Category Archives: health

What it takes

Part of life is making our own decisions. Some say that it is part of being a grown-up, and truly, its just what we gotta do.  We can seek out all the advice we want from all the various sources available, but in the end, it’s what we choose to do that dictates how our lives will play out. Of course, there are some people whose opinions matter more than others (and each of us have different hierarchies of opinion-values). And, of course, there are some decisions we don’t have control over, and there are some outcomes that we just simply can’t predict. Regardless, being a grown-up means wearing the big shoes, and sometimes the big shoes aren’t very comfortable.

I’ve been having a few (ok, several) rough months with decision-making in training, racing, and – most importantly – life. With my fiance 700miles away, a pet that has special needs, and a job that my future life/career depends on,  I find myself struggling with what’s left over. My training is a big pile most of the time, and I sometimes feel twinges of guilt and torment when I read posts like Chuckie V’s “Happiness, Ambition, and Pursuit,” especially while I sit in my kitchen reading it while eating a big bowl of rocky road ice cream as some sort of nutrition-subsidized training for the day. When I reflect on what I’ve done in the past – in racing particularly- and truly focus on how well last season went for me and how much potential I had in the sport, I am knocked off the totem pole when I look at what I’ve become. I work a ton and I don’t manage my time in order to train like I should and could. I find myself struggling to get up early and go for runs when I could just as easily go right into work and get two more hours of stuff done. I stopped going to group training sessions, which is really my only source of social interaction with humans. And, fortunately or unfortunately, I find myself struggling to leave work because I always feel so far behind on everything and want to get as much as I can done. How am I ever going to get ahead? The truth is, I don’t know.

With triathlon, I have been telling myself over and over throughout the last year that I have the potential to do well and that I can continue to improve and become a better athlete. But when I race as of late, I’m so disappointed. I feel out of shape (because I am out of shape), I feel slow and lazy and my run is weak. I feel fat (because that 10lbs around my waistline didn’t come just appear out of nowhere) and fluffy and wussy. While training is fun, and tagging-along is my favorite thing to do, I have a difficult time negotiating with myself that its a better idea to go outside and run, if only for 3 miles, than to stay at work an extra hour or to watch an episode of Glee on Hulu. I just don’t get it: why is it that I can’t find the balance, and why do I feel like a teeter-totter all the time?

Truth is, things are different this year. I know that. I’m not in grad school anymore, and I know that my life right now is not supposed to be focused around becoming a faster triathlete or marathoner. Maybe I made that decision when I took this job, when I said “I want to become the best scientist I can be.” But truly, I don’t think it’s quite that. Taking this job didn’t mean that I have to give up my triathlon potential. But what is potential, really? Taking another page from Chuckie’s book, “potential” is practically fruitless. Wanting something and actually doing it are not the same thing. And having the potential to be the best, without actually striking forth and reaching for it, ain’t worth shit.

A year ago, when I took this job, I made the decision to become a better scientist, to become the best at what I do. No, I take that back. When I realized that my education potential is limitless, that was when I made the decision to become the best scientist I could be. However arrogant or hoity-toity that may seem, I knew the opportunity before it really ever bore its head. When I was preparing for my dissertation defense and knowing that I was the only one that really truly knew and understood the stuff I was about to present, I knew what I wanted to do in life. I may have realized this limitless potential, perhaps, when I was recruiting subjects and sponsors for my master’s thesis project, and was so geeked about data and statistics and mechanics. Maybe I knew there was this “potential” when I was a junior in college, so completely awed by the world of biomechanics that I took the course from two different departments. No, I bet it started before that even, when I was in high school shadowing biomedical engineers at Flower Hospital or maybe even earlier, when I was learning about running gait and proper form from my dad’s physical therapist when I was in middle school cross-country. Regardless, the truth is, I knew what I wanted before I knew what I wanted. Ya dig?

And I want to be the best. I am a competitive person, I admit it openly. But I’m not out to sabotage others who also want to be the best. I am realizing that, in order to be the best, I need to focus on that. And by focusing on being the best at one particular thing leaves little room for being the best at anything else, really. We should all strive to be the best at what we do, to challenge ourselves beyond what we think is possible. Some people are good at a lot of things. They aren’t the best at a lot of things, but they are good. I don’t think I will be the best by any means, but I can’t be my best if I don’t give it my all.

When I reflect on this year, I am not going to be sad about my lack of “living up to my potential”- So, this year I wasn’t a rockstar triathlete like I wanted to be. Big woop. I didn’t win my age group at anything and I even bailed on several races for fear of doing poorly. Who cares? Racing stopped being fun, not because I wasn’t racing great races or traveling to great places, but because I was reflecting on my potential in the sport. I knew what I could do, I’d done it before; how come I am not better than before? Aren’t we supposed to get better? Why am I not even the same as I was last season? My potential ended up leaving me short-sighted; I would tell myself over and over that I could have done better ( … ). Too bad I didn’t.  And perhaps was my “potential” limited me from really, fully, truly enjoying things like this:

Post-Wildflower California Coastline Cruise with PICs Sonja and Michelle

or this:

Pre-race excitement at Kansas 70.3. Photo courtesy Brent Newman

Enjoying one helluva'n awesome bike course at Wildflower. Photo courtesy Eric Willis

or this:

St Louis Tri Club and Chrissie Wellington at Kansas 70.3. Photo courtesy Brent Newman

And I’m not living up to my potential in triathlon. Where has my potential got me? Well, nowhere. My decisions to act on my abilities, however, have driven me straight upward. For a long time, I believed that my potential was limited to my ability to pursue endurance sports and to do well at them. I thought that my potential would some day get me to a sub 3hr marathon or a Kona slot or whatever. But my potential, I’ve learned this year, means crap. It’s what I choose to do, what I commit to achieve, that really matters. And for now, Kona will just have to wait. I’ve got other fish to fry.

The Tag-Along

I’ve dubbed myself the Tag-Along, and I am proud to say that I do a good job.

This week, Best Training Buddy (BTB) and I held it down with her training plan and I stuck to her side like glue for nearly all of her shenanigans (except the swims, of course. No thanks, not yet).  Track work? I was up and at ’em at 5am so I could be at the track on time to meet her. Easy ride? Heck yeah, and even sounds more fun than “cheesy ride.” Yesterday, we went out for a 4 hour interval bike-o-rama and a brick run, and although I am not training for anything related to triathlon, I thought it sounded fun and even encouraged her to pick a hilly route. It all sounds fun. Bring it on! Pile on the miles. Who wants to run 10miles at the track, anyway? Well, I DO!

Seriously.

I do.

OK, so what sounds fun about all this? To me, it’s fun to finally again be training with purpose. Right now, my purpose is to be the best training partner that BTB can have, and to build up my strengths. I know what you’re thinking; what’s the purpose when there’s no race on the schedule and no “end” in sight for me? While I really truly do not know what my next triathlon will be or when it will be, I know it will come, and when it does, I will be oh-so-ready. All my training friends have signed up for Ironman Couer d’Alene and I am throwing down as the IronSherpa (which is totally 100% ok with me!). And of course, I could sign up; I even think registration is still open! But I am not going to. I made a decision, and that decision was no. Plus, BTB is doing it, and its her first one, which I think would be super cool if I can tag along for the ride and be there to cheer and hoot and holler.

Is my purpose to be the best tag-along in the universe? Maybe. Of course, my purpose is to become a better athlete, and the way I get there is by finding people whom I can connect with and who I can train well with. I think that being a better athlete takes some serious tag-along-time, and also some serious build time. Being a better athlete takes some serious training relationships, and also some serious inner meditation. I have loads of time to do all of these things, and while it feels like I became a lesser athlete overnight, becoming a stronger athlete isn’t going to happen quite as fast.

So, on with it! Giddy up.

What gives?

I feel like I have been punched in the face.

I’m not saying that because my face hurts. No, it’s just a metaphor. I didn’t actually get decked, at least as far as I am aware.

The fist came from the photographer friend of mine that was at Kansas 70.3, which I raced stealth-style a few weeks ago. I’m not going to share the photos out of embarrassment because my ego won’t let me show you. I didn’t tell you I was doing Kansas, you see, because I wasn’t sure I was going to be doing it. I signed up before Wildflower in hopes of garnering the Double Whammy- an ITU long course championship slot (WF), and a LasVegas World Champs slot (KS). Obviously, I didn’t get either of these. And thus, you see, I sort of, kind of, well… quit triathlon this year, in a weird roundabout way. After Wildflower, with my piss-poor performance and my frumpy figure transformation from a winter of haphazard training, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do. Do I want to dedicate enough time to be good at this again, or do I want to just be complacent for the time being? Can I convince myself to give up at work for the day and go train, or will I perpetually leave work to go home and eat peanut butter from the jar?

It wasn’t a question of whether or not I could dedicate time to train. It was a matter of whether or not I would. See, there’s a big difference. And the peanut butter was quite delicious.

There comes a time, though, when you gotta ask yourself “What gives?”

How did I get to this point? How did I not notice that I had the same behavioral patterns as this guy:

Ok, maybe I wasn’t that extreme. 

But I did have a few scares, after adopting a new friend,

…that I might turn into this lady:

Oofta.

Now I am asking myself: What gives?

In an effort to get back down to “Normal Megan Fitness” level, I’ve made a few changes. This isn’t just weight-related, it’s mental-health related too. And it should be noted that although I did get in some really excellent training over the last six months (thanks to killer training plans from John Hirsch), it’s incredibly hard to realize the level of fitness I may have gained when I’m carrying around an extra 5-10lbs. And, to be completely fair, I am a terrible listener and I didn’t do everything John advised me to do in my build up to Wildflower. Anyway, my body literally changed in what seemed like overnight (although I know it was really more like four months’ worth of peanut-butter-for-dinner). And although I have been very hesitant to count calories and obsess about my weight (this is the first time I’ve kept track of calories since I was 20), I’m happy to say that I feel good about the changes I am implementing. I’m doing this the healthy way, and I am being flexible with the margin.

The changes include:

  • Counting calories using MyFitnessPal: With MFP, I can establish my own calorie limits, and it incorporates exercise as calorie “credits” to make sure I don’t under-eat. Since I don’t have a scale in my house, I am using measurements of my waist and thigh to track my progress. And, since I am having a hard time fitting into my jeans, that will be a good metric as well.
  • Drinking more water: I started making it a goal to drink at least two bottles of water (with Nuun) at work each day, and the new Nuun flavors really help make that happen. I consumed half a tube of Fruit punch in one day…

  • Embrace my new training friends: One thing I get mopey about is not having my Team Mega Tough gal, Margot, to train with on a regular basis. We’d always head out on the weekends for long runs, meet up on Wednesdays after work to run from the gym, and roll out on our road bikes (or trainers) for a few hours in the evenings. She was always Miss Reliable, and I would never say “no” to her, even if I was really looking forward to sleeping in past 7am on a Sunday. Perhaps partially to do with this, I haven’t taken full advantage of is the plethora of people here that I can train with. I think part of it is that I know I won’t be able to find a suitable substitute for her, which is not really the point. I don’t need to replace her, I just need to keep doin’ what I was doin’. So, for the last month or so, I have been trying to make more of an effort to get to the group events, including TrailNet rides (of which I am now a member) and some special St Louis Tri Club events. It was partly because of the St Louis Tri Club that I raced KS 70.3 knowing full well that I wasn’t going to come close to having the race I wanted to have, because they are an encouraging lot. The group literally had over 2 dozen members in Kansas cheering and racing and sherpa’ing, and it was an amazing experience that I’m so glad I didn’t miss. Within this group, I’ve met some people that can really push me to get better and faster, but more importantly, to have fun!

  • Running more: One thing that has drastically changed in my training this year compared to previous years is that I have been running much, much less. I was swimming more yards than I was running. It was weird, but it kind of makes sense for triathlon: since running is my strength, and I needed to work more on my weaknesses like swimming and biking. But, truth be told, running keeps me sane in a way that biking and swimming don’t. Running also makes me strong. Yesterday, I tried doing plank exercises and noticed that my core is a lot weaker than I’ve ever remembered. This may be because I don’t make time to weight train or do any core strengthening sessions, which was something I didn’t really need when I was running more (running just naturally does that for me). But truth be told, I simply missed running. So I am making it a goal to run more.
  • Getting back to the grid: I miss putting pieces the puzzle together, so I have spent the last month or so diving into a pile of endurance training books, in part thanks to discussions I had with Sonja at Wildflower. I got my exercise physio book back from up north, and I dug out my go-to references: Advanced Marathoning (Pfitzinger) and Jack Daniels (the coach, not the booze). As my training compiles over the next few months, I’ll reference back to my handy Excel spreadsheet that lays it all out. And I’m even printing it out now and posting copies of it at my desk and on my white board. Sorry greenies, the trees are goin’ down.
  • Doing what I know: Running is what I know, so naturally, not running made me feel lost and confused. Does that mean that I really quit triathlon? Hell no! I frickin’ love triathlon. It’s so fun, so versatile, and I really think I can be quite good at it if I focus and dedicate enough time. And even though I’ve only been doing triathlons for about 2 years, it’s definitely something I know, and something I can see myself learning even more about in the coming years.
  • Giving a little: I love my job. I think I come home every day and literally say “I frickin LOVE my job.” Granted, I say this to my cats, who don’t give two shits about whether or not I like my job or anything else for that matter. But there really is nothing better than feeling like you are carving out a niche- little by little- while expanding your intellect and absorbing information like a sponge and sharing that information with others. I feel like I am working on stuff that will really make an impact and it’s so rewarding to see how these things can translate into the clinic. Over the last six months, my job has been the major, #1, Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho focus of my drive, my energy, my everything. I think that I really needed to do that, to get to the point where I feel comfortable with my projects, where I can now contribute and to connect. Now that I’m into the groove and I am more confident in what I am doing in the lab, I think I can give a little back to myself in the form of time. I can, and I will, make time to train now where I didn’t feel like I could before (even though I really did have the time, I just didn’t go out and embrace it; I would have rather watch movies on Netflix and relax than go for a run at 7pm). And it’s easier to eat right and train when there’s a 5pm-out-the-door policy or an early alarm clock going off. I now reward myself for training with Netflix instead of deciding between the two, and if I get my long run done in the morning, like I did today, I can watch 2 episodes of Glee. It just feels right, finally. It didn’t feel right before.

So where does this leave me? I am crossing my fingers that this isn’t just a wave of motivation that has come and will soon pass. I really want to get better, to be healthier, to be leaner and be faster. I want to focus on the fun, but also look toward the future and build my efforts toward my next race, and my next season. Who knows what races I’ll do in what’s left of 2011; the beautiful thing is that I don’t really have to decide. For now, I can just train and have fun for now, while getting strong and healthy, and will still see the light ahead of me that’s shining brighter every day.

Just breathe

These past few weeks have made me feel like I’m on a roller coaster.

Who am I kidding? The past few months have been like an extended vacation to Cedar Point. Only, it wasn’t a fun vacation. Kinda like the one where you feel like you’re going to throw up the whole time but the ride never stops.

Although I didn’t throw up (that was a metaphor), I feel like I’m finally finding my feet under me. They are there, believe it or not, and I can use them to stand up, and stand tall.

There’s all sorts of things I could fill you in on, but I’ll just leave it at this:

I’m finally feeling better.

Real World, Real Food Wrap-up

Thanks to everyone for contributing, spreading the word, and getting involved with the Real World, Real Food Organic Basket Challenge that Sonja and I did last week. It was so incredibly fun.  A particular congratulations goes out to Kara for winning, but I think everyone who participated was a winner (of course!). There was a lot of heart and soul (and tummies) in the mix. It was a great experience to be involve with.

As far as a wrap-up goes, I think the biggest take-away for me was the obvious differences in food costs across the country. Surprisingly, for the same grocery list, Kara (who lives in a fairly rural area) walked away with a lower grocery bill than anyone else who did the challenge from a big city. I was especially surprised that I had the highest bill, even though I am in the most centrally-located city (St Louis is the midwest after all). I for sure thought I would beat Sonja’s basket price, since I live in a mid-sized city that – from what I gathered – has a fairly low cost of living. But, I was wrong.

There are some confounding variables, of course. For one, the list was the same no matter where you are. So, what is locally grown in one region is probably not available locally in another. And, what is easy to import in some places (like from CA to CO) might take a little more to get from the origin to a different destination (say, Michigan’s UP, or Missouri).  Secondly, I shopped in the city instead of on the outskirts, so I had to pay a bit of a premium (depending on where I shop, sales tax can be as high as 9.8%, and it turns out even food is taxed here … I think its around 4%?).

So where do we go from here? For me, the week’s worth of produce that I had all to myself forced me to eat real food every day. Instead of having nachos and cheese for dinner, I had to eat the fennel and cucumber and tomatoes and collard greens before they went bad. I admit, I didn’t get through everything by myself in the one week. Some of the stuff I stored in the freezer (shredded my zucchini and stored it in freezer bags for future bread!). But for the most part, it all went down my gullet. I realized, reflecting on the last week, that most of my meals were vegetarian, some were even vegan. I got a lot more creative with my meals, ate nuts and used olive oil in nearly every meal, and didn’t spend any money during the week by going out to lunch or grabbing a snack from the bookstore. And, as an extra bonus, I felt great all week. I felt sustained. My meals were filling, but not gigantic mounds of noodle and meat. In fact, I only had meat once during the week. I learned that I like fennel, and I like cooking with spices. I learned that I can make time to cook but I can also cook enough for myself to have leftovers to sustain me for the busier days. In other words, in the past week, I’ve really learned a lot about food, and myself.

It got me thinking more (oh boy, who needs that?!). It got me thinking about other cool things to try and what sort of plan I’m going to have every time I go to the grocery store. Yeah, I probably am not going to buy all-organic all-the-time. Unfortunately, I can’t afford it. But I am going to continue my habits of buying mostly in-season foods that don’t travel far. I also got thinking about another cool challenge: see how far our foods travel from the farm to the table. People have done this, they’ve written books about it. But something like this nationally, or even globally, might tell a better story as to why food is more expensive in some cities than others.

So to wrap up, thanks to everyone who participated, including:

TriMommy Kelly

Donna, all the way from the UK!

Miles, Muscles and Mommyhood

Kara, our RWRF Winner from Michigan’s UP

Muddy Mama

Jennifer

And thanks to everyone who spread the word and thank you to those who thought about what they were throwing in their cart at the grocery store. Also, thanks to Whole Foods Galleria for being convenient and friendly, and for having everything I needed to complete my list. Did I mention that, this weekend – after eating clean for an entire week – I finished off my sweet potatoes with a (rather large) side of nitrite-free bacon and farm fresh eggs from Whole Foods? I love their meat counter folks.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Larabar FitKit Giveaway Winner!

The winnings!

I had nearly 60 entries for this awesome contest, but only one lucky winner was picked. Everyone was assigned a number based on when they commented or tweeted or blogged (whichever came first). Random.org generated for me a random number between 1-59.

The Larabar Fit Kit Giveaway winner is:

Nancy! Here’s her entry:

Nancy, on December 3, 2010 at 9:09 am said:Pick me! Pick me! Loves me some Larabars. 2010 was a bust for me due to injuries, so I’m really hoping the running gods will shine on me in 2011.

She also had a bonus entry because she tweeted, but it was her comment on the post that got her the win! Lucky #12!

Congrats Nancy!

The Real World Real Food Challenge

For the past two years, I’ve had the most excellent hook-up: I was part of community-supported agriculture (CSA). My CSA was especially rad because the farmer charged ~$400/year, and delivered fresh fruit and veggies to my door every Tuesday. There were some things I loved, and some things I didn’t love so much, but regardless, having the seasonal fresh food at my dinner table helped me eat better and live more neutrally.

A friend of mine recently signed up for Door to Door Organics, which although isn’t entirely local, it is entirely organic. She gets weekly deliveries to her doorstep for around $40/week. She posted this photo on Twitter of this week’s delivery, posing the question:

This is what $38 in Organic veg delivered to your doorstep gets you from Door to Door Organics, thoughts?


and that got me thinking…

What would all this cost from my local grocery store? Certainly I could spend much less than $38, I thought. And, if I want it all organic, I’ll probably have the best luck at Whole Foods… (or as some people so aptly name it: Whole Paycheck- but for me, being gluten free, it doesn’t make a difference where I shop!). Then I thought about this: I live in a different metropolitan area than Sonja. Would the price of this real food be that much different city-to-city?

So I challenged her.

@goSonja hmm… they grow kiwi and avocado in CO? I am curious if it wouldn’t be cheaper to get it yourself from @wholefoods

@megankillian d2d organics is not local. It’s only local when it can be. I think it’s a tad cheaper than WF.

@gosonja which sounds like a challenge/contest to me. Send me the list of veggies and I’ll see if StLouis is cheaper, too 😉

@megankillian will do, I think I’m going to do the same, send ya an email in a sec, k?

@goSonja word.

And so it began: The Real World Real Food Challenge. Sonja sent me the list, and five minutes later I set off to match her grocery list and check out without going over my budget of $38.

Here’s the rules:

  • Everything must come from the same store, during the same shopping trip
  • Everything must be organic. If you can get it local organic, that’s even better
  • Buy only what is on the list, in the same quantities
  • Keep the receipt

The List

With my list in hand, I headed to Whole Foods Galleria, which is one of two Whole Foods in the St Louis area (and the only one in the city limits, I think). I chose Whole Foods because I really like Whole Foods, and I guessed that they would be the most likely store to have everything on the list in the organic variety. As a plus, I just love the atmosphere of the store, the smell of the deli and the bakery. Plus, the variety always compels me to explore my taste buds and try something a little exotic. But tonight, I had a plan.

I felt like I was on a secret mission. The Hunt for Red October, only it was the Hunt for Red Roma Tomatoes. I didn’t have to wander too far, because everything I needed was in the front produce section. Duh. The zucchini squash, the fennel, even the collard greens (of which I’m not a fan… yet) found their way into my cart. But I was careful to grab the right amount (4 zucchini squash, one fennel with at least 4 stems, etc). I hit a speedbump, though, when it came to golden sweet potatoes. What are golden sweet potatoes, anyway? I am glad I had my Android, because I Google-Imaged that. And all I saw was a regular, ol’ sweet potato. So I grabbed three of the smallest sweet potatoes they had (organic) and moved along the list. In hindsight, it looks like I was a little off with that one, because my sweet potatoes don’t look the same… but anyway, I digress.

Moving along- breezily counting squash and kiwi and knocking on pomegranates, and then I hit the apples: pinova. What is that? Google phone to the rescue: It’s a cross between golden delicious, Cox’s orange pippin, and Duchess of Oldenburg. Never heard of it. And I couldn’t find them next to the braeburns or red delicious. So I asked the produce guy working and he told me they don’t have pinovas at this time. They had them a few weeks ago, and might get them again… but today, no goose. Dang. I asked him what would be the closest thing to a pinova, and he said the braeburn tastes similar. So I made an exception and grabbed two of these.

There also weren’t any organic bean sprouts. I had bought them at Trader Joe’s, but Whole Foods just had “naturally grown” quasi-local (from Chicago) sprouts. So I grabbed a bag of what they had, and shrugged.

Then I finally got to last thing on my list: limes. I found five organic lemons easily, but limes? Well, there were limes from Mexico, but they weren’t organic. There were key limes, but those weren’t organic either. Turns out, no organic limes at the Galleria Whole Foods on this trip. Uh-oh. This was a problem. I grabbed the regular old pesticide full limes and threw them into a bag.

I made it to the checkout, thinking that I had no idea how I faired. Produce is hard to shop for if you’re on a budget, because you really can’t tell how much things cost unless you weigh everything out and allocate a certain percentage of your budget to purchasing it. And some things I expected to be cheap while others more expensive, but it always surprised me. Take the zucchini, for example. I would have guessed it to be a less expensive item, since it was marginally still in season and they grow like weeds. But it was the most expensive item on my receipt, coming in at $5.60 for 4. And the pomegranates, I assumed, would be redonkulously expensive, but they came in at $2.50 a pop.

The check-out total?

A whopping $51.18.

Ouch. I didn’t even come close to Sonja‘s $38, and I had to leave the house to get it. Not to mention I didn’t even get everything organic, and the receipt is a billion times long! I certainly accrued penalty points for not getting the limes and sprouts organic ($5 extra each), but it didn’t really matter in the end. She had this one in the bag… but not literally, since she got hers in the box and I got mine in the bag. I wonder if the difference was because we lived in different regions of the US…

That’s the other unfortunate thing about my produce-obtaining experience compared to hers. I had bags, lots and lots of bags. The collard greens and the fennel had just been sprayed, so I put that in their own bags (because one was by weight and the other was not); the lemons were rolling all over the place, so they went in a bag. Eventually, everything that came in pairs or more went into a bag. So, yeah. Everything went into a bag (except the pomegranates and the avocados. I don’t care if their skins get all yuckied up). I had so many bags, I decided to dedicate a photo to my teammate, Jamie

…although it looks more like a tutu than a hula skirt.

It was quite the gorgeous shopping experience, though, I have to admit. I got all these beautiful, colorful, healthy, whole foods, just ready for me to eat them.

And I don’t think I’ve ever bought five lemons at one time before. Or fennel. Or collard greens (someone please help me to like them).

Sonja went out to price the stuff at her local Whole Foods in Denver, and her grand total came to $41.53. There is a discrepency between cities, so it appears. Although not everything from her list at Whole Foods was organic, she was well below my check-out total. I wonder why? I would have assumed things would be more expensive in the mile-hight city.

So… now that you’ve seen all the fun I’ve had, do you wanna be a part of the Real World Real Food Challenge, too? Because you can! It’s super fun and exciting. Just make sure you have $50 to spend on produce, and make sure that you’ll put it to good use (um, by eating it, silly! Not feeding it to your neighbor’s goats).

Here’s what you gotta do:

  • Take the shopping list and head to your favorite grocery store where you can buy lots of organic and/or locally-grown vegetables and fruits.
  • Buy only organic, and only what’s on the list.
  • Keep your receipt.
  • Share it with us! (If you scan or take a photo of our receipt, just black out all the private info, k?)

Sonja and I will even have a points system to determine who and where has the best real food available. Wanna try it but don’t wanna shell out for organic? That’s cool, too! We’re interested in how much it costs for regular-ol’ produce, too. Just remember, some things are healthier for you when they are organic than others (like apples, pears, tomatoes, and anything that you eat what is on the outside where the pesticides can soak in).

Once you’ve done the shopping, share your story on your own blog, and make sure to tell one of us (or both!) the name of the store you shopped at and what city/metro area you live in. Share the link to your blog post with us, too (in the comments of our posts). We’ll use the honor system, but share your grand total and any modifications (if you made any).

Of course, if your grocery store that you choose doesn’t have an organic fruit or veggie on Sonja‘s list, you’ll be fined. How does $5 plus what my St Louis price of that same food cost sound? This could get expensive really fast…

Why do this? Because it’s fun! Interesting! A learning experience!

Why else? Well, if you really want more motivation, we can give you a little incentive. How about a big ol’ blast of Justin’s Nut Butter? We’ll giveaway a big, sweet and tasty supply of our favorite nut butters to the person with the best blog post. We will be deciding the winner on December 20th, so you have a little over a week to get your groceries and post your blog.

Good luck!

Frugal Gluten Free Girl: Oatmealed Acorn Squash

With my bi-weekly buy-in of community supported agriculture, I got a lot of squash. I love squash, but Baberaham isn’t such a fan. Nonetheless, I’ve found these delicious fruit easy to prepare. As a bonus, if you are to buy squash from a grocery store or farmer’s market, it’s pretty stinkin’ cheap.

Tonight, I scraped together experimented with stuff we had in our cupboards. I came across the following and made it into a meal:

2 small acorn squash
1 c steel-cut oats
1c milk
1c water
1/2c pecans, chopped
honey
sea salt, to taste

I halved the acorn squash, saved the seeds, set the squash on a cookie sheet insides up, and baked them at 375F for 30 minutes, and then an hour at 350F. After dropping the temp on the oven for the squash, I started cooking the oats with 1c water and 1c skim milk to make them a little creamy.

Once the oats and squash were done (I could tell the squash was done by the “fork test”- when the fork goes in easy, its done!), I laid the squash insides-up on a plate and covered the inside with chopped pecans (about 2tbsp for each half). Then, I drizzled about 1/2 tbsp of honey on the pecans.

After adding the pecans and honey, I filled the squash halves to the brim with hot oats. That’s it!

Eating it from the outside in is the best way to get all the flavors. Each bite should contain some squash, oats, and pecans. The slight sweetness of the honey blended with the sea salt makes this dish irresistable (at least, to me!).

For me tonight, this meal was practically free, because I was using up milk that was close to expiring, I was eating squash that has been sitting on our counter for weeks, and I found a bag of steel-cut oats behind the crackers in the cupboard. But! If you were to go to the store and buy all these things, it would work out something like this:

McCann’s Steel-Cut Oats– 1lb box that will last you a while- $3.59
2 acorn squash – $2
honey, 12oz – $2
1c milk – 50cents

I eat big, so this was enough for two meals in my eyes. But, if you want to divvy up the calories, it could feed four. Let me know if you try this dish!

Edit: OH YEAH! I forgot to add… I made pepitas out of the leftover seeds. Traditionally, pepitas are made from pumpkin seeds, but to be honest, acorn squash seeds taste just the same. There are fewer seeds, but why let ’em go to waste? I just peeled away the “gunk”, put them in a bowl, sprinkled them with sea salt, pepper, and 2 tbsp olive oil, and then baked them at 350F for ~5-10 minutes- while I was preparing the oatmealed squash. Once they started to brown and swell a very small amount, I knew they were done. Delish!

The blueberry queen

Yesterday afternoon, I went blueberry picking at the Gierke Blueberry Farm in Chassell. I was on a mission to pick a shitton of blueberries, enough blueberries to (dare I say it) last me through the year. This is a big feat, because I 1) LOVE blueberries and 2) have a problem with stopping when I eat them.

I picked and picked, and picked some more. I found a few jackpot bushes, and felt gluttonous about halfway through but could.not.stop.picking. By the time my friends dragged me away, I was 17.5lbs of blueberries richer.

What will I do with all these blueberries, you ask? What won’t I do. Muffins. Cobbler. Ice cream. Oatmeal. A bloggy-friend sent me a recipe for Zippy-Fast Blueberry Crisp (via microwave) and I am psyched to try it. But my favorite thing to do with blueberries is just eat them raw and plain.

Today, they’ll be fueling me right on a long ride through the Keweenaw (I had creamy grits with 1/2c blueberries for brekky). Chances are good that I will stop along the road somewhere and find another blueberry (or raspberry. or thimbleberry) bush to steal from.

The week-long bonk – or "How a slab of meat changed my week"

This week has not been very awesome.

In fact, last week wasn’t either.

With traveling, conferencing, interviewing, meetings, research, and training, I have been feeling the weight of life slam down heavy on my shoulders [although, I can’t even imagine how Marg must feel with her upcoming wedding and job search]. And of all things, its my training that suffers. I feel tired, and my speed work ends with me crapping out. I swim 2000yards and I feel like I am drowning. My plans for running after work end up with me and heading home from campus at 7pm, only to seek refuge in grilled cheese and True Blood on Blu-Ray because I don’t have any energy for anything else. Yesterday, I tried to get in a long road ride, and a flat tire had me in tears and calling my boyfriend to come get me in BFE.

The question I have asked myself every day this week: Who took my energy, and where did they go?

Last week, Baberaham hinted that I might have symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, and taking it easy is probably not a bad idea. Granted, we were in Florida, where swimming in a lap pool set to 86 degrees and “getting refreshed” by jumping in the ocean (which was 91 degrees) was only minimally satisfying. Not to mention, running at 4pm before lightning storms because that was the only time there was a breeze didn’t really help my energy levels. But I wasn’t having any headaches (except for when I wasn’t injesting caffeine) and I felt descent after napping, so I chocked it up to a shift in the climate and a lot on my plate.

Then I got to thinking about one of the cruxes of endurance training: my diet.

It’s true, I hadn’t been eating as great as I should have been after Rev3 Quassy. I do a great job of hydrating and eating right before a race, but afterwards I don’t care as much. And a trip to Florida, with big meals and glasses of wine, threw me out of whack a little. It wasn’t until I got home, spent a week cooking for myself, and feeling like absolute dump, that I realized what mgiht be going on.

After the failed bike ride of yesterday (55 miles does not equal 130, thankyouverymuch flat tire), I had a craving. Not a normal craving, either. I usually want to eat things like chocolate or ice cream, or a Snickers bar or cheese. No, this craving was unusual, for me, especially since I am no longer a vegetarian. The craving: a big fat juicy STEAK.

Growing up, I was raised on red meat. My parents bought a cow and had it processed, and we’d eat beef 3-4 times a week. Hamburgers, chili, meatloaf, you name it. I depended on finding, during summer weekend evenings, a T-bone steak and an ear of corn on my plate. When I went off to college, I stopped eating so much meat, and when I went to graduate school I became vegetarian. I never had too big of issues with training, but I rarely trained as much as I do now (plus, so it goes, I was younger and could apparently recover faster then… plus during graduate school I was adament about having a protein shake after every big workout).

Now, even though I have reincorporated meat into my diet, I struggle more in recovery, and have found that it takes more time and more discipline to feel good during and after a big training block. Although we don’t eat a lot of meat, Baberaham and I usually fill our meals with a good variety of foods like black beans, eggs, and whole grain rice. I usually make an Ultragen shake after long workouts, but my First Endurance supply has been depleted and my ambition as of late has not been focused on reordering more.

So, yesterday, sitting on our friend’s couch watching World Cup, I saw a Bon Appetit magazine on their coffee table with a big rib eye steak. I then counted the meals I had consumed this week and could count on one hand the number that had either meat, egg, or beans in them. Immediately, I turned to B and proclaimed: “I need to go get a steak dinner.” He looked puzzled, and I continued, “My treat.”

After the US’s disappointing loss, we went to Calumet and both ordered the rib-eye. All 16-ounces of the bone-in, medium rare meat melted in my mouth and slid down my gullet. I felt euphoric, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my mouth. Baked potato? Gone. Grizzle? Gone. Sour cream? Gone. Of all things, I left the limp green beans on my plate, I suppose as a sacrifice to the bovine gods.

I didn’t know how it happened, but I had put my finger exactly on the issue that my body was dealing with. After the meal, and the post-feast lethargy of more True Blood and muddy buddies, I slept like a baby and woke up in the morning before the alarm. I pulled on my running shorts and darted out of the house, tackling the 3hr run to South Range with more umph than I’ve had all week. I felt like I was flying during the last hour, and I felt strong, fluid, and forward. I felt good.

True, part of that could have been because my ride yesterday was cut so short and I let my brain and body rest all afternoon. But I really, truly believe that the thick, juicy, delicious slab of meat I ate last night changed my week, and my week-long bonk will happen again if I don’t pay better attention to the protein I put in my body.