Monthly Archives: September 2011

Iron War Heats Up

Damn! I was SO looking forward to this book about the legendary 1989 Ironman triathlon being published. Now I’m concerned. This race has fascinated me for years, especially as I have delved more deeply into the Maffetone training method that Mark Allen used in preparing for this historic win over the amazing Dave Scott. I heard the author, Matt Fitzgerald, speak at a meeting of my triathlon club this summer where he mentioned this book. So I was dying to read it. (He was speaking about his last two books Racing Weight and Run The Mind Body Method of Running by Feel) I have long enjoyed his articles in print and on the web, but now I worry about veracity and integrity. I mean, if the two principal players in the drama are outraged enough to actually pursue legal action? I really want to read the book, especially because of the controversy, but if Fitzgerald is truly wrong here, then I don’t want any of my money going to his cause. What to do? Do I cancel my Amazon pre-order? Just follow the internet flame war to follow? Or do I pay Fitzgerald, read and then make up my mind? What would  you do? Check out the amazing finish to that race.

Advertisements

Mushrooms Protect Against Breast Cancer

I found a great nutrition source the other day, Dr. Michael Greger’s NutritionFacts.org where he archives an incredible array of vlogs about various nutrition topics. I have seen a couple of his presentations, one on cancer and another on bird flu, but neglected to see all the goodness he has assembled for free on his own site. I think I spent an hour just randomly watching his videos. But this recent video on mushrooms and breast cancer really grabbed my attention. Since I know a couple of people facing breast cancer, I was particularly interested. Earlier in the summer I watched a PBS show by Dr. Joel Fuhrman in which he claimed that his top recommended anti-cancer foods included mushrooms. For years our nutritional analysis of shrooms has concluded that they were basically “empty”. Low in calories, tasty to some, but not very nutrient dense. I always thought that there must be something more to them since they are so revered in Asia. Ancient humans must have had some reason to risk the many toxic varieties out there, and science has finally caught up. I would like to call them “phytonutrients” to link them to all the other wonderful disease fighters, but a fungus is not a plant. So what are they? Myconutrirnts? Fungichemicals? I love mushrooms, and here are one of my favorite dishes that feature them. This is now my anti cancer go to dish as features all of Fuhrman’s favorites: allium family (onions and garlic), greens, beans, and mushrooms. The only one missing is some kind of berry. But they wouldn’t fit here, so I’ll stick to eating berries with my oatmeal.

Spicy Kale and Shrooms

1 bunch kale, chopped
8 oz mushrooms sliced or quartered
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
jalapeno, minced
1-2 tomatoes, chopped
1 pound waxy potatoes, mostly cooked
1 can beans, drained and rinsed
Bragg’s or soy sauce
Chili paste

Directions

Cook the potatoes until almost done.
In a large skillet, saute onion, jalapeno and garlic until soft.
Add mushrooms, and saute until mushrooms release their liquid.
Add kale and a little water, cover and cook until kale is tender.
Add remaining ingredients and continue cooking until heated through and veggies are done to your liking.

100 Days!

Remember January 1? Whatever happened to those resolutions? Come on, admit it, you’re among friends, you had a few, didn’t you? Even if you didn’t make a big deal about them at the time by broadcasting them to your support network, blogging them, keeping a journal, or even writing them on the fridge, they were there somewhere in your mind. Then what happened? Of course, Life happened. It usually does. Then there were a few slips, you slacked off, and when you started to feel bad, your ever ready ego fired up the Rationalization machine and presto! You absolved yourself of actually making any change. You’re happy now right?

Of course not. You made those resolutions because they meant something to you. So I’m here to say that you are not to late to make serious progress on those goals. We have 100 days left in 2011. That’s a lot of days that you can use to make your goals and dreams come true. So, recommit yourself to the spirit of the goals, even if they were vague to begin with. What can you do right now, this very minute to make some progress? Start small. Very small. Like five minutes worth of small. What can you do right now for five minutes that could help? Maybe write down a plan for tomorrow. Maybe reconnect with what you find inspiring about your goal. Maybe you could close your eyes and for five minutes just imagine what life would feel like when this goal is achieved. Maybe you could just watch your breath for five minutes and let theuniverse talk to you.

Then what? Do something! Maybe the original goal is too ambitious for 100 days. So what? When all else fails, lower your expectations. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Reflect for a moment on what would be reasonable to expect in the final 100 days this year. Now take that goal and cut it in half. If you’re really ambitious, cut it by 75%. You read that right. Some times we get too wound up and anxious and get in our own way. Maybe we get too excited and try to hard to “dream big”. Maybe we can ease up and be kind to ourselves by trying gentler. But you know what? Those small, kind, and gentle actions can add up to great things. And it will happen quicker than you think, because as we all know well, time truly does fly. So perhaps the harder we try and the more tension we create, the quicker we abandon. I am reminded of the old Zen story:

A spiritual seeker came to see a famous Zen master and asked how long it would take to reach enlightenment if he meditated two hours a day.
“Ten years,” the Zen master answered.
“Ten years! What if I doubled my efforts and meditated four hours a day?”
“Probably about about fifteen years.”
“What?! OK, what if I was totally devoted and meditated for six hours a day, every day. How long?”
“Oh, I would say at least twenty years.”
“This is ridiculous! How can it be that the harder I work the longer it will take? That doesn’t make any sense!”
“The harder you try, the tighter you grasp and cling to this idea of enlightenment that you alone created in your own mind. It is not true understanding. To truly wake up you must let go of all those ideas and receive the wisdom around you. Only when you relax your mind and expectations will you see with new understanding.”

Hmmm. Interesting ideas. Go easier to go farther. Sounds like the Maffetone method all over again. So what will I do? Keep practicing. The Maffetone method of athletic training has been a great help. It changes my focus from trying to hit specific targets,to instead putting faith in the practice of daily improvement of my aerobic engine. So I will continue to do that. I will find a few races to participate in to stoke the fires. But not too many, I have learned the lesson of over racing. I will focus less on numbers (weight, HRV, times, pace, poundage etc.) and more on the behavior and habit. Is what I’m doing now going to help me run that marathon in December or Leadville 2014? As long as the movement is in the right direction, I’ll count it a victory. I’m much more more interested in the habit than I am how long it took me to run to the bridge and back or ride up St. Joseph’s Hill.

100 days left! What are you going to do?

Autumn Vegan Bounty

Santa Cruz Mountains

I ran across Chris Carmichael’s postabout what is so great about the fall and couldn’t agree more. I love the fall in California. Cool nights and mornings with warm afternoons are perfect for long training or racing. Fall is definitely here in the Bay Area. I am happy that this is the second weekend in a row that I have resisted the temptations of the couch or given into workweek fatigue and actually followed the training plan. Score another one for the Maffetone method. Saturday consisted of a great 2 hour MTB ride around the trails off Skyline above Palo Alto. Sunday’s workout was a 90 minute long run to begin the build phase for a December marathon. Unfortunately, my legs were deadened a bit by Saturday’s ride, so I had to slow to a pathetic jog to keep my HR within the prescribed range. Regardless, it was a good workout because it met the criteria and it was a beautiful morning to run. After the run of course it was time to hit the Campbell Farmer’s Market. Another reason fall is the best, the truly amazing bounty at the Farmer’s Market! I scored bok choy, mizuna, eggplant, green beans, yukon gold potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and peaches.

Time to create a menu plan and a training plan for the week. Definitely a lot more work needed on my aerobic engine. No anaerobic efforts until gym work begins next month. How are you training now? Still racing? What are you eating now?

Spanish Quinoa

spanish quinoa

Spanish Quinoa with Beans and Salsa

I was hungry for Spanish Rice, but I wanted a twist, hence, Spanish Quinoa! Mostly it was because I wanted a quicker cooking meal, and quinoa is done in half the time of brown rice. To round it out I topped it with slow cooked beans, fresh salsa and cilantro. For beans I used the phenomenal Ranch Gordo Vaquero bean. Alright, here’s how it goes:

SPANISH QUINOA

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 dried chilies
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
1-2 jalapenos, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 4 oz can sliced olives
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
squirt of Bragg’s
hot sauce to taste

Instructions:

  1. Prepare quinoa by bringing water to a boil and adding quinoa and dried chilies. Lower heat and simmer for 20 min. Set off heat for 10 min. Remove chilies and fluff.
  2. While quinoa cooks saute onion, garlic, and green pepper in a little water for about 5 min.
  3. Add tomatoes, chilies, and Bragg’s and mix well. Add cooked quinoa and mix again.
  4. Add remaining ingredients, mix well and cook gently for 15-20 min.

Serving suggestions:

  • Top a bed of shredded greens
  • Use as an enchilada filling
  • Top with beans
  • Top with salsa
  • Fill a tortilla

Marathon Millet and Mung Beans

Braised Greens, Mung Beans and Millet

Mung beans are a funny little green bean. They are the basis for the white bean sprouts in many Asian dishes. They are also common in a hulled and split form in Indian dal. They are reputed to be easy to digest, and I like them, but I hardly ever come across any recipes for them in their unhulled and whole form. One of the few I have found came from a recipe in an old cookbook for Kenyan beans. Now the legendary status of Kenyan runners and the plant based diet they consume immediately attracted me. I can’t find many Kenyan recipes, so I don’t know if mung beans are common or not, but I combined a mung bean stew with two African staples, millet and spicy cooked greens. This is definitely a plant strong recipe that might not make me run exactly like a Kenyan, but I am hoping that it will power me through my marathon this December.

MARATHON MILLET AND MUNG BEANS WITH SPICY GREENS

Ingredients:

1 cup mung beans, rinsed
4 cups water
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapenos, minced
1 each red and green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup millet
2 cups water
1 teaspoon seasoning blend like Mrs. Dash or Spike
1 bunch kale, collards or chard, chopped
1/4 cup water
hot sauce to taste

Instructions:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add mung beans. Lower heat and simmer for 30 min.
  2. After mung beans have cooked for 30 min. add vegetables and cook until done, about 30 min.
  3. In a separate saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add millet and seasoning blend. Lower heat and simmer for 30 min. When done, let rest off heat for 10 min.
  4. Braise greens in water, covered until done, about 10 min. Optional: greens may be braised with chopped peppers, onions and/or tomatoes. Season to taste with Bragg’s and hot sauce.

To Serve:

Fluff millet and scoop into bowl. Top with a scoop of mung beans, then top off with greens. Add hot sauce to taste. Enjoy, and run faster.

M.A.F. Test #2

So today I tried my second Maximum Aerobic Function Test on the track. I have been lagging behind on this since summer vacation and mountain biking always seemed to interfere. So while Maffetone advises testing every four weeks and I thought that every three weeks would be even better, this time it’s closer to six weeks. Oh well. I have gotten feedback that shows my aerobic function has improved even without cold hard numbers. I tackled a local ride that mixes pavement and trail on my mountain bike, and while the ride took me two and a half hours earlier in the summer, now I can complete in less that 2:15. All at the same low heart rate, <141 BPM. My usual training run has also become faster and easier. It is probable that some of that improvement is from a higher hematocrit after spending so much time at altitude this summer, but at least some of it must be improved fitness.

But I wanted numbers from the track, so off I went. As before, I walked to the track for about 5-10 minutes to start my warmup, then when I arrived I ran an easy 800m with my heart rate in the 120s. My training range is from 131-141, and the 120s are as low as I can go and actually run. Then I ran a series of three one mile repeats, stopping for a few seconds between each to note the time. Then I walked home.

Conditions were different this time. Afternoon, warm, windy. A significant headwind on the back straight. I wore different shoes this time. I wore my lighter, more minimal Adidas Omm shoes. I don’t think the shoes affected anything, but the wind and later time may have.

Results:

Mile 1: 10:35
Mile 2: 11:07
Mile 3: 11:45

Average pace: 11:09

Improvement: 45 seconds per mile.

Interpretation:

I have mixed feeleings about this result. It is a clear improvement and validation of the training I have been doing, but I thought I would have done better based on subjective measurements of other training efforts. But as Maffetone regularly reminds us, training stress is closely connected to other life stress, and this is the start of the school year, a vrey stressful time for me. But my HRV and RHR values have been good. It could be that last week I skipped cycling in favor of running and my feet have been tired. It could also be that I am just over anxious for improvement and need to realx and be patient. In the end, that is what I will take away from it. This program works, I have seen objective improvement in racing and on the track. I have also experienced the subjective improvement in regular training routes. But by far the most important benefit is that I truly enjoy every workout. Every run and ride feels great. So great that as the good doctor says, I wouldn’t mind going out and doing it all over again. How often do you feel that way after training?