Monday, October 31, 2011

Sweet Potato Bison Stew

This is likely a contender for both the ultimate pre event carb loading meal and post race recovery food.  The balance of lean protein and carbs in a hydrating meal make this a winner any time.  It is dairy and gluten free making it easy on the stomach.

Paleo stew for endurance athletes and people who love food everywhere.  Makes leftovers.
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 lbs bison stew meat
2 sweet potatoes
14 oz skinned diced tomatoes
1 Onion diced
3 Carrots diced
3 Stalks Celery diced
6 Cloves Garlic minced
4-6 Cups Beef Stock
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp cumin

½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Fresh Cracked Pepper

Heat the oil in a large frying pan.  In a large bowl combine the cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and stew meat.  Add the now seasoned stew meat to the pan and brown on all sides about 5 minutes.  Remove the meat to a large soup pot.  Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, garlic, and beef stock to the soup pot and simmer for 1 hour covered. 

Add oil to the frying pan and heat.  Skin the sweet potatoes and cut into bite size chunks. Add the sweet potatoes and remaining vegetables and soften for 20 minutes.  After the stew meat has cooked for 1 hour add the vegetables and cook on low for an additional 40 minutes.  Enjoy.      

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Performance Enhancing Weather

Whether a training run qualifies as a PR is debatable.  Does it count or does it need to occur during a race? Either way my recent effort gives me a high level of confidence that I can handle increasingly longer distances at high intensity injury free.  This year I have had some trouble recovering from such efforts of this distance but have since changed my form and feel strengthened from earlier in the year.  Being a glass runner is not much fun.

The past weekend featured what can only be described as performance enhancing weather.  No energy was lost to regulating body temperature up or down.  Friday I set out for a long run that resulted in a half marathon PR on the South Shore half marathon course.  It was the realization of an effort I have long been capable of but never did achieve because of weather, injury, and other training priorities.
Sunday at the track

I set out in the evening as the sun was rapidly sinking into the horizon.  I find the transition from day to night particularly enjoyable to run during.  The clear skies quickly cooled the air in the absence of the sun.  The air was refreshing and easy to breathe though my hands and arms were cold from choosing to wear shorts and a short sleeve tech shirt.  I ran through patches of breezy cold punctuated by warmth where the trees managed to trap heat.  At this point in the year it is probably safer to overdress for the temperature.  I was surprised by the relative ease in maintaining my pace through to the end.

Cadence courtesy of my newest toy the foot pod.  Cadence remained fairly constant (89 avg as counted per right foot strike) for the entirety of the run.  The initial elevated heart rate is from the cold.  Half marathon time was 1:30:37.  
There were no bugs the entirety of the course.  At the end of the run I did not look like a car’s windshield at the end of a road trip.  I could only complain about the beating my feet took in my zero drop minimalist Merrill trail gloves.  The Inov f-Lite 195s I have been running in feature 3mm of heel to forefoot differential and I could definitely feel the extra calf stretch from the zero drop.  
I rounded out the weekend with a 50 mile scenic bike tour of Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf trail on Saturday and a trip to the track Sunday.  I biked to the track at a leisurely pace, knocked out a mile warm-up and ran a mile for time.  I find this short but intense effort is a great micro example of a longer race and the intelligent pacing required.  Each of the four laps has a different flavor requiring a mix of restraint and all out effort.  Monday I did mile intervals.  This is in contrast to previous half marathon efforts that left me skipping runs and needing  longer to recover.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chicago Men's Health Urbanathlon

Last year competing in the Chicago Men's Health Urbanathlon reignited a lost passion in me for competing and running.  That drive remains strong today after a year of consistent training.   I returned with my wife this past weekend to compete again.  I was initially reluctant when she first wanted to do the event last year and took some convincing.  I am glad I came around and am thankful for her in that she pushes me and brings out the best in me.

The love of my life in green on her way to a PR.  Race day photos from BazuSports.
The Urbanathlon is a unique and very fun race that combines 9.75 miles of running with numerous obstacles that test strength and smarts.  The obstacles are no joke ranging from tires, barricades, hurdles (low, high and marine), monkey bars, walls, and a massive stair climb that all serve to equalize the competition.  The race attracts a wide range of people more traditional road races do not for which I love it.  The backdrop along Chicago’s lakefront is beautiful.  The organizers fixed many of the problems from 2010 and put on a great event for all.

I was a bit nervous for my love because she had stitches in her side from a mountain biking wreck the week prior.  This was her first run since but in the end there was no trouble outside of some soreness.  I was happy because she was more excited about this event than me, strength training junkie she is.  I had my own problems from a touch of food poisoning the night before.  I was dehydrated and a touch hungry.  I can’t say it impacted my performance much if any outside of manageable discomfort.

We started the race in wave one.  I took off quick fast at the start and even led the race for ten seconds or so.  Turns out these things are not about how you start but how you finish.  I eased into a comfortably brisk pace and watched as the top of the field passed me by over the next two miles.  The air was cold and I felt a chill in my lungs pushing it in and out.  I was desperately thirsty by the first water stop two miles in and drank up.  I typically don’t need to hydrate during efforts safely under two hours but today was different.  I felt refreshed and pushed on.
The event is heavily male dominated.   
I felt strong going into the first obstacle a bit past the first 5k, even passed a few of the competition.  The first obstacle was a rude wake up.  The tires, and police barricades quickly sent my heart pounding to its max.  Every obstacle was like similarly like this with the key being able to recover on the run.  The obstacles were where I passed and was passed the most.  Like I mentioned earlier they are equalizers and everyone has specific strengths.  After the first round of obstacles it was another 5k to the next.  I kicked it up a notch in this flat stretch and traded positions several times with some of my evenly matched competition.  The lead woman passed me here with a quickness.

Coming out of the second set of obstacles I was no longer thirsty but had side aches.  It could have been caused by anything but it was mental.  My calves were sore but I still had an amazing performance left in me.  Triathlon, intervals, and hill training have all taught me how to get an amazing performance out of a reluctant body.  This was a short anaerobic effort for the most part and the discomfort was not cause for alarm.  I used to fear that pain but now embrace it.  I pushed it quite successfully for the last 5k before the stair climb.  I passed some of the competition on the stairs and some of them passed me.  I trained hills a lot but stairs are different animals.  I sprinted them when I could, maxing out my heart, and briskly walked them at times too.
The entire field was on average faster than the year before and the top two finished in under 1 hour.
Coming out of the stairs I punched it, odd as it sounds the stairs served as a recovery from running.  Probably recruit different muscle groups.  A nice big downhill awaited and no one I have met has ever out downhill raced me.  I passed a gentleman and kept pushing.  There was something like a mile left and I was exhausted and close to failure.  Close does not mean failure though and I gave my last big push.  I suspect my last mile was a minute faster than the rest.  I picked up a few more spots and didn’t believe my eyes turning the final quarter mile.  Ahead of me was the lead female who I had not seen since mile 3.  The gap between us looked implausible to cover but I made a go for it anyways, almost caught up too.

She made it into the finish line obstacles a couple seconds ahead of me.  I gained time on her over the taxis and bus but she proved quicker going over the wall and beat me by a few seconds into the finish.  Congratulations to her, and I must thank her for the motivation in the final push.  I felt like throwing up at the finish, a sensation with little precedent.  A year of consistent training paid off big, my finish time was 18 minutes (21%) faster than the year before.  My wife finished shortly later with similar year over year improvements.  We rounded out the day with some deep dish pizza and shopping.  The Chicago weekend was a lot of fun and I look forward to next year.              

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mushroom and Spinach Chicken Soup

Traffic was backed up today on the drive home giving me plenty of time to think up this recipe.  I have been feeling a touch run down and the weather today was cold and rainy leaving me wanting soup.  I had made chicken stock last night but wanted to make the soup paleo which presented a challenge in thought.  Most if not all chicken based soups I have eaten or made contained lentils, orzo, rice, noodles, or some other kind of grain.  After a short phone call with the love of my life I had found inspiration and this simple and delicious soup was the result.  Ingredients follow:

Spinach Mushroom Chicken Soup

6-8 cups chicken stock
3-4 cups shredded chicken
6-8 oz sliced mushrooms
1/2 onion diced
3-4 garlic cloves minced
crushed red pepper
1-2 Tbs Olive Oil

Coat the bottom of a medium sized soup pot with olive oil and heat on low.  Add the sliced mushrooms, and diced onions and cook 5 to 8 minutes.  Add the minced garlic, chicken stock, and shredded chicken and heat through.  When heated through ladle the soup into serving bowls.  Add whole leaves of spinach to bowls and stir in.  Top with crushed red pepper to taste.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Oak Leaf in Pictures

I am fortunate to live just a few blocks away from Lake Michigan along the Oak Leaf trail in Milwaukee.  I can bike to work taking a combination of city streets and the trail.  It is a great two a day effort and convenient way of racking up miles on a beautiful route.  I have biked to work a number of times but today I took a camera to capture the beauty of my home town.
About to begin my commute to work
I left the house just a touch before 6:00 AM.  Traffic at this hour is sparse and most traffic lights were blinking yellow or red speeding up my commute.  Headlights and taillights are a must for riding in the dark even if you are on a trail that does not have cars.
Bayview Before Sunrise
The Oak Leaf is discontinuous.  Some of it is city streets with stop lights and some long stretches of uninterrupted trail also exist.  To get around the harbor city streets are the only available option.  For this reason it is important for cyclists and motor vehicles to share the road.  This goes both ways as I have seen plenty of dumb on both sides.  At least two cycling fatalities have occurred along this route that I know of.
Lake Michigan Sunrise off the art museum
The Oak Leaf becomes a continuous trail for over 5 miles from downtown through Estabrook Park.  It is one of my favorite stretches to run and bike.
Taken on the way home, a bridge in Estabrook park
Estabrook park is gorgeous and has a few different trails winding through it.  Much of the path follows the Milwaukee river.  It is easy to forget it is in a city.

The Milwaukee River as viewed from Estabrook park
There may have been some unofficial common use single track along the river I checked out.  I didn't have time to explore all the networks of trails but they do have their own Wikipedia page.  Another day.
Capital Avenue Bridge
The Capital Avenue bridge has been open since this spring.  I am grateful for it.  I never did enjoy crossing Capital.  I used to bike Capital but take a longer route with less traffic these days to reduce my risk of death.
Veterans Park Bridge and marina in the background.
There are  a lot of cool scenic loops and offshoots in the area and far more landmarks to see than I can give justice here.  The Veterans park area is very rich in scenic beauty.
The Milwaukee Art Museum
The art museum is a gorgeous building.  I think the wings were closed because it was windy.  This same building was featured in Transformers Dark of the Moon.
2nd Street Rockwell Automation Clock Tower
2nd street has bike lanes and not much traffic.  It was under construction last year but is complete and functional this year.  I don't understand why cyclists take very busy KK two blocks over.  I did it a couple times before deciding I loved life more than cycling in a traffic lane on a busy bus route.
By the Port of Milwaukee
I would train by the port of Milwaukee all day if I was Rocky.  It has an industrial feel and I love it.  There are a lot of haters but the conveniences of modern life including power, water, sewer, and freight have to be made possible somewhere.
Back home with dog and machine
I finally got a cross country mountain bike this past weekend after a year of thought and after taking out about five different bikes.  It does not make the fastest commuter but goes places I wouldn't want to take my road bike - not that I couldn't.  When the weather cools some more my next big challenge will be running to work and back.  It is close to a 13 mile effort one way and takes just shy of an hour on the bike when traffic lights are cooperative.



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spanish Rice

Spanish rice makes a great side and can be used in many dishes including Paella.  It is light on the stomach and contains no gluten.  This is my favorite go to simple carb.  It is quick to prepare and it keeps well as leftovers.

Spanish Rice with beef shank used to stuff  grilled poblano peppers


1 TBS Olive Oil
½ Cup Diced Onion
½ Cup Diced Bell Pepper
½ Cup Pigeon beans
½ Cup Diced Tomato
3-4Cloves Minced Garlic
1 Cup long grain Rice
2 Cups Chicken Stock
Pinch Saffron

In a medium sized pot heat the olive oil.  Add in the diced onions and peppers and cook until translucent 5 – 10 minutes.  Microwave the saffron for 20 seconds to harden and crush.  Add a small amount of hot water to the saffron and set to the side.  Stir the rice, garlic, and reserved saffron into the medium pot and stir to coat the rice.  Stir in the tomato, pigeon beans, and chicken stock.  Cover and cook on low for about 15 minutes or until rice is fluffy.  Enjoy.    

Monday, October 3, 2011

13:23 5k

My go to running partner is far too modest to discuss his exploits so I will do it for him.  On all but the hottest days he pushes the pace the first few miles of our runs.  I wanted to know his full potential so I took my bike out and let him set the pace to see what kind of effort he had in him without me to hold him back.
At his happiest
Our first mile was knocked out in 4:10.  Sounds fast and it is considering pinching out a loaf is included in the time.   Lefty really buckled down for mile two and turned out a 4:04.  Fatigue set in by mile three with a split of 4:34.  The last point one featured a full scale meltdown as he slowed to 5:42 min/mile pacing and I had to get out in front of him to encourage him to finish.  His final 5k time was 13:23, far outclassing my 18:26.

This makes him a bit slower than the men’s world record 5k time of 12:37 and a bit faster than the women’s record of 14:11.  His top speed, just shy of 30 mph makes him faster than most dogs.  Sure breeds like greyhounds can out sprint him for short distances but that is OK, greyhounds make for horrible endurance runners.  This dog is a multisport athlete - an excellent swimmer and brawler in addition to running.

On the recovery run back home
Despite his great 5k performance he is a 3 season dog and most summer days he is not capable of even moderate distance at my comparatively slow human pace.  Even on cool days he seems to max out a touch over 10 miles as he approaches six years old.  He always does seem to have plenty of strength to pull with all he has when he sees a deer though.  He has a big heart, when he isn't capable he still gives it his all and I need to call it for him so he doesn't kill himself from heatstroke. 

To train for this 5k Lefty got plenty of sleep.  Some days it seems like it is all he does.  When he wasn't sleeping he was eating.  When he wasn't sleeping or eating he was swimming, chasing tennis balls, and running down other dogs at the park.  He employed a lot of sprint work and got in a lot of tempo and distance work with my wife and I.  His strong work ethic had him putting in a lot of two a days when my wife and I ran separately.  Come to think of it he has it all figured out when it comes to training and recovery, I can only hope to follow his example.