are. They have a nice and pliable plastic that allows your eye to sit naturally,  unlike some goggles that are made with very hard plastic that digs into the most sensitive spots of your eye. The straps are easily adjustable and they always stay put on your head (even with the craziest amount of hair bundled in your cap like me!). I love these too because I can wear them both in my training, and racing. I have never needed separate pairs, except for when I use the same exact goggle but just with polarized lenses for races that are early in the morning and have a glare from the sun.  I like to wear what I train infor my races, because I know it works and you should never go changing things up the day of a race. They never fall off during dive in starts, nor have they been knocked off if I am ever hit in the head or brushed up against by another triathlete amongst the chaos! They are very hardy goggles as I mentioned before as well. There are no crazy plastic pieces that wear off with time or snap because the straps get too old and worn down. I have maybe been through 3-4 pairs EVER! This is truly one of a "few of my most favorite things " (now I will have the sound of music stuck in my head all day!)

Endurance Eats: Banana Oat "Cookies"

**This batch was made with the addition of peanut butter and peanuts to top!

 

   Looking for a healthy treat to satisfy a sweet tooth? or a good pre- workout fuel that isn't full of additives, sugar,  artificial sweeteners or preservatives? Try these simple and nutritious cookies made with just 4 ingredients: Bananas, oats, egg whites and cinnamon. They may be shaped like a cookie, but certainly are better for your body as they are filled with fiber, natural sugar from the bananas, protein from the egg whites and a blood stabilizing affects from the cinnamon.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 mashed bananas
  • 3 cups gluten free quick cook oats
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. melted coconut oil (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mash bananas in a large boil, add in egg whites and mix well. Add in oats and cinnamon , and optional coconut oil for added fats.
  3. lightly grease a baking sheet and spoon out mixture into 1 1/2 inch rounds . Bake for 10-12 minutes.

These "cookies" are perfect for endurance athletes looking for something natural and healthy to fuel their next workout, as they are great to have as a quick energy source before, during and of course after!! You could also swap the bananas with sweet potato if you want to try something new , or if you don't love the taste of bananas. The options are endless. Try adding in any of the following combinations:

  • raisins + walnuts
  • chunky natural peanut butter, topped with peanuts and/or choc chips
  • mix in protein powder of choice into batter (id suggest a chocolate or plain)
  • mix in chocolate peanut butter powder and top with peanut
  • cranberries + pecans (or nut of choice)

 

 

 

Post Christmas "Recovery" Swim 4400 SC Yards

I use "Recovery" loosely here! This was still a solid swim, however it was my one workout for today and I integrated a lot of varied intensities and strokes to just keep my body moving and to stretch out every angle of my body! Swimming is the ultimate recovery tool for me, especially after hard or long bike , runs or strength workouts that leave my muscles tight and sore. Even a hard swim can be considered "recovery" simply because its giving the body a break from anything weight bearing, and is easier on the joints. I typically swim 5 days a week, and although a good hard swim workout will leave my arms quivering and body fatigued, I can still get in the next day and be able to complete another good workout using different intensities/intervals, strokes or tools such as pull buoys/paddles and fins. This is why I love swimming so much, there is so much to be improving on and so much you can do in the pool!!!

Yesterday I did a "long" run, 12 miles with 12 big hills for Christmas!  I haven't been running as regularly as I had because ofa tight back/hamstring which has been agitated for some time now. Even having taken some time off the road, all my cross training continues to allow me to go out and run a distance like this without a problem! Today was a perfect day to get in the pool for a long swim , to help recover my running muscles and loosen up! I did 4400 short course yards as follows...

4400 SC YDS

Warmup : 1500 straight freestyle, moderate effort with pickups in the last 500

Main Set # 1:  2x through

6x 50 Free build on :45 round 1 / :40round 2

50 kick on 1:10

6x 50 pull buoy on :50 round 1  / :45 round 2

50 kick on 1:10

150 Back/Breast/Free

Main Set #2

12x 75 as free/stroke/free by 25 on 1:05(I alternated odds back, evens breast)

500 pull paddles and buoy

Cool Down

This was a great mix for today. I was able to get a good 1500 straight to start off, then worked a little of my anaerobic system with some 50 sprints to get the heart rate up. The 12 x 75's with stroke mixed in really helped loosen up my legs and work different muscle groups. This would be a great swim to do after a Long Run day or race!

 

 

"Get your Greens" Soup

In need of a good "Detox" or "clean up" after a Christmas full of more then a few cocktails and indulgences? This soup is for you! It may not look as appetizing as your holiday dessert spread, however it will certainly get you back on track to feeling healthy and strong! Its an all you can eat soup as its super low calorie and loaded with nutrients, fiber and contains no salt, fat or JUNK ingredients that soups you buy at the store often have. This is a great recipe for a meatless Monday, cold winter day, and even better for helping get rid of that nasty head cold   as it is loaded with nutrients and will warm you from the inside out!

Not only is this recipe a nutrient powerhouse that will ensure you get in all your vegetable servings, but it is also very easy to do! The two necessary items you will need are a large soup pot and an immersion blender or  Vitamix (or any large blender) .  I use my vitamix!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion cut up
  • 1 leek cut up
  • 1 bundle of asparagus
  • 1 large carrot diced
  • 1/2 cup purple top turnip cleaned, skin cut off, diced
  • 3 large heads of broccoli florets (about 4-5 cups worth) OR you can use 2 bags of frozen broccoli
  • 1 garlic clove + fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • Water
  • Optional : more frozen spinach to add AFTER

 

  1. 1. In large soup pot , simply add all your vegetables and enough water to cover it all. Bring to boil and let cook for about 10 minutes til the vegetables are softened. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
  2.  use your immersion blender OR transfer soup into your vitamix/blender (may have to do in batches) and blend up until it forms a nice consistency. PLEASE NOTE: Make sure your blender's lid is on TIGHT!!!! OR you could have a major disaster in the kitchen!  If using the blender, simply add it all back into your pot and reheat it. Can add in some frozen peas or more spinach for added goodness and greens! :)

Swim of the Day: October 26

Picture taken at the Westchester Triathlon September 2016

Picture taken at the Westchester Triathlon September 2016

I've been on a kick the past couple of weeks about sharing my swim workouts. I enjoy creating new sets to try. It beats just getting in the pool with no "plan" and certainly helps the laps go by faster (literally!). Here is what I did today, I will break it down a little better for you!

Todays Swim Workout : 4400yds Total

Warm up

1500 Straight as 1200 free 300 as 50 back/breast 50 free repeated 3x

Main Set #1

  • 50 on :45
  • 100 on 1:30
  • 150 on 2:10
  • 200 on 3 min

Main Set #2

  • 9x 100 on 1:30 (2 swim, 1 IM)

This was a fun workout that flew by. I often like to get in and just swim straight 1000+ as a warmup...I think it shows why I love to swim so much because I feel like I can just get in and go forever, on cruise control, just me and my thoughts. Its a constant counting of laps, strokes and a jumble of many thoughts, and I find being surrounded by water to makes it so peaceful. Today I was feeling a bit ehhhh, but still wanted to get the yardage in. I did the first two rounds of main set 1 all freestyle, focusing on increasing my pace as the distance shortened. Then the last two rounds I did pull, which I always find much "easier" then just swimming... The last 9x 100s were a good way to work on tired arms, and good practice for triathlon when you should be more upper body dominant , and getting used to swimming after that added resistance. The IM was just a killer add on :)  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Healthy Spicy Quinoa Turkey "Casserole"

I believe there are two kinds of people in the world, those who can cook a meal with no measuring, eyeballing every amount and having it come out fantastic! and those who no matter how exact they follow a recipe, it doesn't quite come out like it should. I like to think of myself as a very humble person, but I am lucky to be the former of those two types of people!

Today I decided I was going to make something that would utilize the leftover quinoa that I had in the fridge, already cooked as well as a block of cheddar cheese. So I went to the store and just decided to pick up what looked good, or what was on sale! I had in my mind to make something along the lines of stuffed peppers, without the stuffed pepper part, and ended up with this delicious dish! Now I know "casserole" is not always a word you would associate with being healthy, but when trying to think of a name for this dish, that was exactly it! Casseroles don't have to be cream covered and unhealthy, this will prove it!  Here are the ingredients, and as I said above, I am an no measuring type of cook, I use my eyes and just go with the flow....but I will try to give an approximate of measurements below...

  • Cooked rainbow quinoa (about 4 cups worth, and can use any type of quinoa or even rice)
  • 1 package of 99% lean ground turkey (chicken works too)
  • 1 can organic fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can no salt added black beans
  • 1 cup diced red pepper
  • 1 cup diced orange pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernals
  • 1/2 tbsp. chilli pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. Worchester sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp. sirracha hot sauce (optional)
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves crushed garlic
  1. In a large skillet, heat your olive oil, then add onions, peppers, zucchini and garlic. Cook down for about 10 min until everything is soft, then put in separate bowl
  2. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and then add your ground turkey, cover and cook until about 75% done. Then add beans, tomatoes, Worchester sauce, chilli pepper and pepper. and mix together , chopping up ground turkey so its in bite size pieces . Add your peppers/onion and zucchini mix back into the pan.
  3. in a casserole pan, lay your cooked quinoa down, then add all the turkey and veggies. Squirt about 1-2 tbsp. sirracha on top , then top with all your cheddar cheese.
  4. Bake for about 20 min on 350 just to get all the cheese bubbly.

Although I was making this primarily with my husband in mind, I did take a few bites without the cheese and it was very good. I usually make my stuffed peppers with similar ingredients, just all stuffed inside a whole peppers, and usually with a blend of wild rice and quinoa. This was very similar however had more of a Mexican taste with the spices! It was a "top 10" dish my husband said, so give it a try!!! Super easy and great for kids too!

 

 

Todays Swim Workout

I've decided to post some of my swim workouts for you! I always find it helpful and enjoy hearing about how others train, and what some of there go to workouts are. I often find people will do the SAME workouts on repeat week to week (and even day to day which blows my mind!), and although there is a positive to doing the same workout every once in awhile to track progress and build on , its nice to change things up! Especially in the pool. So, here is my workout from today! This is a great "meat and potatoes" type of workout, especially good for triathletes! :)

Swim Workout 4000yds

(today was short course yards, can adjust interval to meters by + 15sec/100)

  • 2000 swim nice and strong, progressing pace on the 30min
  • 500on the 7:30
  • 5x 100 FASTon the 1:30
  • 500 pull (paddles and buoy) on the 7:15/20
  • 5x 100 pull (paddles and buoy) on the 1:30
  • Cool down 300 mix stroke/free

Give it a go! I like this one because you get in and have to go straight 2000 from the start, which mimics a triathlon swim, which sometimes you don't even get a chance to warm up for. Your pace should increase for the 500 and even more for the 100's. If you are unsure of what interval to go on, swim 3x 100yds at a comfortable pace, take the average of those times and add 10-15 sec to it. Round up slightly or down to the nearest "whole" number.

 

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian- Veggie Packed Chili

  Fall certainly has hit the east coast, leaving me craving warm and hearty meals in the evenings when the cooler temperatures roll in. Today I decided to make a vegetable chili! Growing up my mom would always make a beef and bean packed chili with a side of corn bread and lots of cheddar cheese for topping. This was always a staple dish come winter months, and often one making you leave the table feeling 10 pounds heavier! My vegetarian veggie packed chili can also be boosted by adding lean ground turkey or chicken, however today I made this as a meatless Monday meal!

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium diced onion
  • 1 large carrot (or 1/2 cup) cut up into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced red and green bell peppers (any color variety is great!)
  • 1 medium organic sweet potato cut into small cubes
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup crumbled cauliflower florets
  • 1 large 28oz can of diced or whole plum tomatoes (san marzano are great, can mash up the whole tomatoes if you buy that variety)
  • 1 can bean of choice, rinsed (I used no salt added Kidney beans)
  • 1/2 cup dried red lentils
  • 1 cup spinach cut up (about 2 large handfuls)
  • 1 fresh corn off the cob
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • Optional: Ground lean turkey or chicken

1. In large pot with lid, heat up the olive oil over medium- high heat. Add the onion, carrot and peppers for about 3-5 min. Then add in the sweet potato, cauliflower and garlic. Cook this down for about 5-10 min on medium heat with lid.

2. Once veggies have cooked down a bit, add the large can of tomatoes with its juice, can of  low sodium beans , dried lentils, corn , spinach and all the spices. Let this cook over medium heat with lid on until it starts bubbling. Then turn heat to low and let simmer for 1-2 hrs.

** IF you want to add the ground meat to this, add it in to the veggie mix BEFORE you get to step 2 (before added the tomatoes etc.). Let the meat cook til its 75% cooked through then add in the rest and let it cook entirely with everything else when it simmers.

I serve this with homemade corn bread as well as plain greek yogurt and (optional) cheddar cheese for topping!  Enjoy!

Mighty Montauk 2016

Mighty Montauk Olympic Triathlon Saturday, June 11, 2016: First Female Overall (2:11:29)     

                  Swim .9 miles (24:42)   Bike 22 Miles (1:03:28) Run 6.2 Miles (39:57)

 

        I must enjoy the thrill of signing up for races last minute. Second triathlon of the season which I decided to do just days before the actual race.  Luckily, Mighty Montauk is a race I have done almost every June since 2009, it is my favorite triathlon, and the race director Merle has gotten to know the Bottini family well J . She also has dealt with me in years past, calling her last minute to try to get into the race! Thanks Merle!  

                Mighty Montauk is a race that is very special to me…maybe because of all the summers growing up and going out with my family to watch my dad compete in it, which he has been doing for almost 30 years.  Now I get to do it WITH him! Mighty Montauk also happened to be one of my very first triathlons EVER in 2009, and it is a course I have come to love, and look forward to doing every year. It’s a much more laid back race compared to others, it still gets a lot of fast athletes, but there seems to be much less “egos” involved and more fun, laid back personalities, just looking to have a good race and good time enjoying Montauk. As an Olympic distance race, it consists of a .9mile swim (this one is always a solid mile /slightly longer), 22mile bike and 6.2 mile run.

 

Mighty Montauk 2014:Uncle Pete, Jeff Hussey (my fiancé), Me, Uncle Mike, my dad, Uncle Rob

Mighty Montauk 2014:Uncle Pete, Jeff Hussey (my fiancé), Me, Uncle Mike, my dad, Uncle Rob

         As I had mentioned above, my dad has been doing this race since almost 30 years ago (as old as I am about to be), and for the past few years now his 3 brothers have also been coming out to do it. My Uncle Mike lives out in Amagansett, and he actually has been doing Mighty Montauk (along with many other races) probably longer than my dad has, and up until a few years ago he was probably still beating me!  Now all of them have gotten into the sport and it makes for a nice little reunion every summer when we go out to race it, and there is no shortage of ball busting. This has become another reason I love going out to Montauk for this race, I love seeing all of them out there and it’s fun to discuss and often make fun of each other after the race.

                So, about 3 days before the actual race, I got Jeff to sign up with me.  The race is on a Saturday which is unlike a lot of races, but a much better way to do it...you get all Sunday to enjoy, and it doesn’t ruin your Saturday getting ready for it. We headed out Friday afternoon from CT, took the ferry over and drove out to Montauk to get our race packets before going to my Uncle Mikes for a nice BBQ with the rest of the Bottini’s! Before you know it, it was 9pm and we were getting headed to bed. This was actually one of the first times that I was up before my alarm at 5am, I was ready to go after a good night sleep. I always like to make sure I have enough time in the morning before a race, to have some breakfast, coffee/tea, and not be in a crazy rush. Race started at 7:30, took 25 min to drive there, and I typically like a good hour to set up, go to the bathroom, get body marked etc. Race morning I don’t typically like to change up my eating routine too much (except I hold off on the spinach and veggies in my eggs prerace J ). I typically do 3-4 egg whites, a ½ cup cooked GF oats with berries and cinnamon and tea/coffee.  I don’t eat too much, because I know I’ll end up running to a porta potty at unwanted times, but I make sure to get a good mix of protein and complex carbohydrates. I also like to keep my dinners the night before a race on the lighter side, and not far off from what I would typically eat. I usually like salads, sweet potato, and chicken/fish/eggs depending if I’m traveling to a race or at home and able to cook.

Jeff and I before the swim start

Jeff and I before the swim start

                Once we arrived at the race site, the sun was shining and there wasn’t even a need for the sweats and sweatshirts we were wearing. We parked and biked over to the transition are to find a spot on a rack, get body marked and get our wetsuits on.  If you read my prior post on Race #1 which I did not wear a wetsuit for, today was all the reasons why you DO want to wear a wetsuit. Montauk of course gets a bit cooler than other places, especially the water. This is a race you want a wetsuit for, water is typically around 60 degrees, and since it’s a longer swim the buoyancy of the wetsuit would be beneficial. Definitely needed it just to keep warm today. I was in the second wave, all women, which I always liked. Once I got in for a quick warm up, we were quickly corralled out of the water for the start of the race. It’s an in water start which is nice because it eliminates that mad dash, and jumping on and over people into the water. First wave was off and then all of us ladies entered the water. Everyone is always smiling and kind of looking around at each other, just waiting for the sound of the gun. The course is an out and back, 5 buoys, and it always looks like such a long ways as you look out ahead. I anticipated the gun and got into a good position to sprint straight out to that first buoy…this was one of the very first things my dad had told me to do when I started doing triathlons…sprint out as hard as you can for about 2-300yds, then settle into a pace…and you will be clear of all the people. Maybe its common sense…but, I think about that before every race, and sure enough I always find I am almost way out in front swimming alone without anyone to wrestle for a spot with.  I felt good, minus the slight frozen feeling in my arms, but I stayed dead straight to each buoy and kept a strong pace the whole way through. The way back always seems much faster, I eyed that big American flag at the swim exit and moved my way through even some of the men who were in the wave 5 minutes ahead of me. About 25 yards away from the swim exit, I’m breathing to my left and notice a guy next to me in a wetsuit with red on it and it crosses my mind that it might be Jeff. I keep breathing left and see it’s his goggles, and definitely his stroke…I wanted to just stay right next to him and give him a shove, but I instead I darted for the beach. As I exited the water and pulled my goggles up, they announced I was the first women out of the water. I looked back as I ran across the beach and saw Jeff just coming out, I waved but I don’t think he even noticed! I ran into transition, or T1 as they call this part of the race, quickly yanked my wetsuit off,

helmet on, race number on, bike shoes and off I went to bike. This took about 1:30 seconds to do, another part of the race where you can make or break time. I knew at this point that I would need to hold my own on the bike if I wanted to finish first. The bike is my weakness, and I typically am passed by women within 5 miles here if I am really moving strong. I kept giving myself points to get to, and felt more and more confident as more and more miles went by and no one had passed me. I felt pretty good, and enjoyed hearing yells from Jeff and my Uncles as they saw me on out and back portions of the race. As soon as I turned back onto the road to transition area, I knew I was in a good position. This was the first time I ALSO remained first for the women coming off the bike and onto the run. This would however be one of the first times I was already in lead for the run…no one to chase down, only women behind to not let catch me. The nice part of the run course is 1. There are 3 out and backs where you can see anyone who is behind you, and 2. All those out and backs are down/up pretty big hills which is definitely a strength of mine. At the first out and back I spotted the 2nd and 3rd place girls behind me…I couldn’t tell how far ahead I was, but they looked strong. I knew I would have to push it. I felt ok, but not as fresh as the weekend race before. I headed up some of the first hills and quickly gained some ground, I picked it up even more for the second two big hills and when I saw Jeff I think I let out a big “ugh” or “I’m dying” , he told me to back off a bit, but I don’t think I did. I wanted to get to that last hill without anyone passing me, and knew by then I could handle it to the finish. Its times like this in races where you might never know you could push as hard as you do…that competitive drive just takes over and can really surprise me sometimes.  Crossing the finish line felt great, especially seeing all my family cheering on the sidelines, and Jeff right there as I flew through the tape.

Mighty Montauk 2016: Uncle Pete, Jeff, Me, Uncle Rob, Uncle Mike

Mighty Montauk 2016: Uncle Pete, Jeff, Me, Uncle Rob, Uncle Mike

The feeling I get at the end of a race is what I love, that wobbly legged, full body state of exhaustion that almost feels as if your insides have exerted themselves to capacity! All the pain you feel while racing and thinking to yourself “why do I do this” , is always worth it and what keeps me coming back for more!  

Article in East Hampton Press:  http://olive.pressnewsgroup.com/Olive/ODN/EHPRESS

               

               

 

Race #1 : Ridgefield Sprint Triathlon 6/5/16

         Ridgefield Sprint Triathlon Sunday June 5:  1st Female Overall (Total Time: 1:11:00)

                       Swim ½ mile (11:43) Bike 12.75miles (39:11) Run 3.1miles (17:47)

    This was my first race of the triathlon season this year, which I had decided to sign up for just 2 days before (and was lucky to get into so last minute, thanks Terry!).  It’s a local race, and one of the most popular around this area (Fairfield County) usually closing out registration within minutes of when it opens up. Oddly I had never done this one before, even though it was right around the corner from where I lived. It’s a sprint triathlon which is the shortest of triathlon distances at ½ mile swim, 12.75 mile bike, 5k (3.1 mile) run, short, but still very challenging.

  Me, Flo and Rocio (1st , 2nd and 3rd overall women!)

  Me, Flo and Rocio (1st , 2nd and 3rd overall women!)

                In years past I would have had a whole race calendar planned for the year, quite far in advance…however I think I kind of like this last minute sign up! Less anxiety building up to the race when you don’t know you are doing one until the week of! Anyways, I did sign up for a half ironman in August awhile back,  but the reason I hadn’t planned any races prior was because I had been dealing with a hip injury over the winter and spring and hadn’t been able to run. The past few weeks however, I was feeling alright, and I was sort of itching to get a race under my belt, just to see where I was at and if any of my crazy, unstructured training/no running was paying off! SO I got Jeff (my fiancé) to sign up with me, because it’s just not the same doing a race without him now! AND I know how much he enjoys hearing me complain the night before about having to get up at 4am and saying “ugh why did I sign up for this” .  I also had two girlfriends/training buddies (see picture above, Me, Flo, Rocio) racing it, both very fast and whom had in fact won this race in years past…so I knew it would be good competition! I also had a client of mine doing this race as her VERY first triathlon, so it was a day filled with a lot of fun racing!

                My goal, as it is for all races, was to just go HARD. I had no idea where my paces would be, and hadn’t even run the week or two before to know how my hip would feel. Having Flo and Rocio out there racing, was good motivation! Flo, who I have known for a while, is a professional Triathlete who has raced for YEARS all over the world and is a book of knowledge on the sport. She has helped me tremendously over the years, especially in getting my swim to where it is! There were many, many swim workouts we did in the pool where I literally would be just hanging on to make the intervals, maybe with 1-2 sec rest if that, I loved it and hated it! Never had I swam so hard in my life until I met her! Oh and she is a mom of 3, and just had a baby boy 5 months ago! Rocio is a client of Flo’s, training for Ironman Lake Placid this year. She is super strong and is also a mom!  

Race Start: Martins Pond in Ridgefield, CT

Race Start: Martins Pond in Ridgefield, CT

Race morning was wet, which I was a bit nervous about because I hadn’t really ever raced on such wet roads before. It would mean not slamming on the breaks too hard, being super cautious on turns and hills. The water for the swim was beautiful, they call is a “pond” but it is really more like a lake, very pretty, and super warm for this time of year. I decided not to race with my wetsuit. Most people like to wear these in triathlons because 1. It keeps you warm 2. It provides extra buoyancy which lends to faster swim times, and is also a comfort for people to feel more afloat. That buoyancy also allows you to use less of your legs, which is beneficial for all the biking and running to come.  I however, don’t often like using a wetsuit, only if the water is super cold (read my mighty Montauk triathlon update).  And for a sprint, you are looking at a swim 10-15min in length, which a wetsuit maybe could give you an extra 30 sec, but that can easily be offset by the time it takes to take it off in transition! SO, I went without it. We were all in the first wave, which was nice because we would be able to see where everyone was. It was an out of water start, so we all lined up on the beach and sprinted into the water at the sound of the gun…Swim went smooth, I got out enough ahead to not be swimming amongst anyone, and swam pretty straight on to each buoy.

Swim Exit

Swim Exit

 I exited the water and was quickly told by spectators I was the second women …I knew Flo was obviously the one ahead of me! I ran quickly to transition and spotted her just about to leave on the bike, this is why I love racing with people I know, especially someone like her, its such friendly competition that I almost find myself laughing/cheering her on/and also busting her chops saying “yeah you better get moving I’m right behind you” … we almost exited transition together, then I saw her bike computer come off at the mount line, which she had to quickly run back for, slowing her down a bit…but didn’t matter, she raced right ahead of me. Off on the bike and I knew I would be chasing her, and was also worried about who might be behind me, so I had motivation to catch someone, as well as not to get passed! I’d say that is a good combination to make you race hard.  Often if you are in the lead, it’s a bit harder to gauge how hard to go, you don’t want to settle and get comfortable where you are at because you are in first…but often if you know you are way ahead of competition, there isn’t as much of a driving force to make you push harder to catch someone ahead of you. I liked where I was at. Luckily no one (except men including Jeff) passed me on the bike. I always know Jeff will pass me somewhere during the bike, and oddly I always know exactly when he is going to go by, and I actually love that part of the race…its probably the only time I am happy seeing someone fly by me! There was a good combination of hills and flats, and I like hills. After the 12.75 mile bike, I came into transition and saw Flo already running out…I fumbled a bit to get my shoes on but once I headed out I felt pretty good. I never wear a watch to tell me my pace/HR like some people do, I go by how I feel and just push hard, back off when I need to, I think it’s good to be in tune with how you FEEL over what a watch is telling you. I never really know how fast I am going though, and it always feels like you are going way slower than you are when you run after biking, but I like that, and I actually run faster AFTER having biked. This run was mostly uphill for ¾ of the race…which I didn’t know until AFTER those hills. I couldn’t see Flo for a good part of it, probably because of all the hills, turns etc.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

At  about 1 mile I was told she was only 15 sec ahead, which I didn’t expect. Those 15 sec ahead were all up the last big hill…I busted my butt here (which my calved paid for the week after). I finally caught her with about a mile left, and said let’s run together, but then was a really bad friend and found myself moving more ahead of her, so I just continued to yell to her to keep up!! (Some women might not like that!).  I crossed the finish line and immediately saw Jeff, there to hand me a water already! Although I do hope one day he WONT pass me on the bike, I do love that is he right there when I cross the finish! I felt good and thought how great I felt on the run, and that maybe no running was the key to running fast! (or maybe it was that good cup of coffee I had this morning?)  I found out I had run one of my fastest 5k’s 17:47 (5:45 pace). They also had a prize for the fastest last mile of the race for both men and women, which I won in a time of 4:40, however the last mile was ALL downhill so don’t be too impressed!  You can see full results here http://fasttracktiming.com/race-result/ridgefield-sprint-triathlon-ridgefield-ct/#/person:&entry_id=99:1466083657520

This was overall such a fun race, and fun day getting to be out racing with people I know! Even though the sport if very individual, there is still a lot of good comradery out there and that’s what makes it such a fun sport. Everyone is going through the same pain, no matter what pace they are at, and even when you are neck in neck with your good friend, you still are cheering them on!