Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Healthiest Chips

Here's a conversation I've had many times at my job as a dietitian:

Q:  What are the healthiest chips to eat?

A:  Chips are actually NOT a health food. 

Q:  But what about veggie chips?

A:  Veggie chips are still deep fried in oil and do not count as a vegetable serving.

Q:  Well, tortilla chips are healthy right?

A:  No -  tortilla chips, like potato chips, are deep fried in oil and high in calories and fat. 

Q:  Then what in the world am I supposed to eat with salsa???

I have never had a great answer to this question until now!  I purchased some Ezekiel brand tortillas and put one on the top rack of the oven which was set to broil.  In less than 5 minutes, the tortilla was heated and I took it out and sliced it into triangular shaped chips.  As they cooled a little they became crispy.  These homemade "chips" were totally dippable and satisfying in salsa, hummus, and as a scooper for a delicious shredded kale salad I made (pic below).  And best of all, they have about half the calories of regular chips, 75% less fat, are high in fiber (5 g/svg!), and are low in sodium!  

For those interested here is a comparison nutrition chart for some popular chip brands.  To keep it consistent the serving size for each item is 2 oz.  FYI one Ezekiel tortilla is 2 oz.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Race Report - Ironman Los Cabos 2017

Ironman Los Cabos was my 4th Ironman and the hardest one so far!  I also trained the hardest for this race, so am slightly disappointed/puzzled as to why I didn't get better results.  I have been trying to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona since coming in 3rd place in my AG in Ironman Chattanooga in 2015.  My training was really inconsistent for IM Cozumel in 2016.  Training for IM Texas 2017 was slightly better but not up to par for a KQ.  From reading blogs & talking to fellow athletes, I gathered that 18-20 hours/week is generally what is needed for getting to Kona.  So, I wrote myself a training plan and mostly followed it.  I found that 20 hours/week was pretty much my max, given my full time job and having enough time to eat and sleep.  Here's what I did in preparation for Los Cabos in comparison to Texas & Cozumel:

I also purchased a power meter for the bike --> the Garmin Vector pedals <-- and started training with power for the first time ever.  I bought this book and did workouts from the book designed to increase FTP:

I did an FTP test on the trainer every 4 weeks and over the course of 3 months improved my FTP by 24 watts.  (This was from July to Oct; I didn't do another FTP test after my last build b/c I started tapering).  I also did a timed 500 yd swim every month and improved from 7:20 (1:28/100 yds) to 6:56 (1:23/100 yds) over the same time period.  I didn't do test sets on the run since that has historically been a strength for me and I was focusing on trying to improve my cycling.  So, going into this race I felt I had done as much as I could do.  I felt confident that I would have a good race.

The Swim - 2.4 miles - 1:07:53 (1:35/100 yds)
The swim was really enjoyable!  The water was not as clear as Cozumel, but visibility was still decent.  Water temperature was around 80 degrees and felt perfect!  I settled into a comfortable pace and felt good for the majority of the swim.  The water was a little wavy and a few times I felt little tiny jellyfish stings, but neither of these things bothered me and for the most part I think I swam pretty straight.  I drafted when I could.  I wanted to get out of the water and not feel tired and that's exactly what happened.  When I finished the swim I felt like I had plenty of energy left for the bike and the run.  I had also posted my fastest non-current IM-distance swim.  So far, things were off to a good start!

T1 - 4:01
Transition was interesting because you put your bike shoes on in the changing tent and then ran through the sand to get to your bike:

To my surprise and delight I ran into Bobby!  We exited T1 at the same time and laughed about how both of our shoes were totally filled with sand.  Then we started the big climb out of transition and he was gone like a rocket!

The Bike - 112 miles - 6:22:19 (17.6 mph)
I knew the bike was going to be hilly and tried to prepare for this by riding hilly courses in training.  The most elevation I could find around Pensacola was a 128-mile route with 3000 feet of climbing.  Between Sharon, Bobby, & my Garmin's the race course was somewhere between 6000-7000 feet of climbing, so essentially double what I did in a training ride!  I got up to over 40 mph on the descents and was crawling at 7 mph on some of the climbs.  There were two longer climbs - one 5 miles and the other 3 miles, both of which were done twice.  I don't remember any flat sections.  There was a small section of sand that we had to ride through b/c they hadn't gotten finished paving the road, there were boards over grates to ride over while descending one of the climbs, and there was this nice little ramp that they constructed the day before the race to get us off the highway:

This makeshift ramp didn't go all the way to the pavement on the other side.  When you got off the ramp, there was a thick blue carpet that they had laid out over the sand to bridge the gap.  LOL!  Despite these quirks and how slow I was going I did enjoy the bike.  It was very scenic with great views of the water coming down the descents.  I didn't like the fact that it felt like the entire race was passing me, but I didn't want to push too hard and over bike.  I stuck to my plan of keeping within a certain power range, which was a little challenging because it was hard to gauge overall output of effort since the terrain was so hilly.  However, my normalized average power was only 10 watts higher than my average power, so I think I did a decent job.  It got up to the low 90's, but I was ready for the heat and it wasn't a big factor in my performance on the day.  

T2 - 5:25
Not much to say about T2.  Changed into running attire and commiserated with fellow athletes in the changing tent about the difficulty of the bike :)

The Run - 4:01:11 (9:12/mi)
At first I felt really good getting off the bike and my first 5 miles were 8:00-8:30.  I was happy to be chasing quite a few people down.  Then things started getting harder and didn't get any easier until the finish.  I think it was simply overall fatigue b/c my nutrition was on point all day.  My legs were so tired and it was taking everything I had to not walk.  I didn't let myself walk at all b/c I was afraid if I walked, even through an aid station I wouldn't start running again.  It was great to see Bobby & Sharon on the race course and my spirits were lifted a little bit each time we ran by each other.  The course was 4 loops, which was a tad bit monotonous. My last loop was mostly in the dark and really could've used a head lamp.  I got a little pep in my step once I only had 3 miles to go and clocked my final mile at 8:04.  I was sooooo happy to make that final turn into the finish chute and hear the announcer call my name, "Tara Martine - you are an Ironman!"  Those words never get old!!!

Total Time - 11:40:47 (5th AG)
I'm really happy and proud that I finished my 4th IM and the toughest one to date!  It was an awesome experience and I enjoyed the entire thing and appreciated every moment.  Since the race I've been mulling over how I feel about my results and I do feel disappointed.  It's not that I didn't make it to Kona (or wasn't even close).  It's more the fact that I put in all that time and effort and didn't see tangible gains in speed.  On the contrary, I had my slowest bike ever and slowest run (not including Cozumel where I walked a lot).  I'm not sure if I over-trained or just had a bad day or the course was just that difficult....  It has left me wondering whether or not to pursue another Ironman in 2018.  I'm considering doing more local sprints & olympics, perhaps a 70.3, perhaps another full but focused more on fun than trying to KQ.  I'm not sure what I would do differently in my training if I wanted to KQ.  Cut down the hours a little bit to allow for more recovery?  Or is it just a matter of stacking multiple years of the type of training I did for this race to get to Kona.  I'm not sure I have the motivation for that kind of dedication right now.  So, I'm going to enjoy the off season and do things like hang out with friends I have been neglecting, go for some walks on the beach, and take advantage of the fun things to do here in Pensacola.  I've gotten back into cooking and remembered how much I love to cook and try new recipes.  It's truly amazing how much time there is when you're not training 20 hours/week!  

The entire trip to Los Cabos was awesome and I loved hanging out w/ Sharon, Matt, & Bobby!  Major congrats to Bobby for finishing his 10th Ironman!!!!!   We had tons of fun, went to the beach, partook of the swim-up pool bar, got massages on the beach, saw some big a$$ waves, went on jet skis, explored the marina, visited Cabo Wabo, found a delicious vegan restaurant, and of course took a boat to the famous arch!  Can't wait for the next adventure...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Race Report: Ironman Texas 2017

Ironman #3 is in the books!!!  I started training for IM Texas in January with the hopes of qualifying for Kona, knowing that there would be extra slots since it was the North American championship race.  Unlike my training for IM Cozumel last summer/fall, this time around I was MOTIVATED and CONSISTENT.  I didn't skip workouts and although I had that dang achilles injury, I was feeling pretty fit heading into this race.   I cut out all added oils and sugar 3 weeks prior to the race to ensure I'd be running clean and lean on fruit, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, & of course Beet Performer Beet Juice!  According to rigorous analyses of the finishing times of the women in my AG from the past 5 years performed by my training buddy/engineer/11-time Ironman finisher/7-time Kona qualifier/8:54 IM PR/Cam Loos, a sub 10:30 would probably put me in contention for Kona.  It was a high goal but I believed it to be attainable.

We packed all imaginable tri gear into 1 car - with 2 sets of everything it was like Noah's ark of triathlon.  We drove 10 hours to Texas and met up with some rockstars from NC - PA and super dad Lawrence Landrigan, pro triathlete Tim Nichols, and awesome sherpa/most supportive girlfriend ever, Barb Kornegay.  It was fab hanging out with you guys and thank you Barb for all the cooking & cleaning you did for us!

The days prior to the race were all about those last minute workouts, the expo (loved seeing my Zoot peeps Mark, Jake, and Jill), practice swim (rubbed elbows with fellow high-octane vegans Kyle, Shannon, & Taylor), gear bags, and fine tuning the bikes.  My bike was optimized to the MAX!  Thank you Justin for letting me borrow your Enve 808 rear wheel with disc jacket - that thing looked sick and no doubt made me go faster.  Other optimizations:  Grand Prix 4000 IIs tires, latex tubes, and an aerodynamic water bottle for my seat tube.  Trayvon was ready to roll.

The Swim - 2.4 miles - 1:12:18 (1:43/100 yds)
Surprise!!!!!  The swim was non-westuit legal.  A week prior to the race, word was that the lake temp was a delightful 69 degrees.  Didn't think there was any way it would creep up over 76 degrees within a week, but expect the unexpected, it did!  Sooo, this resulted in the purchase of a new Zoot speedsuit (YES, I had one packed in the ark, but its so old that wearing it probably increases drag - anyone in the market for a dragsuit speedsuit?).  During the practice swim I swam up to a SUPer to fix my goggles and when I pulled myself up onto his board he exclaimed, "Whoa!  I just saw all the water bead down your back like a duck!"  Excellent - the new suit was performing well already!!!

On the day of the race Lawrence and I lined up near the front figuring we'd start together and take turns drafting off each other in the swim.  I was only able to stay with him for about 100 yds d/t the pure chaos of the swim.  The entire way to the first turn felt like a brawl - it was so rough, simply d/t being in and amongst so many other swimmers.  Not sure why exactly, but it was a lot more physical compared to Cozumel and Chattanooga.  When you make the final turn into the canal you still have over a half mile to go and I was mentally prepared for this.  I was not prepared for the water to smell like someone had emptied all the porta potties into it.  With about 300 yds left another swimmer passed me and as they did so, smiled and waved.  Was I hallucinating from the permeating odor of sewage???  No!  It turned out to be Cam who was the very last non-wetsuit swimmer in the water! haha

T1 - 4:27

The Bike - 112 miles - 5:51:33 (19.12 mph)
When I started the bike I didn't feel very good.  I think this was b/c the swim took more out of me than I was expecting.  I told myself that eventually I would settle in and start to feel good, which did happen after about 20 miles.  It was a very windy day out there, eventually building to 15-20 mph.  The meat of the course was a double out & back on a toll road.  The pros were that there were no cars and no turns.  The cons were that (to me) it was a boring course and there was a ripping headwind on the way back.  I must have told myself "do not over bike" at least 100 times.  I over biked in Cozumel and had nothing on the run - I did not want history to repeat itself.

I kept myself in check even though a lot of people passed me, including women in my AG.  But I knew I had to stay within my limits and I while I was doing that on the final lap a pack of no joke about 30 triathletes caught up to me.  This wasn't a legal paceline or even an illegal paceline.  This was a PELOTON of riders all 4-5 inches off each others' wheels.  They were easily going 2 mph faster than I was going solo.  I was pretty pissed off.  How can someone riding legally possibly compete with that?!?!  And I never saw 1 person in the penalty tent all day.  In fact, a draft marshall drove up from the opposite direction and put both arms up in the air to say "What are you all doing???" but no one left the peloton nor did anyone get a penalty.  What do you do in that situation?  Expend extra effort to stay ahead of the pack?  Let everyone pass you?  Try to "legally" draft off the back?  Or just fall in with the group?  I'm not sure what the right answer to this question is and would be interested to hear what others think.  My nutrition was on point during the bike - I ate a Carb Boom gel or margarita shot blocks every 30 minutes and drank water plus electrolyte tablets.  I was hoping that both my legs and stomach would feel good heading out onto the run.
T2 - 4:45

The Run - 26.2 miles - 3:43:19 (8:31/mi)
The run was a bit of a question mark.  I had to take a full month off of running during my training d/t the achilles injury.  I supplemented with some water running and eventually worked back up to doing one 20-miler prior to the race, but was never able to resume speed work.  Perhaps the worst thing about not running so much was the mental aspect - going from 0 miles/week to a marathon in 9 weeks was an intimidating prospect.  My coach and others told me that no matter what I still had a solid running base, but it was hard to find solace in their words.  

When I got off the bike, which I was soooo happy to do, it was a joyous moment when I realized that my legs felt good.  I knew I'd be able to run today.  I started off at about 7:55 pace and had to force myself to slow down.  I figured that based on my training I'd be able to average between 8:30 to 9:00 miles for the marathon and I didn't want to start out too fast.  It's the classic debate of do you A) bank time at the beginning of the marathon when you're feeling good knowing that you're likely to suffer in the later miles?  or do you B) force yourself to stick to your goal pace and hope that you're able to stay consistent for the entire thing?  Cam and I had discussed this and he is a big proponent of strategy B.  I'm still not sure what I think, but I knew I didn't dare let myself run faster than 8:00 miles for the first loop.  Turns out I averaged about 8:00 pace on the first loop, 8:30 pace on the second loop, and 9:00 pace on the third, thus putting me at my goal pace of 8:30 for the entire thing.  And yes it got really damn hard.  I kept hearing my friend say, "whoever walks least gets to Kona" and this kept me going.  I wonder, would it have been easier if I had slowed to 8:30 from the beginning?  Thoughts?

A word about this run course - it was AMAZING!!!!!  As dull as the bike was, the run was equal in magnitude but in the complete opposite direction.  Great job Brian for putting together a real winner.  It started off by the river, wound through some neighborhoods, a few shaded sections of paths, and then the last 3 miles were the bomb diggity.  Both sides of the river front were lined with thousands of spectators.  Music was blasting and cheering was on in full force.  You'd think that doing a 3-loop marathon would be a drag, but running through this section 3 times was something to look forward to!  It had a lot of variety and was very well supported.  It was my favorite IM run course so far (favorite bike course was Chattanooga & favorite swim was Cozumel).
My big goal for the run was not to walk at all.  After crumbling on the run in Cozumel, I wanted to put together a solid overall race with a strong marathon.  I didn't let myself walk once, even though the aid stations, and I am really happy and proud of that.

Total Time - 10:56:22 (12th AG, 67th female, 349th overall finisher)
I felt elated to cross that finish line and hear the famous words, "Tara Martine, YOU ARE an IRONMAN!!!!!"  I believe I executed the race as well as I could have and there's nothing that I would have changed about it on the day.  I feel happy that I was able to put together a solid performance and I know that I have a strong fitness base that I will keep building on.  Everyone says that getting to Kona takes 3-5 years of hard training.  Well, I'm about 1.5 years into it now and am not planning on stopping.  I will get to Kona.  I have a lot of work cut out for me (especially on the bike - I have no clue how women in my AG managed to average 22-23 mph in those winds).  However, I am really enjoying triathlon right now and if I didn't like doing the workouts and love going to races I wouldn't do it.  I'm already plotting my next race, which I am thinking just might have to be Los Cabos....  :)

Congrats to all finishers and thanks to everyone who supports and encourages me!

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!