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Saturday, July 31, 2010

She Swims, She Bikes, She Runs, She Mentors

Me and My Mentees - with me in the center, from left to right: 
Martha, Linetta, Carrie, Patricia, Sharon, Lisa and Jen

I had several of my mentees, and two of my mentees' friends over to dinner tonight, in pre-celebration of our triathlon tomorrow.  It's been an absolutely amazing experience being a mentor and trying to get into triathlon shape for this, my third triathlon event.  When I entered into this program I had no idea what I'd get out of this other than wanting to motivate myself via motivating others.  What I got out of this was so much more.  Inspiration, motivation, a desire to share and teach, and friendships.  The thing I'm so struck by this year as in past years is the camaraderie that exists in women-only events.  We come to this athletic pursuit for many different reasons but the end result is that we all want to finish the tri and finish doing it with our best effort.
I've learned patience and how to be supportive.  I've learned that you can do something great even with limited time and resources.  I've learned that by my offering advice consistently and constantly putting offers of support, workouts, and training ideas out there into the Internet great unknown did make a difference to my mentess, even if I didn't meet them or get email responses back.  So it is with a great sense of accomplishment that I post this photo of a few of my mentees and say thank you to all of you who were under my mentorship.  You are an amazing bunch of women, strong, confident, determined. Rock it Sunday! 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beat the Heat Non-Cooking: Cucumber, Feta and Watermelon Salad

For a muy refresco salad, try using the best of the summer's bounty - Farm Fresh Cucumbers and Sweet Juicy Watermelon.  When the weather is as hot as it's been this year, I barely have energy to think let alone cook.  Here's an easy salad that cools you off and gets better as it sits chilling in the refrigerator.  Think of it as a variation of the cucumber salad or quick pickles about which I've previously blogged.  Cool, crisp, sweet and salty, all the flavors and textures that work well on a hot day when you don't feel like cooking.  It's light and refreshing and best of all takes no heat or time to make.  Quantities can vary.  I've approximated the amounts for recipe purposes, but honestly, I really just tossed stuff together without thinking too hard - the heat's gotten to my brain!

Cucumber, Feta and Watermelon Salad Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup Red Onion - thin half-moon slices
  • 1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons (Divided) White Wine Vinegar
  • Kosher Salt - for salting veggies & seasoning
  • 2 Cucumbers - peeled if waxy, otherwise, cut in half length-wise, de-seeded and cut into half-moon 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 2 Celery Stalks - small/medium dice
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • A Few Grinds Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Feta Cheese - crumbled
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley - rough chop
  • 1/4 Cup Mint - rough chop
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Watermelon - seeded and large dice

  1. Prepare the onions first to take the sulfuric bite out of the raw onion: slice the onions and put them into a non-reactive bowl (glass, stainless steel or "china").  Season with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and pour 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar over the onions.  Set aside and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
  2. While the onions are mellowing out, peel, seed and slice the cucumbers; dice the celery. Place both in a mixing bowl and season with a generous pinch of kosher salt, tossing to combine.  
  3. In a small mixing bowl or measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper, whisking to dissolve the sugar.  Pour this mixture over the cucumbers and celery; set aside and let this mixture sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Drain and rinse the onions under cold running water, shake excess liquid off the onions; add the onions to the cucumber and celery.  Add in the chopped parsley, mint and crumbled feta. If you are not serving this immediately, cover tightly and refrigerate.
  5. Immediately before serving gently fold in the seeded and diced watermelon and drizzle the mixture with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Serve chilled.  Salad will hold for 1 day with the watermelon added to it, or for 2 days without the watermelon.  Makes approximately 6 to 8 servings.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Road Work for the Triathlon

Over the past two weeks I've been doing a lot of work to get ready for the upcoming SheRox Triathlon on Sunday, August 1st.  In between work, my regular morning bike rides, a brief vacation in Cape May, New Jersey, there have been a few clinics and triathlon related events and workouts that I've either attended or organized.  This has been an unusual season for me, as I haven't been exercising nearly as much as I did last year, or even the year before last.  While I've run outside a lot more this year than in the past two years, I haven't been swimming much at all.  I somehow managed to ride over 1,110 miles on my road bike since my season started (I'm guessing I put most of these miles on the bike sometime between Mid-March and now).  I've become a bit obsessed with feedback, logging all of my bicycle miles; the training, commuting and errands I've completed on my two bikes since May 26th.  My total biking mileage is over 700 miles in less than 2 months!  While I complain and beat myself up about my poor workout habits, I am still doing stuff to get ready for this triathlon (in addition to trying to be a good mom/spouse/employee.)  

Most of my real triathlon road work has come in the form of mentoring.  I had no idea how much time and effort I would put into the mentoring, nor did I have a clue as to how the mentoring would effect me.  It's been a heady, trippy, challenging experience.  There are times when I felt like I was sending out emails into the great unknown Internet world and then I'd get lovely email responses back from my mentees; I'd read stories about my mentees' training, accomplishments, other triathlons and adventures.  I'd organize bi-weekly events and occasionally meet one or five mentees.  But the best experience so far happened between the SheRox Tri transition clinic last week and on a BRICK workout last night, Wednesday, July 21st.  At the transition clinic, I got the feeling of this event was real and happening.  I felt the excitement and anxiety that I felt at the the last two triathlons.  It's a good feeling and made me realize that I was truly looking forward to the tri.  After the clinic, I organized a bike ride with some hill workouts for my mentees, and had 5 or 6 women show up for the ride, some of whom I had not previously met.  For our BRICK workout, which is a bike then run event, I had 12 women attend, most of whom I had never previously met!  We biked 11 miles, took several hills and ran at 7 pm in 91 degree weather for about 2 1/2 miles.  We were wiped out but everyone in attendance felt challenged by the workout giving all of us a real understanding of how we'll probably feel on race day.

The event that makes me look forward to race day, the one that made me really feel like I would be doing the triathlon and do it well was on this past Sunday. There was an open water swim in the Schuylkill River, at the Philadelphia Swim Club in Miquon.  This is a location that I've passed by on many occasions but never knew it existed.  It's along the river, below the Schuylkill River trail path in a small riverside community.  As a mentor, I was one of several "swim angels" assistant life guards of a sort, swimming out in the river with two "noodle" floatation devices, keeping an eye on the swimming triathlon participants and offering them a noodle if they needed a rest or assistance during their swim practice.  I spent well over an hour in the river, conquering my own nervousness about swimming in the Schuylkill.  I know I did it once before, but that was two years ago and it wasn't my best experience or effort.  My swim angel duties were mostly spent with one of my mentees who needed our encouragement and assistance.  I admire her determination but worry about her ability to finish the swim portion of the triathlon.   Since this was a well run clinic and there were many lifeguards and safety practices in place, the triathlon organizers stepped in to help with her swim.  Not sure if she'll complete the swim portion but I do know that I offered all the help I could, as well as all of my skills, knowledge and positive advice for and to her as well as to several other first time triathlon participants.  After my angel duties, the mentors had the chance to do their own swim in the Schuylkill.  I debated about getting back in the water and doing the swim but then I realized that this was my best chance to see what I could do and swim in the open water.  I am so glad I took the opportunity.  I did a slow and steady 2/10ths of a mile swim, I suppose equivalent to about half of the actual distance I'll be doing on race day.  It wasn't my best effort but I felt confident and strong, remembering all the things I learned from my swimming lessons last year. Mostly I felt like a real triathlete for the first time.  I understand the anxiety that most newbies to the sport feel.  I can fully appreciate the difficulty the swim portion holds for a triathlon and the challenges you need to over-come in order to finish the swim and tackle the bike and run.  Mentoring has revealed new abilities that I possess and skills that I didn't quite believe I could master.  Once again I have to say there is real power in positive thinking and sharing your beliefs, talent and knowledge.  Bring it on race day - I'm coming to this triathlon and I'm gonna rock/rox it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ballpark Food and Baseball

Sometimes bringing your own sandwich to a baseball game beats paying five bucks for a limpid rubbery over-cooked hot dog,  even on Dollar Dog Day.  

I usually pack my own food for an outing to a Phillies game, keeping the meals healthy or at least healthier and having a better variety of food stuffs.  Cheesesteaks, hoagies and the infamous (and exactly what the heck is it?) Schmitter Sandwich just doesn't cut the mustard for me; it only cuts into my wallet and waistline, excessively in both cases.  At last night's game I made a nice sandwich of lean smoked turkey lunch meat, my favorite cheese - Cooper Sharp, Romain lettuce,  spicy and Dijon mustards and put it all on a delicious Country White bun from Nature's Pride.  Low sodium, high protein, no trans fats or high fructose corn syrup.  I came home a few weeks ago to find some buns in my box, my mail box that is! FoodBuzz, my blog aggregator and advertiser came through with a cache of bread for me - Nature's Pride buns and rolls; Country White, Whole Wheat and a package of buns perfect for Lobster Rolls (mmm, stay tuned for a delicious Summer recipe!)  So far I haven't been disappointed with the goodies.  They arrived really fresh and the stats on them were impressive, though not low-calorie.  Unless I'm eating cardboard or Deli-thins, these days, it's hard to find hamburger rolls and hot dog buns that taste good and aren't full of crap.  I froze the rolls, since I knew we wouldn't eat them quick enough before they spoiled.  Out of the freezer they just as fresh as when I received them.   So in the words of food writers I like, Two tips of the toque, a bouquet of a knife, fork and spoon, five tines and a happy Bon Apetite to Nature's Pride for their summer-time offerings towards my ballpark fare!

My beloved Fightin's are truly disappointing me and a lot of other Phans; the team's been on a losing streak of not quite epic proportions.  Like Bill Conlin said today in his Daily News Column, Phans are "Jumping off a Cliff (Lee).  Well, the losing isn't so terrible, we are only 5 games back behind the Atlanta Braves - aka Hot'Lanta Braves these days.  It'd just be nice to see some hitting and small ball being played along with consistent and good offense.  Naturally, better pitching from our pathetic bullpen wouldn't hurt the late innings either.  According to Sports-night on Comcast, the Phils are in the same place that they were in last year.  It seems odd coming off two phenomenal seasons; the 2008 World Series Win and the 2009 National League Pennant Champs.  Of course, our April and May of this season were great, winning more games than the team normally wins.  Our June, we had a bad streak of losses confounding even the most jaded sportscasters.  Getting Roy Halladay as our starting pitcher was a great idea, losing Cliff Lee in the deal, not so great.  And while Roy's perfect game and seven complete games pitched this season are awe-inspiring, having a team not producing results around and behind Mr. Halladay's tremendous talent and efforts is not Phillies' worthy.  We phans want to bitch and moan about the Yankees and other baseball teams that stockpile their teams with the best superstar players, but hey, you gotta pay to play sometimes.  About now, I'd like to see some Yankees' style business on the field.  Too bad the most interesting thing about the past month's home games was this guy - the dude selling whacky souvenirs.    Play Ball, better! PLEASE!