Monday, April 3, 2017

The Best Veggie Burger

Now that I've been plant-based for about 10 years, it's fair to say I've had my fair share of veggie burgers.  They are one of the easiest meat-free meals to make and are usually well-received by vegans and non-vegans alike.  It's been a little while since I've made a veggie burger (cause I've been mainly living off of a variety of bean & vegetable-based soups & stews) and when I went the local organic co-op, I was amazed at how many brands of veggie burgers they had that I had never tried!  I got the great idea of buying a bunch of them, cooking a different one every night, and doing a taste & nutrition comparison.  I cooked all of them in a small amount of olive oil in a skillet and served them on a 100% whole wheat sprouted bun with melted Chao "cheese", lettuce, and ketchup, served with baked sweet potato fries.  The winner of this mouth-watering experiment was.....

Sweet Earth Natural Foods Santa Fe Veggie Burger
This hefty burger had FLAVOR and a fantastic texture!!!  It was crispy on the outside, had a chewy mouthfeel, and was slightly spicy.  I credit the texture to the first ingredient being vital wheat gluten, the protein portion of wheat from which seitan is made.  Seitan is a meat-alternative with a texture similar to turkey.  Another plus about this burger was the ingredients - all whole natural foods, no protein isolates.  Additionally, it's not high in fat, with only 5 grams per burger.  I don't have anything bad to say about it - it was absolutely delicious and I highly recommend adding it to your shopping cart.

The silver medal goes to Hilary's veggie burgers .  I've had her adzuki bean burger and black rice burger and enjoyed both!  They are made from whole food ingredients, but just have slightly more fat than the Sweet Earth Burger.  In taking a peek at the website, it looks like there's a lot more exciting products to try including a spicy veggie sausage!

And finally, the last burger to make the podium, HODO Soy Tofu Veggie Burgers.  These were a slight departure from the typical veggie burger, in that the main ingredient is tofu.  This resulted in a texture similar to fried tofu or to a Boca "chicken" patty.  If you are looking for your veggie burger to imitate meat, then this is not the burger for you.  However, I enjoyed the (mild) taste and appreciate that it was made from whole natural ingredients, no protein isolates.

Honorable mention would have to go to Boca Burgers (make sure you get the Original Vegan if you are 100% plant-based).  Boca burgers are a good staple to keep in the freezer; they produce a healthy satisfying meal, but nothing to write home about.

Lastly, the two veggie burgers that I am not a big fan of are Lightlife Smart Patties Black Bean Burger and Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties.  The Lightlife patties didn't have much flavor to them and they had a gummy texture.  They also contain protein isolate and other non-whole-food ingredients.  The Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties simply taste too greasy to me and they leave my mouth feeling like a paper towel that had potato chips sitting on it.

Clearly, these are not the only veggie burgers out there and there are tons of delicious (and nutritious) recipes for home-made veggie/bean burgers.  What is your favorite veggie burger?


Here's a nutritional breakdown of these burgers for those who are interested:

Sweet Earth Natural Foods Santa Fe Burger
Calories - 230
Fat - 5g
Sodium - 360 mg
Carbs - 31g
Protein - 17g
Ingredients:  vital wheat gluten, sweet potato, millet, brown rice, peppers, barley, quinoa, brown rice flour, black beans, corn, chipotle sauce, ginger, kombu, garlic, tomato puree, yellow onion, brown rice syrup, ancho chili pepper, chipotle peppers, canola oil, white vinegar, evaporated cane juice, flax seeds, celery, carrots, anaheim chili peppers, jalapeño, lime juice, hickory smoke, nutritional yeast, pumpkin seeds, expeller pressed canola oil, agave, cilantro, celery seed, smoked paprika, cinnamon, oregano, spices

Hilary's Adzuki Bean Burger
Calories - 180
Fat - 7g
Sodium - 270 mg
Carbs - 25g
Protein - 4g
Ingredients: millet, adzuki beans, quinoa, expellar pressed coconut oil, onion, sweet potatoes, green chilies, salt, psyllium husk powder, arrowroot, apple cider vinegar, cumin, garlic, chili pepper, oregano, lime juice

HODO Soy Tofu Veggie Burgers
Calories - 200
Fat - 9g
Sodium - 400 mg
Carbs - 11g
Protein - 19g
Ingredients:  organic tofu, carrots, cabbage, onions, soybean oil, salt, dried shiitake mushroom, garlic powder, white pepper

Boca Burgers
Calories - 70
Fat - 0.5g
Sodium - 280 mg
Carbs - 6g
Protein - 13g
Ingredients:  water, soy protein concentrate, wheat gluten, methyl cellulose, salt, caramel color, dried onions, yeast extract, sesame oil, hydrolyzed wheat protein, natural and artificial flavor, disocium guanylate, disodium inositate

Lightlife Smart Patties
Calories - 100
Fat - 2.5g
Sodium - 330 mg
Carbs - 11g
Protein - 10g
Ingredients:  water, textured soy flour, cooked black beans, natural flavors, soy protein isolate, soy sauce, tapioca starch, cellulose gum, soybean and sunflower oils, spices, dried onions, dried garlic, salt, cane sugar, caramel color, paprika oleoresin

Don Lee Farms Veggie Patties
Calories - 160
Fat - 7g
Sodium - 390 mg
Carbs - 21g
Protein - 4g
Ingredients:  sweet potatoes, onions, celery, spinach, brown rice flour, egg whites, sunflower seeds, soybean oil, sea salt, spices

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dealing With An Injury Close To A Race

While an injury can send an endurance athlete down a gradual spiral of doom and gloom, an injury with a race on the immediate horizon is categorically apocalyptic.

When I first felt a little bit of an ache in my right Achilles tendon I did what any other athlete would do - I ignored it and hoped it would go away.  I'm not very injury-prone and I figured it would work itself out.  However, 1-2 weeks went by and it was slowly getting worse, not better.  The next weekend I set out on a 20 mile run and my Achilles immediately started barking.  But, I otherwise felt so good physically, that I kept going and ran the entire thing at a good pace (it actually felt easy, that's how fit I was getting!)  Needless to say that really pissed off my Achilles and it was swollen the next day.  I had to face the fact that I had an injury a mere 11 weeks out from Ironman Texas.  I saw a sports med doc and he informed me that healing Achilles tendonitis is a slow process because the area is not very vascular.  NOT what I wanted to hear.  He did give me some ideas and I have been:

*Icing every night
*Wearing compression socks to bed
*Using anti-inflammatory patches during the day
*Putting a turmeric paste on it
*Doing calf raises to stretch & strengthen at the same time
*Using my Compex on my calf and foot

I also bought some KT tape today and plan to start taping it.  Another friend suggested alternating between soaking my foot in a bucket of ice water w/ a bucket of hot water on 2-minute rotations.  I'm even going to try my coach's "magic smoothie" tomorrow which she swears promotes faster recovery, though it doesn't sound very appetizing to me, hence I've been avoiding it:

Sharon's Magic Recovery Smoothie
V8 juice (8 oz)
Spinach or other greens
Turmeric (1 tsp)
Ginger (1 tsp grated)
Nutritional Yeast (2 Tbsp)
Pepper (dash)
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Beet (1/4 - 1/2 of a whole)

I'm trying to stay positive but it's so difficult.  I'm trying to tell myself that this is allowing me to focus on improving my cycling and swimming (which are both getting better).  But it still doesn't change the fact that I haven't run in over 2 weeks and will be running a full marathon in 9 weeks! Couch to marathon program anyone?

So, what else can I do????  What has worked for you?  Any suggestions to heal this thing quicker or strategies for mentally coping with an injury this close to the race would be greatly appreciated!

On a lighter note, I rode an awesome century today with 135 amazing local cyclists from Pensacola to the Battleship in Mobile AL and back.  Some pics from the day :)

Pre-Ride Pep Talk
Aid Station #1
Turnaround Point!

Zoot Teamies!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Race Report: Ironman Cozumel 2016

Chock full of mental, emotional, and physical challenges, Ironman Cozumel was truly an unforgettable experience!  This race exceeded my expectations and I would recommend it to anyone!

Pretty much the moment I finished IM Chattanooga 2015, I started planning for IM Cozumel 2016.  My goal was to qualify for Kona (spoiler alert - that did not even come close to happening).  For various reasons I didn't put in nearly enough training hours or intensity to fully prepare for this race.  Note that his had nothing to do with my coach Sharon, who is awesome - if I had done half of what she prescribed for me I'd probably have a ticket booked to Hawaii right now.  Regardless, Sharon, her husband Matt, my parents, and myself all booked flights and a sick VRBO right on the beach in a gated community on the island.  The race happened to coincide with my dad's birthday and Thanksgiving weekend so the whole trip was going to be one big celebration of triathlon and life.

Unfortunately, as the race got closer, my grandma fell ill.  I spent a lot of time with her and my grandpa growing up and have so many amazing memories of us together.  She was literally the best grandma I could have ever wanted or asked for.  We were close.  About a week prior to the trip her health continued to deteriorate and my parents cancelled their trip.  I rerouted mine and flew up to VA to see her before the race.  She was very frail and unable to eat or drink much at all.  Though she didn't look at all like the grandma of my childhood she still had the same spirit.  As soon as she saw me she said, "Tara!  What are you doing here?  What about your race???"  I hated it for her that she felt so terrible.  I wished there was something I could do to help her feel better.  I felt conflicted about going to Cozumel, but my mom and grandma both wanted me to go, and I did.

I was so thankful to be staying with Sharon and Matt in Mexico - thank you both for being amazing friends to me and the perfect company in a time when I had such an odd combination of feelings and thoughts in my mind.  I was a mixture of guilty for going on the trip (especially since my parents were not), sad about my grandma, happy to be there with friends I haven't seen in a long time, a part of me was excited to race, and then I also felt guilty about being excited about racing.  It was confusing sometimes.   And then the day before the race I got news that my grandma had passed away.  I felt some relief for her that she wasn't suffering any more and I also felt a lot more sadness. I decided I would dedicate this race to her.

The Swim (2.4 miles) - 1:09:44 (1:39/100 yds)
One of the reasons I picked IM Coz is because the swim is supposed to have a current the entire way. Plus, I figured I'd be more buoyant in the salt water.  And, as an added bonus, visibility is 100% so you can see coral, fish, and avoid swimming into other swimmers.  The start was a self-seeded rolling start.  I'm a huge fan of these because it brings the chaos level of mass starts down a bunch of notches.  I didn't feel the current like I thought I would.  In fact, I almost felt like I was being pushed in towards the shore from incoming waves.  From speaking with people after the race, it seems like the general consensus was that there wasn't much of a current the first half and then it picked up for the second half of the swim.  Hard to say for sure, but overall the swim was enjoyable.  It did feel long and I was disappointed to see that I had been swimming for over 1 hour when I got out of the water.
T1 - 5:14
I wore a full piece Zoot trisuit so didn't have to waste time changing in T1.  The suit was very comfortable (and aero) on the swim and on the bike!  In fact, I'm super excited to be racing for the Southeast Zoot Team in 2017!

The Bike (112 miles) - 5:50:42 (19.2 mph)
The bike is what I had been anxiously anticipating all summer.  Exactly how bad were the winds going to be???  Well, for the first two laps they weren't all that terrible.  Nothing worse than what I had trained in in Pensacola.  I was never afraid that I'd be pushed off the bike and was never out of control (FYI the depth of my rims was 50 mm).  I was still averaging around 18 mph during the 15-mile stretch of headwinds on the back side of the island.  I felt pretty good and at 4 hours into the ride I was at 80 miles - sweet 20 mph average!  Then things got significantly more difficult.  My neck started hurting really badly.  Holding my head up to look forward was SO painful but I knew looking down would negate the advantage of wearing an aero helmet and that it was also dangerous b/c of scattered water bottles on the course.  As soon as I made the turn into the wind on that 3rd loop it was the start of 15 miles of misery.  The wind had gotten a LOT stronger.  I tried not to look at my Garmin, but I did at one point I was going 12 mph!  Demoralizing!  I wanted to sit up and get out of the aero position so badly because it was so hard to pedal and because my neck was killing me.  However, this was the most important part of the course to stay aero.  I saw a lot of people sitting up and you could tell this part of the course was crushing people - mentally and physically.  What got me through that 15 miles was thinking about my grandma and talking to her and remembering all the times we had together.

T2 - 4:27
When I got off the bike my legs hurt so bad, I could barely walk into T2.  I wondered how in the world I was going to run.  I felt like this was a bad sign b/c last year at Chattanooga as soon as I got off the bike I felt better and had a spring in my step.  This year, my legs just felt HEAVY.  And I felt really nauseous.

The Run (26.2 miles) - 4:24:19 (10:05/mi)
As soon as I started running a woman in my age group passed me.  That usually doesn't happen on the run and was frustrating.  I tried to tell myself to just go at a comfortable pace and then hopefully my legs would warm into it and my stomach would come around.  Unfortunately the opposite of that happened, the more I ran the worse my stomach felt, the more my legs hurt, and the slower I was going.  I went to the porta potty twice, hoping it would alleviate my issues, but it was to no avail.  Nothing seemed appealing in terms of food or drink - I even tried drinking some Coke (a chemical sh*t storm) but it was not my friend.  I was debating in my head whether I could keep going and when my friend told me I was in 7th place in my AG, I gave into the my body's cries to walk.  This was my biggest mistake.  The greatest lesson I learned from this race was DO NOT WALK ON THE RUN.  Trust me, you will regret it.  I started walking and felt pretty dejected about it.  I also started thinking about everything else that was going on and in that state all my emotions came to the surface.  At that moment, Iron Bob caught up to me and started walking w/ me.  I was so thankful for his company and after 4 miles I felt my spirits and physical ailments lifted!  It was too late to race for a place on the podium, but it wasn't too late to enjoy the rest of the race and finish that b*tch!  I crossed the finish line w/ a smile on my face and really proud of myself for finishing the race despite all the challenges I had faced.  I know I would have made my grandma proud.

Total Time - 11:34:26 (9th AG)
I finished over an hour later than I was hoping to, but was elated to finish.  I was even more excited when they immediately handed me a fresh coconut with a straw in it - yum!  As I was recovering, a man and his young daughter came up to me and he said "My daughter and I live on the island but she has never seen the race before - can she get her picture taken with an Ironman?"  Seeing her smile after I said yes and gave her the rose they gave me when I crossed the finish line is one of my favorite memories from the race :)  

I know it was a really tough day out there for a lot of people and it was so good to see so many familiar faces out there on the course:  Sharon, Matt, Tricia, John, Charlie, Iron Bob, Misty, Erin, Sami, and Elizabeth - every time I saw you guys it helped me persevere!

The last thing I have to say about this race is that the organization was impeccable and the volunteers were AMAZING!  I really felt like the entire island supported the race and everyone came out to cheer the athletes on.  Basically Cozumel was totally devoted to Ironman that whole day!  The result was a first class race experience in a paradise destination location.  If you ever have a  chance to do this race, jump on it!

Sharon, Matt, and I spent a couple days after the race exploring the island and then I flew back to VA for my grandma's funeral.  It felt good to be around family and we celebrated her life and the amazing person that she was.  I still miss her and I know I always will.  However, my overwhelming feeling now is gratitude that she was in my life and unconditionally loved me for the last 34 years.

Looking forward to 2017, I have a really good and positive feeling about everything.  I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally strong.  I can just tell that it's going to be a great year and I know that nothing is going to stop me from getting to Kona.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

T - 1 Month Until Cozumel!!!!

Wow, I can't believe there's only 1 month until my next Ironman!!!  When I signed up for IM Cozumel a year ago with the intention of trying to qualify for Kona after missing it by 10 minutes at IM Chattanooga, it seemed like I had so much time to train and get faster.  And yet somehow the race is about to be here and I didn't put in the hours I shoulda coulda woulda...  

Pool I've been swimming in.  Yes, the lane ropes are about 4 inches under water and no, there is no black line on the bottom or black T on the walls.  Flip turn at your own risk!
I've managed to put together some decent training the last couple months, but still only been averaging about 12.5 hours/week.   I've done a handful of 4000+ yd swims.  I've done five hundos, including one 112 miler on the bike in the past 2 months.  I've been struggling on my long runs a bit and not sure why.  Although, I finally had a good 20 mile run yesterday off of a 1 hour bike.  So maybe things are slowing coming together as best they can.  Another good sign for me on the run was that I raced the Pensacola Perfect 10 Miler last weekend untapered and finished in 1 hour 7 min (6:45 pace).  
Use the code "martine6" to get 15% off of your BeetPerformer at
I am really looking forward to this trip and will go as fast as I can on race day.  Hopefully I feel good and the heat and wind aren't too terrible (though I'm expecting the worst).  I've got 2 more weeks of work and then taper.  I also really cleaned up my diet 2 weeks ago and I can tell it's starting to make a real difference in my physique, the way I feel during training, and how quickly I'm recovering.  I swear it seems like I don't even need as much sleep as I used to!  Here's an example of a typical day of my diet that I've been doing for the last 2 weeks and plan to continue until I reach Mexico at which point it going to be a rice & beans bonanza!  

*Old-fashioned oatmeal (1 cup dry) cooked w/ 1 Tbsp peanut butter, cinnamon, & 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed over top 1 cup thawed frozen blueberries, topped with 1/2 cup strawberries
*8 oz orange juice
*1 medium banana
*Coffee w/ 1/4 cup soy milk

*Lara bar  - blueberry muffin flavor
*1 medium red delicious apple

*Baked potato (1 medium)
*Salad:  2 cups mixed greens, 1 cup cooked quinoa, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 cup carrots, 1/2 cup kidney beans, 1/4 cup walnuts, 1 Tbsp raisins

*1 banana
*1 fruit squeeze pouch (Happy Squeeze Organic Superfoods - Apple/Kale/Mango flavor)

*Baked sweet potato (1 medium)
*Salad:  2 cups mixed greens, 1 cup brown rice, 4 Campari tomatoes, 1/2 cup cucumber, 2 Tbsp lime juice, 1/2 cup black beans, 1/2 cup corn, 15 grapes

*2 kiwi
*1 banana
*4 oz blackberry, blueberry, acai juice

All of this totals to about 3000 calories and:
*590 grams carbohydrates (~78% total calories and 10.5 grams per kg body weight)
*78 g protein (~10% of total calories and 1.4 grams per kg body weight)
*55 g fat (~16% total calories)
*85 grams fiber
A new and exciting Lara bar flavor!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Race Report: Santa Rosa Island (SRI) Triathlon 2016

I've done 2 races and a moderate amount of training since my last blog.  I'll do a super sprint update on these 3 things then update you on the race I did today SRI Tri and the drama that went down... (if you want to skip straight to the drama scroll down to the third to last paragraph).

1.  2016 Pensacola Beach Triathlon (300 yd swim, 10 mi bike, 3.1 mi run).  This race went really well - my parents were in town and I was the first overall female finisher!  :)

Swim - 4:07 (1:22/100 yds)
T1 - 1:35
Bike - 27:21 (21.9 mph)
T2 - 0:39
Run - 20:04 (6:42/mi)
Total Time - 53:46

2.  Ironman Raleigh 70.3 (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run).  This race was also a lot of fun, but I rode on my 2003 Bianchi road bike, the first skinny tire bike I ever owned.  It was good to me, but not as speedy as the IA.  It was hot n' hilly!

Swim - 39:13 (1:51/100 yds)
T1 - 2:19
Bike - 2:52:26 (19.49 mph)
T2 - 2:34
Run - 1:40:02 (7:38/mi)
Total Time - 5:16:34 (9th AG)

3.  My training the last 5 months has been very sporadic.  I'll have a week where things go well and I do 15 hours and then a week at 6 hours, then one at 10, and so on.  I have been struggling to maintain motivation to train which is really unusual for me.  I think it has been due to stress, lack of sleep, & fatigue.  My coach forced me to take 3 days off in a row to help regain the desire to train.  It somewhat helped.  I feel like I've turned a corner, albeit probably too late.  I only have about 2 months left to IM Cozumel and I feel like I was in WAY better shape last year when I was 2 months out of Chattanooga.  All I can do stick to the training plan from here on out...and I think I feel motivated to do that, perhaps motivated by fear of what it will feel like to race 140.6 miles if I don't start training more!

On to the good news - SRI Tri!  This is one of the biggest local races in Pensacola, sponsored by Gulf Coast Cycle & Tri.  I was on the fence about racing it d/t #3 above and the fact that when I have been training I have not been doing the type of training required to do well in a sprint.

Swim (600 yds) - 10:22 (1:44/100 yds) race time [9:11 as per my Garmin (1:23/100 yds)]
The swim was a TT start, with athletes running into the Gulf two by two every 5 seconds.  I was number 482, so there were 481 swimmers in the water ahead of me, which meant total chaos especially around the buoys.  Despite this, I managed to navigate the crazy pretty well.  I felt strong and was able to sight the buoys easily.  I saw a jellyfish as big as my head after I turned the first buoy and that freaked me out a little.  Did some dolphin diving in/out of the water (thanks Courtney for the idea!) and I could tell I was ahead of most women when I exited the water and started running up the beach to T2.

T2 - 0:55 [2:18 as per Garmin since I pressed the button before going over timing mat]
Bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, go.

Bike (18 miles) - 48:59 (22 mph) race time [Garmin recorded 18.5 miles and 22.7 avg]
18 miles is a long bike for a sprint!  I was worried the longer distance would cost me because I have been losing time to stronger cyclists in recent races.  But, my legs felt great and I was riding strong into the headwind on the outbound leg of the course.  There were TONS of people on the course so had to weave in and out of them before it cleared up on the way back.  Ohhh the way back - we had a slight tail/cross wind and I was passing people, including guys!!!  This hardly ever happens!  It was pretty exciting and no women had passed me (I passed a few of them).  I felt like I was doing well and enjoyed seeing 24-25 mph when I looked down at my Garmin.  I only broke aero at the turnaround and over a section of cobblestone driveway.  My Felt IA was doing it's thang.

T2 - 0:48 [same on the Garmin]
Running shoes, race belt, visor, go.

Run (3.1 mi) - 19:37 (6:20/mi) [same on the Garmin].
I popped off the bike and got into a good rhythm early on the run. I held steady 6:20's the entire way and felt pretty good.  Was pleasantly surprised.  I saw the two women who registered as Elites ahead of me and who had started at the very beginning of the swim line, but that was it so I figured I was probably in the lead for amateurs!

Total Time - 1:20:38 (1st Female Finisher, 10th overall finisher)
Turns out I beat the two women who registered as elites and came in first!  I was pretty psyched, especially because there was a $1000 prize for 1st overall female.  My teammates and I were sitting under the tent and talking about if I would win the money or not since I had placed first overall.  The woman pro who finished about 10 sec behind me piped up and said "Well since the prize purse is less than $5000 the money is open to anyone, but I won."  My teammate said to her, "Did you check the results?"  She admitted that she had not and then crankily said, "Well I finished in 1 hour 20 minutes."  I said, "Well so did I!"  She then started changing her tune and said that in fact only she and the other woman in the Elite wave were eligible for the money.  A referee came over and we asked him about it.  He said that because the prize purse was under $5000, anyone was eligible for the money.  The "elite" wave was just another category, like any other category in the race, e.g. athena, clydesdale, 30-34 female.  The pro got mad and walked away.  When they did awards, the race director awarded her the $1000; and awarded the other "elite" $350 who I had beat by 4+ minutes.  They didn't award the $150 for third to anyone (nor did they award any money on the men's side).  I asked the RD afterward if that had in fact been a mistake.  (Not to mention that the owner of the shop I race for, GCCT had gone up to the RD the morning of the race and asked if I could be moved into the Elite wave (as simple as a few clicks on a computer mouse).  The RD said no, that I would have had to have won some big races...I guess B2B half and Savannah marathon and 3rd place AG in IM Chattanooga last year aren't good enough.  The Race Director told me that ultimately the decision was his and in his race he only gives out money to those racing in the elite wave and in order to race in the elite wave you have to have a pro license or be approved by him.  I posted a query about this on Slowtwitch (because of course that's where you find the answers to all triathlon questions) and the consensus seems to be that if prize purse is <$5K, then it's at the RD's discretion.  Needless to say it was kind of a bummer and my mind had already gone to thinking about using the money to buy a ticket to NC to cheer on all the people I know racing at Ironman North Carolina in a few weeks!

Ok, that was me ranting for a minute and I'm not going to dwell on that anymore.  Overall, it was a great day!  I had an awesome race, which felt good because it gives me a few shreds of confidence going into Ironman Cozumel.  It was great to see everyone out there, especially my GCCT teammates - congrats to everyone on a great race!  I also walked away with a really cool prize.  It's a 3-foot tall hand-carved wooden totem!  I mean, how sweet is this?!?!:

Lastly, a huge shout out and thank you to Beet Performer!  I drank a can of BeetPerformer beet juice every day this week and 1 can about an hour prior to race start.  I think it was a big reason why I was able to perform well today!  To save 15% on your order of BeetPerformer through Amazon, use code "Martine6."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Race Report: NOLA 70.3 2016

First things first - I'm SO happy to say that I'm on a new triathlon team!!!  My very first day as a resident of Pensacola I went to Gulf Coast Cycle & Tri and I was super impressed with the shop, the inventory, the friendliness of the staff, and the knowledge of the mechanics.  Not to mention that the first thing I saw was this bad a$$ Felt IA hanging in the window, beckoning me to go inside:

Turns out the tri team members are just as awesome as the shop, so I jumped at the chance to race w/ this crew!  We're working on a team blog so stay tuned...

So, NOLA, my first race of the 2016 tri season and I really wanted to do well so I could justify my spot on the new team.  I haven't been training excessively (as is required to improve in triathlon), but I still expected to finish this race within 5-5.5 hours.  Instead of the sweet taste of victory I was left savoring the flavor of humble pie.

I anticipated that this race was going to be windy.  It was so windy when I did this race back in 2011 that there were waves in Lake Pontchartrain and they wound up canceling the swim.  Since then, the swim has been moved to the marina, but winds were 20+ mph, creating white caps on the water.  Allison & I were in the same wave and when we got to the front of the dock they told us to jump in after the sound of the beep.  The beep went off and like an old reflex from summer swim team I dove into the water - crap I thought, did I just get DQ'ed?!?!  The swim felt like swimming in the ocean.  There was a lot of chop and some people were definitely panicking.  I swallowed some water (but no used sanitary hygiene products - thanks Mike for putting that thought into my head).  I tried to steer clear of other swimmers and focus on staying as true to course as possible.  I knew that it was going to take extra effort to get through this one, so the less extra yardage I added on d/t poor navigation, the better.  I didn't do a terrible job, especially given the weird "N"-shaped course!

I finished the swim in 37:42 (1:47/100 yds).  Had the water been flat, I would have been looking for closer to 1:35/100 yds, but exiting the swim I felt pleased with that split.  I've been swimming twice per week at a masters group at the NAS Pensacola and this was a good result for the work I've put in.

I got out on the bike course and it was ridiculously windy.  I was thankful that Allison, Aaron, & I had ridden the day before because it boosted my confidence about my handling skills.  In the past the wind has been a real nemesis for me.  I have ridden a few 70.3s on the handlebars the entire time b/c I was scared to ride in the aero position.  However, not today!  Today I put that fear to rest.  There were times when I was going super slow and times when I got surprised by powerful side gusts, but I was confident I wasn't going to get blown over.  I made a point to make sure to eat on schedule; I figured other people would probably forget to eat d/t battling with the wind and that it could give me a leg up later on in the race.  I started getting into a pretty good groove and was catching some of the 25-29ers and a few women in my age group - fantastic!  However, when I was about 5 miles from the turnaround I started getting some unbearable pain in my upper hamstring/groin/muscles around the sit bones on both legs.  I've experienced this before in flat windy races, particularly when riding into a headwind, but have never been able to figure out what to do about it.  It got so bad that I was wincing with every up-stroke and started tearing up a little bit.  I tried sitting up, getting out of the saddle, shifting my weight forward and backwards on the saddle but nothing helped.  I stopped at the turnaround and figured I would try to walk it out/stretch it out because it had become too painful to keep going.  I want to make it clear that it was not a muscle cramp.  The only way I can describe it is that it felt like complete muscular fatigue.  But the frustrating thing was that it was muscular fatigue of those specific muscles - I wasn't tired, my quads & hamstrings were fine, my heart rate wasn't out of control.

I pulled over to the side after going over the timing mat and tried to get off my bike.  Lifting my leg up caused me so much pain that I had to try a few times before I could lift my leg over the saddle of the bike.  An official came over to me and I told him what was going on.  He said, "Well you're not going to throw the towel in now are you?  You still have plenty of time before the cutoff."  Oh wow thanks.  Just what I was hoping for - to make it in before the cutoff.  I hobbled around and tried to stretch, while all the while masses of people were passing me.  I was so frustrated and pissed off that this was happening and in so much pain I started debating quitting.  "If I keep going, I know my time is going to be bad and my new team is going to think I'm a slowpoke." "But if I don't keep going and I DNF they'll think I'm a wussy with a capital P."  I weighed a lot of pros (no more pain) and cons (having to tell people I quit) and about 30 minutes later decided to get back on the bike.  It still hurt like a biatch.  I rode another couple miles and pulled off to the side again, so angry that my body was not holding up and all these other people were whizzing by me.  I was mad that I finally had the confidence to ride in the wind and I couldn't even show it.

Again I took a few tries to dismount the bike and I walked it over to two police offers and said, "I think I have to stop."  They called in a car to come pick me up and told me it would be a while.  I leaned my bike up against their car and kept trying to walk and stretch it out, all the while feeling sorry for myself that the race was coming to an end like this.  About 15 min or so went by and I'm in the middle of wallowing in self-pity when a dude rides by with 1 arm.  Seriously!?!? That was it.  I didn't care if I had to ride back at 10 mph, I was going to finish this damn race.  Here I was out on the course on a nice day, doing a supported ride, in the middle of a race of the sport I love to do, healthy, alive, and nothing to complain about other than #triathleteproblems.  Witnessing this amazing athlete hit me like a gale and my ego blew away in the wind along side all the discarded gel wrappers and abandoned water bottles.  I told the cops to cancel the car and got back on my bike.  I figured at worst I could coast most of the way back since the wind was so strong (24 mph as per Garmin Connect).  I started out really slowly, but then it seemed like I was able to start putting a little more force into the pedals.    I clocked a few 5-mi splits that were 22-23 and I knew I could make it back to transition.  My focused changed to turning the race into a hard training day.  I caught up to the incredible athlete and told him how much he had inspired me to finish the race.  He said, "It's been a tough day out here for everyone, but we're almost there now!"  I thanked him and may or may not have started crying a little as I pushed on towards T2.  When I got there I noticed that 99.9% of all the bikes were back on the racks.
My official bike split was 3:42:05 (15.13 mph).  Had I not had issues, I think I would have been somewhere around 3 hours, but who really knows...

The muscles around my sit bones really hurt when I first started running.  But, I knew from past experiences that the motion of running has never made this issue worse.  I was running a little gingerly the first 2 miles.  I stopped at a porta potty at mile 1 and a volunteer jumped ahead of me - this normally would have made me mad, but I just figured getting angry at this point would be much to do about nothing.  Around the second mile I was able to pick up the pace and enjoy the full benefits of the massive tailwind.  I could tell people were really struggling on the way back and mentally prepared for 6.5 miles of suckfest on the return trip.  The only other interesting thing to note about this run was that I felt like I needed some salt and was asking the aid stations for it.  The only thing one of the stations had was pickle juice!!!  LOL  I was like what the heck and swashed down a dixie cup of the stuff (Alli I hope you are proud of me).  And honestly it didn't taste too bad, haha.  I would definitely do it again.  The last few miles of the run got really hard, as to be expected in a 70.3, but with every step I knew I was getting closer.  And there were so many people out on the course, I passed the time by playing the passing game and singing Iggy Azalea songs in my head.  My run split was 1:42:37 (7:50/mi), not stellar for me but I'll take it given the day.

So there you have it, my total time was 6:07:55 (17th in my AG, 101st female), making this race my slowest half ironman to date but at the same time, one of the ones I'm the most proud of!

Congrats to all participants, especially my fellow GCCTriathletes Allison (who picked a helluva 70.3 for her first half-iron distance tri - seriously you don't even know how hard this race was compared to other 70.3s), Erik, and Aaron (who qualified for 70.3 World Championships)!  And a huge thank you to Mike & Karrie for being awesome sherpas and having to go all day without food and almost all day without beer ;) - you guys rock!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Race Report: Run Pink Pensacola 5K

So, it's official now.  I'm a real resident of FL and I have the driver's license to prove it!  I recently moved to Perdido Key, which is in Pensacola, and I haven't even been here a week, but I love the area already!  It's beautiful, has a vibrant down town, and I can already tell that it has a tremendous endurance community.

I signed up for the Run Pensacola race series to find out firsthand what "We Run This City" is all about.  The race distances range from 5k to 1/2 marathon, and although I don't typically do that many 5ks (because they're so painful) I figured what the heck,  it'll be a good way to force myself to incorporate some speed work.  The first race of the 11-race series was this afternoon, with a 2 pm start time.

It was held in down town in a really cool area called the Seville Quarter.  I thought it was cute and had quite a bit of character.  I did about a 1.5 mile warm up, with some pick ups and drills to get my legs moving.  I lined up at the front of the starting line and the cannon went off (literally they shot off a cannon and it scared the hell out of me!)  The first mile was a breeze.  There was a slight tail wind and I felt great.  One of the golden rules of racing is "don't start out too fast," however I think this goes out the window a little bit with a 5k.  My first mile was 5:55, a tad faster than I was expecting.  As soon as the second mile started things started getting progressively harder.  The course turned back into the wind and I felt my legs getting tired.  The second mile was the worst, but I knew if I could get through it, then I could carry myself to the finish.  Once I hit mile 2, I knew I only had a little more than 6 minutes of pain left and each step was one step closer to the finish line.  The course was well-marked & I enjoyed the cheers of the people on the streets.  I got to "break the tape" when I crossed the line and my jaw dropped to see that I had run a sub 19!  I've never been able to break 19 minutes in the 5k, even when I was doing speed work.  My official time was 18:44, a new PR!!!  How exciting!  I honestly chalk this up to drinking a boatload of Beet Performer Beet Juice this week.  I moved from Panama City Beach to Perdido Key and had nothing in my refrigerator for the last few days except for 2 cases of beet juice, so I probably consumed an inordinate amount!  See my blog on beet juice for how it can make you faster & if you want to try it for yourself use the code "martine6" to get 15% off your order at amazon.

Congrats to all finishers and can't wait for the next Run Pensacola race!!!