Friday, July 31, 2009

SheROX Danskin NE 2009

Location: Webster, MA
Distance: Sprint (.5mi s, 12mi b, 2.9mi r)
Time: 7am start (in waves 3min apart)
Weather: Cloudy and humid
Participants: 2698 (!!)

Transition Area

Park, ride/walk to the race site. Find where I'm supposed to set up my stuff (based on swim waves/age group), setup and get marked.

Filled up my water bottle in the lake and double checked everything before making a pit stop ;)

I was in wave 26... which meant I was starting well over an hour after we were forced to leave the transition area. Luckily I ran into my parents and two of my friends who surprised me by driving up that morning (thanks guys!!!) and was able to stay relatively calm while I waited for my turn.

in water start (i'm in the white top)

I made my way to the beach in time for my wave to be shuffled into the corral, then into the water. Before I knew it we were off! I'd be lying if I said it was warm, but the initial chill wore off pretty quickly :) The water was very clear, almost disturbingly so! I didn't settle down as much as I would've liked, but it turned out to be my fastest swim yet (11:53)--did I take a short cut?? ;)

Over the timing mat, up the beach, a quick rinse into some sneakers before running through a parking lot and to the furthest corner of the transition area. Socks and bike shoes on, gloves, helmet, shirt... grab my bike and go!


I had heard about a hill on the bike, but I goofed the day before and we didn't actually get to drive the course. Despite not knowing what to expect, I made it up the hill (albeit very slowly), only to see a sharp right turn at the bottom of the nice downhill. So much for picking up speed! Turns out the bike course is full of rolling hills, but I felt pretty good for the rest of it. I finished the bike with an average of 16.4mph (43:46). I forgot to check my bike computer beforehand, so things weren't aligned after the trip and I have no idea how I did on the different parts of the course. I think I lost a lot of time on the hill--Anyone have any tips for climbing on a road bike?? This is definitely something I need to practice this a bit more, as I wasn't as comfortable climbing on my bike (like I am in spinning :/ ).

The end of the bike...

Another long run with my bike to where my stuff was set up. I changed my shoes, took off shades (it wasn't sunny)/gloves/helmet, grabbed my race belt and stood there for a second thinking I had forgotten something. Probably a waste of time as I didn't think of anything else, but oh well!

My left ankle was extremely tight/inflexible for the first 1/3 of the run... it's something I've been working through with stretching and ART, but it's never been this bad. Eventually it loosened up, but I was no longer thinking about it... instead I was thinking about the hills! No one ever mentioned the rolling hills on the run!!! I am indebted to the woman who was standing just short of the turnaround with her hose on for all of us :)

Nearing the finish, I look a little worse for the wear!

Just before the last turn into the park where our transition area was, a 22 year old passed me (age is marked on our legs). Up to this point I had only seen women in their 30s and 40s, so I tried to keep up with her and finish strong. I started to kick a bit too early, the finish line seemed to be getting further away! It didn't turn out as bad as I thought (22:36, 8:22 pace), but keeping in mind that I haven't been training as much due to the above-mentioned therapy and I don't have a hilly race to compare the time to... I guess it'll do ;)

chug chug chug

As soon as I crossed the finish line and got my chip taken off, I made a beeline for the fuel tent. I didn't eat or drink that much on the bike (2 luna moons-forgot my Clif shot blocks- and 1/2 water bottle), so I was thirsty!! I grabbed water, WATERMELON, half a banana, and some Bear Naked Granola (the native mango, agave, & almond flavor is awesome) with yogurt. I found my cheering squad, went back for more watermelon, and did a little stretching while we hung around the finish line.

Me and the rents :)

I'm still a little amazed and psyched about my final time... 1:26:57, which put me 17th in my age group (out of 211). Must've been all your good luck messages! It was awesome to have family and friends cheering me on, made this race very special :) I can't thank them enough for getting up so early on a Sunday morning!

While this was much larger than other tri's I've done, it's inspiring to see so many women accomplish such an amazing feat. The environment is so supportive, if you're hesitant at all, this is the forum to do it in! That is, for you ladies out there ;)

I've already signed up to do my next sprint tri, and am thinking about another one Sept 12th. Anyone want to join me??

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Boston Event

On the heels of Rose's Blog it Forward post, I heard about a Taste of Park Plaza. What first caught my eye was the opportunity to taste signature dishes from 8 restaurants. Then I noticed that the proceeds were going to benefit Greater Boston's Food Bank. When I clicked over to their website, I was impressed by their efforts to provide nutritious choices to those in need as well as nutrition education (knowledge is power, right?). As someone who strives to find healthy and tasty dishes, I appreciate this approach to feeding those who may have come across some tough times.

If you're in the Boston area and would like to attend this event and help support our local food bank, here are the details...

When: Tuesday, Aug 4th 6-9pm

Where: Park Plaza Hotel & Towers

Participating Restaurants: Todd English's Bonfire Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick's, M.J. O'Connor's Irish Pub, The Melting Pot, Swan's Cafe, Finale Desserterie, Au Bon Pain and Ben & Jerry's

To purchase tickets: click here

Maybe I'll see you there!!

I owe you guys a few posts, but here are some hints at what's in store...

A race recap
(hopefully the case of the missing camera cord will be solved soon!!)

Sour cherries!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Melon Mondays III

Missed the first two? Check out my Melon Bruschetta and Iced Cantaloupe Soup! While I did everything melon, my guests were awesome enough to bring the protein for the main course. We had some amazing cod and steak to make some tacos, served with a Melon Salsa of course!

Steak Taco w/Melon Salsa

Here's an approximation of what went into my salsa...

Melon Salsa

equal amounts diced watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe
1 mango
1 avocado
2 jalapenos, diced
3 scallions, sliced
2-3T mint, chopped
2-3T cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
1t Smart Balance Omega Oil

Combine all ingredients and serve! I prepared everything (except the avocado) the night before and let it hang out in the fridge so the flavors could meld. Just prior to guests arriving, I took it out of the fridge so it could come closer to room temp and add the chopped avocado. This would go well served alongside almost any protein!

Remnants of the Melon Salsa

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Come tri with me

Do you have the bug yet? Just in case, I'll try to make it a little more approachable... Quite often I hear, "I can't run/bike/swim fast." Obviously they haven't seen me crawling along in the slow lane of the pool ;) I'm not out there to finish in the top 10, so I think of it as an "event" rather than a race. I'll do the best that I can, but I'm doing this for myself, to have fun, and not to race against the top women in my age group. All you have to do is cross the finish line--it doesn't matter if you do breast/side/back stroke during the swim, ride leasurely on a granny bike, and walk during the "run." Sign up with some friends that you can train with, and you'll have a blast. And if that's not enough of a reason, pick one event you like, find some friends that like the other events, and participate as a team! So really, why not tri?? :)

I didn't get too many questions, but I wanted to put together some general thoughts, in part to remind myself of everything as I pull things together for my tri tomorrow morning :) Feel free to ask more if you think of anything!

One of the first questions I had was, what do I wear? There was no way a bathing suit was going to give me any support on the run, if ya know what I mean ;) And wearing bike shorts on the swim--can we get any heavier in the bum? There are a few options here, the most cost-effective being to wear a sports bra under your swimsuit, and then pulling on shorts for the bike/run. You probably already have the "equipment" for this! There are also tri shorts (with less padding that dries quick) and tri suits that are specific for the sport. These can be expensive, but there are some discount sites online that offer last years' colors/models for less. If you're looking for a tri-specific top for the well-endowed, I'd recommend the Zoot Ultra Bra top--it's the only one I've found to give any support.

This is definitely the toughest part for me, as I'm not that strong of a swimmer. Try to practice in open water if you can, so you can be prepared. If you panic (like I did the first time), tread water for a few seconds while your wave starts, collect yourself, and then swim. I tend to stay to the back and right of the group, to avoid flying hands and legs. If you're in for a fight, by all means go play in the center :) While training, I'd practice sighting (click here for a good description), and in the race- do this early and often to make sure you don't make the course longer for yourself! And if you hit a beer bottle during the swim, push it out of the way and just keep swimming ;) (This will probably only happen if you do a tri in Philly, and yes, it really happened!)

What to bring? goggles, earplugs, swim cap (will be provided for the race), towel, extra water bottle (fill this up at the race site and use to wash off feet before putting on socks/shoes). A small bottle of antifog can also be helpful for your goggles.

Tips: Swim as long as you can, don't try to run through the water as you get close to shore. Another thing I've heard is to change to breast stroke for the last few strokes of the swim, I think it's to get your ankles/legs ready to run.

Try to check out the course ahead of time. Unfortunately I haven't been to the course I'm doing tomorrow, but I am going to drive through today. Due to the way I need to fuel my tummy, I need a little fuel during the event, and take it early in the bike to allow enough digestion time. I use a Bento Box to store some tissues and orange Clif shot blocks. If you're wearing a cycling jersey you can always store things in the pockets, I just find it easier to grab something in front of me.

What to bring? helmet, sunglasses, bike gloves, water bottles, fuel, socks, shoes, other apparel (singlet over bra top or shorts over bathing suit).

Tips: I put everything I don't want to forget in my helmet. They won't let you onto the course w/o a helmet, so my shades and gloves go into the helmet. I wouldn't mind forgetting the gloves, but I'd rather not be blinded by bugs :) Another tip to make the bike-run transition a bit easier is to increase your cadence at the end of the bike, that is, lower your gear to make it easier and quicken your pedal stroke.

Not too much to mention here, just don't forget your number! Most races require you to wear it on the front of you. This can be done using a race belt (often available at expos) or pinning it on to your shirt ahead of time with some safety pins. You might also have a hat or sunglasses if you use those as well.

Other things you might have in your bag: sunscreen (apply AFTER you get marked), body glide (for areas that might rub or be more sensitive), chapstick, spare hair ties, extra socks, safety pins, towel, (dry) clothes for after the race, and 2 garbage bags. Why the garbage bags? Use one to set up your transition area--it'll keep things dry and all in one spot (easier to see things if it's white). Keep the other one in your bag just in case the weather's unfortunate... you can lay this on top.

Well, I gotta get going, but I'll try to take some pictures of how things get set up so that I can share those, along with some more helpful links to get you started next week. In the mean time, get outside and have some fun :) After another week filled with rain, the sun's out today, and I'm hoping it holds out through tomorrow morning! See you back here for Melon Mondays ;)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Melon Mondays II

Monday, monday... :) In case you missed the first post, I'm taking the next few Mondays to showcase the recipes I made for a melon-themed dinner I shared with some friends recently. I have another starter/first course-type dish tonight, Iced Cantaloupe Soup w/Jalapeno & Basil. This recipe comes from The Splended Table's How to Eat Supper, and can be found on Serious Eats here.

The jalapenos (or in my case some random red chili) and basil were key components to the soup, so don't leave those out! It was absolutely gorgeous, but I must say I think this was my least favorite recipe of the night. It was ok, but only in small amounts--maybe it was too sweet? I might have been the only one who felt this way, as everyone else slurped it down ;)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stone Fruit Explosion

Well, I think summer finally made it to Boston, and my apartment is trying to sweat me out ;) I'm a little ashamed to say that I've made quite a few things lately that I haven't posted about, sometimes didn't even photograph... but I've got a few so I'll mention those that I really enjoyed.

Summer Fruit Gratin

If you find yourself with some (ok way too many for one person ;)) stone fruit, you might wind up trying all of these recipes for a Summer Fruit Gratin, Vanilla Honey-Poached Apriums, or a Plum Fool! No? You'd just do one? I like to give myself variety... and way too much work it seems! Lorna Sass also has a recipe for an upside-down peach berry cobbler in one of her books.

Upside-down peach berry cobbler

My fruit was all very ripe and deliciously sweet on its own, so I cut back on the sugar in all of the recipes. These recipes also take well to using your desired sweetener (turbinado instead of granulated sugar, agave for honey, you get the idea). The only other thing I changed was for the plum fool-- I folded the stewed fruit into greek yogurt (a mix of plain and vanilla), and it was delicious.

On a savory note, I have to mention Kerstin's Avocado Chicken Cakes. I'm sorry to say I prepared these for lunch and completely forgot to take a picture. But they were downright amazing--go check out her blog, and I'll see you back here for Melon Mondays ;)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Salads

Work sure does cut down on blogging time! ~sigh~ After four looonng days, I'm SO looking forward to the weekend :) Thought it might be appropriate to share some quick salads I've made starring summer fruit (can't get enough!).

The first made the unusual pairing of plums and roasted beets. At least it sounded unusual to me :) Also starring goat cheese, this was one salad that definitely did not disappoint! You can find the recipe for this Beet & Goat Cheese salad here. I used the packaged roasted beets for convenience, but you could certainly roast them yourself. My proportions may have been different as well, as I didn't measure.

Roasted Beet & Plum Salad

The second salad comes from a recipe I had seen over at Cooking Light. Looking at it now, however, I realize I did quite a few things differently :)

Grilled Peaches & Proscuitto Salad
adapted from Cooking Light
scale up/down to desired amount

peaches, cut into 6 sections
salad greens (I used a mix of baby spinach and spring mix)
balsamic vinegar (could reduce down and combine with honey if desired)
goat cheese

Spray peaches lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill ~1min on each side (I did this in a grill pan on pretty high heat) to see grill marks.

Lay proscuitto on small baking sheet and cook in toaster oven (or larger) until crispy. I think I did this at 350, but you could certainly do it higher, just keep an eye on it.

To assemble the salad, place peaches on a bed of greens, sprinkle on goat cheese (oops, I forgot). Crumble prosciutto over salad, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar (or syrup) and serve.

Grilled Peach & Proscuitto Salad

Relatively simple and delicious, these salads served as a reminder to play with my flavor combinations! Have you tried any interesting pairings lately??

Monday, July 13, 2009

Melon Mondays

I had some friends over for dinner last night, where the not-so-secret ingredient was melon! Over the next 5 Monday's, I'll share one of the recipes from the night--so you're not as overwhelmed as my guests may have been :)

We'll start with the appetizer--Melon Prosciutto Bruschetta. While I'm not a huge fan of proscuitto-wrapped melon, this was an attempt to recreate an amazing app I had at a wedding that I recently attended. I think it actually came pretty close, although I was the only one who had something to compare it to! I think it was a hit, hopefully they'll chime in ;)

Melon Proscuitto Bruschetta
Recipe by Shannon

1c finely diced honeydew
1c finely diced cantaloupe
1 finely dieced serrano, jalapeno, or the like
juice of 1 lime
1-2T chopped mint
1-2T chopped basil
squirt of siracha (more or less to taste)
desired baguette (I used a peasant bread from Trader Joe's)
fresh chopped parsley (or some of the fresh frozen variety)

The night or morning before serving, prepare the melon bruschetta. Combine the first 7 ingredients and let the flavors combine for a few hours. Adjust seasoning to taste, I was hoping to give it a little kick.

Before serving, remove the bruschetta from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Slice baguette into thin rounds (mine was more like a loaf, so I cut the larger center pieces in half). Lay rounds in a single layer on cookie sheet. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle lightly with parsley. Toast either under the broiler or at a high temp (400 or higher) in your oven until nicely browned.

Slice prosciutto into approximate size of toasts (for my pieces, I got 4 rounds from each slice of prosciutto). Place prosciutto on warm toasts after they come out of the oven. Top with a spoonful of bruschetta (drained of any juice) and serve!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Broccoli Salad

I have two things for you tonight... the first is a photo from the last time I got to dogsit that I couldn't help but share :)

The second is a broccoli salad I made the other night. There are many variations out there, this is just what I was in the mood for :) It works for dinner, or beside some Garlic Scape soup (from Super Natural Cooking) for lunch! I love the tang of the dressing with the crunchy broccoli, sweet apples and tart cherries :)

Broccoli Salad w/Apples & Dried Cherries
Recipe by Shannon
Yield: 4c

2 stalks of broccoli, florets chopped (~3c worth)
1 apple, diced
2-3T dried tart cherries, chopped
1T champagne vinegar (or any other vinegar you like)
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1T whole grain dijon mustard
1-2T mild oil (I use Smart Balance Omega oil)
s/p, to taste
Optional toppings: chopped nuts or seeds

Whisk together dressing (vinegar through oil and light s/p). Add broccoli, apple and cherres, toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to come together. Top with any desired nuts/seeds just before serving.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I miss my grill

In celebration of the fourth of July, I bring you the latest adventure with my... "grill".

Back in Philly I was lucky enough to have an apartment with a small backyard. Not long after I moved in, I got an early birthday present--a grill! It didn't stand the test of time, but it got plenty of use :) Now I am sans backyard and relegated to a grill pan. It's worked out well, so I can't complain too much.

Until I tried to make kabobs (kebabs?). In rearranging my freezer, I found the last small piece of pork tenderloin I had bought awhile back. I did a simple marinade (juice and zest of 1 lime and a dash of soy sauce and honey) while I chopped the veggies (an orange pepper and vidalia onion). I also decided to defrost some frozen mango chunks to string along.

Pork & Mango Kabobs

Then I went to put these lovlies on my grill pan. My skewers were long enough that they sat on the edge of the pan... but my meat didn't touch. Oops, guess I need larger chunks! My kabobs quickly became a grilled stir-fry, as I wasn't really interested in tempting my fate with uncooked pork. Served on a bed of leftover rice, this became one delicious meal :) I didn't really have to season much, as the grilling brought out great flavors in the onions and mango that paired well with the lime-flavored pork. Easily adaptable to whatever's in your kitchen or what you're craving, get grilling! (or grill-frying...)

Grilled Pork & Mango Stirfry

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Cake of All Cakes

A dear old friend of mine (no, she's not old, I've just known her since kindergarten!) recently had a birthday. When I found out she was going to make her own cake, I had to put an end to that! It took a day to convince her, but she finally relented. Now she didn't just want any ol' cake, she had her eyes set on a cake from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes. I guess it's my fault. I was the one who pointed her in the direction of Deb's site- Smitten Kitchen, where she had posted the recipe for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake.

I was a little nervous, and had to borrow a cake pan (I only have 2!), but I did a test run for some substitutions and couldn't have been happier with the results (as was my lab :)). Instead of sour cream I used fat free greek yogurt. I also used a majority of WW pastry flour, as I ran out of white flour. Since oil separation is bad for frosting, I went with a jar of Skippy Natural. The last thing I wasn't sure would work, but it totally held up-- Smart Balance 50/50 sticks and Nufatchel (instead of full-fat cream cheese) in the frosting. Score! I also added extra pb to the ganache (prob 2T), since the bday girl and I couldn't taste the pb :)

The sour cream/greek yogurt cake was incredibly moist and delicious. I baked these 2 days ahead and froze until the morning of assembly. The peanut butter cream cheese frosting? No words, my friends, no words. Just make it. I also did this 2 days ahead, kept in the fridge. Top it off with a dark chocolate- pb ganache (made on site, at time of assembly)-- heaven.

Not to toot my own horn, but it came out incredible. I should really go toot Alisa, Peter and Tina's horns, cause this one was outta da pahk (odd to type with a boston accent)! Rave reviews all around as far as I know :)

Happy Birthday Rebecca!!
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