Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Trails (er...Tales)

As I sit among the chaos of Christmas morning I reflect upon the last week of holiday merriment and adventure that I have been blessed to have in my life.  Yesterday I took to the trails for the first time in a loooonnnggg time with the bestie Bex.  Since we are training for an ultramarathon a mere 11 weeks away we figured knew it was time to start training.  Luckily for both of us we have a ridiculous amount of base miles under our belts.  We knocked out a fabulous 16 mile trail run in under 3 hours...not too are some pics of our morning.

Can't run without festive socks!

The view on the way up

Learning how to eat REAL food during a run...

Overall a painful amazing run that set the tone for the new, taking time for those you care about, good food, amazing friends...and miles upon miles of happy trails and tales.

The rest of the previous week has been filled with family, friends, food, and love.  Although we are missing a very important member of our family we are making the best of it all and reveling in the joy of being with those we love.  We were even lucky enough to get a few phone calls from Mike over the last few that was a welcome and happy surprise.

Friday night was Hanukkah with the Lewis family.  GFV (gluten free vegan) latkes were the highlight of the holiday since I am a HUGE fan of those bad boys which are normally neither vegan nor gluten free...with a few minor tweaks (gluten free flour and egg replacer...oh, and sweet potatoes instead) they were just as wonderful as the regular kind.

The kids got to enjoy the lighting of the menorah as well as hanging with good friends...a very festive, yummy night!

Saturday was Christmas Eve and after the above mentioned run I took to the kitchen to put my culinary talents to the test with making the holiday partially GFV friendly for Bex and I.  It was an adventure for sure.  Let's start with the "tofurkey"...normal tofurkeys bought in the store are riddled with gluten (literally the label states wheat gluten as ingredient number 2).  So clearly those are a no go.  But I found this recipe and although it certainly didn't look as pretty, it tasted pretty darn good!  Here are some pics of the prep steps (I was too busy eating to get pics of the finished product).

I also tried my hand at this recipe for a vegan pumpkin pie and baked it in these great pie shells for an overall GFV pumpkin pie experience...turned out great!

There was so much other food that didn't get chronicled, but suffice it to say the feast was fabulous and included fare such as pasta salad (with an amazing garlic aioli), coleslaw (with veganise), green beans, mashed potatoes (with vegenaise, veggie broth, and vegan Smart Balance), beet salad, sugar cookies, and other things I think I forgot...I was stuffed at the end of the night to say the least.  And when you look this awesome while cooking, you know the food will be good!

This morning was Christmas madness!  With Daddy gone we wanted to make it a special day for the kiddos...and I think we succeeded.  Check out the pics and you can see how clearly evident the happiness is.

Here's to another week...the last of 2011!  I'm off to work with my second family tonight...more food, more friends, with a smattering of saving lives thrown in to tip the karmic balance in my favor for the new year.  Hope you and yours are enjoying this holiday season.  Keep those far away from their families in your hearts and prayers...until we are all reunited.  Happy Holidays from us to you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

No longer a carnivore...week one in pictures

AHHHHmazing GFV Ice Cream Sandwich
It's been almost one week since I started this vegan quest with my best friend Bex in order to take control of my health and huge risk factors related to cancer and high cholesterol. I'll admit I was skeptical and a bit nervous about the huge change to my diet and to my lifestyle. I'm already gluten free (for over 2 years now) so taking away another huge component of my diet was a daunting task. But armed with knowledge, recipes, and a healthy dose of motivation I embarked upon the week with a sense of adventure and a desire to cook up some good gluten free vegan (GFV) grub. Monday was the weekly bed date and Bex had the fabulous idea of "tuna" I scoured for recipes and finally settled upon this fabulous recipe from Happy Herbivore. I had also picked up some GFV chocolate chip cookie dough and Bex again came up with the idea to make them into ice cream sandwiches (with coconut milk chocolate ice cream). As you can see from the picture above, they turned out amazing. As did the tuna melts...we were off to a great start.
Although I can't map out every meal of the week, I can show you some pics of the goodness that ensued.

Pesto stuffed portabella mushrooms...I made the pesto in the Cuisinart. Lots of basil, olive oil, garlic, almonds, nutritional yeast...all pureed and mixed with vegan Daiya mozzarella cheese and stuffed into a cleaned out portabella mushroom and baked. Served them over quinoa cooked in No Chik'n Bouillon. Amazing meal!

I then used the Cuisinart again (it may be my favorite GFV appliance) to make vegan chocolate pudding. I then made almost a game out of it at work by making nearly every nurse taste it and try to guess what it was made out of (avocado). Only one nurse got it (go Jenny!). It was so, so yummy...really took care of any chocolate craving I could have possibly had...but small doses, because it's rich!

The above skillet concoction is a fair representation of how most of my meals for the week looked. Basically I just threw veggies and tofu into the skillet with whatever spices I fancied and possibly of soyrizo...and then plated it over rice, quinoa, or potatoes. Or maybe I was feeling adventurous and wrapped it in a corn tortilla (rice and beans are a fav...or my own GFV chili).

GFV french toast. Gluten free bread soaked in coconut milk egg nog and mashed banana, then pan "fried". Seriously amazing...didn't even require syrup!

Cashew "sour cream" served over my GFV chili or portabella mushroom fajitas was a total hit! So much so that you can see the finger tracks through the bowl!

Not everything I made this week was from scratch. This banana bread was so simple. Just add some Ener G egg replacer, warm water, and 2 mashed bananas...and voila! Amazing, moist, fresh GFV banana bread straight from the oven. It's really, really good!
So that about wraps up my first week as a non carnivore. Here's hoping the rest of the weeks ahead are as flavorful and fun!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Welcome to Crazy Town

I say that my life and home are crazy town in jest...but to know me is to know the truth of this because of this I only just recently realized it's been nearly a year since I last posted a single blog! So so sad on my part but a long break was needed...from this apparently, from racing, from training...from so many aspects of my life. This post is basically going to be one big catch up!

Going into this year I had so many lofty goals...and shortly after Palm Springs enduro weekend (first century ride on Saturday, half marathon on Sunday) I realized I needed a break. I never really took an off season or gave myself any time to just stop and breathe for a minute...I just kept hitting it hard and it all eventually caught up to me. So I stopped, cold turkey. I'm pretty sure I even had withdrawals. I raced only one other time this year and that was as the relay runner for the San Diego Triathlon Challenge...and I didn't even "race"...I just enjoyed the day with my best friends.

Now as the year comes to a close I'm starting to really feel the burn to train and race again. Now don't get me wrong, I haven't sat on my duff all year, I've been working out. And the payoff has actually been better then expected. I'm lighter, leaner, and stronger then I've been in a long time. I have paid attention to my diet, strength training, flexibility, and the balance of it all way more then I ever have before. But I've also learned to really listen to my much so that I buried my Garmin in a drawer and barely used it all year. I dug it out last week (actually I had to borrow Mike's) and took it on a run around Balboa park....lo and behold I had a 7:59 min/mile average for just over 5 miles. Not to shabby for not paying attention all year! This will mean nothing as I head into the new year with a completely new goal in complete an ultramarathon. Haven't officially decided on a particular race, but it will be a 50K (30 miles) and it will be early in the year...looking forward to that challenge!
But there have been many other recent changes in my life that are going to affect me greatly going into 2012. First and foremost my husband has once again deployed. He left just last week aboard the USS Carl Vinson and won't be home until spring or summer. It's our 3rd deployment since we've been married but our first in almost 4 years. It's been an adjustment getting used to his absence again...moreso for how to deal with two children who are now older and understand the magnitude of the amount of time daddy will be gone...but we've been trucking along and getting by. Christmas will be a bit more lonely...but time passes and he will be home safely again before we know it.

Photo courtesy of USS Carl Vinson photographers

Work is also going to be keeping me busy as we roll into the new year. I can't even believe I've been on night shift for almost 2 years now. I can honestly still say I adore my job and I'm so lucky to be where I am. I am constantly learning and growing...and I'm surrounded by the most amazing team of nurses and doctors I could ever imagine. In January I will start taking classes for my CCRN (Critical Care RN certification test) and hope to take the exam by the end of Feb. This is a pretty big deal in the ICU community as it a daunting test that will really force me to buckle down and learn the core concepts of the human body as they apply to the patient populations I work with. I'm excited, nervous, and really ready for this challenge.

On the health front there have been some recent developments that have made me ponder my own decisions regarding my health and the steps I can take to ensure I stick around for a long time. Though I always considered myself basically healthy since I ate well and exercised a ton, a recent blood test revealed I had elevated total cholesterol, my LDL was high and my HDL was low. I wasn't entirely shocked as both my mom and dad have bad cholesterol. So I gave up milk (since it was bothering my stomach anyway) and tried to reduce my intake of red meats. Shortly after that I went to see my primary care doctor for a routine checkup. At the end of the appointment she told me she wanted me to see an oncologist (I'm currently in the process of moving all my personal healthcare from Naval medicine to my own insurance with the health group I work for as I feel I get much better continuity of care with them). I felt like this was coming out of left field but she explained with my crazy personal history and my awful family history of cancer that she didn't feel she could follow me adequately enough. So I was sent for labs and a number for an oncologist. Of course I stalled for a while...but I eventually got around to making an appointment with him. Once at the office I was told that my blood counts were abnormal (seriously?) so now more tests are the waiting game. It was also noted the my cholesterol numbers were still not normal (guess I didn't really lay off the red meat like I said I would). I also got a referral to GI to follow up on the years of stomach problems I've had an hopefully get some answers (I went gluten free over 2 years ago and that has helped immensely but hasn't gotten rid of all my problems). After these numerous blows and moments of clarity I realized I needed to make a drastic change.
This realization happened to correlate perfectly with my viewing of a movie/documentary called Forks Over Knives ( The entire premise of the film is the ridiculous links between the main diseases of the Western world (cancer, heart disease, etc) and an animal based diet. Numerous studies have shown that if people eat a plant based diet they can essentially halt and even reverse the spread or development of these diseases. After watching the film and doing a bit more research on my own I was convinced (of note my dad went vegan a few years ago due to health reasons and has completely reversed all his problems...hello proof!). Even Mike realized that a change was needed (this from the most self professed carnivore I know!). So I have now embarked on a new journey...veganism. And tomorrow (Dec 12th) is day one. I've been playing around with recipes for the past few weeks and sampling new brands and foods. I'm feeling amazing and not deprived in the least. I'm tracking my nutrition as testing has shown that I have a great metabolism and with lofty ultramarathon goals I can't afford to skimp on nutrition or calories. It's been touch and go but I'm finally dialing in the ability to hit my caloric goals (roughly 2200 cals on a good training day). I will be blogging alot about my adventures in vegan cooking and eating to be sure....should be a culinary blast!

Vegan Sushi for our kickoff dinner!

I think that about wraps up my updates and it's officially time for me to get some shut eye...lots to do tomorrow (isn't that always the case?). Looking forward to getting back into the swing of training and learning how to adapt to a new life of alternative eating. :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The "ON" Season...

Since these last few weeks (or months really) have been deemed my "off" season...I guess the recent increase in training means the "on" season is truly upon me...with a new year comes new goals and a new batch of workouts to help me achieve them. If you also haven't realized, this is San Diego and we don't really have an off season...but that being 3 hour workout this morning and the 1 hour swim I have planned for this evening is quite an increase from what I have been doing since U.S. Women's Tri last October (keep in mind I went into Vegas very un-trained and lazy...though that "race" was in December).

The weekend kicked off in style with an easy 2 hour trail run with Bex...the run was a fantastic opportunity to discuss the goals for the year and talk about missed opportunities and learning experiences from the previous year and season...all in all it was a great soul-searching run that was more therapy then run...but 10 miles of dirty, hilly trails is always considered a good day. This is a pic I snapped at the top of the Sweetwater Reservoir...beautiful...

After I got all prettied up again the fam and I headed to the San Diego Zoo...we don't go there nearly enough and it really was nice to walk around and see the animals through the kids eyes...they really enjoyed themselves! So much so that I bought season passes for them!

The next morning, with my legs completely reminding me that it's been a while since my last long trail run, I woke up with the hubby to meet Bex and Jason for a bike/breakfast combo (so really this was my last day of chill workouts and I wanted to enjoy it!). We met out at Otay Lakes near the Olympic Training Center (talk about some motivation!) and rode first to the Broken Yolk Cafe for good! Ate some good food with some of my favorite people...

...then we headed out towards and into Jamul and back. It was really beautiful weather for a ride. The scenery was truly amazing and many times I realized I had lost any speed as I got caught up in the views. During one stop I just had to snap a can vaguely see Bex and J waiting for Mike and I just up the road...

...Great ride, great friends, great day! We also seem to have a fantastic sense of style and clearly exhibited this with our choice of footwear post-ride (which spins me into a future blog I think...but you'll have to wait for that one).

I had to work Sunday night...and it was a LONGGGG one...capped off by me losing my stethoscope as I chucked it aside to jump on top of a bed and give CPR to a patient...very dramatic really...and yes, the patient lived! Later that night the tech brought me my stethoscope all cleaned and nice...when I asked him where it was he looked at me quite puzzled and said he had found it in the sink! Hmmm...I don't know how to explain that one...let's just say I was more focused on my job then my belongings! Ahh...the many perils and triumphs of my job...again...more fodder for another blog...

Monday I slept later then usual since I was feeling tired and only had time to get a quick 30 minute run in with some hill repeats...also did some strength exercises while Addy played at the park...hey, you gotta do what you can!

Today was bike day...and also my meeting with coach Bryan to discuss the upcoming year. The ride started heading up Mt. Soledad...where I quickly took in the view before heading back down (this is a pic from a previous trip up the beast)...

We then headed down Nautilus and I was thinking I had gotten off easy...ummm...yeah....nope! We head back up Mt. Soledad the back route and still, miraculously, ended up in a place I love to hate...Via Capri (again pic from previous trip that does NOT do it justice!)...

After that it was a 1 hour run to top off the 2 hour ride...then lunch and planning sesh with coach to discuss the goals for the new year (another blog...again)...and tonight it's a 1 hour swim...holy moly we go!

Friday, January 7, 2011


So I've been motivated by my best buddy Bex (say that 5 times fast) to really put it all out there. I've had the refreshing realization recently (seriously...what is with me) that there are perceptions that other people hold of me that simply aren't true (shocker, I know). But in this case these perceptions led to lots of hurt feelings and bruised egos (well, mine anyway). I finally realized that there really aren't many people that truly know me...the me I hide most of the time...the me that cries at the end of a marathon or screams and cusses during a long bike ride...the me in my head that yells negativity so loud it's all I can do to squelch the voice and push on. I was told by a good friend that people see me as tough...and someone who doesn't give up easily...and I was really thrown for a loop. I guess I never really stopped to think about the perception others have of me. I can almost count on one hand those who have seen me in that dark husband, my mother, my best friend (Bex) and her husband (Jason), Alli (who has trained with me and finished a marathon with me and also survived nursing school and our new job with me), and Jessica (the girl responsible for training me for my first marathon and running 2 of them with me and another nursing school survivor)...that's really it. Maybe there are more but honestly not many. Only these people have seen the me that dwells inside the tough exterior. The me that begins to cry, cuss, bitch, moan, make excuses...and lots of other lovely things when pushed beyond the comfortable boundaries I have set for myself. The me that gives up if the day doesn't pan out right for a workout...who instead turns to comfort instead of trying to make a new plan (for some reason I can think of plan B when racing, but not training). If others really know how much I have given up in my own head millions of times, they might be shocked.

It's a funny thing I know that I have accomplished a lot...but my bigger accomplishments have been at shorter distances. It seems I can shut off my brain long enough to leave it all out there for a sprint or Olympic distance race, or a half marathon even...but put me out there longer and the demons begin to surface...and they aren't pretty. They first begin to whisper to me that I'm, so very slow...that others are passing me and I don't have a prayer to catch up to them...that I'm being left behind. They they taunt me louder that I don't have enough training...I didn't swim enough...I didn't bike enough...I didn't ride enough...I have too little sleep...too much on my plate to take this on...just give up now because it will be easier. Eventually as I try to ignore them...they are have nothing will you ever aren't going to reach your goal...give it are nothing. Yeah...nothing. So there I am...out there alone (or maybe not alone but in my head I am in a totally desolate place) one can rescue me here...except me. As the years have gone on I have become more adept at quieting these monsters...but each new challenge brings more players to the table inside my mind...and they have new messages that I have to learn to intercept, rewrite, or trash...and it's a long learning curve.

So there it is...I guess 2011 is about shattering the perceptions that others have of me...and possibly the perceptions I have of myself. This year is about being more real...real about my abilities, my inabilities, my limitors, my strengths...and what I have to really work with. I have the capability to be fast, really fast...but I have to work hard at it. I am not that great at going far...and luckily this year isn't about when I attempt distance I need to give myself a break and possibly an out ;) I am a great runner, a decent swimmer (though I have let that slide considerably) and an evolving cyclist...but I am not perfect at any of them...and only mildly skilled at putting them together. I have challengies with my nutrition...and those are going to take a long time to iron out...but I am trying. I have a family that needs me...but I also need to have my time so I can be more present and in the moment for them. I have a full time, stressful, night shift job...I adore it with everything I am...but it take ALOT out of me...trying to flip and flop between days and nights leaves me exhausted and unmotivated...lots of work to do there too.

Basically I am a huge work in progress...but aren't we all?? What fun is life without a few challenges? But for tonight I am going to revel in my self imposed day off (sorry Bryan), drink some wine with my bestie and my hubby, make some plans, eat some candy (as I'm swearing it off on Monday) and just enjoy the moment...tomorrow is a new day...and a fantastic two hour trail run to boot...I'm ready to embrace the challenges, jump over the hurdles, and hang on tight...who's with me? :)