Monday, July 23, 2012

Wasatch Back 50

This summer, I'm racing as much as ever (18 races so far!), but traveling to races less than ever. Why travel when the best races are in your own backyard?  This hasn't always been the case, but Utah is now home to some of the most prestigious, best organized, and FUN mountain bike races in the country.  The Park City Point to Point, Mt. Ogden 100k, True Grit, the Crusher, and now the Utah State Championship Series races to name a few.

This past weekend was the Wasatch Back 50, race #3 of the Utah State Championship series.  It seems that every big race this year brings back emotions from last year, and serves as a reminder as to how far I've come. This race was no exception.  Last year, I wanted to race this series, and this 50-miler in particular, sooo bad.  Instead I put on a brave face and supported racers from the feed zone all day.

This year, I went into the race fit, prepared, and ready to leave it all on the course-which based on how I felt the day after the race-I think I succeeded!

Race morning was a 3:45AM wake up call.  I wanted to get breakfast, walk Dizzy, and drive up to Midway by 6:00 as feed bags had to be in the feed truck by 6:30 and the race started at 7.  Awfully early for a 50 miler, but a good decision on the race promotors part as temperatures soared in the afternoon.  The race started with a 6 mile road neutral rollout from the Homestead to Solider Hollow Mountain Resort.  I'm a big fan of the neutral rollout as it eliminates the need to warm-up, my least favorite part of racing.   The pro women lined up right behind the pro men.  This seemed like a pretty safe place so despite feeling like a fish out of water on the road in a large group, I glued myself to the boys.   This ended up being a pretty good strategy as there were bottlenecks and congestion as soon as we hit the dirt and I was in a pretty good position.  It wasn't long after that Evelyn Dong, the eventual race winner, took off never to be seen again.  Soon after I passed Katherine O'Shea, a racer from Australia, and soon after than Megan Sheridan, super fast local chick, passed me on a climb.  I stuck pretty close and passed her back on a downhill, but she caught me again and passed me before the long singletrack climb out of Solider Hollow.  This was the longest climb of the race and even though I rode strong Megan put a significant amount of time on me.  It wasn't until the long downhill before the start of the 2nd lap at Wasatch State Park that I caught back up. She proceeded to pass me again on the dirt climb up Cascade Spring Road.  It was also around this time that my hamstrings started to cramp as I would start to climb after a downhill.  At first it wasn't so bad, they would loosen up pretty quick, but the cramping progressively got worse and lasted a bit longer.  It took quite a bit of mental energy to keep the pedals rolling, yet somehow I did, at a pretty good rate, just not quite fast enough to catch Megan before the finish.  After 4 hours 42 minutes of racing, I finished in 3rd place a mere 49 seconds from 2nd!

Looking back, I know I raced hard and am satisfied with my performance.  I have some theories as to why my hamstrings cramped, but most likely it was the heat and that I should have had some electrolyte tablets in addition to electrolytes in my water.

Podium shot:
(KC Holley, Megan Sheridan, Evelyn Dong, me, Erin Swenson)

Not only does the Utah State Championship series put on a stellar race, but they secure sponsorship money (Thank you Ford Motors) for a pretty substantial pro payout.  The winner also gets a giant check!  How cool is that!  I didn't get a giant check, but my check was pretty sweet nonetheless.  

and no...dinner is not on me:)  This is earmarked to help build up this beauty!

Up next, well first I'm going to get this frame built.  Then more midweek races are in the plans as well as continuing my trend with some epic longer distance events through the rest of the season.

For a full race report, results, and photos of the WB50, click here

Sunday, July 8, 2012


A little over a year ago I reported on what I called my anti-cancer 'diet', although I hesitate to call it a 'diet' because there is no calorie counting, weighing of food, or point systems involved.  It is more like a nutritional lifestyle.    It also seems to be a topic of much curiosity so it is probably about time I blog about it.

It all started last year with a visit to the nutritionist at Huntsman Cancer Institute.  Over the years, I had become more cognizant of the health benefits of a nutritious diet and my primary goal for this visit was to ensure my nutrition supported reduced risk of recurrence.

The nutritionist provided me a handout where the American Institute for Cancer Research recommended the following:
  • Plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans should cover two thirds of the plate
  • Include substancial portions of one or more veggies or fruits on your plate (not just grains)
  • Eat five or more servings every day of a variety of colorful veggies and fruits
  • Choose minimally processed foods and limit consumption of refined sugar
Research shows that eating a plant-based diet reduces risk of cancer (and a boatload of other diseases)!  

This was a start.  Then I got my hands on this book:

In his book, Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, who underwent treatment for brain cancer...twice...and survived an additional twenty years, uses his background in medicine and science to detail the complete anti-cancer lifestyle.  While the book is incredibly informative, the sections on diet and environmental toxins especially resonated with me.  Dr. Servan-Schreiber describes the importance of choosing foods that reduce inflammation in the body,  have a low glycemic index (foods that don't cause spikes in blood sugar level), and are not toxic (processed foods, non-organic, and animal products).

Then I watched the documentary Fork Over Knives (highly recommended), got a copy of The China Study (also highly recommended), and read Brendan Brazier's Thrive books (to try to figure out how an athlete can sustain on a plant-based diet).  I was sold.  100% bought in for the health benefits of a plant-based diet.  Adding in the positive ethical and environmental ramifications of a plant-based diet is icing on the cake!

I started the plant-based diet not long after my diagnosis in February 2011, however it has evolved over time, and I suspect that it will continue to evolve in the future.  Last summer, after watching Fork Over Knives, I eliminated all dairy(including my favorite greek yogurt) and have since added the occasional salmon and/or free-range egg.  I also avoid soy because it potentially interacts with my medication.  (Most soy in this country is genetically modified too-and the health ramifications of genetically modified food is not yet clear).

Now, you may wonder what a person on a plant-based diet eats?  The answer is: plenty, just not much of what is considered the traditional American diet!

Over the past year, I have found some great cookbooks and recipes and with a little planning, maintaining our new nutritional lifestyle has become quite manageable, maybe even fun...  Everyone seems to love pictures of food so I have photographed some of my favorite meals, although I must admit I'm more about the nutrition of the food than the presentation:)

My favorite breakfast is a bowl of steel cut oats with MILA, hemp seeds, walnuts, almonds, vegan carob chips, blueberries, and a touch of agave nectar.  It really tastes more like dessert than breakfast.
For lunch, I usually have leftovers or pack a nutritionally dense salad.  One of my favorites is kale, arugula, spinach, onions, hemp seed, pine nuts, grape tomato, avocado, olive oil, and a touch of balsamic vinegar.  I especially like this meal because I don't need a microwave to heat it up.  On busy work days I often have to eat in my car.

Snacks:  Pretty much happen all day long.  I still have my daily 'green' smoothie and this helps me get some 'green' early in the day without eating kale and spinach for breakfast!  Some of my favorite ingredients for the smoothie include kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, fruit (banana and pineapple seem to help it taste more like fruit than veggies), ginger, MILA, hemp protein.  I eat fruit and nuts in pretty much unlimited quantities for snacks.  I also sneak in some 'processed' food such as whole grain toast or ancient grain cereal.  Mmm cereal.  My processed guilty pleasure that I just can't quit!

Some of my favorite dinners:
 Quinoa with veggies.  Pretty much use anything that is in the fridge
 (broccoli, garlic, bell pepper, green onion)
 Brown rice with veggies (same as above)
 Brown rice with kale and veggies (kale, carrot, mushroom, green onion)
 Wheatberry salad with cucumber, bell pepper, zucchini

I always throw together a sauce for these dishes.  One of my favorites is olive oil, lemon juice, and cumin or turmeric.  Olive oil, lemon juice, and agave nectar is also yummy.  

 As a pasta substitute we make zucchini pasta
with grape tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and almond cheese

 I do occasionally have a salmon dish.  My favorite is cauliflower, brown rice, with salmon.
 ...and for dessert, homemade ice cream:
blend and then freeze cashews, dark chocolate (or vegan carob) chips, agave nectar, banana, and maca powder
Homemade energy bars: almonds, dates, dark chocolate (or vegan carob), and a touch of almond butter.  Topped with hemp seed.  Mmm.  Only make for special occasions.  I can put this away in no time!

How does this fit in with being an athlete?  So far, I think pretty well.  People always ask where I get my protein.  There is actually quite a bit of protein in a well thought out plant-based diet.  On a typical day I'm getting 70+ grams of protein.  When I add in a Vega protein drink, closer to 100 grams of protein!

So what does this look like in numbers.  Well, here are some recent lab results.  Prior to these labs, I had not had my cholesterol checked in years, but high cholesterol does run in my family.
My numbers: textbook perfect!

Desirable range
Cholesterol Total
Less than 200mg/dL
HDL (aka good cholesterol)
Greater than 40mg/dL
LDL (aka bad cholesterol)

One concern with a plant-based diet is maintaining sufficient iron levels.  I do take a daily iron supplement, and my iron and ferritin are holding steady.

Desirable range
Iron, Serum or Plasma
Iron Binding Capacity Total

Another value to watch on a plant-based diet is Vitamin B-12.  That too is holding steady, however it is my understanding that it may take years for this value to drop so I will continue to have it monitored.  

Desirable range
Vitamin B12
385 pg/mL
210-911 pg/mL

Eating this way certainly isn't for everyone.  It takes some thought and definitely a bit of planning, but, after a year where I underwent a treatment I didn't want for a disease I wish I never had,  it is truly empowering to feel like I am doing everything I can to remain healthy and reduce risk of recurrence.  I feel pretty darn good too!     

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Galena Grinder

Last weekend Shannon, Dizzy, and I traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho for the Galena Grinder-my first marathon distance race this year.  While the distance of the Galena Grinder is rather short for a marathon-only 42ish miles- make no mistake, it is a difficult race.  With almost 7000 vertical feet of climbing you are either barely able to turn your pedals over up steep climbs or ripping down sketchy downhills with switchbacks that seem to come out of nowhere.  The high elevation certainly doesn't make it any easier.

One of the highest points on the race course.  
You can barely see the trail on the left popping out of the pines.

The open women's field was full of talent including the reining National Marathon champion as well as the National Ultraendurance Series winner.  However, with over two hundred racers and a mass start, I had more than the girls to worry about.  I immediately ate dust, and a lot of it, for pretty much the first hour and a half of racing.

Dust-free on the start-line
Photo: Dyan Lee-Spoken Chain

Post-race: Hot and dirty!

Overall, my race was pretty uneventful with me sitting in 5th place almost the entire time.  I did get a bit of a scare when the 6th place girl caught me about halfway through the first lap (of the two lap course), however I was able to drop her pretty quickly. Soon after, I caught the 4th place girl while she was walking up the steepest climb of the race, however she was clearly stronger on the bike as she dropped me as soon as she was able to get back on.

Sweet photo: courtesy Dyan Lee-Spoken Chain

I beat my personal, although completely arbitrary, goal of 4.5 hours by a few minutes despite a little mid-race water bottle mishap.  Funny story there!  The course ran in a figure-8 pattern and I had set out a table with fresh bottles in a location that I would pass three times.   This worked well the first two times through,  but my final time through there was a lady holding one of my remaining water bottles.  I figured that she must know me and was going to pass the bottle up to me, however when I rode up she said "I don't know who these belong to, but do you want some?"  Apparently she had been giving away sips from my bottles to random racers and none of them were full!  I think considering the circumstances,  I was quite polite when I told her that they were my bottles and I had placed them there.  Regardless, it was frustrating that I had to stop and dump a bunch of half full bottles to completely fill mine up before I set out for the last one and a half hours of racing in the hottest part of the day.  In reality, I didn't lose that much time.

Anyhow, I finished 5th which was good enough for a spot on the podium.

Podium: Jana Repulski, Jessica Cerra, Pua Mata, Amanda Carey, me (l to r)

Yep.  Those are checks in our hands.  Galena Grinder has equal payout for women.  I love this race!
After the race I was peer pressured to sit in the creek (to cool the legs and help recovery).  
It was friggin' cold.  The other girls were calming chatting away.  I was shivering the whole time!

Shannon and I then spent two more days hiking and biking trails in the Sun Valley/Ketchum area.  It's possible I say this about every bike destination we visit, but after this weekend, Sun Valley/Ketchum rates as one of my favorites.  The town is a lot less busy (at least this weekend) than most resort towns and very dog friendly.  Dizzy even went out to eat with us one afternoon and the staff at the cafe oodled over him.  The trails are riding distance from town and it is easy to put together a mellow two-hour loop or an all-day epic.  And although we barely scratched the surface, the trails seem pretty fun too!

 Riding Chocolate Gulch

As for Dizzy, he has such a great time traveling to races with us that it is really hard to leave him behind.  He really is a good boy and travels quite well. Although he was a bit restless the first two nights, and as he kept waking us up, I threatened him that it was his last trip ever!  I think he, like me, gets so excited that he has a difficult time sleeping.  Anyhow, he's certainly tuckered out now.  He has barely gotten up since we returned...two days ago!