Monday, March 30, 2015

Biking really fast

This past Thursday I joined local cyclists for sprint night down at Hains Point.  It was a beautiful evening, nearly 70 degrees F.  After biking with legs, sleeves, jackets and gloves for so long it felt surreal to shed all the layers and go out only in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey.

I wasn't the only one taking advantage of the weather.  Almost 50 people showed up to ride laps around the circular loop!  Included in the group were some of the most elite cyclists in the DC area, the 1s and 2s, which significantly turned up the heat of the ride.  Not only was the weather hot, but the ride was spicy, too!

Having joined sprint night one time before, I had a general idea of what to expect.  K and I warm up for a couple of laps and then join the group.  The group rides at a moderate pace toward to the point, usually in a tight pack.  To conserve energy, I tuck in behind someone with broad shoulders and draft.  Once the group rounds the corner, the ride turns into a mad sprint down the back side, with riders leaving the pack to make their move with a long string of riders trailing them.  Police officers sometimes sit at the end of the sprint side, making sure we all come to a complete stop at stop signs (there are 3), so the middle section is mandatorily slow.

When K brought me to sprint night two weeks ago, I was able to maintain contact the group by pushing my way toward the front during the "easy" sections and holding on as best I could through the "sprint" sections, usually ending up at the back of the pack.  I tried the same method last night but, despite my determination, legs pumping, lungs burning, eyes watering, I was incapable of keeping up with the group through the sprint or the easy sections.

Why?  A strong SW wind made it difficult to move forward during the "easy" sections and the leaders sprinted faster than I am capable of going on the back stretch.

The leaders of the group were 1s and 2s, which is short for Category 1 and Category 2 bikers.  Apparently, there are 5 categories of bike racing and 1 is the highest.  Even my friend C, an accomplished cyclist, had a difficult time keeping up.  On the last lap, he saw the leaders take off and asked himself "should I sprint?"  But when he looked at his speedometer, he was already riding at 34 mph!  So he stepped it up to 34.5 mph.

If the front guys were biking at 35 mph, K imagines that I must have been going at least 30 mph.  OMG, no wonder I felt like I was going to die!

Joining K for sprint night is such a novelty.  I am a novice female cyclist who, despite being in decent shape from climbing, running and yoga, lacks bike training.  Biking with the guys is like playing a game where I know that I cannot win.  While that may seem discouraging, I find it motivating and fun.  There is no pressure to succeed or win because no one expects that from me.  Without the external pressure or expectation to perform, I am allowed to push myself as hard (or  as little) as I want to, which usually means I push harder.  Since no one explains the rules, I am forced to figure out etiquette by paying attention to hand gestures, whistles, and pack formations.  This keeps me alert and engaged.  Indeed, the moment I get complacent on the bike, I fall out of formation, miss the sprint, and have to work extra hard to rejoin the group.

I am one of maybe three women who join the guys and certainly the only woman crazy enough to try and keep up with the leaders. When not pushing my limits to keep up, I find myself smiling or laughing during these experiences because I find the scenario amusing.  On one hand, I feel like I am getting away with something, like sneaking into a bar before you turn 21.  On the other hand, I know that I know that I stick out like a sore thumb.  I'm sure the male cyclists, with their matching team jerseys, look at me in my unbranded biking clothes and wonder "who is this girl?" as they whiz past me at 35 mph.  But I don't care.  Like being at a concert, I can feel the energy of the group and it motivates me to bike faster.  With enough training, maybe someday I will be able to keep up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Can stress make me tired?

I've been feeling tired lately.  This seems weird to me because I've been sleeping at least 7 hours a night, usually 8 or 9.

Anytime I am not feeling 100%, I know that something in my life is "off."  It could be any number of factors, but the first thing I always suspect is my diet.  I worry that I am fatigued because my body is reacting to the foods I am eating in a negative way - either food sensitivities or too much inflammation in the body.  So, of course, the first plan I envision to "fix" my fatigue is to go on an elimination diet or an anti-inflammatory diet.

You know what they say: if all you have a is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, haha. 

However, when I told this to my boyfriend, K, he shook his head at me (in a compassionate way) and suggested that, perhaps, the reason I am tired is because, even thought I am sleeping enough, I am still working long hours and I am too hard on myself.  So I thought about what he said...

  • It's true that I was upset with myself last week when I failed to get out of bed at 7:30 each day, like I had planed (although I consistently rose by 8:30am, without alarm, each day) and because I didn't get as many items crossed of the "to do" list as I had hoped.
  • It's also true that I have been focusing on elimination and anti-inflammatory diets a lot lately.
    • My article on anti-inflammatory diets for rock climbers was published in the Sportrock Blog March 1, 2015.
    • I am halfway through Michelle Babb's book Anti-inflammatory Eating Made Easy: 75 Recipes and Nutrition Plan.
    • I am also studying to become a Certified LEAP Therapist (CLT), a program which focuses on eliminating foods, determined by MRT blood test, that cause an inflammatory response in the patient.
...and perhaps he is right.

I worked a staff shift at Sportrock tonight and had a blast.  I got to know co-workers, learned new behind-the-desk skills, I helped people, I sold a membership ($25 commission, yeah!) and I talked to some friends who came in to climb.  And I didn't feel tired once!  I even had enough energy when I clocked out at 9pm to go for a 5 mile run + stretching yoga + foam rolling!

Thinking more about what energizes me, I suspect that, although I am more of an introvert than an extrovert, I do need human interaction and external validation to feel my best.  Despite the low hourly wage, I will continue to work at Sportrock for opportunity for social interaction and immediate gratification.  It takes months to build a business, but only hours to memorize the directions to the gym and how much each membership costs.

I never considered how challenging it would be to go into private practice.  There are SO many tasks to complete when you are the only employee.  I play the role of founder, owner, CEO, CFO, secretary, insurance biller, bookkeeper, head of marketing and development, etc.  No wonder I am tired - I have to keep track of all of the details for all these positions and keep all the balls rolling in the right direction.  Phew, it's a mind workout for sure!

I am grateful for the the loving support of my friends and family (especially K) who prevent me from becoming a work-a-holic by asking me to hang out (climb, lunch, etc) and reminding me to take time for myself, too.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Solution for Breakfast

I am almost never hungry when I first wake up.  I enjoy drinking tea, but solid food is just not that appetizing.  However, as someone who pays close attention to my body, I know that breakfast helps jump start my metabolism.  I also know that, if I don't eat, I will be *starving* by 10am.  Usually, I force myself to eat breakfast shortly after I wake up so I can make it until lunch, around noon, without eating.  Today, I did something different and it was *magical*.

I woke up at 7:30am and made myself a cup of green tea.  Instead of cooking breakfast, I cut up a kiwi and peeled a Cara Cara orange (citrus is currently in season) to nibble on.  As predicted, I was *ravenous* by 10am.  Thankfully, I am working from home today and was able to return to the kitchen and cook myself a full plate of sautéed baby kale, 2 eggs over easy, a slice of Canadian bacon, and a small stack of gluten-free pancakes with berries and full-fat yogurt on the side.  I *crushed* the food, enjoying every single bit with reckless abandon.

Today is a good food day.

look how yellow those yolks are!  Darker color = more nutrients :)

I love eggs over easy with the gooey center; it's like dressing for my kale!

Friday, March 6, 2015

When you can't climb, run!

Update: I didn't crush hard last Friday like I thought I would.  I actually felt pretty tired and ended up climbing easy and moderate routes.  The same thing happened this past Monday night; I led some 5.10s but struggled to climb 5.11s cleanly.  The mere thought of trying a 5.12 was laughable.  In fact, I'm still shaking my head about it.

I find that, as I get older, I need more rest time in between hard workouts.  This doesn't equate to rest days, per se, but instead requires staggering workouts to allow muscle groups more time to rest.  Although I have desire to climb three days a week every week, I think it might be better to limit to 2 days/week.  On the days when I am not climbing, I plan run, do yoga or strength training.

Thankfully, K had a work event on Wednesday which cinched my decision to give my fingers and shoulders break from climbing.  Instead, I went on a foggy afternoon run.  Starting around 3:30pm, I got in 6 miles and made it home before the rain started (which later turned into snow, shutting down the Federal gov't on Thursday).  Having run a total of 4 miles in the previous 3 weeks, my legs were super fresh and full of glycogen.  I felt so good that I surprised myself by running two 8-minute pace miles in the middle, which was very satisfying after so many weak-sauce climbing sessions.  Despite my ability to run a decent pace without much training, I can tell that I am out of running shape because my quads were sore next day.  Which, to be honest, only motivates me to want to run more and get back into running shape.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to choose a grocery store: My thoughts on Trader Joe's and Whole Foods

Whenever I move to a new area, one of the first things I do is figure out where to purchase my groceries.  Factors that influence my decision include
  • Distance from my house - How long does it take to get there by car? by bike? walking?
  • Ease of use  - How big is the store? is it organized logically?
  • Availability  - Do they stock the items I want to purchase?
  • Quality - Does the produce look fresh?  do they offer grass-fed meat and dairy?  Pastured eggs?
  • Price - How do the store's prices compare to nearby competitor prices?
Living near Old Town Alexandria, my favorite places to shop include Trader Joe's (612 N St. Asaph St) and Whole Foods (1700 Duke St).

I appreciate Trader Joe's for the excellent prices and ease of use.  Trader Joe's is a smaller store which requires less time to walk through.  If you know what you want, you can get in and get out very quickly.  Trader Joe's doesn't offer the variety of a bigger, conventional grocery stores but, for what they lack in variety, they make up for it in price.  A package of Gimme Organic seaweed snacks costs $1.99 at Whole Foods. Trader Joe's sells a similar product for $0.99.

Seaweed offers many healthful nutrients, including iodine, vitamin K, and calcium.

I shop at Trader Joe's for staple items like olive oil, canned beans, broth (vegetable, chicken), maple syrup, blue corn chips (so much lighter in texture and flavor than WF brand), regular cheese, bagged lettuce (my favorite is the Wild Arugula), bananas, organic carrots and celery, baby portobello mushrooms, precooked beets (so easy to add to salad), Applegate deli meat, hummus, and frozen fruit.

The high fat / medium protein + medium fiber / low sugar content
make these dark chocolate covered almonds a low glycemic snack

One downside to shopping at Trader Joe's is the temptation to try the plentiful processed or packaged foods such as their Triple Gingersnaps.  The only specialty item I allow myself to purchase is the Dark Belgian chocolate covered almonds, made with 73% Cacao and only six other ingredients (provides 5g protein, 5 g fiber, only 9 g sugar per 1/4 cup serving).  The other downside is how crazy busy it gets during rush hour.  I will NEVER choose to shop at Trader Joe's on a Sunday (10am - 4pm) or right after work (i.e weekdays around 5pm).

I might shop at Trader Joe's exclusively if they didn't have such a limited selection.  When I go grocery shopping, I usually have to make two stops - one at Trader Joe's and a second at Whole Foods.

Whole Foods offers a high-quality shopping experience - from the handsome store layout to the thoughtful consideration they put into procurement of each and every one of their offerings.  Many complain that Whole Foods is expensive - but you get a hassle-free environment offering a wide selection of quality foods.  As an example, Whole Foods is the only place I can find Snowville Creamery milk.  Reading the label, this milk comes from grass grazed cows fed only non-GMO feed & forage.

According to Jennifer Adler in her new book Passionate Nutrition: A Guide to Using Food as Medicine fro a Nutritionist Who Healed Herself From the Inside Out (Sasquatch Books, 2014), "because of bioaccumulation, or the accumulation of a substance in a living organism, organic meat and dairy give you the biggest bang for your buck.  Over its lifetime, a 1,000 pound cow consumes far more pesticides (which are added to its feed) than a carrot or strawberry would be capable of absorbing.  A study in Israel found that when people consumed organic meat and dairy, they reduced their exposure to certain estrogen-related pesticides by 98 percent."

Whole foods is my favorite place to purchase meats, dairy, eggs, and seafood because it is easy to find options that are grass-fed, pastured and wild caught.  I also tend to buy fresh produce items like apples, ginger, kale and broccolini (a.k.a. tender baby broccoli) because it is likely to be local and/or fresher.