Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apple Cabbage Coleslaw With Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Apple Cabbage Coleslaw With Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Makes six servings

Apples and braised cabbage is the classic flavor pairing that inspired this salad. Traditional mayonnaise is replaced with poppy seed vinaigrette, which adds a great contrast of color and flavor. Full-fat yogurt is also a great substitute for mayo-based coleslaws.

1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tbs. honey
2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tbs. poppy seeds


3 cups shredded savoy cabbage
1 cup julienned carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 thinly sliced gala apples

For the vinaigrette: Combine the garlic, vinegar, honey and mustard in a blender. While the blender is running, slowly drizzle in the oil to create a creamy vinaigrette. Stir in poppy seeds by hand.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, onion and apples. Pour dressing over and mix well.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dark Side of Moon Science

We get a publication from Lifetime Fitness, one of the many perks of membership. Every so often they have some good information. They recently had a nutrition article I wanted to share with everyone. Enjoy!

How advanced food technologies mess with our minds and our metabolisms.

By Catherine Guthrie / October 2010

Show me a chicken nugget and I will show you the world. The world, that is, of highly palatable foods engineered by the food industry to go down easily — in some cases, to quite literally “melt in the mouth” — while also stimulating us to crave more.

Commercial foods like chicken nuggets, French fries, chips, crackers, cookies and pastries are designed to be virtually irresistible. And, for a lot of reasons most of us don’t fully understand, they are.

There’s a “biological basis for why it’s so hard for millions of Americans to resist food,” former FDA commissioner David Kessler, MD, explained in a recent National Public Radio (NPR) interview. “We are all wired to focus on the most salient stimuli in our environment,” he says. “For some of us, it could be alcohol; it could be illegal drugs; it could be gambling, sex or tobacco. For many of us, though, one of the most salient stimuli in our environment is food. And how do you make food even more salient? Fat, sugar and salt.”

Of course, fat, sugar and salt have been around as kitchen staples for centuries, but it wasn’t until the past few decades that they became as abundant and cheap as they are now. And during the course of those same few decades, food manufacturers have been busily leveraging science and technology to enhance their products — manipulating food in ways that not only play on our innate fondness for sugar, salt and fat, but also dramatically boost their overall taste, texture, aroma and appearance.

Think about the flavor of beef infused into McDonald’s signature French fries, the creamy filling injected into a Twinkie or the fake crosshatched grill marks stamped onto a KFC grilled chicken breast, and you begin to get the idea. The stuff regularly served up at every chain restaurant, gas station and food court amounts to an edible — and irresistible — amusement park. And it’s all fueled by food science and technology we’d have a hard time imitating at home.

“It’s the multisensory combinations that provide the roller coaster in your mouth,” says Kessler, a professor at the University of California–San Francisco and author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (Rodale, 2009). And over the past 30 years, food manufacturers have been coming up with increasingly wild rides.

“When we were kids,” recalls Kessler, “it was enough to put sugar in water, add a little coloring and get a relatively simple sensory experience called Kool-Aid. Since then, food makers have upped the ante.” Today we’ve got Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Double Chocolate Strawberry Cake Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Doritos brand snacks come in more than a dozen different varieties (including “Late Night All Nighter Cheeseburger”), all of which promise to “deliver a powerful crunch that unlocks the bold and unique flavors you crave.”

If we’re going to stand any chance of resisting this new breed of consumables, we need to have a better understanding about what we’re up against. That starts with a brief lesson in food technology.

This Is Your Brain on Processed Food

The human brain has many attributes, but resisting Krispy Kreme doughnuts is not one of them. “The most salient foods are those with fat, sugar and salt,” Kessler reminds us. “The advantage those foods have is that they are hardwired from our taste receptors directly into our brains.”

Being attracted to high-calorie foods worked to our advantage when food was scarce and humans had to hunt and gather for a living, explains Christopher Ochner, PhD, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University’s Obesity Research Center. “The problem is that, today, the food never runs out.”

On the contrary, it’s dangled in front of us around the clock. Food makers capitalize on the body’s drive for calorie-dense food by providing a steady, inexpensive supply of the stuff that’s rendered virtually irresistible through techno- and science-savvy enhancements that our brains and bodies have not yet developed resistance to.

The taste preferences that food-product designers play upon today evolved over many thousands of years as a survival mechanism, notes Dana Small, PhD, a brain researcher at Yale University School of Medicine. They were a means for our ancestors to identify which foods had the dense caloric value their bodies needed to support huge daily energy expenditures. Hardwired as they are, these preferences aren’t something from which we can easily free ourselves.

“You may not even like the taste of a sugary treat initially,” Small says, “but as long as it has a major caloric impact, the brain will keep you coming back for more.” That’s why we are more easily triggered to want cake than to want carrots. “Carrots are better for you, but they have fewer calories,” Small explains. And from the human body’s instinctive, short-term perspective, calories are more essential than nutrients for survival.

The fact that evolutionary food cues from our primordial past still sway our behavior today wouldn’t be such a problem if the cue for cake came only occasionally, as it did in generations past. But thanks to the growth of fast-food restaurants and the ubiquitous presence of processed foods — at schools, drugstores and even hospitals — the cue for a high-calorie treat may now confront us several times a day.

“You can’t walk 10 steps without tripping over a McDonald’s and falling into a Wendy’s,” says Ochner. “Highly rewarding food is available everywhere.”

And the chemicals in our brains are not designed to help us resist. Dopamine, for one, is a neurotransmitter that creates and sustains focus. Thanks to dopamine’s knack for keeping the brain focused on the most pressing stimuli, our ancestors outmaneuvered predators. But dopamine can also shackle the brain to stimuli such as drugs, alcohol or food. It makes certain stimuli highly meaningful, explains Kessler (who admits his focus is easily usurped by chocolate-chip cookies): “For each of us it’s going to be different, but the food industry knows that layering fat on top of sugar on top of salt makes the food that much harder for the brain to resist.”
A Sensory Explosion

When it comes to creating irresistible food products, the fat-sugar-salt trio is only one part of a rather involved, high-stakes industrial strategy. Manufacturers also work hard to develop mouth-watering aromas and carefully engineered textures. They also invest in ad campaigns that equate their products with happiness and success. “The more multisensory the stimuli,” says Kessler, “the greater the reward and the stronger the emotional cues.”

Companies are willing to pay big bucks for “sensory science,” the kind of in-depth research that tells them exactly how to design a product that appeals to all the senses. No one knows this better than Gail Vance Civille, founder and president of Sensory Spectrum, a New Jersey–based consumer research firm. Civille tests consumer reactions across a range of different sensory areas.

In the all-important area of taste, for example, what used to be a simple question of sweet versus savory has evolved into a complex science that the food industry calls “flavor dynamics.”

Take a basic chocolate bar. The expert tasters at Sensory Spectrum identified a wide range of flavors in a basic chocolate bar — everything from winey, woody, nutty, citrusy, floral, alkaline and sourness to flavors of soap, cardboard, casein, cooked milk, spray-dried milk and developed milk. A client can then take this information and tweak its formulas to boost certain flavors and suppress others.
Civille and her colleagues will also evaluate a product’s texture. Food manufacturers are always searching for the perfect “mouthfeel,” which is why fat is so prevalent in processed food. Fat not only bestows crunch, creaminess and contrast, but it also blends flavors and even acts as a lubricant, allowing people to eat faster. “Fat adds to a smooth, even bolus (the wad that forms when you chew food) in the mouth,” says Kessler.

Another texture trick is to presoften food by mashing it. “The substrate of today’s foods has been removed, meaning processed food is basically prechewed,” notes Kessler. This allows us to eat things like chicken tenders more quickly and easily, which can lead to unconscious eating — and overeating.

“We used to have foods that took more work,” Civille explained in a recent NPR interview. “In the [45 years] that I have been in the food business, we used to have foods that we chewed 15 times and 20 times and 30 times before we swallowed. Now, there’s rarely a food out there, outside of a sweet, chewy candy, that you have to chew more than 12 times before it’s gone.” Instead, after a couple quick chews and a swallow, “you’re in for the next hit to get more pleasure.” (For more on exactly how the food industry manufactures the perfect texture, see “Anatomy of a Chicken Nugget" below.)

Breaking the Cycle

With two-thirds of Americans now overweight, it’s safe to say that our processed-food addiction is messing with our metabolisms as well as our brains. A number of health experts, including Kessler, assert that food companies are actively capitalizing on our genetically hardwired impulses. Food scientists like Civille, meanwhile, argue that the food industry is simply giving people what they want. They may both be right.

Civille, for her part, says she does not believe the food industry is consciously trying to “design food to trick, track or coerce consumers.” But she does agree with Kessler that government and media both have a role to play in helping to educate consumers about what goes into the processed foods we consume and how some of that pleasure-boosting science and technology can work against us.

Regulations, incentives and information campaigns may all be a long time coming, though. In the meantime, here are some tips that you can use to curb your consumption of processed foods and to reduce your vulnerability to conditioned hypereating:

•Create structure: The Achilles’ heel of a healthy diet, says Kessler, is being caught off-guard — hungry and at the mercy of your environment. Instead, plan what you’re going to eat and when. Meals and snacks should be eaten at regular intervals, and they should be appealing enough to keep you satisfied (versus feeling tempted to make a fast-food run), but predictable enough that your senses don’t feel overstimulated.

•Eat substantial foods: Foods made from ingredients that race willy-nilly through your digestive system, like simple sugars and refined flours, are not as satisfying as foods that digest more gradually. Protein has the best staying power, taking 2.5 times longer to digest than simple sugars. High-fiber foods, like legumes, fruits, veggies and whole grains, also leave the body feeling full longer because they add volume to meals and take longer to digest.

•Re-size portions: In a culture of super-sized portions, it’s easy to forget how much it really takes to feel satisfied (vs. stuffed). To regain a sense of portion control, try eating only half your normal amount of food at a single meal. Then pay close attention to how your body feels 30 minutes later. Notice how you feel 90 minutes later. For most people, a just-right meal is one that staves off hunger for about four hours; a just-right snack keeps you satisfied about two hours, says Kessler, who calls this practice “just-right eating.”

•Get comfortable with eating real food: A lot of people opt for easy-to-eat processed foods because “they don’t like to be embarrassed when they eat,” says Civille. “They don’t want to get something stuck in their teeth, and they don’t like to be eating complicated foods in public.” In the United States, many otherwise-civilized adults aren’t confident of proper knife-and-fork techniques, which may incline them toward bite-size, hand-held and nuggetized foods, thereby limiting the array of whole foods they eat regularly. If you don’t yet feel confident eating real foods and enjoying them in all their lovely messiness, make a point of developing that confidence. (For a quick video on fork-knife pointers, go to

•Change your relationship with food: Instead of looking at food as if it’s your friend, try and deactivate those emotional connections, says Kessler: “I look at food that’s highly processed and I say, ‘It’s only going to stimulate me. It’s not going to sate me. It’s only going to make me want more.” In much the same way we changed our view of tobacco from a sexy to a decidedly unsexy thing, he adds, we can try to do the same with processed food.

•Don’t bring it into the house: If your pantry is full of processed foods, some part of you will be constantly aware of their presence. Those foods will “call out to you,” says Kessler, and just seeing them, or even knowing they are there on the shelf, may be enough to activate your brain and trigger cravings.

•Don’t resort to deprivation: It’s not that you can’t ever have another serving of French fries. In fact, Kessler argues, adopting a mindset of deprivation will just trigger more intense cravings. The goal is to reclaim control over what you eat and when, and to stay conscious of your entire eating experience — before, during and after.

Ultimately, taking back your mind and metabolism means becoming more aware of not only what you eat but also what drives you to eat it. Self-awareness is the greatest tool people can wield against the assault of processed foods, says Kessler.

But remember: Self-awareness doesn’t mean self-denial. It means learning how to delight in foods that are good for you, and how to enjoy less healthy edible pleasures in moderation, on occasion, when you consciously decide to.

“By consciously paying attention to the pleasures of taste and the experience of eating, you can deepen the reward value of any food you choose,” says Kessler, “so choose well.”


Anatomy of a Chicken Nugget

Ever wonder what goes into making a chicken nugget? And ever wonder why they’re so easy to eat (and eat and eat)? Here’s more than you probably wanted to know:

•BITE-SIZE: Before breading, the gelatinous meat product is squeezed into a casing and cooked. After it cools, the casing is sliced into uniform nugget-sized discs, making them that much easier to pop into your mouth (no silverware required — and hey, those nuggets are so small, it’s like you’re hardly eating anything, right?).

•“PRECHEWED" MEAT: Assorted pieces of chicken meat are finely chopped to free myofibrillar proteins that act as “glue” to bind the bits of meat together. Texture-enhancing binders (such as breading or powdered egg white) are added to help create a “gelling” effect that gives the nuggets shape. Flavors, natural and artificial, are mixed in. So are ingredients that hold in moisture, such as sodium phosphate, soy protein concentrate and autolyzed yeast extract. The net effect? A boneless, prechewed quality that produces a smooth and even bolus in your mouth and that invites overeating.

•WHITE-ISH MEAT: It could be white meat — or it could be dark meat (about a third of the cost of white meat) that has been whitened with the use of whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate. Although dark meat is often more flavorful, white meat apparently looks more uniform and more appealing to American eyes. As one industry document puts it, “American consumers have expressed a strong preference for poultry white meat over dark meat due to color. Turning dark meat into white could open new markets and revenue sources.”

•CRUNCH FACTOR: The breading on a chicken nugget is mostly flour (but can also contain gums, starches, sugars and chemically derived flavors). It adds inexpensive heft to the nugget (up to 30 percent of its weight) and provides a material for the nugget’s crispy outside layer — a key factor in the sensory experience. The breading also provides an appealing, uniform color (some manufacturers add a caramel coloring agent to the nugget to enhance the golden, fried look) and toasty aroma. Finally, the breading provides a moisture barrier to prevent water loss, creating a moister interior that contributes to a satisfying mouthfeel.

•FRIED TO A CRISP: The chicken nugget is dunked in a vat of hot, liquid fat (most often, a cheap vegetable oil such as soybean, sunflower or safflower oil — it depends on market price and availability), which causes the protein to denaturalize and the starch in the breading to become more gel-like. A crust forms on the nugget’s outer layer. During deep-frying, much of the nugget’s original water content is replaced with oil.

•SWEET SAUCE: Most of the sauces served with chicken nuggets (barbecue, sweet and sour, etc.) have an array of added sugars in them. Others, like ranch and blue-cheese dressings, contain creamy dairy ingredients rich in natural sugars. This helps to create the fat-sugar-salt trio that renders so many processed foods irresistible. Although the ingredients of one popular restaurant chain’s ginger-citrus sauce sound relatively ordinary (sugar, hoisin sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, chili paste, modified food starch and orange juice concentrate), sugar and salt dominate. The dipping action produces new sensory elements — mixing cool with hot, crispy with creamy, savory with sweet, mellow with spicy, and so on.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Race Result: Plymouth Firefighters 5K

Event: Plymouth Firefighters 5K Run & Walk
Date: Saturday, September 25
Location: Plymouth, MN
Weather: 48F with light drizzle
Official Results: Overall results

Personal results:
Goal: 18:59 (6:06 per mile pace)
Official Time: 18:48 (6:03 per mile pace)
Garmin Time: 18:48 (6:05 per mile pace), as my Garmin read 3.09 miles.
Overall: 3rd (401 total); top 0.7%

The Recap

One goal down. One to go. I wanted to run a sub-19 minute 5K this year. At age forty-nine that is getting hard to do. I had two chances left on the race calendar. This event and then a 5K in Phoenix near the end of October. Checked that box! Next goal will be to go under forty minutes for a 10K, which I will attempt to do in Fargo in a couple of weeks.

I have run the Plymouth 5K twice before, placing 5th overall in 2008 and 3rd overall in 2009. So I knew this course very well. I have increased my run mileage since my season ending triathlon two weeks back. I was feeling confident and strong.

It was a tad chilly with drizzle and that would play against me later in the event. During warm ups the legs didn't feel quite right but I kept positive. I was going to open strong and take it mile-by-mile after that.

The reason I wanted to open strong was there is a slight hill about 1/4-mile into the run. From my previous runs at this event, I had learned that the race is often decided at that point. It separates the pretenders from the contenders. This was the case again.

I led the event for the first 3/4's of a mile. I went out strong, but relaxed. After the race one of the other finishers told me that people were commenting at how hard I was taking the pace because, "the course is hilly and they thought I was going out too hard." Pshaw. I know hilly courses. This is not a hilly course. But my plan was to make people hurt going into that first hill. At that point I was clipping along at a very strong pace.

I knew two other people were on my shoulder as we crested the hill but wasn't sure of the rest of the pack after that. I eased back and the other two young bucks passed and opened a slight gap. I kept pace with them at that point through mile 1.

Mile One - 5:55

My work done, I just settled into staying relaxed. I had gone with simple 1-inch inseam running shorts and a very lightweight singlet while other people were sporting winter caps and sweatshirts. I was getting a tad tight and finding it hard to stay relaxed. 48 F is actually a nice temperature for a running race, but the cold drizzle was the bit that was making it harder than it needed to be.

I stayed within 20-yards of the leading two runners, and heard a set of footsteps behind. I wasn't going to look over my shoulder at this point.

Mile Two - 6:07

Shortly after we passed Mile Two we had a hard left turn. I looked back and spied only one runner...period. And he was about 30-yards back. I could not tell if he was gaining. So I started to dig a bit as we went up a slight hill in order to try and separate a bit before the next left turn. Out of sight, out of mind. Isn't that the rule?

The front two runners has separated by a good 60-yards but they weren't really running away from me. So I tried to gain some yardage back and just work towards mile three. My hammies were definitely tightening up from the wet and cold. I was worried that I could cramp up. I just talked myself into relaxing. Funny how the voices in the head can play such a strong part of races these days.

Mile Three - 6:11

One last hard left turn and a quick look back and the runner behind me had made up no distance, in fact, I had opened up a bit of room. At this point it was Dave Wottle time. I had worn my white Nike cap specifically for this purpose. To remind me to kick like Wottle at the end. Top three overall get very nice plaques. I had gotten one last year. And I wanted another one.

I just opened 'er up. As much as a tight-hammied-cold-49yo-old-fart could. I wanted that sub 19. I wanted top three. I had no idea if someone was coming up fast or not. I was gassed, but not as bad as last year when I had nothing left.

Last 0.1 - 0:34 (6:00 per mile)

Well, no one passed me. And I finished under 19-minutes. Pretty damn happy.

Let's get back to the event itself and break down the typical components, discussing what was done well and what needs improvement.

Packet Pickup - There is only same-day packet pickup. The event is generally small enough to get away with this and it is always well organized. I arrived forty minutes prior to start and it was a breeze to pickup my race number and long-sleeved T-shirt.
Grade - A
Suggestion - It's not necessary, but perhaps chip-timing?

Volunteers - Firefighters treat this event like a open house. Afterall, it is held on one of the Plymouth fire stations. We've been on tour of this facilty for Cub Scouts and our firefighters are the friendliest around!
Grade - A+
Suggestion - Just repeat in 2011

Run Course - The course is very well laid out. There are three miler markers that are spot on accurate. The course winds through residential streets and is well sheltered and has low traffic. And where else is the lead vehicle a fire engine? Way cool.
Grade - A+
Suggestion - Just repeat in 2011

Awards/Goodies - Long sleeved T-shirts as always. The good ol' cotton variety. Awards are very nice wood plaques that are awarded only to the top three overall males and top three overall females.
Grade - A
Suggestions - The gray color of this year's shirt was a little bland. Previous years had great deep blue or fire engine red. But I'm nit picking.

I might have to go for a "three" three-peat in 2011!

Overall - I recommend this race to seasoned runner, novice, or even walker! The sight of a huge American flag string between two ladder fire engines is just a fantastic way to begin the race. It is well organized and well laid out. And only four minutes (2-miles) from my door step.

Next Event - 10K at the Fargo Mini Marathon on October 9. There are three races at this venue. A half-marathon, a 10K, and a 5K. What makes this one special is the Boy® and the Well Kept Wife are doing the 5K. I think there is a battle brewing there for family bragging rights. Who will come out on top!?!?

The Well Kept Wife™, Glynis, the Boy®, Pont, & moi.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bare Your Sole

Barefoot running can be a terrific way to build strength in your feet and boost overall balance. You may not want to go shoeless on the gym track, however, and that's where barefoot-technology shoes come in handy. With the Nike Free, your foot gets all the contact and freedom of running barefoot along with the protection and traction of a shoe.

Some wearers also swear by them for on-your-feet work that keeps you on the move, like waiting tables. $85 for Nike colors; $110 for 'build your own' color palette. And those colors can get pretty wild!

So, one immediate question you might have: Does the old rule of changing out your shoes every 500-miles still apply to barefoot-style shoes like the Nike Free?

Joe Friel, the endurance sports coach and founder of says that since the cushioning of the traditional shoe is what breaks down the most, the less cushioning a shoe has, the longer it will last.

But he is always quick to say that if you're prone to foot and leg problems, you should change your shoes more frequently and also advises making the transition to barefoot-style shoes a gradual one to give your body time to adjust to less cushion and support. Bottom line - you can wear those Free's until the tops disintegrate!

Happy running.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Race Preview: Plymouth Firefighters 5K

Event: Plymouth Firefighters 5K Run & Walk
Date: Saturday, September 25
Location: Plymouth, MN
Previous Results: 2008 (5th overall, 19:37), 2009 (3rd overall, 19:31)

This coming Saturday I will once again jump into the Plymouth Firefighters' 5K Run/Walk which is held annually in our fair city. The Well Kept Wife™ works for the city of Plymouth as the Volunteer Coordinator so let's say I am motivated to participate. Actually, it is a great fundraiser as proceeds from the event benefit the Plymouth Firefighters Relief Association. Can't go wrong there.

Plus one gets to witness firefighters from Plymouth and Maple Grove battling for bragging rights as many of the firefighters run in full firefighter gear. Truly amazing.

I've done alright the last two years, except last year I lost out to an, ahem, eighth grader. But no matter. No harm to losing to a budding XC star!

Psssst. Who's the silly old guy!?!?
Its a nice course, with lots of twists and turns and a few little grade changes from where you can separate yourself and make a move. Last year, we were so far ahead that we were actually doubling back on the rest of the field before they even got to mile one.

Plymouth 5K course
My goal this year is rather simple. No, it's not to make sure no middle school person beats me! It's to go under 19-minutes. My PR for a 5K is 16:30 (5:18 pace). But that was waaaaaayyyy back in 1989 and I'll never see that time again. So sub-19 would be a nice achievement some twenty years later. To do so, I will need to average 6:06 per mile. This will be the first of two such chances. If not here, then on October 23 in Phoenix. We'll see what happens!

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Wave Fish Tacos

Four new twists on the traditional feature some of the West's best fish and deliciously innovative toppings:

Baja Light: Grilled, with a trimmed-down tartar sauce. Grilled instead of deep-fried, and with a trimmed-down tartar sauce. Special touch: Light Chipotle Tartar Sauce.
2 tablespoons canned chipotle chiles, seeded, deveined, and rinsed
8 ounces (1 cup) plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup chopped onion

Preparation: Purée all ingredients in a blender. Chill until used.

Japanese: Ponzu-wasabi mayo drizzled on Pacific albacore (the sustainable tuna). This one's made with spicy ponzu mayo drizzled on Pacific albacore, the sustainable tuna. Special touch: Ponzu-Wasabi Mayo.

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ponzu sauce
2 teaspoons wasabi paste or powder

Preparation: Stir all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill until used.

Mediterranean: Calamari with lemon aioli and fried capers and oranges in the slaw. Sicily meets the south of France, with deep-fried capers and oranges in the slaw and lemon aioli on the calamari. Special touch: Lemon Aioli.
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 to 3 tbsp. lemon juice

Preparation: Stir ingredients together in a bowl. Chill until used.

Golden State: Grilled halibut, avocados, and salted lemon salad. Inspired by the farm-fresh avocados and lemons of California. Special touch: Avocado and Salted Lemon Salad.

1/2 lemon cut lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 small avocados, chopped
2 tablespoons diced white onion
1 red Fresno chile, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preparation: Slice lemon crosswise paper thin, discarding seeds and ends. Cut slices in half again. In a bowl, mix lemon with salt. Let stand until wilted, 45 to 60 minutes. Rinse, drain, and return to bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Skip the Rubber Band Method

Hey, y'all prepare yourself
For the Rubberband man
You never heard a sound
Like the rubberband man
You're bound to lose control
When the Rubberband starts to jam
The Spinners
It was not that long ago that I was touting the rubber band method in creating a faster transition from the swim to the bike. Here's that story.
Earlier this spring, I had a horrible T1 transition because of the rubber band method. Much because Speedplay pedals just are not made for this type of transition. Here is that story.

That pedal is about the size of a 50-cent piece
Now direct from London Hyde Park, which will be the 2012 Summer Games Olympic triathlon venue, is a video that captures the women's T1 at the World Championship Series race in Hyde Park earlier this year. If I ever again get the itch to try the rubber band method, all I will do is watch this video. What is absolutely unforgivable is that these are the pros and it appears many of them had never practiced this method before. It's a scene straight out Keystone Kops!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Race Result: Cy-Man Triathlon & Shout Outs!

Event: Cy-Man Triathlon
USAT Sanctioned: Yes
Date: Sunday September 12
Location: Polk City, IA (Big Creek State Park)
Results: 2010 Sprint Results

Personal results:

Goal: 01:09:32
Actual: 01:09:05
Overall: 17th (204 total); top 8%
Overall Male Age Group (45-49): 1st (11 total)

The Recap

The last tri of the year for moi. I just wanted to have a solid race and have a good feeling to dwell on during the cold, dark months ahead. So off I went to Iowa for my third event there, this time with the Boy® and the Well Kept Wife™ in tow.

The temps were fine, probably lower 70s F by the time the first swim wave started at 10AM. The water was 68 F. The sun was out and shining. And then there was the wind. For my second triathlon in a row, the wind just took the sails out of everyone's bike. It was not horrible, mind you, but just a stiff breeze that only affected the bike (out and back course). Per my close, personal friends at, the gusts were up to 19MPH. I think a tad worse!

This was also the ChaCha! In Iowa pitting myself against William Jenks. Let me be clear, this was just a friendly little competition...not even sure it can be termed as such. William and I have gotten to know each other over the last couple of years. He has been instrumental from afar in my training, words of encouragement to each other, and friendship. It was a pleasure to meet him finally.

Myself with 'The Professor'

Swim - 500 yards
Goal - 7:55
Actual Time - 7:09 (1:25 per 100 yds)
Overall Rank - 20th (204 total)
AG (45-49) Rank - 1st (11 total)

Prior to the start of the swim

Another very good swim for me. The waves had gone from a total of six to four over night. I had been originally scheduled for Wave 6 (just us old farts) and we ended up swimming with Males 35+. So it was a pretty big wave. I just stayed wide, more because the buoys were getting blown around and it was not a straight line (see photo and video). So, by staying wide I avoided traffic while also making a beeline for the farthest buoy.

The swim at Big Creek State Park

Goal - 2:10
Time - 1:19

Really a ultra smooth one. I dropped my goggles in the sand but lost like only 2 seconds when I stopped to pick them up. Nice grass transition area.

Bike - 14.3 miles
Goal - 38:13 (22.6 MPH)
Actual - 39:48 (21.6 MPH)
Overall Rank - 15th (204 total)
AG (45-49) Rank - 1st (11 total)

I think I was certainly on course for a 23+. I was 25.4 MPH at the turn-around and then BOOM! The wind. At times I was churning as hard as I could and only mustering 16 MPH. But I kept passing people so I must have been doing OK. I was only passed three times myself.

Goal - 1:05
Time - 0:49

Smooth again. In the video, the person just ahead of me as I leave on the run is the person who got 2nd in my age group. I did not know that at the time.

Run - 5K
Goal - 20:09 (6:30 per mile)
Time - 20:00 (6:26 per mile)
Overall Rank - 22nd (204 total)
AG (45-49) Rank - 1st (16 total)

As I ran along during the first mile everything was going very well. My stride was comfortable and I felt good. Then, it was as if twelve little monkeys jumped on my back. About 15-minutes in, I was seriously contemplating walking. I wasn't in pain, but there was nothing in the tank. I committed the cardinal sin twice by looking behind as I rounded corners. There was no one there so I eased a bit, recovered, and then was able to stretch out the pace again. In the video, you will see my personal coach, the Boy®, egging me on to sprint to the finish. If only I could have! As a result, we decided that since he beat me to the line it was his honor to pick up the first place medal.

Let's get back to the event itself and break down the typical components, discussing what was done well and what needs improvement.

Packet Pickup - First, we spent a good 40-minutes just trying to find the place. No directions on the web site. Thank goodness for the on board navigation systems available in vehicles now, otherwise we may still be lost in Iowa! Once there, I was allowed to pick up my packet early despite being a little ahead of the waiting! Friendly staff answered all my questions. If only we had not had such a devil of a time finding it! Note - HUGE playground for those with kids. The Boy® indicated it was one of the best he has played on.
Grade - C
Suggestion - Directions to the site for out-of-towners.

Volunteers - Really nice bunch of college kids. Good humor. Very good safety on the roads.
Grade - A
Suggestion - Just repeat in 2011

USAT Officials - Not sure how prevalent they were as I only saw one motorcycle on the bike course. That was it. No presence in transition. Never saw an official.
Grade - C
Suggestion - Each event seems to vary as to how prevalent USAT is. In this case, I was sort of pissed because I had a guy drafting off me for a good portion of the bike on the return into the wind. I could see his shadow right behind me. I purposely changed my line several times to let him know I knew he was there. Finally, I think he got the message and passed me saying, 'Sorry 'bout that." I made note of his number and was going to say something to an USAT official afterwards, only I passed him in the run and just let it go.

Swim Course at Big Creek State Park - I liked the swim, although the lake was pretty murky. I was just slightly annoyed because it was to have been a counter-clockwise swim and was changed to a clockwise. Since I breathe to the left, this makes it hard for me to sight. But, given the entrance/exit setup it did make the best sense.
Grade - B-
Suggestion - A few more buoys would have helped swimmers sight better.
Transition area - Nice grass transition area and lots of room. I found a spot on the rack closest to the bike exit and was happy with that.
Grade - A
Suggestion - Same for 2011

Bike course - The wind will not affect the grade here!! Not much anyone can do about that. Traffic control was very good, especially at the key intersections. My thanks to the law enforcement officials as always. The roads are in good shape. This was a flat course for Iowa, but there are a number of minimal hills. Without the wind, I think we would have seen some exceptional times.
Grade - A
Suggestion - Mileage markers were clear but sometimes hard to see because of being painted on the road. I prefer upright markers.

Run Course - I really liked the course. There are several areas where you can actually mark your competition (see photo below). This made the run highly strategic and added another element.
Grade - A+
Suggestion - No mile markers were seen. The back half is on a path and you are running in trees and no idea of "how much farther!". So markers would be a big plus.

Cy-Man run course

Awards/Goodies - No T-shirt but nice Sweat Vac hats instead. You had your choice of yellow, red, or white. I like T-shirts as I'm saving up for a race T-shirt quilt, but the hat was a nice change of pace. Lots and lots of give-aways via drawing at the awards ceremony. Medals to top three in 5-year AG's.
Grade - A
Suggestions - None.

Nice caps!
Award from Cy-Man
Back of my 1st place (male 45-49) award

Overall - I recommend this race to seasoned triathlete and novice. The finish line area has a large viewing area where loved ones can watch someone finish. A solid fundraiser, nice venue and course. If you need to shack up for the night, I highly recommend the Hampton Inn in Ankeny. And if you have family and a little extra ka-ching go for the queen suite room. I have had great luck with Hampton on the road this season.

Next Event - Plymouth Firefighters 5K in the ol' home town on September 25.

Shout Outs!

Mario Minelli - Congrats to Super Mario on his amateur overall win at the Treadman Duathlon on Sept 12.

Matthew Marks - Congrats to Matt for winning the male 20-24 and 6th overall in the CAT Sprint Triathlon on September 12 in Conway, Arkansas.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Displaying Awards

Over a year ago I had told you about an idea I had in which I utilized a simple tie rack in order to display medals received as awards in events. At the time, the medal rack looked like this:

Medals as of April 2009

During vacation, I looked at my haphazard display of trophies and plaques and decided to do something about those as well by utilizing the space above my work desk. I added in some additional shelving, college style. That meant finding some shelving lying around in the storage room and then utilizing some plastic cups as the base and...voila!

The new look for trophies and plaques.
The Run Only section
The Triathlon/Duathlon Only section
And the medals? How is the tie-rack holding up since April 2009? May be time to get another tie-rack:

Medals as of August 2010
I really like the tie-rack idea for displaying medals. How about you? What method do you use to display your awards proudly and not just be put into boxes! Maybe looking at some other examples will help increase conversation. Let's look around.

We first go to 'Super' Mario Minelli. Mario uses a somewhat cerebral approach to displaying medals. And I like it. First, Mario has a small replica of the Thinker.

Mario Minelli's 'Thinker' statue
He has taken to adorning the statue with his medals as seen below. This is just plain cool. Maybe a statue of the Venus de Milo is next?

Triathlons are a thinking man's game!

Out in Utah, Adam 'The Beast' Beston uses a belt buckle from an IM to support a row of medals. Adam's wife made the display and hung them all up for him. It's nice to be loved.

Notice the big IM belt buckle supporting the row of medals.

Adam cleaned up at the Utah summer games this year.
What Adam likes best about the display is it is easily movable and addable for now. One unusual piece of hardware adorns his fridge. A bottle opener! That's a neat race award and would get a lot of use at any house.

Ye olde bottle opener. That's a 'man' award if I ever saw one.
Then there is Tim 'Buckwheat' Carroll, my former Texas training partner and part of the 1989 Texas State Championship triathlon winning relay team that kicked ass and took names. Tim has boxes and boxes of awards in the attic. He just displays a few things in his office. I can recognize a few from our glory days.

Tim's collection that is NOT in boxes.
Meanwhile, over in the barren & treeless state of North Dakota is a man's personal shrine to race numbers. Steve 'The Mad Monk' Aesoph has a workbench in his garage. Steve tacks all his race numbers and such to it like wallpaper. I really like this idea. Wish I would have thought of it as I have a perfect spot to do the same thing. Instead, I've just been tossing my race numbers. Steve is smart like that, though. He has discarded recording and tracking his training results, doesn't wear a watch when he trains, and has taken to running barefoot. When you think minimalist, think of the Mad Monk.

Steve's race number board
And there you have it. Examples of how to display your race awards and paraphernalia. I want to make clear, this blog entry was not to brag or show off. It was simply a way to give others ideas on how to display these hard-earned items. If you have a photo you would like to share, just send my way and I'd be happy to post as well.

As always, good luck with your training and racing!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Race Preview: Cy-Man Triathlon & Shout Outs!

 Event: Cy-Man Triathlon
USAT Sanctioned: Yes
Date: Sunday September 12
Location: Polk City, IA
Previous Results: First time at this event

The greatest battle to ever take place was the Thrilla in Manilla. Ali & Frazier. Mano-a-Mano.

Currently, I've got ESPN camped outside my house wanting interviews. Barbara Walters wants to know, "If you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" Sports Illustrated wants to do a exposé. Why?
Because of the ChaCha! in Iowa. It is myself, the Medicine Man of Minnesota going up against William 'The Professor' Jenks for all the marbles in the male 45-49 age group. The Professor is coming off his 4:48:43 PR at Steelhead. I'm coming off my little sprint 2nd place AG finish at Maple Grove. I politely asked for a 4-minute handicap to which the Professor replied, ""The Medicine Man just wants sympathy and I can see why. He is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head."
To which, I simply replied, "It's on like Donkey Kong."
OK, there is no rivalry but you can be sure we'll be marking each other during the event. It will be a pleasure to finally meet William. We've exchanged a lot of e-mails back-and-forth over the last couple of years and he's helped me out a ton with motivation, inspiration, and suggestions.
Swim - click here for map

The swim consists of a 500 yard out and back course. The swim will start from the beach and the course will be well marked with buoys. The waves (great, dead last again) are:

•10:00 am - Swim wave #1 (Collegiate, Relay, Athena, Clydesdale)
•10:04 am - Swim wave #2 (Female 13-34)
•10:08 am - Swim wave #3 (Male 13-29)
•10:12 am - Swim wave #4 (Female 35 plus)
•10:16 am - Swim wave #5 (Male 30-39)
•10:20 am - Swim wave #6 (Male 40 plus)

Bike - click here for map

This is a 14.3 mile course (14.41 via Map My Ride) being touted as flat, fast and fun. I don't know about fun. And having raced in Iowa this year I'm anxious to see their definition of 'flat'. I've yet to experience flat in Iowa.

Run - click here for map

The 3.1 mile run course is flat and on well paved trails and roads. The course also provides several opportunities to check the distance to that competitor ahead or behind you. Aid stations at miles 1 and 2 will have water and sports drink.


Swim: 07:55
T1: 2:10
Bike: 38:13 (22.6 MPH)
T2: 1:05
Run: 20:09 (6:30 per mile)
Total: 01:09:32

Shout Outs!

William Jenks - Congrats to the Professor on this 3rd place AG finish (male 45-49) at Hickory Grove triathlon.

Mario Minelli - Mario got second overall at Mosquito Man just as I predicted. I just got the winner wrong!

Greta Simpson - Greta had a fantastic event in winning the female side of the St. Croix Valley Sprint Triathlon.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Totals: Month Ending August 2010

And thus, another summer comes to a close. This will be followed by depression and then unpacking my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light. The amount of sunlight will decrease by 10-hours to 10-minutes. Maybe I have a few weeks yet in September to enjoy being outdoors.

August was a weird month. I never really got into a rhythm. The Real Job™ sucked up a lot of time. The Boy® got this weird adenovirus bug that he is still working through. The weather was downright tropical at times necessitating a reduction in the planned workout or elimination altogether. I'm actually surprised I got in as much training time as I did.

While it would be easy to point to the Maple Grove triathlon as the highlight of the month, I'll instead point to the Columbus (Nebraska) Duathlon. This was my sixth state that I have raced in this season. I have really enjoyed traveling to different areas this year. I may even race in a seventh state before it is all said and done for 2010.

I encourage everyone to leave the comfort of their nest, leave your comfort zone, and travel to a another state or region that you may not have ever visited before, let alone raced in. You meet new people.....great people...and experience new venues. It is something not to be missed!

To the tape.

August 2010 Total Numbers

Total Workout Hours: 32:43.40
Swim Miles - 10.5
Bike Miles - 287.85
Run Miles - 86.74 (7:47 per mile avg)

Compare to last year -

August 2009 Total Numbers
Swim Miles - 10.4
Bike Miles - 298.37
Run Miles - 37.44 (Achilles recovery)

Compare to last month -

July 2010 Total Numbers

Total Workout Hours: 46:19.11
Swim Miles - 13.63
Bike Miles - 454.68
Run Miles - 106.60 (7:51 per mile avg)

Upcoming in September -

Sep 12 - Cy-Man Triathlon (USAT), Polk City, IA - Swim 500 yards, Bike 15 Miles, Run 3.1 Miles
Sep 25 - Plymouth Firefighters 5K

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

USAT Rankings Explained by David Warden

William "The Professor" Jenks and I were talking via cyber space this week. The topic: How can one best maximize your points from each race in order to achieve the highest possible national ranking?

After trading a few Tweets and then a discussion on Facebook, I recalled David Warden doing some podcasts on just that subject. The first episode goes into the how and why of the actual rankings and the second episode actually goes into suggestions on how to maximize your points. I strongly urge you to take a moment to listen to each podcast in order to learn about the USAT ranking system. Some key points:
  • You must have completed a minimum of three USAT sanctioned tri's and two USAT sanctioned du's to qualify for USAT national ranking.
  • David feels the ranking system favors people who do a high number of sprint distance races.
  • Find a event with a high par time due to many athletes who did worse than their previous years ranking would predict. Best chance would be early season races as athletes will get better as the year goes along. Train all winter and be ready in the spring!
  • Avoid events with a low par time. These are the highly popular events that everyone is gunning for and the athletes are performing at their A-game.
  • New races draw people performing below their par-time. Thus, a new event should allow you to jump all over a higher points value and ranking.
  • Speed counts. Kill yourself through the tape. In USAT, every second counts...not placement.
Tri Talk Triathlon Podcast, Episode 66 - Episode Run time: 37:57

Description: Part 1 of understanding the ranking systems of USAT and 3 other major triathlon federations, and how you can maximize your USAT ranking through effective race scheduling and strategy. You will be weighed, you will measured, but will you be found wanting? Let's find out today, on Tri Talk.

Tri Talk Triathlon Podcast, Episode 66a - Episode Run time: 24:49

Description: Part 2 of understanding the USAT age group ranking system. How you can maximize your ranking through effective race scheduling and strategy. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth about 100 spots on your age group ranking. Today, on Tri Talk.

Not sure how to check your current ranking? First, you must be a USA Triathlon member. Then you can access your account. From there, click on the View My USAT Ranking link on the left hand navigation bar as seen below:

Once in, you'll see your current USAT score and ranking. Then you can goof around by clicking on All Rankings and filter down by event type, age group, and gender to see how you might be stacking up at this time.

My goal for 2010 and again in 2011 (new age group, 50-54!!) will be to:
  • Finish in the Top 100 overall in the male 45-49 age group for duathlons
  • Finish in the Top 300 overall in the male 45-49 age group for triathlons
Counting the upcoming Cy-Man, I will have 6 USAT tri's in for 2010. Only one event (my Arkansas tri from April) has apparently been turned in. Not sure what is taking so long with the other results. Currently I sit 519th overall with a score of 79.84212. Pretty bad. And that's for an event I won my AG! Of the 6 events, 5 will be sprint and 1 was an Oly. That's out of 3625 people who have had at least one triathlon recorded thus far, so I'm in the top14% overall. Maybe that's a better way to look at it. Try and get into the top 10%?

To date, I have competed in 3 USAT du's. I might squeeze in another in Texas in November. Only one event (again, from Arkansas) has been turned in. Currently 118th overall with a score of 83.16111. Dubuque and Nebraska have yet to be turned in. That's out of 406 people who have had at least one duathlon recorded thus far, so I'm in the top 29% overall. Damn.

So, how are we all doing at this time of year. Do we have any All Americans or Honorable Mentions in the making? Go ahead and share your 2010 rankings to date as well as your thoughts on races in which you have racked up high points and why you think that happened.

Happy racing everyone!