Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Life Tidbits & Training Update

There's a lot going on right now, so I thought I'd take some time to update on life's happenings and training too!

Life Tidbits

Tomorrow I will give my next "Food is Food" talk at work! This month we're discussing how to best utilize the bountiful harvest of summer, right now and throughout the winter months! The recipe demo is going to be cream of tomato soup, based off this recipe. It should be fun and I can't wait!

On Sunday my husband and sister raced a local triathlon, while I stayed on the sidelines as a volunteer, "team mom," spectator and photographer. Both did well, neither aiming to set personal records but rather to go out and have some fun! Local triathlons like this one are the BEST. Literally we left our house only 45 minutes before the race start, and it was a quick 10 minute drive to get there.

Family fun :)

In my spare time (of about zero) I am working on two personal projects. The first involves revamping my blog under a new platform. I don't know when I'll actually switch over to the new style, but I'm really happy with how it's looking so far. It's much more clean cut, organized and easier to navigate, so stay tuned...

The second project I'm working on involves organizing and decorating my home office. It is slowly evolving into a bright n' colorful room filled with cycling and generally motivating fitness memorabilia (including a Boston Marathon collage) in different shades of teal, black and white. While a definite work in progress, it's nice to have this small mini project to pour my creative energy into rather than trying to tackle any big home projects right now.

The motivational plaques were anniversary gifts from the hubby,
while the bike is repurposed from our wedding decor!

Perhaps the biggest "happening" in my life right now (and a major reason I'm working on to create a functional home office) is that I am going back to school! Well... sort of :) 

As of two days ago, I'm officially an adjunct professor at Virginia Tech for the upcoming academic year!! It's a dream come true for me to return to my alma mater and teach for the department that shaped and mentored me to become the dietitian I am today, and I feel extremely blessed for the opportunity to do so. I will be teaching a senior level two-semester course, preparing students with the clinical knowledge and skills they will need to successfully complete their internship, and beyond.

My stack of books on the left (with a few resources not even pictured.. yikes) and my new professional headshot on the right.
I think it goes without being said that the fall is going to be quite busy, so I suspect you'll be seeing fewer posts from me over the next few months...

Training Update

My goal races for the fall seem to be approaching all too quickly. I'm now only 25 days away from the Patriot's Half Ironman and 77 days away from the B2B Full Iron-Distance Triathlon!! I just received my first installment of my athlete newsletter for the B2B and feel as if there are SO many logistics to consider with this endeavor. Never mind that right now, currently I am focused on surviving the actual training =P 

Training has been a bit up and down over the past month. First, the positive: I LOVE being back into the groove of tri-training again and all the longer workouts, on my good days I can see definite fitness gains and my confidence in tackling these longer distances is growing. The more I delve into the training, the more I know my decision to tackle this race was for the right reasons. 

As for the "not so positive," breathing has continued to be an issue since I was initially diagnosed with "pleurisy" back in mid-June. While it is not an everyday struggle, it has definitely been a source of concern, stress and definite limiting factor for training at times. On some occasions, I am able to "tough it out" and push through the shortness of breath, but in other instances I have been forced to cut workouts short, scale way back on effort or just skip the workout all together. 

So, long story short, I was not going to let the issue go. After a series of visits to the doc (again...and again) to rule out other possible sources, I was finally able to see a pulmonary specialist last week. Between my physical symptoms and impaired lung capacity determined via spriometry, I was told that I have definite impaired lung capacity (likely secondary to some level of asthma) and was sent home with two bronchodilators, i.e. inhalers. And that's where I'm at...


Overall, swimming is actually going quite well right now. As much as I used to hate swimming and have to drag myself to the pool (in college), some days I feel quite fishey and enjoy my pool time immensely. I've also changed things up a bit by swimming outside with a local group each Thursday. Due to my breathing difficulties, some workouts are particularly rough, but on my good days I feel as if I'm getting stronger, more efficient and more comfortable with the longer distances. 


Oh running, how I love you! Two weeks ago I REALLY enjoyed getting back on the track again (first time since last summer) and throwing down a few quicker intervals (5x 800). It was a great change of pace from the norm and a great mental confidence boost to know I still have some speed in my legs! The hubby joined in towards the end of my workout and gave me the encouragement I needed to tough out my last interval.
I've done a few long runs over the past couple of weeks, none of which have felt great, but nonetheless I still enjoyed them and got'm done. I don't suspect that the 26.2 miles at the end of my ironman will feel great either, so it's been a 'suck it up' and keep moving kind of deal.


I've had a a few more challenging long rides recently which are definitely helping me to develop the mental side of things to go along with the physical. Three weeks ago I completed my longest ride to date, 75 miles, but throughout the entirety of the ride I was nauseated, congested and could barely stand to stay down in my aerobars. I knew going into this ride it was going to be a tough day, but I stubbornly chose to do it anyway. Some days surviving suffices and this was one of those days.

And then there was this past weekend, where it rained consistently enough that I moved my 56 mile ride indoors and logged a solid 3hrs, 20 minutes on the trainer. Ouch! It was a major PR for time spent on riding indoors, and I think a major PR in terms of amount of sweat generated too :) On a positive note, I learned A LOT about my personal sweating rate, which is key information in effectively hydrating in these longer rides and races to come! Special kuddos to my coach for hosting me (there's no way I would have lasted that long on my old trainer and with the distraction of being at home) and to my sister, who essentially sat with me the entire ride to keep me company. Those are some special people!

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving" 

-Albert Einstein

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Shopping at Your Local Farmer's Market

I'm telling you, there's a holiday for everything. Last weekend was National Sister's Day, this coming Sunday is National S'mores Day (which we are celebrating at work) and this week? This week is National Farmer's Market Week!

Do you have a local farmer's market? If so, have you ever taken advantage of it for your grocery shopping? If you have yet to visit a farmer's market this summer, don't worry, there's plenty of harvest yet to come throughout late summer and fall!

Shopping at the farmer's market can be somewhat intimidating if you've never done so before. How do you know which vendor is "best" or where the food actually comes from? Today I'm going to share a few tips to successfully tackle your local farmer's market to eat fresh, take advantage of local produce and live a little more sustainably.

Why Shop at a Farmer's Market?

Produce at the farmer's market is picked at it's peak ripeness and travels less of a distance from the field to your plate: Often it's more affordable and tastes better too! Great price + great taste = more likely to eat more fruits and veggies = win-win situation.

Top Tip: Head Straight for the Produce

Just like the grocery store, it's easy to get distracted by the wide array of sights and scenes at the farmer's market. Baked goods, food vendors, eggs, dairy, meats, local crafts... yes, all of that can be overwhelming. It's best to prioritize and head straight to the produce vendors first. If you're looking for the freshest (and most beautiful) produce out there, plan on arriving early. If you want more of a bargain, sleep in and arrive later in the day, when vendors are more likely to throw a bargain your direction rather than having to throw away their precious goods.

Talk to Each Farmer and Ask Questions

Part of the fun of a farmer's market is that you can actually TALK to the people involved in the growing process and ask specific questions. That is, IF you know what to ask. Here's a few questions to get you started:

Is the produce being sold locally grown? Or is it sourced from another farm further away.
Is the vendor supplying produce from an organically grown certified farm?

If you run across a variety of produce you're unfamiliar with, don't hesitate in asking about it. Farmer's are knowledgeable of the foods they grow-- they can tell you about the different varieties available, how to prepare, cook or eat them.

Have a Plan

Have a general idea of what's in season and what you plan to do with your produce purchases before you visit the market will prevent your purchases from going to waste. I mean, there is nothing better than a fridge full of fresh produce...except when it all just sits there and spoils. As soon as you return from the market, take some time to prepare your veggies for upcoming recipes to ensure they get used in a timely basis.

New River Valley folks: For more information on the Blacksburg Farmer's Market, visit 

That's all for today! This weekend is going to be RAINY but my sister is in town and we plan on hitting up our local farmer's market anyway. It will be the perfect day to gather some groceries, then stay inside and cook up a few delicious meals for the week ahead.

Eat local, eat fresh and support your local farmer!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

National Sister's Day 2014

Sunday, August 3rd was National Sister's Day! Did you know that? Actually, I didn't even realize it until the end of the day Sunday. Lucky me, I actually had the opportunity to spend a little quality time with my sister on Sunday, who currently resides in NOVA. The hubby and I stopped by to check out her new "crib" on our way back from a wedding in downtown Washington, D.C., and while there the two of us enjoyed a low-key training ride along the WO&D trail.

My sister, like me, got her start running early in life and is currently training for her first marathon this fall, the Richmond Marathon! She'll be running alongside my dad, just as I did in my first marathon. I too will be there as the official "cheer squad" and photographer. Gotta love family events! :D Athletic milestones are certainly all the more memorable when they are shared with family! In October, she will also be participating in the Baltimore Triathlon. Unsure of how to balance the two, I recently offered my assistance in tweaking her marathon training schedule to incorporate some swimming and biking cross training. After all, I did just stay at a Holiday Inn Express recently (I joke!!!)

Anyways, knowing that we'd be visiting my sister and that I had an easy ride on tap for the weekend, I hauled my bike all the way up to NOVA to join her for a ride...and I'm glad I did! It was a cool, yet gorgeous morning and we shared the trail with tons of other athletes and exercise enthusiasts. During our hour ride, I taught her a little more about riding more efficiently and we chatted about her marathon training progress. A day later, I found myself thinking about our high school cross country days, when we never could get along and would often body "check" or yell at each other during runs. Ahhh, yes, gotta love siblings...We've matured a little bit since then and this time there was no pushing or shoving around =P

This coming weekend, my sister is returning the favor and visiting us here in B'burg! While here, I've agreed to give her a little swim lesson and she'll also be racing a local triathlon, the TriAdventure Summer Sprint (and I will again be playing photographer).

And a few months from now, I'll be cheering from the sidelines as she runs the Richmond Marathon. I am so happy I can offer my support and encouragement as she pursues her own personal athletic goals. 

Dad, sister and I before the start of the 2012 Richmond Marathon, Half Marathon and 8k.

Go sis, go! Wishing you a happy (belated) National Sister's Day!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Recipe: Spinach & Artichoke Pizza

Yesterday was my monthly Chef Stage Center at work. As I've mentioned in the past, I really enjoy the opportunity to spend my Friday morning hanging out in the kitchen (though I'm usually a bit pressed for time so it can be stressful) and sharing some of my favorite foods. This month, I shared my favorite pizza combination, spinach and artichoke, while also demonstrating how to make homemade basil pesto sauce!

The pizza turned out phenomenally if I must say :) and I am particularly thankful for the help of a dietetic intern in pulling it all together. She demo'd the making of the basil pesto and did an awesome job at that!

Spinach & Artichoke Pizza

Pizza dough (homemade or store bought)
1 bag fresh spinach leaves
2-15oz cans artichoke hearts
6oz feta cheese
15oz bag mozzarella cheese
1 block Parmesan cheese
1 jar basil pesto sauce or 1 batch homemade basil pesto
Italian seasoning

Roll out your dough to size on a freshly floured surface. Spread a layer of pesto across the pizza, then top with a layer of fresh spinach followed by a layer of mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle on your artichoke hearts and feta cheese. Finally, garnish with some freshly grated Parmesan and dry Italian seasoning to taste. Bake a 375 F for 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbly. Let cool before eating, unless you want to burn the roof of your mouth!

Spinach Basil Pesto Sauce

4 cups fresh spinach leaves
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Salt, Pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Leftover pesto can be placed in ice cube trays and frozen for later!

Though I'm not a big pizza eater, when I do have some I prefer to make it from scratch with quality ingredients. Homemade pesto sauce is especially easy to create and store for later! Check out this cool infographic for more pesto inspiration:

Happy Weekend :) 

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