Monday, January 30, 2012


Just a few thoughts on learning how to swim at age 41 & 11/12

1.  So far, ordering cool goggles on Amazon has been the best part. 

2.  It's harder than it looks.  Now I kinda wanna drown the peaceful swimmers.  Just hold em' under for a couple of minutes.  Is that wrong?  

3.  I'm getting schooled.  HOW is it possible that I can hold 50 conversations during a marathon no problem yet I cannot swim 50 meters in a pool without stopping to pant?      I don't get it.

4.  I move that my parents be brought up on some sort of charges for not enrolling me in a swim camp when I was young.  Due to lack of foresight I'm now blowing bubbles in the shallow end with five year-olds... thanks mom & dad.

5.  If you want to learn to swim at this age, you must enroll your loving girlfriends to teach you.  No "coach" out there would stand for my whining and increasingly frequent f-bombs while in the water.  Rachel Corbin is a patient angel and should probably be considered for sainthood after this.

On the flipside (no swim-related-pun-intended)

1.  Rachel gave me a drill that shed some light toward the end of the tunnel.  Swim slowly and breath on each stroke.  This has calmed me down and let me get long in the water without exhausting myself.  It also ensures that I will learn to breathe on both sides.  Genius.

2.  I've realized that I'm using my legs way too much.  I've been reading articles about all the ways that runners make a mess out of learning to swim.  Offense #1 is thinking that we can run our way through the learning process.  "My legs can do anything!  I'm a runner!"  My friend Dawn is threatening to tie my feet together if I don't stop with all the kicking.  The threat is enough...

3.  Swimming rocks my core!  One step closer to the whole "ab" resolution.

4.  Learning to swim on Barbados provides for some beautiful mornings spent with girlfriends of "like mind".  A little group is starting to emerge on Saturday mornings down at the club.  Using my stand-up paddle board as a platform to watch each other swim has been a bonus!  Here's a picture of our "pool"... nice, right?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'm the Boss of Me

If all goes as planned, on June 23 I will step out onto the trail at the Western States 100 at mile 62 and chase my friend Wayne for 20 miles in the dark.

The story of how this all came to be is a good one but I have to save it for another day.  And while Wayne's story is his to tell (and perhaps I'll get him to do that...) I must quickly tell you that in addition to raising a beautiful family with his lovely wife Angie, Wayne has clocked 70 marathons and over 160 ultra-marathons over his lifetime.  (Ultras are distances over 26.2 miles - most frequently 50 and 100 mile races.)  He has also spent the last several years kicking the ass out of terminal cancer.
When my alarm goes off at 4:17 a.m. and I want to get into a husband-dog sandwich and sleep for another two hours... I think of Wayne and drag my ass out of bed. 

Today I'd like to share a little nugget of wisdom that Wayne dropped on me when we had the good fortune to spend the day together this past December.  Over the past six weeks it's changed my outlook and training considerably.  Perhaps it can help you too...

When I asked Wayne how in the world one completes a 100 mile run, he said...

"It all comes down to managing yourself."

I learned a lot about managing myself once my long runs started creeping over the 13 mile mark.  The body is depleted of glycogen at between 60-75 minutes of exercise so you have to put something in the tank to continue.  Once this "surface energy" is gone, the management of yourself begins.  Management in distance running entails food, drink, clothing, safety, your beloved electronics and your mental state.  

Almost all new runners want to gag at the thought of eating while running and I totally get it.  I had to teach myself over many weeks to do it.  I still have visions of Rachel and I rifling through the back of our "follow" car and popping back onto the road loaded with granola bars, bananas, dates, etc.  It started to look like a leisurely brunch by mile 17!   Chat, munch, trade snacks, slug back some Nuun, never breaking a stride...I never thought that was possible.  I've since learned that everything is possible.  I ate like clockwork every 30 minutes during the marathon and I'm sure it saved me from the dreaded bonk.  It also gave me something to do - long distances can be tedious!

This concept of self management carries into all aspects of your health and life - if  you let it.  When "Q" first started cleaning up her diet I hit her with a pop quiz:  "What are you eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner tomorrow?"  She immediately fired off three meals without a moment of thought.  I knew she would be successful.  She's managing herself.

On most days I teach multiple classes in addition to my own training AND have to pop into an office environment.  This requires costume changes.  I now do my laundry only on Sundays and find it saves time and mental effort if I simply stack my workout clothes according to the needs of the upcoming week. Yup. Five little stacks of workout clothes.  On Tuesdays I grab the second stack:  running outfit, a boxing outfit and a yoga top.  Done.  I no longer make myself crazy by rifling through drawers and the dryer, looking for my yoga pants at 4:30 a.m.  If I have to buy three more tops or extra running socks to make sure I don't have to do my laundry until Sunday - so be it.  I am in full Management Mode.    

Flip all of this into vegetarian land and you've got some serious "management" on your hands!  I'm currently soaking beans for two days from now.   Tonight I'll whip up the veggie burger mix that will last for the next three days of lunches.  The farmer's market is only open on Saturday so I have to at least think about how to parse out what's in my fridge. Two water bottles with Nuun tabs have made it into the freezer for Thursday & Saturday runs.  Management Abounds! 
Sometimes managing ourselves feels selfish.  It isn't.  The body you want and the health you need don't happen by magic or luck.  They happen via management and effort.  Promote yourself to The Boss of YOU!

Wayne & his running buddies heading down into the Grand Canyon for Rim2Rim2Rim.  AWESOME!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Days Between

I am constantly inspired by my clients. In fact, the day I am NOT inspired should be the day I quit.

I have a plethora of shining stars in my roster but today I was struck by something universally incredible about one in particular. Client "Q" is beginning her journey toward shedding 80 pounds. Daunting? Yes. When we started working together in late November she had trouble breathing after 30 seconds of effort, but lately things have gotten better. Much better! She's kicking ass at boxing, spending time on the treadmill (even when I don't tell her to) AND completed an 8K off road hike with me last weekend. Then she shocked me completely by cleaning up her diet and dropping 10 pounds in 8 days. Hallelujah!

Today I had the luxury of an assistant coach so I was able to watch "Q" and critique her form. The fire in her was undeniable and as I watched her do things that were impossible mere weeks ago I realized - she is going to change her life. “Q” is in The Days Between. The Days Between disease and health. The Days Between beating herself up and becoming a shining example of what is possible. Every Day Between counts for everything. Your decisions in The Days Between cause your success or failure.

There were a couple of hundred Days Between my first 1km attempt around the track and slogging out 42kms to cross the finish line at the marathon. There have been 17 Days Between deciding to learn to swim and today... my goggles STILL aren't here but that doesn't mean I'm not learning a little every single day. I'm watching videos, talking to tri-athletes and starting to carve time out of my schedule in advance. If you hear a giant sucking sound in the coming days, it's probably just me at my first swim lesson. Glory I feel like a five year old!

Although I tend to put things in very "physical" terms, I realize that all goals are not physical. Whatever your goal, the best way to spend The Days Between is surrounded by people who will get you there. Find people who are doing what you want to be doing. If you look around and realize that everyone in your circle thinks your dream is crazy Get.A.New.Circle. If even YOU think your dream is crazy - find someone who has done it and talk to them. I promise you'll be shocked at how much people love to share their experiences.

Spend your Days Between wisely. Think of "Q" sweating her butt off in the gym with a big ol' smile on her face if you need a little inspiration!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The 4 Hour House

I am in Tim Ferriss Overdrive.  Google him if you just said "who?". 

My husband bought 4 Hour Body six months ago and tackled every chapter in order of life relevance.  No small feat considering the size of this book - hardback 570 pages.  Before I knew it, I was living with a converted Ferrissite.  He would kill me if I shared his personal stats on the internet but let's just say that he's several years older than me and currently sportin' an 8 pack.  No lie.  He has always been an amazing image of fitness but the 4HB changes were undeniable.  Frankly, it was yet another crappy reminder of the genetic advantages of men v. women in the world of fitness. 

Genetic advantage or not, THIS train was not leaving without me.  I started stealing the book from the nightstand and hauling it down to the beach on a hand truck.  Tim's writing style is open, self-deprecating and pretty much hilarious so it was at least entertaining to jam through the chapters that could most help me reach my goals:   Running Faster and Farther, The Last Mile: Losing the Final 5-10 lbs, How to Learn to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days, and The Slow Carb Diet.

The simplicity of his Slow Carb diet is genius and precisely the kind of thing that drives people crazy. When I taught nutrition classes for Curves, I could lay out the plan in 10 minutes but then had to stand up at the podium for 2 hours and field questions from women trying to find away around the plan.  Example:

Woman:  Can I still have my coffee in the morning.  I will DIE without my coffee!
Me:  What kind of "coffee" do you drink?
Woman:  Double mocha latte with whip.
Me:  You can have black coffee with no sweetener.
Woman:  What if I don't like that?
Me:  Then you DON'T LIKE COFFEE! 

The same thing is happening all over Tim's blog and website.  Some days he must curse the day he released the book.   Everyone is looking for a way around his five incredibly simple sentences.  Thankfully, he's calling BS all over the place.  I wish I could be friends with Tim.

If you're wondering about those five incredibly simple sentences, I urge you to borrow, buy or download the book.  The guy wrote a whole huge book for a reason. You'll learn a lot - I promise you that! 

I bring all this up to say that I will soon post a page of vegetarian 4HB meal ideas & recipes.  4HB is heavy on meat but Tim includes several notes for vegetarians and a larger appendix chapter on vegetarianism.  Also, for those who have asked how I intend to succeed at Resolution #3 - this is the nutritional portion of the plan.   Lord knows, it isn't going to happen by magic! 

One last thing... 4HB made me a faster and more efficient runner. Thanks Tim.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rachel's Cassava Cookies

If there is a way to fit a chocolate chip cookie into a healthy life - my girlfriend Rachel will find it!

Cassava Plant with tubers
 If you aren't familiar with Cassava, here's a little info for ya... 
Cassava is a root vegetable that is used extensively in Africa, Indonesia and throughout the Caribbean.  It grows in temperatures in excess of 80 degrees and thrives in the poorest soil on the planet.  Cassava is comparable to a potato except it contains twice the fiber and loads of potassium.  Process the starch of a Cassava root and you, my friend, just made tapioca!  Impressive, no?

This crazy looking tuber also produces a gluten-free, fiber-rich flour that can be used for baking.  Whole wheat flour contains 9 grams of fiber per serving plus a load of gluten.  The same serving of Cassava flour yields 12 grams of fiber and no gluten. Winner.

A word of warning: Tapioca Flour is more common in the States than Cassava Flour but they are not the same. Due to extensive processing of the starch only, Tapioca flour is void of most of the nutrients found in Cassava Flour.

On to the cookies...

8 oz butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs*
2 cups cassava flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semi sweet choc.chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

How To
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla essence. Add eggs using hand held mixer. Combine cassava flour, baking powder, salt, gradually add to creamed mixture. Add choc. chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 10mins or until lightly brown.

*Rachel is going to try to eliminate the egg yolks in the next batch and I've ordered in some chia seeds so that she can make a 'chia egg' to eliminate eggs altogether. I'll let you know how it goes!

Full Disclosure:  I ate FOUR of these cookies in under 15 minutes last night and didn't feel bloated or gross at all.  I mean, I felt bad about wolfing so many cookies (certainly didn't get me any closer to Resolution #3!) but I appreciated NOT having a chocolate chip gluten brick land in my stomach.  Thanks Rachel!
Rachel & Me - kickin' it with wine and cookies by the pool!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Chisel in hand...

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” - Michelangelo

Thanks to Michelangelo for summarizing my feelings about my Dirty Five! I'm sitting here looking at five big hunks of marble resolutions; chisel in hand, ready to make the first "ka-chink!" Where to start? How about everywhere! My plan of attack is to take micro-steps in every direction.

1. Swim: I ordered cool goggles and a swim cap - both in aqua. I also watched Part 1 & Part 2 of the Total Immersion swim tutorials. Feeling inspired! Now I'm just waiting for the Amazon goodies to arrive.

2. Phone-A-Friend: I had a noon call scheduled with Hillaire yesterday but her schedule imploded. Technically a fail but today I will do better! If only I could move the west coast of America a little closer to Barbados. The time difference with my family is a killah. Getting up at 4:15 a.m. has morphed me into a Boca retiree come dinner time (5:00 p.m. - get out the AARP Card!) My head must be resting on a pillow at 9:30 p.m. MAX. When daylight savings kicks in, west coast chatting is out. Must find a solution.

3. One Ab Muscle: For the record, I DID NOT say six pack. I realize that I'm going to have to pony up some pictures for this one. The muscle must be recognizable on film or it doesn't count. I have a picture from 18 months ago that definitely counts as the "before" pic... the one that sent me over the cliff and turned me into a vegetarian marathoner. Yup. It's harsh. Until I saw that picture I had no idea that had I let things go that far. I suppose that taking a picture now would qualify as the "during" photo. Once I get an "after" photo I can put together a little photoshop progression. Wow. This little experiment is both fun AND horrifying - winner!

How will I get there? (Assuming it's possible) I'm working on a Pasta Against the Wall approach. I'll let you know what sticks in a future post.

4. Restaurant Outreach: So far, I've just thought about which restaurants I want to approach. Namely, the places I like to hang out that have zero vegetarian options on the menu. An "option" must be something more substantial than a super sad iceberg "salad" smothered in mayonnaise dressing. I think I need to go back and listen to Colleen Patrick-Godreau's podcast on restaurant outreach. Why reinvent the wheel?

5. Western States: I need a headlamp, a flash light, and some trails to run. Finding training trails is the most worrisome part of all of this. I will have to run cart paths through people's farms and I'm not sure AT ALL how the farmers feel about that. And how about safety concerns? Children of the Sugar Cane anyone? There is an old train track that runs all the way across Barbados that is promising but again, it crosses all kinds of private property. Also, I need to learn to run trails in the daylight and that leaves Saturday as my only trail training day. Not ideal as Saturdays are dedicated to long runs with my girls. I need distance AND trails - hmmm. I WILL work these issues out but I have to name them before I can start solving them.

However, there are things I CAN do! I have been studying my part of the trail and I made a little cheat sheet of the names of the aid stations and distance between them. I've read 5 articles written by people who have paced at Western States and all of their experiences were completely different - so I guess that's the lesson.

Little Bit. Every Day. Ka-Chink!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Dirty Five - Resolutions for 2012

There are probably only 12 bloggers in the world that did not place "be more consistent with my blog" on their laundry list of New Year's Resolutions. I am not one of the 12!

It's tough to keep up a blog over the holidays. In theory, time off "work" should equate to an avalanche of blog posts. Not so much in my case - but I've had a lot of fun! Frankly, if you don't step away from the keyboard to LIVE your life, what the hell is there to write about?

I've spent a lot of my 'off time' setting goals for 2012. Assuming we don't all blow up in some Mayan explosion on December 21, the following list will define this year of my life on earth. (Dramatic, yeah?)

1. I will learn to swim properly. I've got this in the bag. My running girls consist of a competitive swimmer and a triathlete. Expensive goggles already ordered. Done.

2. I will devote one hour per day to phone calls to my loved ones. I've had enough of the nagging feeling that I have phone calls to make. Not every call requires three hours and a dead phone battery. Emails are no substitute for voices and laughter.

3. I will develop one discernible abdominal muscle. My husband swears I can knock this out in six weeks. I beg to differ. At my fittest, I've never been able to see an ab muscle. Getting this done at 42 will be bad ass.

4. I will get at least 3 restaurants on Barbados to develop a vegan dish for their menu. Outreach is the name of the game. I've got big plans in the works for a new website and doing some restaurant outreach is the first step in building my empire! (insert evil cackle here)

5. The big enchilada... I will train to be a pacer at the Western States 100. This is probably where most of you go - huh? Let me 'splain. I was given the amazing opportunity to pace one of the most inspirational people I know from miles 62 to 80 at Western States. My part of the race will be in the dead of night, on a trail, with a headlamp. My job will be to "be" whatever my runner needs... chatty cathy, church mouse, ass kicker, Tony Robbins - take your pick. I will need to know the trail, aid stations and distance/times by heart but will never have stepped foot on the trail. Again, this is in the dark, on a trail (roots, rocks, etc.) with a headlamp, with an incredible ultra-marathoner. I have zero experience at any of this. Hands down, this terrifies me.

*There is a new documentary out about Western States - you can view the trailer here to get a taste of what I'm in for... assuming I stay heatlthy, injury-free and unafraid.

There it is – the dirty five! Last year I slurred out my goal after a few too many rums at Crane Beach on Christmas, "I'm going to run a marathon!” Following through with that moment of ill-thought-out resolution setting utterly change my life. I cannot wait to see where it all ends up this year!

Barring any Mayan explosion…