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!  

  

 

  

 

Jump Start Your Childs School Day!

Jump Start Your Child's School Day!

May 12, 2016

 

We’ve all been told “the most important meal of the day is breakfast”, and for good reason! A healthy breakfast serves as a jump-start to the day, and for growing children, it is more important than ever. A healthy meal at the start of your child’s day can be the key to…

  1. Better decision making

  2. Less chance of obesity

  3. A balanced meal with enough calories, especially for kids going to school who may not eat properly during the lunch hour

  4. Better academic performance

  5. Better athletic performance

  6. Lifelong healthy habits!

 

Fuel: As an adult, on a day that you don’t eat a breakfast or even have your morning coffee for that matter, don’t you feel slightly lethargic? Slower to think and move? Less alert? It’s as if our body and brain haven’t woken up yet—and that is exactly the case. Having a breakfast to start your day provides immediate fuel to your brain and body.  Just like an athlete needs energy for the muscles to perform, our brain is also a muscle that needs the same energy to think and make decisions.  This is especially important for students of all ages who are going to school, often early in the morning, and need that energy to focus and absorb everything they are being taught. Having that energy to concentrate, will lead to increased academic performance and better decision-making.

 

Family Time: Mornings are often one time when families are getting up and starting the day together, which is a good time to connect and create a healthy morning routine through breakfast. Use breakfast as a way for kids to get a balanced healthy meal before school when you won’t be there to make sure they eat their lunch or make healthy choices in the lunch line.

           

Prevention: A healthy breakfast can also decrease the chance for childhood obesity by preventing kids from becoming ravenous later in the day or eating junk food. Just as adults are told to have breakfast to lose weight, to kick start their metabolism, and prevent overeating later in the day, the same applies to kids.  Childhood obesity has risen dramatically recently and although a lot of that has to do with inactivity and an increase in fast foods, those who eat a breakfast have a lower chance of becoming overweight. A great breakfast routine will create a healthy habit for kids to continue into adulthood.

 

Energy for play: Just as a healthy meal provides energy to their brain to learn, it will also give your kids the energy they need to be active! Whether it’s in gym class or after school sports, having a healthy breakfast will ensure proper calories for them to burn and the nutrients their muscles need to perform.

 

Check out some energy boosting breakfast ideas to start the school day!

 

Tight on time? Get your kids involved in the process the night before so that the morning scramble feels more manageable for everyone.

 

Sample breakfast 1

-2 scrambled eggs

-Energizing smoothie

            -½ cup frozen spinach

            -½ frozen or fresh banana

            - ½ cup berries

            -1 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk

 

Sample breakfast 2

  • 2 whole eggs 1 egg white scrambled with 1-2 slices multigrain toast (such as Ezeikiel)

  • 1cup fresh fruit or banana cut up with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter

 

Sample Breakfast 3

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal with almond/soy milk or regular milk , cinnamon, honey and nuts or nut butter

  • ½ cup berries (can be put into oatmeal as well)

 

Sample Breakfast 4

  • 2 slices Ezeikiel toast topped with ½ avocado and 3 scrambled eggs

  • ½ cup fruit

Healthy Spaghetti Squash and Homemade loaded veggie tomato sauce!

    Not going to lie, for years I grew up eating meatballs and spaghetti, chicken parm, baked ziti and lots of buttery garlic bread on the side...Italian food was always a staple in our house and a go to for most family get togethers as well.. Pretty sure meatballs and spaghetti was the requested birthday special for ALL of our birthdays! Well...those days are gone for me! and have certainly been healthified when I do make it. This recipe I created is one that has even my dad asking for it over the regular spaghetti meal! I typically serve this with baked balsamic + garlic chicken (as I made today),  turkey meatballs, or even a fillet of any white fish or just some steamed spinach which I actually prefer the best! You can add or omit any of the vegetables I have chosen, however , don't omit them all :) .

Spaghetti Squash + Loaded Veggie Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash cut width wise with all the seeds scooped out
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil (for sautéing onion and veggies)
  • 1/2 onion diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3-4 cups fresh tomatoes cut up (any variety works, I like Campari tomatoes)
  • 1 whole zucchini diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped asparagus
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (any variety)
  • 1-2 cups diced eggplant (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (depending how much sauce you are making)
  • 1 tsp dried basil OR even better, 2 tsp fresh diced basil
  • 1/4 cup or 1 small can of organic no salt tomato paste (optional to thicken)

Options To Top:

  • Chicken Breasts (marinate in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • Turkey meatballs (ground turkey, minced onion, 1 egg beaten)
  • Fillet of fish
  • steamed spinach

1. Set oven to 350 degrees and put the cut spaghetti squash in right on top of the oven rack, cook until you can puncture with fork and its soft, about 40-45min.

2. for the sauce, in a large pot over medium high heat, add olive oil then the onion to soften. then add the garlic and ALL the other vegetables....let this all cook down for about 45 min. Keep it at high heat to start and then bring to a simmer and cover. Mash it as it cooks every 5-10 min so it all gets softened and breaks up. add in your balsamic and tomato paste once its all softened. cook down until it is the consistency you are looking for. 

Top with any of the above or simply enjoy as is!!

 

 

 

Commercial Break Workout!

Commercial Break Workout!

 As a personal trainer, I’ve heard endless amounts of excuses for “why” people don’t have time to workout…or why they’ve gained weight because of a new job, kids, family, school etc.  I understand that life gets hectic, work leaves you tired, and your kids keep you busy….but staying active and fit doesn’t mean you have to spend hours at the gym, or even any time at the gym for that matter! If you do it right, you can get fit, keep your heart healthy and lose weight without even having to step foot in a gym. Remember, little bursts of activity throughout the day all count, and are just as good as consecutive time in the gym. Next time you are relaxing in front the of the T.V. feeling guilty for not working out, try this little Commercial Break AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) Workout:

 6 Burpees (chest to deck or with pushup)

20 alternating high knees (L+ R =1)

8  Push- up Pikes (do without pushup If you can’t do from toes)

20 alternating mountain climbers (L + R = 1)

10 side plank hip dips (Each side)

 Repeat circuit as many times through as you can during commercials!

 Using nothing but your own bodyweight you can get in a great workout anywhere! And remember, a walk with your kids, squats and pushups while making dinner, planks during your favorite TV show or lunges while at the park with your kids, are all great ways to get your heart pumping and at the end of the day it can all equate to a great workout! Just keep moving!!  

 

Irecently contributed three 8-week training plans for 5k, 10k and half marathon distances to beSelf Magazines March Issue ( found here http://www.self.com/fitness/2016/02/run-a-half-marathon-the-ultimate-8-week-training-plan/ with 5k and 10k plans on top of page), and while reading through the article, I came upon the above blurb of mine. As I re-read what I said, I thought of how much more this quote meant, and that maybe it deserved some extra explaining! So, here you go…and excuse me for any rambling!

Race season is just around the corner, and for many it has already begun….which means training is in full swing and runners and triathletes are looking forward to testing out their fitness at their first race! Some may be hoping to just run a whole marathon without walking, finish their first 5k, and others may be looking to break a certain time, or finish top 3 overall.  Regardless of the goal, everyone gets to the race having had different training plans or no training plan, different lifestyles, and different mindsets.  No matter if you are an elite athlete or total newbie to running or triathlon, I’m pretty sure we all have a little anxiety before toeing that start line, and many similar thoughts as we go through a race. How we deal with these thoughts, and deal with the uncontrolled factors during a race, is often a big detriment of how we do!  In the years I have spent training and racing, I have met and trained with many different people, all with different mindsets and tactics for getting through a race.  This may be getting a bit off track from the quote above that I will get into shortly…but it all relates to what I said.

I believe a big part of racing and training is directly affected by my mentality, pain tolerance and ability to push myself (also my extreme competitive nature…).  These are factors that are a bit harder to measure and compare, but that have a huge impact on your performance. I won’t get to scientific here, but obviously our mind is what controls our body…whether it is our brain signaling our arms to move during a swim workout, or telling you “ you didn’t make that first run interval so no need to continue” or “ugh that first place girl is too far ahead to catch up to, so need to push harder” ….these are negative thoughts, thoughts that could likely come into your mind at times, which can take over and hinder what we truly are capable of if we let it. There have been many times that my training has been sub-par to the past, but I will go out with a running buddy, or swim with a friend who is in top shape, and be able to keep up with them simply because I am telling myself to! I may be way more winded, and less efficient, however it is my mentality that is allowing me to push myself and perform outside my comfort zone/ or what I would typically think I was able to do.  Granted, having someone next to you to push you, is also a big factor here….and that competitiveness is often what drives me to exceed what I think I am capable of!

Back to that original quote though….I believe it was a bit of a condensed version of what I said, however it still gets the point across. “Do your own thing” and take the race moment by moment mean to not let other aspects, especially uncontrolled aspects, affect how you do in a negative way. During a race, I give most credit to my mind for where I end up crossing the finish line. Moments during a super choppy swim, where I find myself amongst the middle of a pack of thrashing triathletes, where I could easily get panicked and just slow down, or times I get on my bike (my weak leg…) and have no power, watching myself get passed throughout the whole race, but I don’t ever let these uncontrolled moments affect me. Instead I tell myself just to stay composed, I know I can swim strong, so just swim to the outside of the pack and keep a rhythm, everyone is dealing with the same thing right now. On the bike, one might really feel down after seeing almost everyone you beat on that swim fly by you with ease… but in my head I just tell myself to peddle, don’t think about the people ahead or those approaching me, and know that my strength on the run. Once I get off the bike, no matter HOW far behind I might be from the other women, or HOW tired my legs feel, I push.  During a race I always tell myself “you want to end this race with no regrets, no feeling like you could have pushed harder. End this race with wobbly legs and exhaustion.” Now to some that may sound extreme, and maybe a lot of people don’t end a race wanting to feel that way, and that’s fine, everyone has different motives and goals, however this is just to show how I believe my mind has the most impact on my performance. Taking the race minute by minute, not letting a slow previous mile or thought of how many miles you have ahead affect you in a negative way was my advice here, especially for those new to running or triathlons.  Focus on NOW.  I also would like to say that I never race with a watch, now I do have different feelings on this depending on what type of race someone is doing, as many Ironman’s and marathons may require knowledge of pace or heart rate to make sure you don’t overdo it too soon...BUT I don’t like to race with one, because to me I monitor myself by just going hard! And listening to my body, maybe a watch might tell me I need to slow down, that I went out too fast, BUT maybe today my body is capable of keeping that pace! SO go with it!  This however is a topic for another post!

 Now back to what I said on everyone having different mentalities, and this is just one example of how a thought can affect someone negatively… I was once racing with a friend of mine (very good runner) who basically paced me through a recent 10k, which without her I wouldn’t have hit the time I did as I had NOT been training like she had. During the last mile of the race however, she thought we had made a wrong turn (she had done the race before and there was little signage as to go straight or continue left) so we just followed the one man ahead of us, and she said “no that was the wrong way, we can just slow down now… it doesn’t matter” …I couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth. Needless to say I continued pushing my pace because, hey even if we did go the wrong way I still want to finish strong. I ended up first place for the women for that race, AND we did go the right way! Now if I had let her negativity affect me then that may not have been the case.  I’d like to also share another example of how the mind can strongly affect someone, kids in this case. While teaching one of my youth fitness classes, I had taken the class to the track for some outdoor running and relays. I had them all begin with a half mile run around the track and then we set up for some relays. During the last leg of the relay, one of the girls got passed by the 3 other classmates to the finish line, so she immediately just came to a walk. Even with all the cheering and positive reinforcement to finish strong, she had felt like she failed and gave up! She let her surroundings affect how SHE did. This has a much bigger meaning, because it means that no matter what the people around you are capable of , and how much faster or stronger they may seem to be, you should never let it affect YOU, especially not in a negative way. Never be down on yourself because you finished last in a race, or that you weren’t able to perform maybe as well as you had wanted. This happens. Maybe all those people in front of you are able to train every day, and don’t work a 10 hour day like you do….maybe they have a coach helping push them in there workouts every day….maybe they don’t have a family to raise like you do! You just never know, and for those reasons, how should always focus on you, focus on what you can control in both your training and racing, and make sure to always think positively and know that your body will mirror those good thoughts!

 

Healthy egg muffins: your no excuse to skip breakfast recipe

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so even if you don’t have time to make a healthy breakfast every morning, at least you can make it ahead of time! These super healthy egg muffins will certainly beat any on the go egg sandwich you might order at your favorite fast food joint, and for a fraction of the price. You will feel much happier after eating two of these with your morning coffee than you would had you bought a sugar filled baked good, or egg and cheese bagel that you ordered in a starved state. Here’s how simple they are to make!

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Heat oven to 350 and grease 12 muffin tins with a cooking spray or oil

Ingredients:

3 whole eggs + 7 egg whites

½ cup sautéed onion

½ cup sautéed red pepper

2 campari tomatoes cubed

½ cup cooked cauliflower (steamed or roasted)

2 cups chopped up fresh spinach

Fresh black pepper

1 cup cooked quinoa/wild rice mix

  1. Mix eggs together until well blended, add all your veggies and quinoa mixture and stir until all combined.

  2. Pour mixture into the muffin tin , just until they fill to the top

  3. Bake about 20-25 min or until all egg is just cooked

    Serving size: 2 muffins

    ** Can substitute or add any other veggies you would like, I would recommend broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms and even some cheddar cheese if you feel like making it slightly less guilt free!

Enter Sandbag Challenge for the Semper Fi Fund

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This past weekend I had the honor of participating in a Semper Fi Sandbag Challenge to raise money for the Semper Fi Fund, a Foundation that supports wounded Marines and their families. My Fiancé Jeff's good friend and former marine Kyle Finnerty, organized a Sandbag Challenge as a fun way to show our efforts in supporting the Semper Fi Fund, and to raise money for this wonderful cause. To donate and read more about Kyle's story and the challenge he put together, please check out his page at https://fundraising.semperfifund.org/fundraise?fcid=508320 .

 So, what is the "Sandbag Challenge"....well, I didn't know either, but it sounded awesome! This marine/military workout will put any "bootcamp" to shame, and truly defines the meaning of teamwork. The challenge goes like this...

Enter Sandbag Challenge
The challenge will be performed in teams of 2. Each team will have one 30lb sandbag that cannot be put down for the duration of the event. Teammates can divide the work however they want, but only one can be working at a time. The teams must complete the runs together, and their time will not stop until both teammates cross the finish line. With the exception of the burpees, the individual performing the exercise will be the one holding the sandbag. If the sandbag touches the ground at any time, each teammate must stop and complete 20 burpees. 

The Challenge:
150 Burpees
Run 1 mile
150 Pushups
Run 1 mile
250 Squats
Run 1 mile
100 Sandbag Get-ups
Run 1 mile

As a triathlete, fitness fanatic and lover of all things ending in competition...this was right up my alley! What a fun way to show our support for Semper Fi , along with meeting such a nice group of people! Jeff and I would of course be teammates (no option there!) among 6 other male dominant teams (that's right, all guys)!

Jeff and I crossing the "finish line" as the first place team! This is how we ran with the sandbags on our shoulders.

Jeff and I crossing the "finish line" as the first place team! This is how we ran with the sandbags on our shoulders.

Going into the challenge, I really didn't know the specifics of it all...at first I thought the 1 mile runs were done WITHOUT a 30lb sandbag, and didn't know the pushups would be with it on our back...thanks Jeff for taking care of basically all 135 of those...I like to think I made it up somewhere! I truly enjoyed this type of workout/ competition, because Jeff and I had to work as a team, and finish together by splitting up the work and utilizing our strengths where we could. For the burpees we each did a set of 30 twice and then finished with a set of 15 each,  Jeff basically took on ALL the pushups, and for the squats we alternated50 each and then split the last 50 into 25 each. Fort he get ups I did 15 and he did 10 until we reached 100.  I think every team had a different strategy, and there by no means was a right or wrong way. For the 1 mile runs, we had first thought we could run each holding one side of the bag, but learned there certainly WAS a better way to run with the bag. The last 3 runs we each put the sand bag on our shoulders, Jeff would run the first 1/2 mile and I ran the last. This was our strength. We were in the lead coming back from every one of the runs, but fell behind to third after the 100 get ups, which made for good competition! We passed the other two teams pretty quick once we got to the last 1 mile run, but by no means was anyone going slow! I think I must of been in an all out sprint for that last 1/2 mile...which I am still feeling the effects of today! I think those 3 cups of coffee beforehand carried me through most of it!  We all finished in about 45-55min and in good spirits after a hard, fun workout. I had never done anything quite like this before, maybe except for back in college lacrosse, but really enjoyed the comradery of it all, both between your teammate, and the other teams.  Not only does it push you to both physical and mental limits, but it requires you to work together regardless if you might have been able to do some parts of it faster.  As the inaugural winners of the Sandbag Challenge, I will look forward to continuing my support for Semper Fi Fund and hope to be a part of this challenge next year!!!

Fall & My Healthy Homemade Applesauce!

Fall is certainly here...and as a summer loving, sun worshiper who gets cold even on a 70 degree day, this change of season is often bittersweet. The bitter part is mostly because it means that brutally long winter is around the corner, but the fall brings mostly sweet thoughts!  The crisp air with a hint of that summer sun, beautiful foliage, pumpkins, and thoughts of the holiday season to come are just some of the wonderful traits the fall brings to the northeast. This also means an abundance of all things apple, pumpkin and cinnamon! What would thanksgiving be without an apple pie, or an apple crumb to cure a sweetooth on a chilly fall evening?  Unfortunately even the homemade versions of these fall desserts are often filled with added sugar and topped with crisp buttery layers of dough or sugary crumble. If you are one of these apple treat lovers....try my healthy homemade applesauce which is so simple to make, and can help you use up any of those bruised apples leftover apple picking! (plus HEALTHY).  This is a great alternative to those decadent desserts and does not skimp of taste...it may even be better than those calorie filled pies!  

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Healthy Homemade Applesauce

  • 8-10 apples diced small with skins on for extra fiber. (can use any variety of apples you like, but I recommend having at least half be Macintosh apples/ macoun  and the rest can be a sweeter variety such as gala or Fuji. The tartness from the macintosh is a good contrast.)   
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon+ cinnamon stick
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/2 c water to help it soften
  • light amount of oil to coat sauce pan

Directions: lightly oil saucepan and bring to medium high heat. Add all of the apples, cinnamon, lemon juice and water. Cover and let come to a "sizzle" and stir to make sure all the apples start breaking down. They should almost start to boil...keep stirring and then turn to medium heat, cover and let cook down for 20min, should still have some natural chunks , but nothing should still be crunchy! I let it sit with cover on and heat off for 30-40min to continue to cook down.

Split Pea and Cauliflower Hummus

Healthy Split Pea and Cauliflower Hummus

Hummus has become one of the most popular "dips" in this health crazed era we are in! Many of us may take a short cut and buy pre-made hummus in the grocery store, which can cost up to $8.00 for a small 10oz container, and is often filled with way too much sodium, added preservatives, and even refined sugars (which they of course try to fool us with the names of). Although making this hummus on your own may take a little extra time and effort, it is way more cost effective and much more nutritious! Your waist line will thank you!

Ingredients:

-2-3 cups dried split peas that have been cooked and drained

-2-3 cups dried chic peas that have been cooked and drained

- 3 cups cooked cauliflower (can also just buy a steamfresh bag of cauliflower and cook as instructed and add in)

-2 cups water

- Juice of 2 large lemons

-3 cloves garlic

* In a vitamix (or similar high powered blender), add together all the ingredients and blend on high until creamy. Make sure to mix the hummus as it is blending so that all the ingredients get blended together.

Health benefits of this Split Pea and Cauliflower Hummus

(Low fat, low calorie, high fiber, no sodium)

Cauliflower is a powerhouse of nutrients, loaded with fiber,  water, vitamins and minerals andhelpsbulk up your hummus with less calories. Here are just a few of its benefits:

  • Excellent source of fiber (about 9 grams in 100 calories worth)
  • Packed with Vitamin C, K, Folate, B vitamins, Thiamin, Choline, Magnesium and Niacin
  • Contains anti-inflammatory vitamins and cancer fighting compound Sulforaphane

Split Peas are a similar to a lentil, and can be bought dried and cooked to eliminate extra sodium that is found in canned varieties. It is often found in soups but is an excellent legume that can be added to salads, hummus, and homemade soup. Some benefits of split peas are:

  • Full of soluble fiber, which helps to bind cholesterol and rid of the body. About 65% of your fiber needs can be met in just one serving (16g fiber in 1 cup cooked)
  • High in protein, about 16g in 1 cup
  • Loaded with B-vitamins

MY favorite ways to use this hummus is simply as a dip for fresh or roasted veggies (my go to's are roasted cauliflower and broccoli, fresh red peppers or tomatoes). It is also fantastic over a nice big salad,  piece of chicken or even stuffed inside hard boiled eggs!

IRONMAN: More Than Just a Race

This weekend I had the pleasure of experiencing my very first Ironman, as a spectator and cheerleader that is! Exactly a year ago, my boyfriend Jeff signed up (without much hesitation) for the Lake Placid Ironman! One of the most well-known and challenging Ironman races there is. Jeff, like me, has been competing in triathlons for the past 6 years, completing many Sprint, Olympic and Half Ironman distances, but this would be his very first attempt at “The King” of Triathlons, The Ironman. Not only did he finish, but he ended up with a very competitive time at that. He finished in 11 hours 23 minutes, 12th in his age group of 25-29 and 177th out of 2800 competitors overall!!!

Click link for details on his times: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/lakeplacid/results.aspx#axzz3hIC3AD4z

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A little background: As a triathlete, it is very common to tell someone you compete in triathlons, and for them to just assume that means you do ironman races…which when you then say “oh, no, I do the ones that are about a ¼ of the distance”… they often look at you like you’ve suddenly let them down. Fact is, there are four distances you can race in triathlons, which you can see below. Each one can be is just as difficult as the other (if you are doing it rightJ).  The Ironman however, is its own beast, it requires a huge time commitment for training, a lot of compromise in having a balanced lifestyle and a lot of mental toughness to complete.  

Sprint (1/2 mile swim, 10-18mile bike depending on course, 3.1 mile run)

Olympic (.9 mile swim, 20-25mile bike depending on course, 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!)

Triathlons are one sport in which the professionals and age groupers are out on the same course, on the same day, going through the same amount of pain. Only difference is, they do it as a living, often finishing minutes to hours in front of you, whereas most age groupers juggle a full time job and families on top of it all! Top times for all the distances listed above, vary depending on the course (ocean swim vs. lake, hilly vs. flat) and of course unpredictable factors like weather.

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For today, we will focus on the Ironman. The cut off time for an Ironman is 17 hours, which seems like a lot, but many finish within seconds of 17hrs, and some unfortunately don’t make it at all. Most races start at 630/7am, so you are talking about racing until midnight for some! Talk about a long day. Finishing times however can range from 8-9hrs for (mostly pros), 10-13hrs (most, more serious age groupers) to 14-17hrs (still AWESOME!). There are many factors that play a part in completing an Ironman. Unlike Sprints, Olympics, and Half- Ironman distances, you can often get away with a slight minimalistic approach to training…if you miss a weekend of training to go out with your friends, skip a few long bike or run workouts, you can still get away with it, but not in Ironman training.

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Think back to those days when you leave your 45min spin class feeling like you just conquered the world,  or the days you dread going to the gym for just an hour, get caught up in a 12hr work day and decide to bag your workout for a few beers and burgers with your friends. This is where time commitment and compromise come in. Your workouts become crucial meetings you cannot miss.  Now, I have the luxury of being a personal trainer and living a somewhat flexible and generous lifestyle when it comes to working out…but for Jeff, working in Finance did not allow for such a luxury. Your workouts become a part time job, or more like another full time job when you add up the hours. Setting your alarm for 4 or 5am, and sandwiching your workday with back to back workouts is typical for Monday –Friday, but then there is the weekend!  Weekends are often the pinnacle of the week’s training for many triathletes racing any distance, as you now have AMPLE time to go for those long bike rides, runs and swims….but weekends have a whole new meaning as an Ironman in training.  Don’t think “great, now I have the time to sleep in and make up for all those early weekday morning workouts” because you will be waking up JUST as early to set out for another workday on the bike, riding often up to 6 hours, and usually with a 1-2 hour run tacked on to that…don’t even think of sleeping in. Then on the luxurious occasion that you only have a 2-3 hour RUN, then maybe you can hit snooze a few times. Soon riding just 50 miles seems like nothing, and running just 2 hours is a somewhat easy day for you. Now, I say this like I was the one out there doing this, but I wasn’t, I only experienced it second hand. I often tagged along with Jeff on those “short” 50 mile rides, 1 hour runs, and of course swims, but the closest thing I got to a 100 mile ride or 20 mile run was the breakfast or lunch I made him before or after! Even though I love to swim and could do 2.4 miles in a breeze, I have never had the desire to ride 112 miles or run 26.2…ALONE, let alone back to back! Knowing how much training you must do to complete this feat…I give a lot of credit to anyone crossing an Ironman finish line, first or last!  

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Lucky for Jeff, my good friend coaches many athletes for this distance, so I was quick to ask her if she would take him on as I knew he would need structured training. Now Jeff would not only have her checking in on him and his workouts daily, but me too! Since he is no newbie to the sport and already had a good base of endurance, Jeff took the winter months to keep up with his own swim, biking and running, and come March 1st was when he took on his first month of coaching. This left 5 months of strict training ahead of him before the big day on July 26.

Having known Jeff for 3 years now, I’ve learned how driven and talented he is in every aspect of his life. His ability to set goals and accomplish them is something that has certainly had a positive impact in my life, and is in many ways the reason I have experienced what I have to this day.  There was never a doubt in my mind that he would be able to finish an Ironman. I actually knew he would exceed any expectation he had, and would be capable of a very competitive time (I didn’t let him know that of course!) BUT, the initial goal going into this was just to finish, no obligations to times, and most importantly to stay healthy along the way. There was so much unknown being that this was his first attempt at this distance. Once training got going, it wasn’t long before 5-6 hour bike rides and 20 mile runs were routine weekend “activities”. I even think there was a good month straight of riding 100 miles followed by an hour or so of running every Saturday. My job on our weekends together would be to keep him well fed and to do any laundry I could to keep all those spandex and running shorts in abundant supply! Before you know it I would find Jeff passed out by 8pm on a Saturday night wondering if it were too early to go to bed yet! Nope, part of training is getting in all that sleep you can, and I am pretty sure he had no troubles ever NOT being tired for bed.

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Fast forward to last week. We arrived in Lake Placid on Tuesday, well before the race so that he could get acclimated to the area, ride parts of the course and relax before all the other crazy triathletes would arrive. Since the week before the race is spent tapering, this meant we had time to sleep in and still get in the bits of training that was needed, including a few swims in mirror lake, “easy” hour runs , 2 hour bikes,  and some rest too, all of which I was happy to partake in! Lake Placid is known to be a hilly course, at about 7000ft of climbing over the 112 mile bike ride alone, with one 6-7 mile steep decent in which Jeff was advised to ride down a few times so he would know the curves of the road and get used to getting up to speed of 40-50mph! (This can be huge for making up time on the course). So one of his pre-race training days was to simply ride this hill down 2x, and I think he got up to 48 mph!  Before you know it, it was almost race day and the town was now packed with thousands of type A, fully shaven, Garmin wearing triathletes (and their counterparts which are often in this same category.) You couldn’t turn down a street without seeing someone biking or running, checking their watches to make sure they are in the “proper” heart rate zones or not running too fast or too slow. I know this feeling, you become super tuned in to your body the days before a big race, often thinking “why do I feel so slow!  What is wrong with me! I’m going to do so poorly”! This is typical during a race week taper though. You have cut back your training, taken more than the usual days off, and  your body just eats up all the rest it can take, often making you feel more lethargic than when in full training mode. Come race day, no matter how your week went or how poorly you may have slept the night before, the energy and atmosphere race morning is always sure to get you going. This is one of the main reasons I love to race, being out there with hundreds to sometimes thousands of energetic athletes who have all put in the work you have, and are out there because they love it! It’s truly an exhilarating experience.

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Saturday before the race was spent doing a little tune up swim, bike and run to get the body moving after Friday’s full day of rest. In the afternoon he had to check in his bike and all of his race gear to the transition area, everything from his bike shoes, helmet, running shoes, water bottles, race fuel, sunglasses, socks, race belt, and extra bike tubes (luckily these were not needed). This was the one main difference between Ironman and other triathlons, its usual for you to have to bring you bike the night before, but to also have to leave all of your race equipment and clothing was another. Race morning you were to arrive ready to swim, with just your tri-suit, wetsuit, cap and goggles. So far so good, everything checked in, early dinner and off to bed. 4am arrives quickly and up we go to digest some breakfast (usually a PB and J sandwich, eggs, banana, and some coffee of course) making sure to have plenty of time to use an actual bathroom, and to let our brains wrap around what we are about to do! Jeff’s mom, and extraordinary race photographer, was up before any ironman athlete that morning to get the best spot at the race start! And she certainly got the best pictures all day. 5:15am and we are headed to the race start, slightly rainy, but looks to be clearing up. 3,000 racers and all of their families, friends and volunteers pack the town. 6am now and everyone is crowded around the lake awaiting the 6:30 start. Athletes are corralled into sections based on their predicted swim time (anywhere from 50min-2:20min cut off time). Gun goes off and the first pack dives in, churning the water and fighting for their spot to the first buoy. There is a constant flow of athletes entering the water setting out to what looks like a washing machine of seals rounding the lake.

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The course at Lake Placid is two loops of everything, two 1.2 mile loops in Mirror Lake for the swim, two 56 mile loops on the bike and two 13.1 mile loops on the run. This makes it very spectator friendly as we had more opportunities to see them coming in and out of town for each loop, which is also beneficial to the competitors as it gives them a chance to hear cheers from their family and friends and be encouraged by the loud uplifting music and atmosphere that the crowds give off. Jeff exited the water in an impressive 1:05, and I was able to cheer him on as he ran from the water into the transition area and off on the bike. Transitions are the time it takes going from one discipline to the next, in this case from the time he exits the swim, to the time he actually mounts his bike and is off for 112 miles. As a spectator at an Ironman, you must time out approximately when your athlete will pass certain points so that you don’t miss them!! I found this fun, running to different points on the course and trying to track just about when he would pass by. I was able to see him three times on the bike and almost 6 times on the run! Jeff’s mom continued to find the best places to get pictures of him, and Jeff’s dad and I set off to find the best spots to give him a high five!  Even though he was out there for 11 hours, the day went fast (for me at least!). I have never felt such excitement over a race that I wasn’t participating in, I even felt my eyes tear up a bit as his name was announced coming into the finish! (And I swear I am not that emotional of a gal!). See my favorite picture below. He was officially an IRONMAN, and outperformed even some of the most seasoned Ironman competitors there. Now time for an Ice bath, burger and beer!

After a long and grueling day, pushing through hours of physical and mental exhaustion, I realize how much more there was to this day then the actual race itself. The year of preparation to get here, the sacrifices and obstacles a lot of people had to overcome to cross the finish line. For Jeff, I know there were many weekends he would have preferred his usual summer routine of heading to the beach instead of sitting on a bike staring at the pavement for hours! But, that was part of the challenge, and will make all those beach days ahead even that much more enjoyable! To me, he is the ultimate definition of an IRONMAN, not just someone who completed 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running…but a true a jack of all trades, with extraordinary mental and physical strength. Its moments like this that become so empowering, and make you realize that if you just put your mind to it, you are capable of anything!

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