Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chilly Morning Memories

The weather today is icky. Cold and rainy that will chill you to the bone. I was planning a nice 5 mile run with my running buddy. Her toe is better and she can run now. I was excited to be going out and running by the river. We haven't been able to do this for weeks. When I checked the weather yesterday afternoon and the prediction was rain and snow I decided I'd have to run on the treadmill. I loath treadmill running. It is boring. The view is always of the same tree across the parking lot. On a rainy day the cloud formation is always the same, dark and heavy with varying degrees of dripping pouring forth. Today offered no different view.

While trying to distract myself from my constant speed and changeless view I let my mind wander. I thought about my trip to Nags Head this weekend. Of course the trip is on my mind because we are going for a race. Today I thought about all the trips to Hatteras Island with my parents when I was young. Every spring and fall we would go stay at the beach so my dad could go drum fishing. I have so many happy memories of those trips. There are a few not so happy ones, like the time I came down with chicken pox for example. Today though I was thinking about the drive from Central New York to the Outer Banks. I was thinking about how long the drive was and how my parents worked so hard to keep us happy while riding for 13 hours.

There was one trip that my brother (I only had one then) and I were curious about how long a mile was. Of course I was on the treadmill and watching the miles slowly add up. We must have asked Dad to tell us when we had been a mile over and over. It was magic how he knew when we had been a mile. We must have been guessing about how far it was and how he could tell. I think he even told us to count the phone poles and that would tell us when we had been a mile. Eventually he did reveal that he had a special thing on the dash, a speedometer, that kept track of how fast he was going and how far we had gone. I have to say that special speedometer is so much more accurate than phone pole counting. I was looking at how many poles I could see out the window while on the treadmill. There are at least 6 in view and that is not a half mile view.

For food today I purchased a turkey breast portion. Our local grocery sells fresh turkey and I often pick up a breast or a couple of thigh portions to cook in the afternoon. Today I'm cooking half a breast. I purchased a grinder with garlic and rosemary in it last weekend. Those spice combination grinders are a super fast way to get fresh tasting herbs and spices. All I did was rinse the meat, grind a healthy helping of the garlic and rosemary combination onto it, and pop it in the oven at 375 to cook for about an hour. Once it is done I'm all set, I will have fresh turkey breast to slice for afternoon snacking with my fresh broccoli!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Endurance Training

If anyone had ever told me that I would choose to train for endurance athletic events in my mid-40's I would have told them they were out of their mind. There is now way I would ever have predicted that I would be running let alone running distances. To run long distances or for hours at a time, you need to train. The body needs to build up to long unending cardio sessions. Today when I was cardio-knitting I was pondering the depths of endurance training as it relates to running half marathon races and as it relates to sweater knitting.

My goal of running 4 half marathon races during 2012 had me logging in quite a few miles. I ran three and four days every week. Yes, there were a couple of weeks since January 2012 that I did not run. The only reason I didn't run those weeks was because I was sick. I feel fortunate that those weeks were few this year. Now that the final half marathon race is only 5 days away I have my training eyes on a new goal. My first marathon race in March. To prepare for that longer endurance I'm increasing my running and my cross training. The goal is to have the body accustomed to exercising for hours. Not hours and hours and hours, just 4 hours.

As I posted last week I've begun cardio-knitting for and one-two hours on my non-running days. This past weekend I had the fabulous opportunity to experience the benefits of that cross training before my big race. I ran a 12K yesterday. I ran it as a coach with a client who had never run more than 5 miles. Instead of running at my normal pace or pushing myself to run a personal record, I ran at her pace. That slower pace was what could be called an "easy run," if you can imagine running 7.5 miles as an easy run. I was so proud of her for running 99% of the race! What did I gain? A huge wealth of knowledge! I learned that cross training has extended my cardiovascular capabilities without me needing to run more miles. I learned that with my current level of running fitness I could easily have run another 6-7 miles. I learned that I'm quite prepared to run my next race exactly the way I want to, as though it were "just another long run."

How does endurance training relate to knitting sweaters? As you can imagine knitting a sweater requires a good deal of time commitment. Before you embark on the adventure of knitting said sweater you need to assemble all the materials, tools, and pattern. Reading the pattern from start to finish is always recommended. A knitting pattern is just like any other set of instructions, it tells you where to begin, where to end, and what to do along the way. One item that all knitting patterns list is gauge. Gauge is the number of stitches and rows knit per square inch. Master knitters, and knitters who want their item to actually fit, will knit a gauge swatch. This swatch is much like a practice run. You knit a piece of fabric that is four inches square. Just a mini practice sample of the garment itself.

I usually knit lots of socks and shawls. Gauge is not very important with shawls. It is not important for a rectangular or triangular piece of knitting intended to drape over the shoulders without a particular fit to be the exact same size as the pattern directions. With my sock knitting I'm not terribly concerned with my gauge either. I knit so many socks I'm familiar enough with my gauge that I can pick up my needles and yarn, match choose a pattern and go. Sweaters though are a completely different story. I need to swatch. I need to swatch using two or three different size needles to get the right number of stitches.

I've been wanting to knit the Gathered Pullover for 5 years. Yes, some patterns hang around and wait for me while others grab me by the throat and demand to be knit immediately. This sweater has been patient. It has even waited while I have the yarn in the house to knit it up with. I decided this would be a fun sweater to take to the beach this weekend. I'm hoping for some beautiful weather to sit outside and knit in. I'm OK with sitting outside in a sweater or sweatshirt while I knit. I just want to be able to knit on the beach. My yarn is a lovely hand dyed yarn. I have four skeins and each is slightly different than the other. I needed to swatch all four skeins of yarn to find the perfect blend of colors in order to come up with a pleasing sweater. My swatches are my practice runs that gear me up for the endurance event of knitting a full sweater.

I'm finding my endurance training is taking a toll on my cooking. I don't have as much time for cooking nor do I have the same interest in creating new foods in the kitchen. What I have been doing is going for basic protein and veggies. I purchased a large bag of broccoli florets, a pound box of baby spinach, one of baby kale, and one of spring mix. I picked up easy protein too, ground turkey, rotisserie chicken, and chicken thighs. My meals have been an odd mix of these. Example?? Sure!

Odd Spinach Salad

2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup chopped peppers
garlic powder and pepper to taste
1 serving guacamole

Saute the ground turkey and the chopped peppers with garlic powder and pepper. Layer the spinach, ground turkey, and the guacamole on one plate.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Biking Instead of Running

I've been biking instead of running for the last two days. I'm not giving up on running I'm cross training. In three hours of biking in two days time I learned a few important things about myself. I'm pretty fidgety with my cardio (biking or running) until I get past that 30 minute phase, I need lots of water, I have some knitting techniques to perfect, and I'm quite crafty when I'm in the thick of my cardio workout.

Those first 30 minutes are critical. When I'm running I find that comfort zone between mile 2 and 3 that is 20-30 minutes on a good run. When I'm biking I finally settle down and get into the groove at about that same time. For both of my morning rides it was dog interruptions and water needs that provided the interruptions. The dogs are adorable, cuddly, and entertaining. They are also quite busy in neighborhood politics and don't feel any of the other dogs should go past their house ever. They are not big dogs with loud barks that would scare away anyone. They are Yorkie mixes with determination. Their determination keeps me from my focus early into the ride.

Meeting my water needs are interesting on the bike. When I run outdoors I carry water in my Camel Bak. I don't want to wear that when I'm riding on the stationary bike. I have a few lovely stainless steel water bottles but they seem to be hanging out at the gym when I'm hanging out at home. My fix? A glass filled with water put on top of the book case. I have to slow down but I can still drink water. There is another down side to the water glass solution, I have to keep getting off the bike to refill it. I am going through four glasses of water in a two hour bike ride!

How is it that biking has me needing to learn new knitting techniques? Well, I'm using my warmups, easy flat run sequences, and cool downs for cardio-knitting. When I cardio-knit I try to knit small projects that will not get caught in my legs. I can even start a sweater on the bike and knit on it until it is fairly long. I found that I cannot hang my knitting bag with my ball of yarn off the handle bars. The yarn hangs so low that it got caught in the toe of my shoe and then wound into my peddle before I could hit the stop button. Fortunately I was only 3 rounds into the sock toes. I did have to break the yarn and start over. Evidently the peddles of a spin bike have grease on them to keep them moving smoothly. Yarn and grease don't mix. I'm now keeping my yarn higher up on the handle bars so it doesn't loop down past my leg. This is what the socks looked like after my first 2 hour ride:

My creative mind feels limitless when I'm in a long cardio session. I think of different writing projects I'd like to do and even start them in my mind. I also think about knitting and spinning projects. Amazingly when I'm running I can imagine myself knitting up big sweaters, large shawls, intricate socks, and even complicated fair isle projects. I usually only remember one or two of these ideas once I've cleaned up and found something to write with. I might need to change that. I might need to find a little notebook and keep it with my running gear so I can jot down notes when my run is complete. I could end up with an unending list of creative ideas.

With these longer cardio sessions I'm finding I need quick fuel and extra snacks. I am fairly strict with my 3 big meals and at least one snack a day. Adding in that extra snack is giving me so much more energy for my day. What have I added in? I'm making myself protein shakes. There are a large variety of protein shakes on the market. The TLS program that I coach uses this shake. I have many of my clients using this shake with excellent results. It is a great product that helps them feel satisfied both in their basic hunger needs and in that stubborn sweet tooth area. Unfortunately I cannot use it. I have a sensitivity to the whey based shakes. I'm using a rice protein powder to make my shake. I thought I'd share that today since there are many people who have dairy and soy sensitivities and may need a solution.It has been so long since I've eaten cinnamon rolls this combination tastes just like a cinnamon roll to me.

Basic Protein Shake

1 serving of vanilla protein powder of choice
8 oz unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp peanut butter

Blend all ingredients using a blender or an immersion hand blender.