Monday, August 11, 2014

Visiting the Farm

If you follow me on Twitter, you've probably noticed that I've mentioned getting produce from "our farm". No, we didn't buy a farm. Instead, we signed up for a CSA box!

"Our" farm
In Oakland, we tried a CSA share, but didn't find it worthwhile. Our local grocery store had better prices on local, organic produce and was half the distance (super important when you're biking up hills to pick up groceries). Heading out to Connecticut, I expected things to be a bit different, so I researched local organic farms.

Boy, was I wrong. Things here are WAY different than California. All of the vegetables in grocery stores look like caricatures of their original—the colors are too even, the shapes too regular, the flavor quite lacking and the prices astronomical. We could hardly afford vegetables, let alone organic veggies. Local was definitely out of the question—the going rate for ZUCCHINI, which grows like a weed, was $4/lb at our local market.

So in late spring, just a week before the first shares went out, we signed up for a seasonal CSA. It was a bit of a gamble, but it looked like a good group of guys running the farm, with a nice selection of vegetables.

And fortunately, I was oh-so-right!!

Visiting the farm!
Our CSA so far has been a marvelous experience. We pick up our box every Thursday about a mile from the rowing center. When I can, I like to ride my bike to pick up our veggies.

The farm is located about 20 minutes drive north of New Milford. It's a 30-acre, all organic farm. They grow a bunch of different things—greens, tomatoes, sunflowers, potatoes, radishes, beans, peas, blueberries and more! We get a nice variety in our box each week.

Coming from California, there haven't been any new vegetables. Still, it's been fun to get back some of the variety we'd had out West. Daikon and turnips have both made an appearance, as well as some fun shelling beans and very sweet snap peas.

Knowing that we eat a lot of veggies, we talked to the farmers and decided to get a full share instead of a half share. We could certainly eat fewer vegetables, but when we put our minds to it, we easily finish our full share each week.

In fact, we've also been supplementing our CSA share with veggies from our garden.

I'll write more about the GMS garden later, but we're slowly establishing a 30ft x 30ft vegetable garden just outside the house. So far, we've gotten a good harvest of mint, lettuces, zucchini, beans and cucumbers. It's definitely a work in progress, but it's fun making zucchini bread with veggies from the backyard!

Expect more updates through the late summer and fall, as we experience the full season of the CSA and continue to make progress in the garden.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Two Years

In two years, the Rio Olympics begin.

It feels so far away, both in time and in the things I have to accomplish to make it. But in considering the margin between where I am and where I want to be, I remembered where I was two years ago!

It has been a little bit more than two years since I started training with the California Rowing Club. In early May of 2012, I went 8:12 over 2km on the erg, struggled after 10km, and felt the burn after 100 squats at 45 pounds.

The past two years have made a world of difference. I trained at the California Rowing Club for 18 months and established a really solid base. With cycling to and from the boathouse, and lots of 20-24km rows in the single, I was hitting 800-1000 minutes of training each week.

Although my scores didn't improve much in California, when I came to GMS I reaped the benefits of that base with massive improvements. Now, I pull a 7:22 on 2k, can row 22km without snacks, and squat 3 sets of 100 with 50 pounds.

Of course, improvement isn't linear, and I expect every further second I gain will be hard fought. Still, to be where I am and still improving after only two years is very encouraging. Now that I've really found my training groove, this next six months will be my best yet—and this coming fall and spring season should be an absolute blast.

Cheers to dreams!

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

This Week in Training

This week was our last week of true 'summer training'. For those athletes headed to the World Championships at the end of August, or for those in California waiting for the September Indian summer, that may seem premature. But fall and winter are when you win races, so I'm eager to get back into the fitness-building phase of training.

We're just starting to get a taste of fall, with more long/slow work and longer hard intervals. This will be our last set of 1000m pieces for more than a month!
6x120 bench pulls at 50 pounds. Crushing it.
AM: 60 minutes in the single, easy rowing; 12.2km
PM: 2 hour lifting session, with aforementioned bench pulls

AM: 100 minutes, 1x, firm and continuous; 21.9km
PM: 75 minutes, 2x, easy rowing; 16.8km

AM: 90 minutes, 1x, easy rowing; 18.5km
PM: 2 hour lifting session

AM: 4 hours in the garden (ok, this wasn't on the training plan, but weed pulling is work!)
PM: 60 minutes, 30.5' on the erg (7000m), 30' treadmill run

AM: 2 by 1000m, 1x; 12.5km total
PM: 75 minutes

AM: 2x1500m, Concept2; #1 5:33.7 (1:51.2), #2 5:38.1 (1:52.7); 13.5km total
PM: 3x25 minutes, Concept2; 17,073m total

TBD! I will probably do 45-75 minutes of either rowing or cross-training today, at an easy pace

What did your week look like? Have you started prepping for fall racing season, or are you still focused on the end of summer sprints??

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Aesthetics Aside

When I was at the gym in Oregon, a lot of people noticed me training. It's not often that gym-goers push themselves to exhaustion day after day. And a lot of these people came and asked questions or made small talk.

All of it was super encouraging, but two comments in particular left me unsure how to respond.

During one of my lifts, a fellow lifter came over and informed me that "whatever you're doing is working, because you look great!"

That same week, two women approached me in the locker room asking questions about the erg. Eventually, they got around to saying that I had their goal physique.

Both situations were very flattering. I have worked hard for the body I'm wearing. Still, that was never my goal. I never picked a physique and aimed for it, or went to the gym with the hopes of one day fitting into size 0 pants.

All of those things were byproducts of other goals: being stronger, fitter, faster.

Never have I ever gone to the gym thinking, "Gee, I hope this helps me look stronger." I go to the gym and lift weights because I want to BE stronger. And if I still looked weak, I wouldn't mind.

Next time you head to the gym, I challenge you to embrace that mindset—fitter not thinner, stronger not leaner.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to Make a U.S. National Team

The process of qualifying for the World Championships in the United States is extraordinarily confusing. For those of you following my journey, I thought I would explain the process.

First things first:
As a lightweight woman, there are three boats that compete at the World Championships, held in August each year—a quad (4x, four people/eight oars), double (2x, two people) and single (1x, one person). The double, the only Olympic class boat, is the premier event and has a different selection procedure than the 1x or 4x.

Let's start with the DOUBLE
Every spring, US Rowing hosts two "national selection regattas"—NSR1 and NSR2. For sculling (two oars per person), NSR1 is in singles (1x) and NSR2 is in doubles (2x).

Lightweight women from around the country show up at NSR1 as an opportunity to show how fast they've gotten. US Rowing calls this a "speed order" event, and it's a great way to find a partner for NSR2, about three weeks later.

NSR2 is the first opportunity to make the US National Team for lightweights. The winner of this regatta earns the right to represent the USA at one of the three World Cups. (This year, I placed fourth at NSR2.)
NB: The World Cup Series different from the World Championships. There are three World Cup races are various locations throughout the year. They are international racing opportunities hosted by World Rowing that culiminate in a points trophy.
IF that double attends a World Cup AND places in the top 4, they earn an automatic spot on the team for the World Championships.
Otherwise, US Rowing hosts a trial. The winner of that trials race earns a spot on the team for the World Championships.

... PHEW

But what about the 1x and 4x???

Since those boats are non-Olympic boats (bummer!), they have a different qualification system. Both 1x and 4x go directly to trials. Individual clubs host camps and send athletes to compete at trials, and the winner earns a spot on the team for the World Championships.

It seems simpler, and for the 1x it may be, but there are a lot of politics behind the assembly of four athletes into a 4x. Getting enough and fast enough athletes in one place for enough time for a fair selection process can be rather tricky. That, however, is a topic for another day.

Does that make sense?? Any questions I didn't answer?
Expect an upcoming post on the Road to Rio, and how the OLYMPIC qualification works.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reader Question: Why Veganism?

When people find out I'm vegan, they usually ask why. Great question! People go vegan for all sorts of reasons.

Since weight-restricted athletes also often have very specific eating habits, a lot of people assume I'm vegan to help me make weight. At first, I thought it might help as well. Not the case! It's actually quite difficult to balance making weight, athletics and veganism.

I can't go more than 3-4 hours without eating—no matter how much I eat, it's like throwing twigs on a bonfire. This is especially true when I'm cutting calories to lose weight. When I'm hungry, I descend quickly into hangry (so hungry I'm angry) and that's bad for everybody. If I'm out and about and hunger strikes, I often can't find balanced food to eat, so I have to bring my own snacks everywhere.

Of course, that means I eat better food when I'm on the road, and stick to normalcy even when traveling. But I have definitely been caught out longer than expected with nothing to eat!

So why did I become a vegan?

That's a hard question to answer, but it all starts with vegetables. Have you ever tracked your daily vegetable intake? Are you getting the recommended servings? When I was really honest with myself, I wasn't eating enough vegetables (unless you count cookies as vegetables).

Vegetarianism was a step in the right direction—it got me thinking about my food, branching out to new plants and generally eating better foods. But cookies, muffins, cakes and fried mozzarella sticks are all vegetarian. Veganism has pushed my diet in the healthiest direction and I needed that help.

Trying veganism/eating more vegan food is very different than being vegan, though. The reason I've stopped buying leather and wool, started using cruelty free soaps, and opened my eyes to the exploitation around me? It's the right thing to do.

Once you make the connection between the items around you and the life that provided them, it becomes very difficult to ignore. I would abandon my dreams before abandoning that compassion for the lives around me. There are certainly drawbacks to veganism—but nothing that justifies taking an animal's life or free will to avoid.

Are you vegan? If so, why? If not, what's your favorite vegan food?

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Back to the Grind

Although winning Nationals was a great mid-summer confidence boost, I'm back to work chasing my dreams. I spent last weekend in Philadelphia racing at the Independence Day Regatta and celebrating July 4th with friends.

Although it was great experience, and I came away with a 2nd place finish in the lightweight women's single, it was a tough weekend physically and mentally.
The race course is in the middle of a park, which makes it extraordinarily isolated—on Friday, I walked 8 miles round trip to get some coffee and lunch. It was hot and unprotected, with high winds and strong current. Given the circumstances, I'm proud of my performance, but it certainly was not my best.

Going forward, I'd like to re-focus on getting faster. Over the last month, I've gotten a good sense of where I am and where I need to be. It's time to close the gap between those two.

I took Monday and Tuesday of this week off to recover from the whirlwind of racing and traveling. Wednesday, I hit the weight room, and Thursday I complete a tough workout on the ergs.

15' warmup
3x3000m (1k@23, 1k@25, 1k@23)
#1 11:54.6 (1:59.1)
#2 11:58.4 (1:59.7)
#3 11:59.3 (1:59.8)
15' cool down

I would have liked to be in the 1:58's, but for being off the ergs for several months now, it wasn't terrible. I'll definitely be checking back in with that workout over the rest of 2014, and hopefully seeing good gains.

I'm now fully back into the swing of things. This morning, we did a 75' row and this afternoon is an epic weight-lifting session. Tomorrow, I'll duke it out in the single with the rest of the GMS athletes for four by 500 meters.

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