Friday, May 28, 2010

Lucky Gear?

Question: How many superstitious racers are out there? Do you wear your "lucky gear" on raceday? What items do you consider lucky?

Me? I never race without my ball cap and my Phiten necklace. And my Oakleys, of course.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Recipes to Keep You Running: Asian Slaw with Tofu Triangles

I'd like to occasionally share some of my favorite recipes with you guys as we go along. As a vegetarian runner, I'm constantly looking for new ways to incorporate protein into my diet while at the same time trying to lower fat and amplify taste. If you have any recipes to share, feel free to comment! You may see one of them featured in a post at a later date.

This recipe for asian slaw is adapted from a salad recipe in the May issue of Fitness magazine. It's fairly healthy from a calorie and fat standpoint. It's loaded with veggies and tofu. It is a little high in salt, though, so make sure to watch your sodium intake on the days you make/eat this. This slaw is also an interesting alternative to traditional coleslaws, and a great dish to bring to those Memorial Day cookouts this weekend.

Asian Slaw with Tofu Triangles

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes

1/3 c. low sodium tamari
3 tbs. rice wine vinegar (I eyeballed this as well as the measurements for the honey and oils)
1 tbs. seasame oil
1 tbs. peanut oil (or canola oil if you don't have peanut)
2 tbs. honey
1 tbs. minced ginger (I just cut a chunk off of a ginger root and minced it)
2 or 3 minced garlic cloves

2 14 oz packages of firm or extra firm tofu

3 tbs. seasame seeds, toasted
2 c. sugar snap peas
6 c. shredded cabbage
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 c. shredded carrot
1 bunch chopped scallions

1. Slice the tofu into half inch strips, and cut each strip diagonally to form triangles. Cook the triangles in a non-stick pan over low heat. This method is called "dry frying." No oil is required, but it is important that the heat stays low and that your pan is nonstick. When the tofu begins to turn light brown and "dry out," on one side, it's time to flip it and cook the other side. Another way to tell if one side is done is to try to move the piece around in the pan. If it moves, it's ready to be flipped. This takes about 30 to 40 mins.

2. While the tofu is in the pan, whisk the soy sauce, oils, honey, ginger and garlic together in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Bring a small pot of water to boil on the stove. Add the peas and blanch for 2 minutes. Then drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

4. When the tofu is light brown on both sides, remove from the heat. Place in a small baking dish and pour half of the dressing over the triangles. Marinate for at least 10 minutes.

5. Toss the cabbage, red bell pepper, sugar snap peas, carrots, and scallions together with the remainder of the dressing. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the slaw.

6. You can serve the slaw with the triangles on the side, or put the triangles in the slaw. When I took this to a gathering last night, I tossed the triangles and their "marinade" in with the rest of the slaw for a one-bowl meal, but if you're serving at home, you may want to leave the triangles separate and have people serve themselves.

What I like about this recipe is that it can be customized in many ways. You can substitute snow peas or add edamame. You can top with crushed peanuts. You can even make this a more traditional "oriental salad" and add crushed, dried ramen noodles.

I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More For Me Than For You...

Don't let your mileage pile up on you. You know what you have to run today. You know it's going to be long and hot. You're going to have to work hard. So stop delaying the inevitable (on Blogger) and get out there and run!

Mile by mile, you'll eat up what you have to get accomplished today, but first you have to start.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Now? The Next Steps After a Big Race

So you've just finished your first big race. Do you feel on top of the world? Invincible? Wanna try for twice that distance? In a month or two? Really? Let's talk this out.

In the first few days after a race, particularly if it's been a positive and successful experience, I have a mix of feelings. I feel proud of my performance and accomplishments, but I also feel a void because I'm no longer "in training." So then, I start wanting to take on another challenge, right away. I've learned, though, that sometimes it's better to take things slowly.

Being "in training" for a race is something special. I always complain about how tired I am in the weeks leading up to an event, but miss the focus that training gave me when the race has ended. Often, I've found myself plunging back into a running program right away, with only a few days of rest. I didn't have anything specific I was training for, and no reason to keep my milage up at the level that it was. I just didn't want to lose the fitness level that I had attained before I ran my race. Not surprisingly, a few weeks later, I would find myself dealing with nagging aches and pains, or even outright injuries. Then I'd be forced to take time off.

Now, when I finish a race, I try to keep a few things in mind:

  • Remember when you were "in training" and you complained about those various aches and pains in your (insert body part here)? Well, they didn't magically disappear just because you got a PR. Now is the time to take care of your body. Figure out where the problem areas are and work to rehab them.
  • Unless you're planning on running another long race in the next two weeks, you should decrease your mileage. This isn't an exact science, by any means. I take my mileage back to the point that it was midway in my training, but you may be able to do more or less. Just remember that your body needs to recover from the stress you've put on it (before you can stress it again!).
  • Returning to a routine is good - forcing yourself to do too much too soon is bad. I am always anxious to get back to lifting weights, cross training, group exercise classes - all those things I couldn't do when I had to run for two or more hours every day. Now is definitely the time to go back to those other areas of your personal fitness. Just don't try to tackle everything in one day. You'll get into a "normal" routine again before you know it.
  • You should plan on doing something else, and soon. It's just as easy to do too little for too long after a big race. Maybe you're sick of running or training. Maybe racing just isn't your thing. Maybe you're still sore or creaky or even injured from the race. Regardless of what's going on, it's important to start setting goals for yourself again. You don't have to pick another race or set a weekly goal mileages, either. When I was injured, my goals had to do with my rehab, i.e. "I want to be able to do 30 leg lifts with good form by the end of the week." It's normal to feel tired or discouraged after a race. A return to goal-setting will help to boost your confidence and also put your fitness back into perspective.
Again, it's another loose list of things to think about, but this is definitely what I'm dealing with, day to day, after this last half marathon.

We'll talk again, soon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Have We Learned?

It's been a little over a week since the half marathon. For those of you that are interested: yes, I met my goals, and I'm very happy about that.

I wanted to write you guys a little list of what I learned during this half marathon, in no particular order.

  • Have a plan. This may have different meanings for different people. For me, it meant having a goal time and then blocking out my goal splits for each mile to achieve that time. My coach also gave me "focus phrases" to think about during the different parts of the race. Does that sound "type A" to you? Maybe. But remember that distance running is just that: lots of time and lots of miles. It's easy to get "lost" mentally and forget what you're doing and why you're doing it. Focusing on splits or key phrases helps to cut through the fog that you will eventually hit at some point in the race.
  • Be prepared. This is simple stuff. Set out your clothes the night before. Pack your bag. Pin your race number to your shirt or bra. Put your timing chip on your laces. Set your shoes by your bed. Put your gels/bars/energy substances in your pouch/belt. The morning of the race is not the time to pack. It is the time to focus on your race, not the contents of your bag.
  • Be early. Many races are huge events with thousands of people. You will have to look for parking, then walk to the start line. You might get lost. You might have to use the bathroom. You need to warm up. Not only does an early arrival ensure that more parking spots are readily available, but it also means that the port-a-potty lines are relatively short. Do yourself and your spouse/cheering section a favor and set the alarm one hour earlier than you think you'll need. Today is not the day to catch up on your sleep.
  • Be confident. It doesn't matter if this is your first race or your fiftieth. You have every "right" to be here as everyone else. One of the most common things I've heard from runners at the starting line are the words, "I don't feel like I belong here." Do you know how to run? Then you belong here.
  • Be committed. Maybe you trained seriously for this event. Maybe you intended to train, but slacked off despite your best intentions. At this point, you can't train any more. Get focused on the race at hand and run it to the best of your ability. If you make excuses at the starting line, you're handicapping yourself before the race even begins.
  • Have fun. I ran the race with my best running buddies (pictured above). Even though we didn't finish together, it was nice to know that they were going through the same race that I was. We were together at the starting line and we waited for each other at the finish. I loved having their support. Whether you listen to music while you run or not, pay attention to the crowd. Look at the handmade posters, laugh at the themed outfits that other runners are wearing. Enjoy this moment, and when the pain comes, try to enjoy that, too. You've earned all of it.
That's a little bit of what I took away from my race. I hope it's helpful for you guys. Coming up, we'll cover: "What Now? The Next Steps After a Big Race."