Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tropical Chocolate Sorbet

Whoa. Three days in a row this week. Crazy, I know! However, my big confession as to the reason that I haven't been posting as frequently is that I haven't had time to find pretty plates to make my food look delicious. So this has been inhibiting my writing. However, we all know that I'm not a typical food blogger. When I read other food blogs, I scroll impatiently through the dozens of pictures until I finally find the recipe. And today's recipe, a chocolate sorbet, is a particularly non-photogenic food. So instead, I will share a beautiful picture that I do enjoy looking at from one of my adventures.

Top of the Teton Pass looking down on Jackson Hole WY, June 2013

This is a picture from the top of the Teton Pass in Wyoming that I had the privilege of taking last summer. It was actually shot from the bike path that goes up and over and not the highway. It is such a joy and wonder to be able to witness nature from these points of view! This particular picture was taken the first time I traveled with my bike: my fiancé was unable to come to the wedding with me, so I took my bike as my "date." Riding has enabled me to see things from an unparalleled point of view, and while descending mountain passes is one of my weakest skills on the bike, I will never forget the view as I crested and started my first switch-backing descent in the Tour of the Catskills last summer. Incredible!

Anyways, back to the chocolate sorbet. I've made chocolate sorbet in my ice cream maker quite a few times and found that it's quite delicious. I followed this recipe from and was definitely pleased: I especially recommend adding in cinnamon or mint. While I gave up sugar for lent though, I experimented with no-sugar-added fruit sorbets and found that they could be quite pleasing! My favorite sorbets have been using a mango base. Mango is creamier and sweeter than many fruits, and they are also a good source of fiber as well as vitamins C, A, and B6. Processed sugar can't compete with that! Combining it with cocoa powder makes this recipe a sure win. Unsweetneed cocoa powder is a good source of many micronutrients and antioxidants and actually is a fairly high quality source of protein.

Tropical Chocolate Sorbet

1 1/4c frozen mango cubes
1/4c cocoa powder
3T unsweetened coconut milk (the kind that comes from a carton)

Food process mango & cocoa powder to a fine powder. Add coconut milk and blend until a creamy, just churned, sorbet consistency is achieved. (Add more milk if necessary.) Enjoy! This recipe yields enough for two or a very generous bowl for one (190 calories, 3g fat, 5g protein, 10g fiber)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Drinks and gels and bars, oh my!

Well, it is a cold, grey day here in New England. And I am coming down from the adrenaline high that two days of tough racing will produce. I'm now left with exhaustion, which in combination with the unforgiving sky makes everything seem lost. I'm deeply missing rowing and have had dreams the last two nights worrying about lab and crashing after seeing a friend crash first hand on Sunday and having a few other friends already have bad accidents this year. I know this will pass once the sun comes out and my fiancé returns from his travels, but right now I feel like I'm being sucked back into my ugly abyss of despair... Yikes! These lows are bound to happen... you can only ride adrenaline so long!

Back to the topic of the day... drinks, gels, and bars that I think are particularly worthwhile. For most of my sports life, I avoided all of these things. Which I could get away with in swimming, and almost even in rowing, but definitely not as a cyclist. I hate drinking Gatorade and Powerade during sport. It's so sticky and sweet... blah! I can almost feel the bees swarming around me as my hands and equipment get coated with the stickiness that inevitably runs down the sides of the bottle. No thanks! I tried diluting it and also tried the low sugar versions back in the day: Zero and G2, but to me those just tasted like chemicals. Exactly what you want to be putting into your body when your furnace is burning it's hottest, right??? Anyways, over time I've done my research and experimented with various products. Below are the drinks, gels, and bars that I currently prefer and why I like them. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but just some suggestions as to what I think works!


Best for Before: UCAN Tropical Orange
Powered by "SuperStarch," a slow burning carbohydrate with long lasting blood-sugar stabilizing effects this is a new comer to the market. This particular flavor is sweetened with monk fruit extract, which I find far superior to stevia or xylitol, which many other companies use as "natural" sweeteners. I haven't tried this during exercise yet: it's expensive and it's recommended that you consume the entire serving at once, which just is NOT going to happen for me during a race, since it's all I can do to convince myself to drink a bottle over a couple of hours. This was recommended to me by a pro-triathlene friend and I love it for before racing! I threw in some protein powder with it and didn't have a problem getting my nervous pre-race stomach to accept it, unlike solid food. The only downside is that it costs $70 (when you include shipping) for a 32-serving tub. Ouch!

Best for During: Hammer Heed, Unflavored
Hammer did it. They made a sports drink that tastes like... nothing! I strongly prefer the taste of pure water to sports drinks during strenuous exercise and the unflavored version tastes like water and delivers calories and electrolytes.  Win-win! I'm not thrilled about the xylitol or stevia, but I can't taste them so I try to ignore them.

Best to Sustain: Hammer Perpetuem
Electrolytes, protein, natural carbohydrates, and amino acids. This product delivers everything you would want during an endurance race, although I've recently read that the verdict is still out on the necessity of protein. I've tried the Orange-Vanilla and found it mild, palatable, and not too sweet. I'll probably also try the Unflavored. Strawberry is kind of weird and the Caffe-Latte isn't really refreshing. I'll confess: I don't find this product to be perfect. It uses soy protein, which my stomach can be finicky about. I use a fairly dilute bottle and haven't had any problems as of yet, but I'm still on a look-out for a product that delivers everything else that Perpetuem offers with a non-soy protein.

Best for Recovery: Vega Recovery Accelerator, Tropical
This stuff is gold. It tastes awesome, and provides everything you need to recover quickly. I started using it late last summer and immediately I noticed that my recovery time between workouts and races significantly improved. Bonus points for it's complete, plant-based protein but points off for the use of stevia. It's normally $40 for a tub that'll last me 4-6 weeks, but it's on sale for $30 through the end of April at Whole Foods. Go buy some, it's worth every penny! (And it will probably start earning back it's keep for you, if you tend to do races with cash prizes!)

Best All-Natural Solution: 1:1:1 Cherry Juice: Coconut Water: Water
Most of 2013, I went with this option but ultimately found the Heed products delivered more calories and were easier to stomach during races. I still prefer this for winter training and LSD rides. Coconut water offers natural electrolytes and cherry juice has been shown reduce muscle damage during exercise. Plus, it's not too sweet and you can easily find it at Trader Joe's or your local grocery store!


Best "Natural:" Honey Stinger Gold
Honey with electrolytes, plain and simple. No odd ingredients or unnatural sugars and I find it to be super-palatable and the perfect viscosity. Also, the packets are super easy to open, even with numb hands. (Found this out this weekend while racing at Quabbin!) The only downside is that this has a really high glycemic index. This can be a bonus: if you eat one about a minute before your final sprint or when you try to make a break, it'll hit you fast. But it also causes a sugar crash, so if you only eat these to power a 3-4 hour race, you will feel a little queazy afterwards and never want to touch sugar ever again. This weekend, I found that drinking UCAN before the race and mixing this gel up with others helped mitigate the crash.

Best with Protein: Accel Gel 2nd Surge
Filled with natural sugars (agave, brown rice syrup, cane sugar), electrolytes, and whey protein I find this to be easy to deal with during a race and it also doesn't cause quite the crash that the honey does, since it's coupled with slower-burning protein. Props to Pacific Health Labs for not using soy protein, but lots of people have trouble with whey protein, so hopefully in the next iteration they will up the ante and find an even better alternative. (Pea protein, please?) The only downside is the low viscosity: it is quite runny in the summer heat.

Best with Caffeine: Hammer Gel, Espresso
Powered by maltodextrin and supplemented with natural sweeteners, amino acids, and electrolytes this gel would take higher marks all around if not for it's viscosity. I find it to be really too thick except for all but the hottest of summer days. It's not yet been warm enough this year for me to actually be able to get all of the gel out of a packet. Packets are also frustratingly hard to open, thanks to the cute hammer shape they put on the top.


I haven't found a bar that I can eat during a race, my stomach just won't have it. I can safely say though, that I've pretty much tried every bar under the sun. Cliff and Luna bars taste great, and offer protein and are fortified with nutrients, but unfortunately also pack in a ton of sugar and use soy protein. Many athletes eat a ton of these, since they are convenient and offer a good balance of macronutrients. However, I attribute these bars to my over-exposure to soy, which caused my intolerance. Should I have eaten less of them? Sure. But I don't think I approached these bars any differently than most athletes. My personal preference currently are the Lara Cherry Pie Bars. All natural ingredients, no processed sugars, no soy protein, and all the performance benefits of cherries.  Cherry Cashew Pure Bars are also great for the same reasons, and have even more protein than the Lara bars. Both are gluten free, as are all the products I use for racing!

What works for you and why do you like it? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below!

Monday, April 28, 2014

What a difference a year makes...

Well! Things have been crazy here. And by that I mean my 2014 racing season has finally started! I know I should have posted last week-- I try to at least post once per week-- but I was traveling for Easter and then sick so there was chaos all around. Despite being sick, I've already gotten 3 races under my belt for the season. The first was the Farmersville RR in Pennsylvania near my parents house. This was a short, rather flat race through the rolling Pennsylvania countryside. The day was beautiful, but there was not enough hill to suit me and the thing came down to a sprint finish... I ended up 9th among an average W3/4 field. Since I hide my lack of skills and sprinting behind hills for most of my races, I wasn't terribly pleased, but couldn't dwell on it too long, since I had to get back home and to church. If you were wondering, yes, I did go to church on Holy Saturday in my racing kit because I did not have time to change. Another wonderful thing about Pennsylvania, besides the year-round farmers markets and rolling hills (which were completely under utilized during this race), is that you can find these signs on the highway.

It is normal to me to see a sign warning of horse-and-buggies, but I know people who aren't from around Amish Country get a kick out of seeing them. Probably less of a kick when they get stuck behind one for miles, but I enjoy this unique ambiance found around my hometown.

Last week was a blur of sickness, but getting out-sprinted at Farmersville motivated me. I had signed up for Farmersville because I wanted to get better at pack riding, but on top of that I decided that I also wanted to get better at sprinting and cornering. I had signed up for Quabbin RR which was on Saturday, but then decided to add a crit to my Sunday. So this past weekend turned out to be a double-header!

Quabbin RR is my kind of race. It's long (65 miles), hilly (7+ climbs of significance on the course), and finishes on an uphill stretch. Last year at Quabbin RR, it was a beautiful sunny day and I was in the W4 race, during which I got so nervous on the neutral roll-out that my bike started shaking. I thought it was a mechanical (since it was a new-to-me used bike) and spent 5+ minutes trying to figure out what was wrong before concluding that the only thing wrong was that the water bottle was loose. I then spent 65 miles time-trialing, catching many of the girls in my race, but never back on to the lead pack. During the whole 3+ hours, I only ate (or rather, choked down) 1 bar and drank about half a bottle of water. Maybe I had 1 honey stinger in there too. Maybe. I was in a world of hurt by the end.

This year at Quabbin, everything was different. I was in the W123 field and we were blessed with a typical New England "spring" day of 40 degree rain. Fortunately, since this weather happens all winter and is in the "pleasant" and "ridable" category (in contrast to the days we get several feet of ice and snow) I knew exactly how to dress. The one variable that I had to mess with was my gloves, since my winter gloves do not offer enough dexterity to allow me to eat. And I learned that lack of nutrition = death so I went with a layered approach of lab gloves- fleece gloves- dishwashing gloves. By the end, the water had gotten into the gloves and I had no feeling left anywhere between my fingers and my forearms, but it was ok. I managed to make the break when it happened and earned myself a 3rd place finish! Not bad for a cat 3 riding with the 1 and 2s! The biggest difference this year (beside, oh, the whole year of training...) was nutrition. I had 6 gels (bars just can't happen for me during a race), bottle of Hammer Heed (unflavored, i.e. the best flavor!) and a bottle of Hammer Perpetuem (actually half a bottle, oops) during the race, and also prepped myself with a bottle of UCAN before the race and a bottle of Vega Recovery Accelerator after. Tomorrow, I'll follow up this post with my preferences and observations on sports drinks and gels.

dish gloves = almost invincible

Sunday was another exciting and very different day. Crits are short and fast, and you rely on technical ability and raw power to win the race. So basically, crits are won by being everything that I am not! However, I am riding for the Pedal Power Team this year, and two of the other girls are great sprinters and technicians and have been doing quite well in crits this spring by working together. And I want to be the best bike racer that I can be and that means working on my weaknesses. So I told my teammates that I would try to stay on their wheels and watch them during the race, and if that got me into a good position as we neared the end, I would happily lead them out to victory. The race started fine and I was actually doing ok getting through corners and staying near the front. And then the crash happened. Far enough ahead that I had plenty of time to react, but the only reaction that could definitively keep me safe was stopping. I came to a complete stop and had to walk around the crash before getting back on my bike and chasing back on to the pack, which was now two corners away. I did in fact catch back on, but then couldn't figure out how to move up. Every time I tried, it resulted in someone squeezing me out (I almost got pushed into a curb) or me having to apply the brakes heavily. From my frustrated position, I watched my teammate get away and then a lightbulb went on. No one else wanted to take the slow line around the outside of the corners! If I took that one, I wouldn't have to use the brakes and it would be easy to come around. So I did just that and went all the way up to the front of the pack, where I successfully blocked for my teammate who was away and also led out my other teammate for second. So my teammates ended up 1-2 and I ended up 7th, which is my highest placement ever for a crit. Not a bad way to end the weekend! Also, the rain finally stopped and this was Sunday's sunset.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beet Fries

By now anyone who's been reading somewhat regularly knows the benefits of beets. Beets (specifically, the nitrates in beet juice) have been shown to legally and significantly improve your athletic performance. These days, everyone's talking about it and if you haven't read up on it yet, you literally spend the rest of the week trying to read it all. Beets might just be my biggest discovery since I started drinking coffee before racing! I've found the weeks that I take the time to put beets on my evening salad, my performance on the bike is almost always better.

The funny thing about beets is that just two years ago, I had no idea what to do with them. I had a farm share, and apparently beets are very easy to grow in Massachusetts because I ended up with a ton of them. In the end, I tried to make beet chips, which was an utter failure without a dehydrator or frier. Making beet chips just does not work in the oven! Since then, I've mostly stuck to eating the steamed baby beets from Trader Joe's. However, last week I noticed that the farmers market had some raw beets on sale for a good price, so I picked a few up. After eating them raw in a salad, I was struck by how carrot-like they were in the raw state and while pondering it, realized that beets are a root vegetable (duh) just like carrots... and potatoes. So I started wondering... could I make beet fries? The answer of course, is yes! Read on to find out how...

Wait, what? It's a picture of my adorable bunny and not beet fries?!
Beet Fries

2 large beets
sea salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Peel your beets, just like you would a potato, using a vegetable peeler. Take care as to what you're wearing as beet juice stains!
3. Slice the beet into fry-sized strips. I found that for the best  beet fries, I need to cut them a little thinner than I would potato fries. (Less than 1/4" thick)
4. Put raw beet slices in a bowl and add some salt. Stir to coat.
5. Spread beets out on a greased baking sheet.
6. Bake for 1 hour. Be patient! These will take much longer than potato or sweet potato fries but are worth it!

I hope you enjoy them! We ate them plain, but usually a good dipping sauce really increases my enjoyment of a fry-eating experience. This honey mustard sauce would go well!

Oh, here are the beet fries. Not very photogenic, but disappearing quickly!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nut Butter Matchup & PB Sorbet

In recent months, almond butter has stolen the place in my heart reserved for my favorite nut butter. But between the almond butter in my pre-ride breakfast, and almond milk in my post-ride smoothies, and the almonds that I like as a snack, I started wondering if I was missing something by devoting so much attention to almonds. Instinctually, I knew the answer was "yes" as variety is the spice of life and the secret to good nutrition and health. But how do the different nut butter stack up? Doing a little research, here's my Final Four nut butters, ranked on the quality of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and micronutrients in a 2T serving. It's a bit qualitative, but hopefully it gives enough data that you can look further into it yourself!

190 calories
16g fat (8g monounsaturated/ 3g saturated fat, 25mg omega-3, 5406mg omega-6)
8g protein (protein completeness score: 66, deficient in lysine & the branched amino acid threonine)
14% Vitamin E, 21% Niacin, 9% Vitamin B6, 12% Magnesium, 23% Manganese, 3% Selenium

200 calories
18g fat (12g monounsaturated/ 2g saturated fat, 135mg omega-3, 2802mg omega-6)
5g protein (protein completeness score: 66, deficient in lysine)
42% Vitamin E, 12% Riboflavin, 8% Calcium, 6% Iron, 24% Magnesium, 28% Manganese, 2% Selenium

185 calories
15g fat (3g monounsaturated/ 2g saturated fat, 22mg omega-3, 1056mg omega-6)
6g protein (protein completeness score: 81, deficient in lysine)
12% Vitamin B6, 18% Folate, 8% Iron, 30% Magnesium, 24% Phosphorous, 12% Zinc, 30% Copper, 34% Manganese

And the Nut Butter April (seriously, it was in April this year!) Madness winner is...

190 calories 
16g fat (10g monounsaturated/ 3g saturated fat, 55mg omega-3, 2614mg omega-6)
6g protein (protein completeness score: 105)
14% Vitamin K, 8% Iron, 20% Magnesium, 12% Zinc, 36% Copper

Surprised that cashews are the only one of the four to offer a complete source of protein? I sure was. I feel like cashews are the least flavorful nut which is why they nicely add creaminess to things like vegan magic cheese. Despite this high quality protein, I probably won't start buying cashew butter, but I will start making a concerted effort to use cashews in more of my recipes. Meanwhile, sunflower seed butter offers the widest variety of micronutrients, almond butter offers the best quality fat, and peanut butter offers the most protein. So while there may not be a clear-cut winner in this challenge, you are the winner since now you know the nutritional differences between the most popular nut butters!

Peanut Butter (Mango) Sorbet

1.5c frozen cubed mango
3-4T vanilla almond milk

Food process mango & PB2 to a fine powder (best done in a high speed blender, but food processor also works!). Add almond milk 1T at a time, food processing after each addition until your desired consistency is reached. This recipe yields two servings of creamy deliciousness with 125 calories, 5g protein, and all natural sugars. Just like Arctic Zero except made of all natural ingredients instead of fake junk!

*PB2 is interesting stuff. Basically, peanuts are dehydrated, defatted, and ground to produce a fine powder. A 45 calorie serving of this stuff offers most of the nutrients of regular peanut butter, with only 1.5g fat and 5g protein. Another tasty peanut butter alternative!

Spring has finally sprung here in Massachusetts! At least for this week...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Growing up, I loved veggie burgers. My favorite were Boca burgers, but in hindsight, I'm not sure why... they kind of have a funky taste and are probably the least tasty of all the veggie burgers that I've tried! None the less, I've always liked protein-rich veggie patties as a substitute for a run-of-the-mill beef burger. (Except for when it comes to pairing them with mushrooms & swiss cheese... I am still on a quest to solve this problem and will share the solution when I do!) Until 2012, I had no idea how one would go about making a veggie burger and was relegated to options from Morning Star, Boca, and Trader Joe's. However, one time when visiting my fiancé's family I was served the most delicious black bean burger and my future mother-in-law generously share the recipe! Since I was shown the light (and bought a food processor), last summer I went on on a veggie burger-creating spree, trying all kinds of combinations of beans, veggies, spices, and fillers. Sometimes I just add what I have on hand, but this recipe is one that I've honed and perfected and has been given the title of "the best burger I've ever made" by my fiancé.

While I've made many different veggie burgers, I have yet to share any of my veggie burger recipes on this blog. This is because I truly believe that a good veggie burger is best enjoyed outside in the warm sunshine. This past weekend called for sunny days and temperatures near 60F. While "grilling weather" was not quite realized, I was feeling overzealous and hopeful about the approach of summer and made both black bean and sweet potato-chickpea burgers (my other favorite) this past weekend. The two biggest tricks I've found are to add cornstarch to help the burgers stick together and to add mushrooms, which lend a meaty texture. Other than that, it's just about sticking roughly to a formulaic base (I really like the formula suggested by No Meat Athlete) and adding your favorite veggies and spices! I always make up a large batch of veggie burgers as the extras will keep perfectly in the freezer for weeks. I hope you enjoy these as much as we do! Keep your fingers crossed for the coming of spring and "grilling weather."

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

1c + 1/2c rolled oats (quick cook or regular)
1T cornstarch
1/2 small sweet onion
5 cloves garlic
1T liquid smoke
2T sirracha
5oz baby bella mushrooms (1/2 package)
2c dry black beans, cooked to yield 5c cooked black beans (or 2 cans)
1c sweet yellow corn, cooked

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Add 1c rolled and cornstarch to food processor. Food process into a fine powder. I prefer quick cook rolled oats, since the regular can make the outsides of the burger a bit tough.
3. Add onion and garlic, then mushrooms. Food process to combine.
4. Add liquid smoke, sirracha, remaining 1/2c rolled oats, and 4c black beans. Food process to a coarse mixture.
5. Stir or mash in remaining 1c black beans and corn. I don't food process this last part as leaving some black beans and the corn whole adds good texture.
6. Form into patties and place on baking sheet. This should yield 8 good sized patties.
7. Bake for 40' at 350F, flipping halfway through to cook evenly.
8. Top with your favorite burger toppings and enjoy!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Why Vegetarian?

So today I decided that I would address the elephant in the room... why I chose to eat a vegetarian diet. I really frequently get the questions like Does it hurt your athletic performance? and Don't you miss meat? I've been interested in vegetarianism since I was a child, but with two parents working, I was told that it was not an option. This was reasonable, since I grew up in Pennsylvania and meat was almost always central to our supper. It would have created a ton of work for my poor mother! As I got older, I offered to cook for myself, but my parents were hesitant to trust me in the kitchen. I was too "creative" and "expansive." So I grew up liking vegetarian food when I could get it, but I didn't have my first committed vegetarian experience until college. I gave up meat for lent in 2004 and liked it, but it didn't stick. It wasn't until I moved to Cambridge where the vegetarian options are plentiful that creeping vegetarianism started to catch up with me. Trader Joe's was just around the corner and their soy nuggets became a staple for lunches on my grad student salary. (To be clear, these are not especially healthy but they are soooooooo good!)

I started to eat less meat because there were so many other options as I learned about "plant-based" nutrition. The idea of a plant based meal really appealed to me because I've always loved my veggies! However, the real tipping point came when my fiancé suggested that we watch Forks Over Knives. I remember that we had planned to make bacon-wrapped flounder that evening (sounds amazing, right?!!) but once the documentary was over, I informed him that we would instead be making black bean tacos. The documentary Forks Over Knives is based on The China Study, which finds that increased consumption of animal based products (this includes eggs and dairy, but not fish) can be tied to an increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer to name a few. The documentary also mentioned the reduced environmental impact of a plant-based diet, which is huge. Further studies show that eating a plant-based diet is actually more beneficial for the environment than driving a Prius! Plus, there's still the part of me that wanted to become vegetarian at 8 because of my small furry friends.

To answer the question about athletic performance, further research into plant-based nutrition showed that there are a ton of elite endurance athletes who credit veganism for their success. Perhaps the most notable among these are Brendan Brasier and Scott Jurlek. To investigate, I bought Brendan's book "Thrive," but while it was clear he carefully thought out his decisions, the book was not backed by enough hard science for my liking. Also, his recipes were pretty high in fat and low in carbs, which is the opposite of everything I want to eat in my life. (Although as I've been thinking about this more, there probably is something behind that. More exploration of those ideas to come!) Despite this, I decided to try a totally vegan diet for a month. It was great! I really loved the creative food options I was trying and my performance on the bike started to pick up. Then, shortly after reincorporating cheese and eggs, I got really lethargic and sick and finally learned that I had iron deficiency anemia. To be clear, I had been exhibiting these symptoms every few months for a few years, but the label of "vegetarian" caused my doctor to finally run the test. I definitely do not think vegetarianism was the cause for my anemia, in fact I credit it as part of the solution.

Not wanting to accept the dogma that eating red red meat would cure my anemia, I did my research. I learned about heme versus non-heme based iron and that many shellfish were in fact higher in iron than red meat by several times and had many beneficial nutrients. Shellfish have the vitamin B12 that is not available in vegan sources and are also a potent source of omega-3 fatty acids that are not available in plants. Fish are also not tied to many of the terrible diseases that land based animal products are tied to in the China Study. Thus I made the decision that I would incorporate fish into my diet occasionally when I feel depleted. Now, I am convinced that a totally plant based diet is the best option for a lot of people. However, right now I'm pretty sure it's not for me. I'm also pretty convinced that there are fewer notable female vegan athletes because of women's increased need for iron.

So did switching to vegetarianism improve my athletic performance? The facts are: I had an awesome cycling season in 2013 and my workouts this winter suggest that an even better season is on it's way! In addition to great performances, I also managed to avoid a new overuse injuries for the first time since 2009. However, the pinnacle of my athletic performance was definitely in 2009 when I made the US Rowing national team and was an omnivore. So in the end, I think time will tell! I definitely don't think vegetarianism hurts athletic performance, as long as you pay attention to all of your essential amino acids, as well as your iron and vitamin B levels.

Anyways, to address the question Do I miss meat? Mostly no; to be honest, I really prefer soy to chicken. However, I still get my usual biannual craving for a burger with mushrooms and swiss cheese. Even when I was eating meat, this was a fairly infrequent craving that was easily satiated by going to Friendly's and getting that burger. Now I try to tell myself that it's really the mushrooms and cheese that I want. This is a blatant lie, and it resulted in a few weeks last summer where I was making portabello mushrooms almost every day. I tried to eat my mushrooms on a veggie burger, but that just did not cut it, but I did find that balsamic marinated portabello mushrooms will do the trick. I can't wait to start making this again once the weather turns warmer!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

XPot Reflections & A Green Smoothie

This weekend was by far the most challenging and exhilarating race that I've ever been involved in planning. While some events go well because everything going according to plan, this was the first time that I've run an event that was a success despite all odds. The first day of XPot 2014 went according to plan, with excellent conditions for the ITT in the morning (some sun and calm winds!) although rain in the afternoon made the sharp turns in the crit course less than desirable. Looking at the forecast for the next day, the volunteer coordinator (remember, Sam the guest blogger? That's him!) and I worked out plans that would allow us to run our Sunday RR race safely despite ice, heavy rain, and flooding. We felt great about it!

The next morning, I drove out to the RR course before dawn in heavy rain, but wasn't worried, because we had a re-route of the course planned to avoid any potential flooding. I started checking out the course, at the point where I thought flooding would be the worst. Not too bad, but personally I wouldn't have been thrilled to race in it, so I went on to check out our re-route. This was where the disaster started! The flood-proof re-route basically looked like there was a waterfall running down the street. At this point, I still didn't panic because the original course wasn't so bad and the rain was easing up, and one of our plans allowed us to postpone races until the afternoon. I made some calls and let people know that we'd be postponing start times. For good measure at this point, I drove back to inspect the whole course from the beginning. Well, I was in for a big surprise! At the bottom of our big, fast descent a river was running across the road! It was deep, wide, and moving fast enough that I was worried about driving my Subaru through it. There was no way in h*ll that I was going to let people race through that! While there was a small chance that it would dry up, I knew that we needed to find another course asap. Immediately, I remembered the course 6.5 mile we used for the TTT last year: it was significantly uphill from the planned RR course and offered rolling terrain that wasn't as awesome as the planned course, but wouldn't be completely terrible. I set out to check out those roads and found some hope! No flooding and only 1 sandy corner.

I returned to the school where the rest of the committee was congregated and delivered the news. We got ahold of the police chief (bless his soul, answering our phone calls on a Sunday morning!) and somehow convinced him to give us permission to run the races on these roads. Mind you, this course included a few miles on a major road aptly named "Central Turnpike" so I'm not sure how we did it! We rearranged the schedule and the volunteers yet again, collect the signs from the original course, set out signs for the new course, sent out people to sweep the corners, and the announcement was made that the race would start at 11am on the new course.

That all sounds good and miraculous, but it wasn't time for a happy ending yet! At 10:30am on our way out to put the police and officials in place we found that... surprise! There was now flooding on course #3 of the day. Things looked pretty bleak as I drove around looking for more options. There was a beautiful climb uphill from the school, but the roads were in no way in good enough shape to run a mass start race. The only other option was to run the race through the town center, on roads that encircled the police and fire stations. Given how picky the citizens of the town were about our race, I figured there was no way that we were going to get away with running the race. I nervously returned to the school and reported my findings to the officials and ECCC coordinators. I told them I thought we'd need to run a TT. I was told that we would have to cancel unless we could run a mass start! Seeing cancellation as failure, and knowing that it wasn't an option, I found the courage to persuade the police that running the race through the town center and for three miles down "Central Turnpike" would not be disruptive, since the roads were wide and there would be no change in the traffic flow. Somehow this worked! Thirty minutes before the start of racing, we got our permissions, found an extra police officer, replanned volunteer schedules, sent people out to mark & sweep the new course, and re-put officials, officers, and volunteers in place.

Races went off at noon with wet roads and a light drizzle. None of the categories even had to be cancelled, and the feedback on the course was that it was "fun" and "safe." Not bad! Even better, at the end of the day the conference coordinator suggested that next year, we could run a circuit race, rather than our dreaded crit. The first ever XPot Stage Race! While this was supposed to be my last year as XPot promoter, I definitely now want to stick around to see that to fruition.

Me in my XPot shirt standing in a waterfall last summer. Strangely appropriate, as the water rushing over the flooded streets looked just like this!

I'm still winding down from that exciting weekend, and have been distracted all week thus far by the prospect of my own racing season starting soon! But I wanted to share a very simple recipe. My first green smoothie! This simple beauty contains mango, spinach, vanilla protein powder, and almond milk. Before my Ninja blender, I had bad luck with adding greens, but with the Ninja, I found that the spinach nicely balances the sweetness of the mango. Starting last summer, smoothies have been my thing when I get back from rides. You can't beat 'em as a recovery food!

Green Mango Smoothie

3/4c frozen mango cubes
2c fresh or 1/3c frozen spinach (I like it better with fresh!)
1/2 scoop unsweetened vanilla protein powder
1c vanilla almond milk

Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!