One Month At A Time

Triathlon: Gu!

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With the upcoming race, the subject of eating has come up.

While my race isn’t all that long compared to an Iron Man, it’s long enough. It’s been suggested that it wouldn’t hurt to have something between the bicycle portion and the running race (only a dork eats in the pool).

The problem is: I can’t eat and run.

I’ve tried, but even a piece of toast is too heavy for my stomach. It becomes something that restricts my breathing and makes running longer than 200 yards next to impossible.

So, I don’t eat, but with the swimming, biking and running, there’s a good chance I could “bonk,” become light-headed and groggy, which isn’t good either.

Probably, if I was a lighter American and not wildly overweight, I could handle a short sprint triathlon with nothing more than a mineral water and a stick of gum, but I’m an ox.

So, I began looking into things I could take along –and discovered GU.

GU is basically a flavored sugar gel that also contains amino acids and probably caffeine.

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I hit up the Cycle Shop in Kanawha City and bought three different types to try out. The idea was that I could give them each a shot and then hopefully have one or two to choose from on race day.

First, the good news: They’re all vegan, including the maple bacon.

Second, the bad news: There’s a reason they come in opaque packages. You don’t want to look at this stuff.

On the charitable side, it looks a little like shampoo. On the uncharitable side, just don’t look at it.

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Of the three, the peanut butter tasted the best. It tasted a little like some kind of peanut candy, but it contains no caffeine.

Also, I couldn’t tell if it improved or assisted my performance since I wasn’t actually training, but typing in the newsroom. I did like the flavor, however. It was yummy.

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The maple bacon was a novelty. I haven’t actually tasted bacon since December, and Andrew at the bicycle shop sort of warned me about this one. He said, “If you can think of it as like wine tasting. It’s very up front with the maple and then the bacon is at the end.”

I didn’t taste a lot of bacon.

And after a short while, I felt vaguely angry. That could have been the 20 mg of caffeine talking, but that’s barely half a cup of coffee.

I wasn’t overly impressed.

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The Tri-Berry was highly recommended. My triathlon mentors seemed to like it, but it tasted like candy with a vague chemical aftertaste –sort of like Runts, maybe.

Unlike the maple bacon, it didn’t fill me with hate.

That was a bonus.

So, I figure I’ll bring along the peanut butter and the Tri-Berry, in case I need a bigger pick me up than just some sugar and peanut goodness.

If I do something like this again, I’ll look into some of the other flavors –you know, after I get a better bike.

Triathlon: Final week

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Well, here we are, down to the last week of my training.

Looking back on it, I think I should have pushed the running portion a lot harder in the beginning. Also, I think I should have jumped harder into the mix rather than eased into training. Those first couple of weeks, I did a little cycling and a little swimming.

I wish I could have found a slightly better bike.

I almost bought another bike. For the last two weeks, I’ve been driving past the Capitol flea market on Greenbrier Street and noticed a blue 10-speed sitting out in front of a junk dealer.

I stopped in Saturday to look at it. The bike was $30, but needed new tires and probably brakes.

I decided to pass.

I’ll manage with the one I have. It’s a tank, but it’s my tank.

During this last week, I’m tinkering with my nutrition to see if by cutting out some of my starches I can maybe drop a pound or two and increase my energy a little. One of the books I’ve been reading, “Primal Endurance,” pushes staying away from refined grains, potatoes, and basic starches.

It may be too late for all of that, but a pound is a pound, right? That would be one less pound to carry.

I’m also going try out some of these energy gels I’ve been hearing about. “Primal Endurance” doesn’t like them, but I need to be able to refuel somehow during my race –and I can’t handle much on my stomach and still run. I don’t think I could keep down a banana or a Cliff bar.

I plan to work out hard the first part of the week and then slow it down by Friday. I won’t do a lot Saturday, just rest, stretch and try to hydrate up.

I’m going to try to get some extra sleep somewhere and try to meditate to relax.

Right now, I figure my biggest problem is anxiety. I’m worried that I won’t complete the race. I’m worried that I’ll embarrass myself and come in dead last.

All of this is silly. None of it matters.

I’m doing this.

Going Vegan!: Well, maybe

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A while back, I took a trip to the other Charleston, which is very nice, if you like beaches, peaches and whatnot.

One of the things I really enjoyed was a place called “Smoothie King,” which offered a bunch of vegans smoothies.

Keep in mind, I haven’t had anything like a milkshake since last fall.

The smoothies I had were fantastic –and I’ve never been a real hardcore smoothie kind of guy.

Smoothie Stop seems promising, but… there’s a lot of yogurt and whey on the menu, and I don’t know if the sherbet is vegan or not (Sometimes, it is… Sometimes it is not…).

Anyway, since I go to the Y a lot, I’m hopeful.

I hope it opens soon.

 

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Throw Back Thursday: Dispatches from the dark

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After a long break, we’re back in the blogging business.

Here are a couple of “official” blog posts I did while I was unplugged in June.

Thanks again to Sullivan’s Records and Bluegrass Kitchen for putting up with my nonsense (though not a lot. I only wrote four posts by hand)

It seemed like I should have shared this earlier, but meh… triathlon training is hard.

To put it in perspective, I started blogging late. Mostly, because in the beginning, I wasn’t sleeping particularly well.

 

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Here’s another:

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Going Vegan! At Long Last!

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Ben&jerry

Walk (and by walk, I mean walk slowly or maybe skip entirely), don’t run toward this stuff.

I was so excited when I heard Ben & Jerry’s was doing a non-dairy line.

I wanted to try it. I ranted and raged when I couldn’t get it. I sent emails to their headquarters complaining that my neighborhood store wasn’t part of their distribution chain. I wanted to have vegan ice cream that was just like the real thing, and I thought, if anybody could pull it off, it had to be to Ben & Jerry’s.

Yeah, about that…

This stuff is sweet, but kind of thin. It is reminiscent in taste to grocery store brand ice milk. It’s not remotely as creamy or as rich as the regular stuff. The brownie chunks taste ok, but have the grainy texture of the inside of an old, foam pillow.

It’s like diet vegan ice cream for people who hate themselves a little.

Honestly, they should have skipped the almond milk and gone with cashew milk, which does taste good in vegan ice cream. I had a pint from the SO Delicious company a few weeks ago, and it was pretty fantastic.

This was not great.

I don’t like it, and don’t see myself buying more –or, really, any of Ben & Jerry’s other products. If Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy frozen desserts are all made with almond milk, they’re all going to have the same base problem, regardless of whatever flavors they jam into the carton.

I am so disappointed.

I bought this stuff at Target, if you want to give it a shot.

Going Vegan! Tamarack

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I was sorting through my options at the grille at Tamarack and not finding much when an attendant approached.

“If you need any help, let me know,” she said, cheerfully.

I raised my hand slowly, indicating that I had questions.

“I’m a vegan,” I told her.

She laughed. I was hilarious, but when I didn’t laugh with her, she asked, “Are you serious?”

“Yep,” I told her. “I’m a vegan, and I’m having some trouble figuring out what to get here.”

She stared at the menu, started looking, too, and began asking me the usual questions: Do you eat cheese? Do you eat eggs? Do you drink milk? What about fish?

I shook my head.

On its face, stopping at Tamarack for lunch sounded like such a good idea. I wanted to check for something that might be Virginia Diner peanuts (the best peanuts ever), take a look at the art (always, I’m looking for a story), and get a bite to eat. I was coming back from Virginia, hadn’t really had the heart to wade into a chain restaurant and try to find something that wasn’t a handful of iceberg lettuce sprinkled with Styrofoam-like carrot slivers.

Bon Apetit, loser. Want a plain baked potato and an ice water to go with that?

Dining out as a vegan can be rough, but Tamarack seemed promising.

With the artsy, tourist-y nature of the facility getting a reasonable vegan meal seemed like a pretty safe bet. While vegans probably don’t roll through every day, they’re bound to happen along occasionally. Surely, they had a black bean burger tucked away in the freezer, maybe a festive citrus salad with nuts or even grilled eggplant?

That would have been great, but nope.

What they had was a collection of sides, most of which looked like they were probably cooked with butter or pork or deep-fried. While I’m not overly fussy about meat contamination, I worked in restaurants enough to know that cross pollination between fryers is pretty common. I didn’t want cheese or chicken in my French fries –and also, I can get French fries at your better gas stations.

Dining out is supposed to be a little special. At least, dining out at someplace like Tamarack, I thought, was supposed to be special.

Finally, I said, “You know, I’m just going to go with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the Kids’ menu and maybe get a salad.”

Helpfully, she added that the vinaigrette was safe.

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Unofficially, the vegan option at Tamarack.

It wasn’t bad. The peanut butter was room temperature instead of ice cold and clotted. I got the sandwich on my choice of bread, which was wheat. The salad, while nothing to write home about, was at least a step up from the bagged and tagged stuff you see at your lower tier fast food places.

On the plus side, the fountain drinks came with free refills (I had two cokes), and the little restaurant was located just across the way for The Greenbrier store. I got some peanuts there. They weren’t as good as the Virginia Diner peanuts, but they were pretty good. I had a couple of handfuls of those with lunch, too, and found two artists I kind of want to write about.

So, not exactly a rousing success.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard great things about Sheetz. More later.

Let There Be Yoga! Back to the mat

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After about 11 days off, I finally got back to yoga.

I really hadn’t meant to be away for so long –and I started feeling it.

It wasn’t that I felt my joints stiffening up or that I started feeling weaker. I felt anxious, agitated.

One of the things I got out of yoga in March was an hour several times a week where I was forced to get out of my head, forced to step away from the job.

I am not complaining about what I do. I like what I do, but sometimes there’s a lot to get done, a lot of different people trying to get my attention, and a lot of things to cover –and I have a real problem with editing my day. Sometimes, every story feels too good to pass up, and I will bite off more than I can chew.

The best part about the yoga was it’s really hard to think about community theater, handguns, distilleries, or “Mountain Stage” when you’re going through a series of sun salutations and just trying to keep up with the teachers instructions.

And afterwards, I felt great, I felt refreshed –though, occasionally, a little sore in weird places.

I missed that, too.

So, I took a Yin Express class, taught by Traci Levine, a gentler class than I thought I wanted, but it was the only class I could fit into my week.With the gun series moving forward, it’s been kind of a monster.

It was more restorative than challenging –restorative tends to indicate meditative or slower paced, but it turned out that it gave me exactly what I needed.

I felt awesome afterwards.

So, I’m back on the mat, interested to see where it takes me, and looking for different kinds of classes to try.

Send me invites, and I’ll try to fit it in.

Also, I’ll take some pictures. Even I’m getting tired of the gnome.

Going Vegan: Vegan Cheese!

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Over and over I’ve heard from people about going vegan, “I would, but I could never give up cheese.”

I completely understand. One of my favorite things when I was out shopping was to hit the cheese aisle at Celebrity Kroger’s or look through the cold case at the Wine and Cheese shop at the Capitol Market. There were always a dozen tasty (if pricey) options, and more often than not, I walked away with $15 worth of creamy Latverian goat cheese –or about a quarter pound.

It was good stuff. I remember cheese, even if I don’t particularly crave it these days.

Still, I miss having the occasional grilled cheese sandwich, and would like to have a pizza sometime that isn’t just carpeted by mushrooms, peppers, and olive.

That seems a lot more possible than I would have expected.

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Honestly, it’s amazing.

Eric Eyre brought me a package of this stuff and told me to give it a try. It was hands down awesome, tasted pretty much like the stuff made with milk –and it melted. So, this weekend, I made a portabello mushroom burger (yes, those are edible) with lettuce, peppers, veganese (yes, it’s a thing), and a slice of CHAO cheese.

I nearly wept. It was that good.

Looking around, CHAO is available at Healthy Life Market for about five bucks a package (I think), but you can probably find it anyplace that sells a lot of vegan/vegatarian food items (Pretty much a couple of Kroger stores and Walmart).

I’m going to be buying more of this.

Let There Be Yoga! Brother, can you spare a mat.

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The Elk Community and Education Center is a re-purposed elementary school, nestled away from the main road, and hidden back behind a bank and a Dairy Queen. It acts as the local senior activity center. They serve breakfast, offer a few classes, and a group of old men meet most days to shoot pool, which is probably as good a thing for them to do, and cheaper than sucking down bitter, lukewarm coffee at a burger joint.

Tuesday nights, they have a yoga class. Some nights, the class is oversaw, unofficially, by a man named Bruce, who isn’t licensed to teach yoga, but has practiced it for years.

Terry, who helps run the center, explained, “He’s been everywhere. He’s been to the ashrams in India. He knows his stuff.”

Bruce was in California this week, however.

So, what we had was a television, a VCR, and an old beginners yoga tape that looked like it came from the waning days of the Clinton administration.

Terry apologized for the low-tech, low-rent situation. They would love to have an actual instructor.

“But there’s no money.”

We did the best we could with what we had. A half dozen of us practiced poses while standing on mats and bathroom towels, but without the benefit of props like straps, blocks, or bolsters.

I had a little bit of an advantage. While I haven’t learned enough to be useful to anybody else, I did know how to adjust into most of the poses, and felt fairly confident I was getting them right. I understood what the television guru was talking about when he started explaining about the breath and controlling it.

I don’t know about anybody else.

What was a little heartbreaking was the people who came out were earnest. It was a humble community program in a center that caters to older people, the kind of people who might really benefit from the stretches, the strength training, and even the mental exercises that yoga offers.

There’s just no money to hire someone to teach, and not much of an incentive to get someone to take the center on. Building a class of even low or non-paying students wouldn’t be instant. It would take time and a lot of patience.

To me, it seems like their problems with their community center and yoga seem like a metaphor for the entire state of West Virginia. There’s some decent space to work with, some people interested in doing some kind of work, but little means to attract the investment or energy to try to make it work.

I’d love to help them. I’m not sure how.

Maybe I’ll have some ideas after next month.