Friday, June 24, 2016

Picky Bars: Feed the Dream

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you aren't following Oiselle and their athletes on social media, I recommend you start. One of their top athletes, Lauren Fleshman, is also co-founder of Picky Bars.

Early this spring, she posted on Twitter about a new opportunity from Picky Bars: the Feed the Dream project. The idea was to give athletes competing at Olympic Trials some really great nutrition in the months leading up to their big race. Since rowing is a fringe sport, and these opportunities usually specify running, cycling, triathlon, etc, I almost didn't apply.

On a whim, though, I decided to submit the application—and recommend my doubles partner also apply.

Success! We were both accepted into the program, which included a 5-month subscription to the Picky Club, a monthly bar delivery. (It also came with a new cheering club, and awesome notes from Lauren every month.)

Snacking on the run at Olympic Trials.

We have one more month of deliveries left, and before our time comes to an end, I wanted to give the bars a review on the blog.

TASTE

These are by far the best bars I've tried. They aren't as sickly sweet as LaraBars or as chalky as Builder's Bars. They just taste like real, well-rounded food. I found them a little bit on the greasy side, especially compared to Clif bars, but they were light on the sweetness, which I loved.

I tried all five vegan flavors:

  • Smooth Caffeinator: By far my favorite. Only 25mg of caffeine, so they're safe for PM consumption. Concerns about dried apricots were unfounded.
  • Cookie Doughpness: Surprisingly good. Tastes like a walnut raisin cinnamon cookie.
  • Blueberry Boomdizzle: Also surprisingly good, and I generally don't like cooked blueberries. It was pleasantly fruity, without tasting like fruit leather.
  • Ah Fudge Nuts: Did you know that brownies make good post workout snacks? Yea, this is basically a brownie with big chunks of nuts.
  • All-in-Almond: The most disappointing of the flavors. I thought it tasted mostly like cranberries, and was too fruity for my taste.

NUTRITION

Designed to be perfect, Picky Bars hit the nail on the head. By the numbers:
200 calories
7g fat
28g carbs
7g protein

That's the exact recommendation for a post-workout snack to get your muscles refueled as quickly as possible. I can attest that they also work well as a pre-workout snack. Unlike a Clif bar, these didn't sit in my stomach even when I ate one 5 minutes before practice.

More importantly, they are real food. If all I ate all day were Clif bars, I'd wouldn't be super proud of the fuel I put in my body. If all I ate all day were Picky bars, I'd be neutral to positive. It'd be kind of like eating rice, nuts, dried fruit and chocolate all day. Not perfect, but really not bad at all. Seems like a good litmus test for a bar.

PRICE/VALUE

On an athlete's budget, these bars are out of my price range. (That was the impetus behind the Feed the Dream project—many of the country's top athletes can't afford top quality fuel.) You can buy them at Trader Joe's for around $2.50 apiece, or join the Picky Club and get 24 bars for $50 (about $2.08 apiece). Seems expensive, right? Especially for a bar that is relatively small. But you get what you pay for.

When I thought about making these on my own, and using rice protein, organic dates, hazelnuts and Stumptown coffee beans, I realized that the actual ingredient cost per bar is probably almost $2. If I were making them myself, I might choose to skimp on some ingredients (e.g. non-organic dates, or soy protein instead of rice) which would bring the cost down. But, if you have the budget and you can afford to be picky about what you put in your body, these are worth every penny.

They might also make their way onto my Christmas/birthday list...

Want to try Picky Bars? (or buy me some for Christmas?)

Not only did they provide me with five months of Picky Club membership, but the fine folks of Picky Bars are also extending a 25% discount to friends, family and my fan club.


Just go to pickybars.com/ftd and enter the coupon code FTDfriends for 25% off through August 31st 2016. (Note: I don't get any credit for this. They just did something cool for me and I like their product. I think you probably will too.)


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Sunday, June 12, 2016

One Times

Olympic Trials came and went. We trained hard, raced hard, and still missed our goal. It was difficult to process, and is still difficult to face.

Photo by US Rowing.
Thanks to GMS and Guenter for the equipment that made our race possible.

Still, I came out of the process in a good place. In two months, I lost 13 pounds, got down to my lightest racing weight ever and still gained fitness. I spent a lot of quality time on the water, learning to move singles and doubles. And I raced, hard.

So now, what's next?

Immediately after Olympic Trials, we began the process of getting a quad together for non-Olympic World Championship Trials. Since not all boat classes go to the Olympics, the World Rowing organization holds a World Championships for all non-Olympic boat classes. For lightweight women, both the single and the quad will be contested at non-Olympic Worlds.

In the U.S., Trials for non-Olympic Worlds will be held July 18-22 in New Jersey.

I was invited to a quad camp at Potomac Boat Club in Washington, DC. That would have entailed several weeks of selection followed by several weeks of training for those athletes that made the boat. I seriously considered that option, and at first it seemed like the obvious choice. I would have the opportunity to race side by side with some of the girls that beat me at Olympic Trials. Making the boat would also have been a big step towards making my first National Team.

But when I thought about it further, and really thought about what was important to me, it stopped making as much sense.

My goal isn't to make national teams, but to be the fastest rower I can be. I moved across the country because GMS is the best place for me to train effectively, and Guenter is the best coach I've ever worked with. Under his guidance, I thrive.

Going to quad camp was probably my best chance at making a national team this cycle. It was very scary to say no to that opportunity and instead choose to race the single this season, knowing I would be going head-to-head with some really fast women. Now that I have committed, though, it feels like the right choice.

I have posted my fastest times ever for 4x500m and 2x1000m in the single. I am listening to my body and adjusting the plan to my needs. I have gotten to put back on some of the weight I lost for Olympic Trials. And I managed to fit in some work, to start refilling the bank accounts!

So, long story short, my next race will in the 1x at Senior non-Olympic World Championship Trials. I will post more information as it becomes available.

Obviously, my A-goal is to win the thing, but that would be quite something. My (more realistic) B-goal is to make the four-boat final—something I have never done at a Trials event with more than four boats entered.

Many thanks to Picky Bars for feeding my dreams. Here's to chasing the next one!

Two dreamers at Olympic Trials. photo thanks to Sydney Taylor

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Olympic Trials

Last weekend, I watched Olympic marathon trials on TV.

If you aren't following the brand Oiselle on social media, you should start. One of their favorite hashtags, #WomanUp, embodies everything about this brand. They have made it very easy to follow and cheer for a group of hard working female athletes, including Lauren Fleshman and Kara Goucher.

In my own lead up to Olympic trials, I have found lots of moments of doubt. Do I deserve to be dreaming this big? If I dare to think that I can win, what does that say about my ego?

So watching Kara Goucher, a two-time Olympian, place a heart breaking fourth place, was incredibly moving. It told me that you are allowed to dream big, even if you don't make it. If some of the biggest names in a sport can reach for the stars and still fall short, there is no shame in falling short.

I had lofty goals for my training this winter, and, although I'm ahead of where I was last year, I'm still facing the disappointment of not quite reaching them. Every missed or poorly executed workout, I could feel some of my dream slipping through my fingers.

Maybe I was crazy to expect a 7:10 2k from myself this year, a 9 second improvement from my PR. But maybe I can still keep dreaming. There is no shame in falling short.

Our last training block was a 10-week lead up to a 2k test. We started with a huge block of high volume, low intensity cross-training, followed by a rapid transition to higher intensity erg work. I nailed the first half of this block, and then really struggled with the second half.

Physically, it can be great to push so hard you have to back down. But mentally, I was left with a lot of doubt heading into our 2k test. I ended up nailing the execution, just a full split slower than I'd wanted, and pulled an exact match of my 7:19.5 PR from last year—definitely not the 7:16 of my fantasies. Although it was a great piece, the combination of doubt and missed opportunity left me with mixed feelings.



Fortunately, our coach, Guenter, is super responsive. I asked to add some confidence building work into our training schedule, and he also added another 2k erg test after another 4 week training block.

Already, I've hit some personal bests on some of our bread and butter workouts. Guenter is optimistic that we have nailed the timing of a final buildup before trials. Hopefully our next 2k lives up to those expectations!

That will be our last big erg session before Olympic Rowing Trials in late April. Here at GMS, we have had some intermittent access to rowable water. Morgan and I will head down to Florida in March to get consistent water time in the lead up to Trials. Hopefully we can get a few sessions out on the water before heading south, to work out some kinks and break in our hands.

It is also the beginning of weight loss season. I have started a slow and steady descent from winter weight of about 134 pounds down to racing weight of 124 pounds. I like to give myself at least a week for each pound I have to lose, and even that rarely feels generous enough.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Fall Racing

The docks came out today, officially marking the end of the fall season. Granted, fall racing has been over for a month, but this seems like an appropriate time to recap the season. Sometimes, we need a month of space to make a valuable reflection on our performances.

Fall racing has never been my favorite. I'm not very good at it, and I have trouble taking it seriously without taking it too seriously. The best way to get better at something, though, is to practice, so that's what I've been doing.

I started my fall racing season with the Head of the Riverfront. To help me take it less seriously, Guenter had us 2k test the day before. Clearly, that did the trick—in a strong headwind/current combination against open weight competitors, I just went out to race hard and have some fun in the single. I came home with my first win of the season!



More importantly, I learned a lot. I learned that a second every 500 meters adds up over 5 kilometers. I learned to look back more often to find the best course. I learned that I sink into lulls when I'm by myself. I learned to race, and enjoy the back and forth of passing other crews.

All good lessons before the big event: Head of the Charles!

Last year, I put in a bid for both the single and double and got neither. I was super excited this year to get a doubles bid with Morgan—my doubles partner from Elite Nationals and 2 seat from our quad this summer.

We entered the Championship Double category, with a special lightweight medal designation. That meant that we had to weigh in (133lbs maximum weight) the morning of our event, and were much smaller than many of our competitors. This was a big disadvantage in the crazy headwind. The heavy double that started directly behind us made up almost 20 seconds in the first 500m as we barreled into the worst wind on the course.

Top 10 finishers in our event
Fortunately, our lightweight competitors were equally small in the wind. Morgan and I won the lightweight category, and placed lucky #7 overall.

We won a medal!
My final race of the fall season is by far my least favorite: Fall Speed Order. This race is a special kind of torture. Saturday there is a 130 pound weigh-in (way too light for this time of year) followed by a 6000 meter test on the Concept 2 ergometer. Sunday, on still tired legs, there is a 4.5km rowing racing in singles.

We were coming off of a few hard weeks of training, and had seriously backed off of training for a full week to try to recover for this race. I was starting to feel better, and so set myself three goals. Good: Just do better than last year. Better: Improve on the previous week's 6k test. Best: Set a PR.

It turns out none of those three were in the cards. I finished 11 seconds slower than last year's time, also a poor performance.

And so, with less than 24 hours, I had to pick my sorry butt up and get ready to attack a new day on the water. Overall, I was really pleased with a second place finish, closing the margin on Emily, the event winner on the erg and the water.


Once racing was over, we hit the ground running. Our next big regatta is US Rowing Olympic Trials in Sarasota this April. With 5 months to prepare, I've got a lot of fitness left to build.

Fortunately, I've taken nearly 30 seconds off of my 6k erg since Fall Speed Order! If I can continue that rate of improvement, I'll have the world record by trials. ;)

How did your fall go? Ready for winter training?

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Finding a Training Rhythm

Since I started training three and a half years ago, I've always been a big fan of "work smarter, not harder".

It has gotten me really far without any serious injury or illness along the way. I've dropped almost a minute on my 2k erg score, built out incredible base fitness, and learned to move a single incredibly efficiently.

But as my progress has slowed short of my ultimate goal, I have realized that working smarter is no longer enough. All of the athletes at the level I hope to reach are working smartly. They all have great training plans, great coaches, great habits and great boat skills.

Three and a half years is long enough to figure out the "right way" for me. And I think I've done just that–I'm on a training plan I love, in a place I enjoy training, with a coach I trust, in a boat that fits, eating food that makes me feel good.

It's time to start working harder at it.



Of course, that's easier said than done.

Unlearning the habits of three years of training is uncomfortable. No more calculations. If I pull 2:08 for another 1000 meters and then 2:02 for the last 300m, I can bring my split down by 2 seconds. No more strategizing. I can switch these two workouts and it will be the same volume but feel easier. Just work.
"Stopping thinking about the shoulds and the coulds—I should be lifting more or I could be fitter. Accept where you are and focus on just doing." - Krystal Melendez
There is constant discomfort during both training and recovery. I'm learning to accept, even embrace, it, rather than working to fix it.

During workouts, I've been searching for "flow", a concept Wil Heywood introduced to me several years back and I promptly dismissed. I find it best during my cool downs after weight-lifting sessions, when the lights in the erg room have shut off and it's too dark to see the Concept2 monitor. I set a timer on my phone, and just swing with the music until my time is up.

In the weight room, I've learned to stop thinking about how I'm going to finish the workout, and instead focus on just doing. I'm adding weight to the bar with no intention or thought of the repercussions—just to do it.

Most importantly, I'm learning to silence the voice in my head—the voice that tells me I'm tired, no exhausted. I'm learning to listen to the training plan and accept the wave of exhaustion that hits me midday on Wednesday, letting it drag my body through the riptide of Thursday morning and out to the calm seas of our afternoon off.

I expect it now. I know that fatigue and emptiness lingers with training or with rest and that sometimes the familiar discomfort of a long slow slog on the erg is better than the uncontrolled discomfort of moping in bed.

"Americans: they want everything yesterday." Guenter Beutter, coach extraordinaire

Now, I wait. You can never compare one training plan or approach to another, because you've only executed one of them. The most you can do is hope what you're doing takes you to your destination.


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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sweet Cinnamon Tofu Sandwich

What do you do when you suddenly come by 30+ pounds of tasty local organic apples? Put them in everything!

I was worried this sandwich would be too weird, but it was a tasty way to use apples and improve the protein count of a sweeter sandwich. A great alternative to PB&J, we actually ate these for dinner!

Here are the instructions:
- Slice the tofu into thin pieces and press to get out some of the water
- Dip tofu in liquid/fat (I used melted coconut oil, Earth Balance and cinnamon whiskey!)
- Dip wet tofu in cinnamon sugar mix (use some brown sugar for bonus points)
- Bake in the oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes, or until the sugar gets gooey
- Serve on soft whole wheat bread with sliced tart apples and a thin layer of peanut butter.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Vacation, Worlds and the Beginning of Fall

Last month, Dan and I took a much needed vacation! We are both fortunate with flexible work schedules, and were able to head west for three weeks.

My coach gave me permission to take 1-2 weeks completely off. I knew it would be difficult to train away from home, so I fit in training where I could. I ended up taking about 1.5 weeks completely off and another 2 weeks of half-time training.

We started in California, where we were able to visit my parents, grandparents and sister. I went on some nice long runs and bike rides, saw a baseball game, hiked to Land's End, ate a lot of food, drank a lot of wine and generally recovered from a pretty stressful 11 months.

Mom and Dad during our Land's End hike.
Dan doing Dan things.
All of the fruits and veggies all the time.
My Dad's fresh bread
New sneakers!

The second half of vacation was spent in Oregon. I flew into Eugene, and immediately fell in love with the place. We had an awesome vegan brunch before heading to the coast to escape the heat.

On the coast, Dan found a crazy awesome camp site. We stayed two nights while we visited Dan's dad, who was docked in Coos Bay for boat repairs. We then drove up the coast, visited Dan's mom, picked blackberries, had an amazing meal in Portland and flew back to Connecticut.

Just a small haul of berries.
The only person in the world that makes Dan look short.
Our campsite.
Sunset in Coos Bay.
Back in Connecticut, it was time to get back to serious training. Our return coincided quite nicely with the Rowing World Championships. We were able to watch the races most morning before our training sessions, which was great motivation those first uncomfortable weeks.

Although the U.S. was plagued with injury and illness in this important year, the country still had a fabulous showing, particularly on the women's side. The U.S. women qualified all of the Olympic boat classes, and reached the A-final in all of the non-Olympic boat classes (including one gold and one bronze medal, no less!).

However, if you have to pick just two races to watch, I recommend the LM4x and M1x A-finals. Very exciting. Watch at worldrowing.com

Now that the 2014-15 season is all wrapped up, it's time to start looking forward to the Olympic year! I have always known that making the team in 2016 was a stretch. Gaining speed takes a long time, and improvements have been slow for me. However, I'm in a good place going into this fall season and poised to have my best year yet. Who knows what it will bring, but I'm excited to see where it will take me.

Check back soon for updates on my fall racing schedule, winter training plans and ways you can help support my dreams!

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