Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - A Year in Review

It's New Year's Eve.  Everywhere you look someone is doing a 'Best Of' feature for 2010.  Well, who am I to buck tradition.  Okay, actually, I buck tradition all the time.  But, frankly, I just don't have any new material at the moment, and I can't just leave you hanging until 2011 now, can I?

Let's start with the raw data.


For 2010 I had 103 swim workouts for a total of 128.75 miles in 80 hours, 39 minutes and 50 seconds.  That's 1.25 miles per workout at an average pace of 1.63 MPH.  Yeah, I know, that seem's pretty slow, but that 1.63 MPH also includes all those putzy form drills and kick-board workouts from last spring (just sayin').

My biggest month for swimming was June, where I spent a total of 13.81 hours in the water and knocked out just under 38,000 yards, or 21.6 miles.  Sweet.


I spent 218 hours, 16 minutes and 52 seconds in the saddle this year and rolled through 3,673 miles.  Of course, that doesn't include the trainer workout I have planned for this evening.  I hit the road 133 times and averaged 27.6 miles per ride.  That's not too bad - it's approximately the same as a Wednesday night ride with the Twin Cities Spoke, or a round-trip commute to work.

I had WAY more cycling miles in August than any other month.  I spent 36 hours and 45 minutes riding a total of 625.76 miles.  Of course, a couple of century rides, including Tour de Tonka sure helped pad my totals. 


Considering how much I love to swim, I was surprised to find out that I actually had more running hours logged in 2010.  It took me 96 hours and 23 minutes to cover 562.33 miles.  Again, that doesn't count my planned dreadmill workout over lunch, so feel free to add another 3-4 miles, if you don't mind.

August was also my biggest month for running.  This isn't too surprising considering that it was the heaviest month leading up to the Ironman.  I covered 82.9 miles in 14 hours and 13 minutes.  The longest run that month was 17.5 miles, or 2 laps around Medicine Lake.  Sure, it wasn't the slog-fest of the Ironman, but at least I ran the whole thing.

Grand Totals - After you add in some weight training and a few Pilates sessions, you hit a grand total of 411 hours, 48 minutes and 59 seconds.  Dang.  Why do I suddenly feel sleepy?

Wait just a moment!  412 hours is actually 19 few hours of training compared to 2009 where I slaved away for 433 hours.  What the heck?  Well in 2009 I just plugged away week after week without really having a plan in place.  I finished a 1/2 Ironman in September of that year and within a couple of weeks was back into the same routine. 

This year, there a distinct goal.  All weeks and months ramped up to September 12.  However, there was also plenty of time dedicated to rest.  The result?  Well, I feel stronger and faster than I did last year and my race times are still going down down down.  Which, I guess is what this whole thing is about anyway.  So, in the end, I suppose it's more about the quality of the workouts than the quantity of the workouts.  Nice.


Well, if you've ever been to my blog before, you know that the big race this year was Ironman Wisconsin.  Naturally, I did all sorts of posts related to this event.

Let's see.  You can start with the weekend leading up to the race.

Then, there's the morning of the race, up until the starter's cannon.

Of course, after that, you'll want to check out the swim (You'll like it.  I get kicked in the 'manberries' twice), the bike, and the run.

But, the Ironman wasn't the only race I did last year.  I had a blast at the Liberty Half Ironman last June and rocked a wicked-fast swim split at the Chaska Triathlon in July.  I even gave it a go with some running-only races this fall, including the Monster Dash 10-miler and the Drumstick Dash 10K.

Oh, and if you get bored with all the race reports, you'll probably want to check out some of the fun I had in the kitchen, including my failed attempts to murder my friends with pork products: Attempt #1  Attempt #2.

That's all I've got, well, for this year anyway.  I'll be back shortly with that post I've been promising about indoor cycle trainng.  I just want to get some decent photos, but trust, me it's coming.  I'm also narrowing down my race choices for next year.  So, you've got that to look forward to.

In any event, Happy New Year!  Stay safe tonight and hit the ground running in 2011.

Later Gators.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Christmas is a holiday that means all kinds of things to all kinds of people.  For some, it's about family, or a vacation from work, or for some (let's be honest now) it's about opening the presents. 

Regardless of your religious beliefs, I think we can all admit that the origin of Christmas is a celebration of Jesus Christ's birth.  Yeah, yeah - I know that early Christians adopted the Winter Solstice celebration from pagans as their time of year to celebrate, but I'm not here to argue religious history. 

I'm also not here to convert anybody.  I know what I believe.  What you believe is your own business.  But, when it came down to it, Jesus was about two things: 1 - Love God; 2 - Love your neighbor. Again, whether you believe in God is your own business, but I think we all can agree that the world could use a little more of the whole 'Love Your Neighbor' thing. 

So, by now, you're probably thinking "Well, that's great.  What's your point?"  Okay, okay.  My point is this:  When someone we know has a birthday, we give them presents.  So, when Jesus has a birthday, shouldn't we give him some presents too?  Ahh, but here's the rub: how do you give a present to a man that was all about 'loving your neighbor'?

Just a little food for thought

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  Have a blessed holiday season!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Runners Vs. Joggers

Tonight, I did my first outdoor run since the Drumstick Dash 10K back on Thanksgiving.  Since part of my family celebrated Christmas over the weekend, I got the chance to try out the my new gear, including the bacalava I got from my mom and the sweet long-sleeved top I got from my sis. 

Now, for those of you who live outside of the Twin Cities or Minnesota in general, you may not be aware that it's been a little snowy here recently.  Aww, who am I kidding?  Old Man Winter is beating us like a red-headed stepchild. Most of the roads are plowed, but a good chunk of the public sidewalks haven't been hit for a while.  So, the footing is pretty bad.  I only averaged about 10:30 per mile.  But, with all the huffing and puffing at least I knew I was getting a good workout.

I stopped at a gas station at the half-way point in my run.  First, I needed to get some cash from the ATM (I like to multi-task with workouts whenever possible).  Plus, I needed to de-fog my sunglasses.  While I waited, I started to chat with the attendant.  She said, "You must be a jogger, huh?  You look like you're a jogger.  My sister is a jogger too". 

We chatted for a couple minutes longer, but man, for some reason being called a 'jogger' rather than a 'runner' really got to me.  Of course, I didn't correct her because I live in Minnesota, so I'm a classic passive-aggressive.  Read: I won't say anything to your face, but I'll gladly rip you anonymously on the Interwebs when I get home.

For some reason, the word 'jogger' conjures up images of pudgy middle-aged men in sweatsuits shuffling around the neighborhood, or trendy moms pushing giant 4x4 strollers while yakking on their Bluetooth.  I'm a RUNNER man.  Runners are machines.  We're speed machines.  We're Energizer Bunnies in sneakers. 

I don't know.  Should it have bothered me so much?  Probably not.  What do you think?

In any event.  I bid adieu to my buddy at the gas station and headed back home through the snow.  When I got home, I snapped a few quick pics.

Here's one of my bacalava:
As you can see, it keeps me plenty warm.
This is not to be confused with baklava:
I do NOT suggest wearing this on your head to keep warm.

Incidentally, when I did a Google image search for bacalava, the first result was the following image, which begs the question: what possible circumstance would require you to wear a bacalava while topless?
I can't imagine any practical use for this outfit.
I also grabbed a shot of my new long-sleeved top:
Pasty Skin + Sweaty Ta-Tas = Super Sexy
That's all for now.  I'll be back shortly for a mini-special on indoor cycle training during the winter months.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Fun in the Kitchen #9 - Reruns

Yeah, I know.  With Christmas approaching, you'd think that I'd have something grandiose in store for you this week.  Well, the fact of the matter is that my sister and her new hubby will be hosting their first Christmas dinner tomorrow.  They'll be covering most of the food, but did request that I whip up another cheesecake.  The only difference being that this time around it'll be a plain cheesecake rather than the marble cheesecake from a few weeks ago.  Why the change?  No good reason.  Actually, it's a dumb reason - I simply forgot to pick up heavy cream for the milk-chocolate sauce.  Whoops.

If you want to review the initial attempt at a cheesecake, go ahead and click here.  Most of the steps (aside from the missing chocolate sauce) remained the same.  Although, I did tweak the baking process just a tad.  I didn't like all the cracks in the top of the cheesecake the last time around.

Sure, it tasted great, but it was a little fugly.

So, this time I lowered the oven rack one notch to give it a little more distance from the top heating elements.  I also reduced the heat just a little earlier.  I kept it at 500 degrees for the first 8 minutes (rather than 10) before turning it down to 200 for another 90 minutes.  The result: Success!  Check it out:
Ahhhh.  Now THAT'S more like it.  No cracks!
I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.  In addition to snarfing down some of that golden-brown cheesecake, The Wife and I are going to see my sis' new place down in Rochester.  I've also been told they'll be serving Swedish food, including lefse (think Swedish tortillas), krumkake (waffle cookies) and potatis korv (Swedish Sausage).  Trust me.  This is gonna be good.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An open letter to Mother Nature and Old Man Winter

Hi guys.  It's me, Eric.  You remember me, up here in Minnesota.  I'm the one that used to beg for snow back in high school so that the cross country skiers could wax up and hit the trails. 

Now, you guys know that when it comes to winter weather, Minnesotan's are a hearty folk.  We understand that, while the calendar tells us winter starts on December 21, you guys could start sending the white stuff our way as early as October.  

I don't want you to think I'm not grateful.  You gave us some pretty sweet weather last summer, and I know that there's a bit of a penance that needs to be paid for all those beautiful training days.  But, c'mon guys, this is getting silly.   I woke up this morning, looked out my window and saw this:

Half-way up the window?  Really?!?
I though, 'Okay.  Whatever.  I'll dig out the driveway and be done with it'.  So, I did.  It was a good job, if you don't mind me saying.  The Wife was able to drive to work for a half-shift.   I patted myself on the back, snuggled up on the sofa, and all was right with the world.

A few hours later, I got a call from The Wife.  "I'm stuck," she said.

"Oh, that sucks," I said, "Let me hop in the other car.  Where are you stuck?"

"I'm in the driveway."

I thought, "Hmmm...that can't be right.  I just cleared that thing down to the concrete a couple hours ago."

But there she was, half-way up the driveway, spinning her wheels in 6 inches of fresh snow.  So, I cleared the snow.  Again.  She made it into the garage.  I patted myself on the back and hopped onto the trainer for a nice, long spin (to cool my percolating temper) and all was right with the world. 

After the spin, I got cleaned up and asked The Wife what she wanted for dinner. We decided on Chinese food, so I got ready to head out and pick up some Lo Mein and Fried Rice.  I love me some Lo Mein and Fried Rice.

Do you know what I found when I lifted the garage door?  DO YOU KNOW WHAT I FOUND?  I found another 6 inches of snow.  Now, this may have been 6 inches of NEW snow, or maybe you just decided to blow all that shoveled snow back onto the driveway.  I don't know, and frankly, I don't care.  What I DO know is that this has got to stop. 

Sure, the two of you like to beat the crap out of us up here in the hinterland.  But c'mon guys, this is just showing off - and nobody likes a showoff. What good is snow for cross country skiers if they can't even open their front door, let alone drive to the trails?

You two had better get your act together, or I'm moving this show to Arizona.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again - Sort of

It has now been a week and a half since the Drumstick Dash and, prior to this afternoon, I hadn't done any workouts.  I've been fighting some sort of cough/upper respiratory crud for a while.  For the most part, I can deal with the coughing, well, during the daytime at least. 

The big problem is that the coughing is really jacking with my sleep schedule.  I've been bleeding off vacation time before the end of the year, so, at least I haven't had to work since last Thursday.  But, since I'll be going back to the rat race tomorrow, I decided to take some action today.

I headed over to the gym this afternoon and hit the stationary bike first.  Sure, I've got a trainer at home, but it was nice to skip setting it up and sweating all over the basement floor.  Anyhow, it felt GREAT to get my heart rate moving again, and I realized quickly how much my quads missed 'the burn'.  After 45 minutes of a pre-programed hill routine, I headed over to the studio for my weekly Pilates class.

I started doing weekly Pilates classes soon after the Ironman.  I had tried a yoga class, but I didn't really dig the spirituality they were preaching.  I'm not looking to become 'One' with anything.  I just want to be more flexible and have a stronger core.  So, Pilates seemed like a pretty good fit.

Now, to be fair, this is 'Mat Pilates', so we're not using a lot of hardware, like the famous Reformer.
Uh....No, thank you.
No, we just use a yoga mat and, for some exercises, a resistance ring. 
Okay, now THIS I think I can handle.
What I get is a really good core workout, plus some good stretching - especially for my legs.  Now, this isn't your run-of-the-mill ab workout.  Anyone can do a few crunches.  I can usually feel these workouts a day or two after the class.  Sometimes, I'm afraid if I sneeze too hard I'll poop my pants.  Yeah.  Good stuff.

But I digress.

Today's class was refreshing.  No, there weren't any crazy breakthroughs and I didn't suddenly develop a rock-hard six pack (still just a quarter barrel for me), but it was a still a step in the right direction.  We'll have to see how tonight goes.  Hopefully, I can get a solid night's sleep.  Then, I can give running another try on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

I'll keep you posted. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Holiday Gift Guide for the Triathlete in Your Life

Holiday shopping for a triathlete can be a tricky business.  We're finicky folks that can spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over things like swim goggles, hydration systems and shoelaces. 

Now, before I get started, I need to say that the best thing you can do is to ask your athlete what they want.  They'll probably already have a few good ideas.  Plus, asking saves you from having to worry on Christmas morning whether those new Speedo briefs you got them were really a good idea.  But, for those of you who thrive off of surprising their loved ones...well, I'm here for you.

What NOT to buy your athlete
Let's start with things that should be avoided.

Cycling Shorts and Running Shoes - These can be very personal choices for an athlete.  Unless you know ahead of time that they prefer a certain brand of shorts, or certain model of running shoe, it's probably best to steer clear.  Sure, they might say 'thank you' and smile awkwardly.  But, you don't want them to find out on mile 2 of a 10-mile run that their shiny new running shoes give them blisters.  Poorly fitting cycling shorts will soon find their way to the bottom of a drawer and be given the role of 'Emergency Backup'. What's worse is that you could pick the wrong color shorts and your loved one could end up like these, um, 'upstanding' young gentlemen.
Uh, excuse me.  EXCUSE ME!  My eyes are up HERE!

Nutrition - Now, I'm not saying that a couple of Clif Bars in a stocking is a bad thing.  They make a good post-workout snack.  Just try to avoid the 24-Packs of energy bars and giant tubs of drink mixes.  I, for one, still can't eat a Shot Blok since finishing the Ironman almost 3 months ago.

What will REALLY make your athlete's day

Race Photos - Most racers hesitate when buying these for themselves.  That makes it a perfect opportunity for you.  Many races have contracts with photographers that will store photos for months or years.  A quick Google search for, say, something like 'Liberty Triathlon Photos' should put you on the photographer's website where you can buy that really rad photo of your athlete hammering it on the bike.  Toss that sucker into a frame and you're in like Flynn.

Race Entries - Lots of races have their best deals for entry fees at the end of the year.  If you know that your athlete does the same race every year, offer to cover their entry costs.  Maybe they'll even put your name on their jersey as a 'sponsor'.

Massages - A gift certificate for a 1-hour sports massage is a GREAT way to tell your athlete you love 'em.  Better yet, schedule it for the afternoon after a shorter race, or the next day after a longer race. It'll be just the reward they're looking for.

Garmin Gear - If you've got a little extra money to spend, think about a GPS/Heart Rate Monitor.  I LOVE my Garmin Forerunner 305.
The Garmin Forerunner 305

It tracks all of my runs and rides so that I never have to slave over Google Maps to find out where I went.  It also tracks my heart rate, pace, distance and just about every other stat that you can think of.  There's also the Forerunner 310xt (in orange below) if you're looking for a waterproof model and the Forerunner 405 if you want something with a smaller screen that looks more watch-y and less like a windshield on your wrist.

Something Safe - Every cyclist should have a Road ID.  These handy little bracelets and anklets provide vital information in the event that something serious were to happen to you out there on the road.
For the REALLY hardcore runners, you know, the one's that run outside even in the dead of night during winter, a reflective vest can come in handy. 

Something Funky - Wanna make your athlete's day?  Try something unique that every other athlete may not already own.  Get them a swim cap with a funky design like this guy:

Jersey's are great for this too.  I'm partial to these offerings from Share the Damn Road.

Books and Magazine Subscriptions - One of the perks for signing up for the Ironman was getting a year's subscription to LAVA Magazine.  I've received 3 issues so far and read each of them from cover to cover.  They've officially replaced Uncle John's Bathroom Reader as my favorite, ahem, 'alone time' entertainment.  If your athlete is just getting into the sport, I also recommend Triathlete Magazine.  It's less intimidating than LAVA and a bit more accessible, but the articles aren't quite as in-depth.

For books, I highly recommend The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joe Friel.  I received my copy from a friend and it's been handy for everything from nutrition, to goal setting, to creating a training schedule.  It's good stuff. 

Gift Certificates - I know, I know.  Lots of you don't like the idea of gift cards, because they aren't as personal, or they don't come in a nice big box. But, when all else fails, a few extra bucks at a local bike shop, Gear West or REI can go a long way.

Odds 'n' Ends - For quick, easy and cheap gifts, you can't really go wrong with Body Glideor Chamois Butt'r to keep the blisters away.  My sister gave me a CamelBak Podium Bottle last year.  I liked it so much I bought a second so I could have a couple on hand for longer rides. A cyclist can never have too many spare tubesYankz! laces are great for runners, and  reflective tape can be added to any clothing to temporarily brighten things up.

Well, that should get you started.  Don't stress out too much if you can't pick out the perfect item to give your athlete this year.  Hopefully they have lives outside of training and racing.  A nice sweater or a warm pair of socks never hurt anybody. 

Oh, and Santa, if you're reading this, what I really, really REALLY want is an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.  But if that's not cool, I suppose I could settle for a Leopard TT.

Happy Shopping!

Oh, yeah, and don't forget to 'Like' me on Facebook to keep notified of my future posts.  Just use the button on the right side of the page, or click here. (You too Santa!)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fun in the Kitchen #8 - Marble Cheesecake

Several weeks ago, I shared with you a roast chicken recipe.  Everything seemed to turn out pretty well.
Looks good to me.
Now, I understand that you can't please everybody, but I was a little surprised by one of the comments.

As far as the whole bacon thing goes.  Well,  I think I more than covered the wonders of my favorite pork product in my last Fun in the Kitchen post. 
Do not taunt the Bacon Eruption.
But, to call me a food racist?  Really?  REALLY!?!   Well, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous (if that IS your real name) this dessert is just for you: Marble Cheesecake.

Now, before we get going, I would highly recommend that you have two pieces of kitchen hardware.  First, is a springform pan.  It's basically a pie tin with sides that separate from the bottom.  This will make things a heckuva lot easier when your cheesecake is done.
The bottom and sides lock together to form a pie pan.
The second thing you should have is a good stand mixer.  Is it possible to make a cheesecake without a mixer?  Sure.  But, you'll end up with some awfully sore forearms.
This ought to do the trick.
Let's take a look at the ingredient list.  It's fairly lengthy, but there's nothing too exotic.

For the Crust (oh, did I mention we'll be making our own crust?)
1 1/4 cups Graham Cracker crumbs - about 10-12 crackers
5 tablespoons melted butter (unsalted)
1 tablespoon sugar

For the Filling
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese (5 packages)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 egg yolks (you know, just the yellow part)
6 eggs
1 tablespoon butter (unsalted)

For the Creamy Chocolate Marble
1/4 cup heavy cream
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Filling on the left, chocolate marble in the middle and crust on the right.
The Crust
Sure, you could take the easy way out and just buy a pre-made crust, but where would the fun be in that?  Making a crust from scratch is a piece of cake, uh...crust.  Trust me.  Just mix all 3 ingredients into a bowl and then dump it into the springform pan.  Then, evenly flatten the mixture across the bottom of the pan.  Any flat surface will do.  I used a large measuring cup.
Just squash it down in there.
Next, bake the crust at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  12 minutes seemed to work fine for me. 
Set the crust aside and get ready to do some mixing.

The Filling
The idea here is to just keep the mixer running and add the ingredients at regular intervals.

Minute 0: Start by cutting the cream cheese into smaller cubes and mixing them on low.  I would recommend using the 'dough-hook' to start out, otherwise, you'll be cleaning out the beater every couple of seconds. 

Minute 3: Add the salt and half of your sugar.

Minute 6: Add the rest of your sugar

Minute 9: The mixture will start to loosen up at this point, so go ahead and switch out the dough-hook for the standard mixer attachment. Then, you can add the sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla extract.
The more ingredients you add, the more it will turn from lumpy to soupy.  That's a good thing.
Minute 12: Add the egg yolks.

Minute 15: Start adding the eggs - 2 every 30 seconds.

That's it.  You're filling is mixed.  Go ahead and pour it over the crust.  Be gentle.
The filling should just about top off the pan.
Now, we could stop here and just pop this sucker into the oven.  But then this wouldn't be a very diverse dessert, would it?  Let's make everybody happy and add some chocolate.

The Chocolate Marble
Bring the heavy cream to a boil.  Then, add the chocolate and reduce the heat.  Whisk the in the chocolate and in just a couple of minutes, you'll have a wonderful milky mixture.
I can't think of any dessert that melted milk chocolate won't make better.
Spoon the chocolate onto the top of the cheesecake filling.
Then, use a knife to gently incorporate the mixture.  Make sure to push some of the chocolate down deeper into the pan.  Before long, you'll have a nice, diverse, marble.

When you're happy with your marble, slide the pan into an oven set to 500 degrees.   After 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 200. Now, the top of my cheesecake was a nice dark golden brown.  If you want a lighter brown top, turn down the heat a couple minutes earlier.

Now, the filling is going to expand in the oven.  After 1 1/2 hours, run a knife around the outside of the pan.  Why?  Well, the filling is going to expand in the oven.  Later on, when it cools, it will contract again.  If the sides of the filling are stuck to the pan, the filling will crack.  You want a nice pretty cheesecake, don't you?

After another 90 minutes, carefully remove the pan and let it cool on a rack.
Oops.  I can see your crack!
This cheesecake is going to be pretty thick, so it'll take several hours to fully cool down.  In fact, I like to make mine a day ahead and let them cool overnight in the fridge.

When you're ready to serve this puppy, let it warm up for about 30 minutes.  To make the springform easier to remove, microwave a damp dishtowel and wrap it around the pan.  After a couple of minutes, you can loosen the spring and carefully remove the pan.  Then, you're ready to slice and serve.  Enjoy!
Ahh, vanilla and chocolate working together.  Ain't diversity great?
Now, I'm not going to take credit for this recipe.  I got it out of my America's Test Kitchen cookbook.  Sure, I may have tweaked a few things here and there, but I don't want to take credit for their work.

In any event, with Christmas just around the corner, you can look forward to some good down-home cooking.  By which I mean food from the Homeland.  That's right. Swedish food!