Tuesday, February 28, 2012

[INSERT RONCO FOOD DEHYDRATOR HERE]

It's a rest day in the daily serial television program Kelzie's Life, so naturally I wanted to see how much trouble I could get into.  Of course, the caveat being that it could only be trouble I could get into from the couch.

Turns out you can make home-made beef jerky from the couch.

I'm not sure when this turned into a cooking blog, but please bear with me.  (Re)considering the food I consume and eating clean(er)(ish) has been a theme in my recent thoughts and actions, so it does stand to reason that its influence in my daily life would eventually spill over to influence the on-line presentation of my daily life.

When I say clean(er)(ish), I don't mean vegetarian, vegan, or strictly dairy-, caffeine-, or gluten-free diets, although I probably qualify as any one of those on any one day, usually by accident.  I mean just being more aware of what is in the food I eat, making more conscious choices of this-not-that, and not breaking the bank trying to eat better versions of the foods I like.

I like beef jerky.  I do not like monosodium glutamate or sodium erythorbate.  Unless they taste like rainbows and unicorns.  I decided MDA wouldn't lead me astray in making "clean" beef jerky, even if I don't eat "primal" or "paleo" or "modern caveman" or whatever.

From my couch - there was a magic wand involved - I amassed these ingredients:


** 2 lbs. of grass-fed, lean beef, sliced 1/4" thick across the grain
** 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
** 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
** 1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
** 3 gloves of garlic, crushed or minced
** 2.5 tsp. onion powder
** 2 tsp. chili powder
** up to 1 tsp. each of salt and black pepper

I wanted grass-fed beef with the least amount of marbling, as inexpensive as possible.  (I also asked for a pony, but my magic wand was all out.)  The meat counter was out of flank steak for the day, so I was "encouraged" towards a London broil that in the end had almost no marbling, but a huge streak of fat running right through parts of it.  Fat doesn't dehydrate, it melts and never evaporates, so ... Next time, I am going to tell the 300 lb. guy covered in tattoos and wielding a huge cleaver exactly which meat I want and he is going to LISTEN. 

It is here that I would encourage non-meat-eaters, as well as people who simply don't like gratuitous pictures of raw and cooking meat, to abandon this post.  I promise a certified organic vegan blog post in the future to make it up to you.




The Canvas

I opted for the hot marinade option, because I had a rest day, not a rest soak-over-night-and-cook-for-8-hours-the-following-day.  I voila-d the marinade together...

The Paint

Got it boiling, and added the meat, several strips at a time, for two minutes per batch.



Next time, assuming I have the time or think ahead, I will marinade overnight.  Despite only being in the hot marinade for 2 minutes, the beef cooked more than intended, which changed the consistency of the final product away from what our mouths would recognize as store-bought jerky.  Plus once the meat was even slightly cooked the marinade stayed on the outside, rather than truly soaking in, so the final product has more of a glaze than a marinade.  Still pretty freaking yummy though.

Ready! Set! Wait for a long time!

I don't actually own a Ronco dehydrator or similar appliance, so I used my oven - six hours on ~160-ish F - to dehydrate the marinated beef.  Luckily it was a slightly chilly day in Austin (for those in the Midwest, read: tropical) so having my oven heating for six hours meant I didn't have to put on a long-sleeve shirt.

Halfway through, I flipped the slices.  See what I mean about the glaze?

Already flipped on the left, not yet flipped on the right.

Tada!  Yummy, if not pretty.



I started with 1.88 lb (30.1 oz) of meat for $16.90 (plus tax), and ended up with 11.25 oz of jerky.  That's $1.50/oz of jerky, plus a few cents if you factor in the hit to my utility bill.  I certainly am not going to be putting commercial jerky enterprises out of business, but the jerky tastes all the sweeter...er, smokier...knowing that I made it myself and there are no "-ates" in it.

In the end, it really wasn't that much trouble.  The biggest pains were staring down a surly meat vendor and knowing I couldn't go anywhere for 6-8 hours to escape the noise of the floor of the apartment above me being refinished.

Because this jerky has no preservatives - which was kinda the whole point - I have to vacuum-pack (another appliance I do not own) or wrap it very well to store in the freezer.  However, I seriously doubt it will last long enough to need freezing.  Which is okay because I already have a bead on genuine Texas-hunting-license killed venison for the next batch.

Ok, so maybe I do eat a little bit like a modern caveman.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dinner For Two Dollah

I made up this recipe out of desperation one night, which surely means it already exists somewhere on the interwebs.  No duplication is intended; if you are familiar with my cooking skillz, you understand my sincerity.

WARNING: If your taste buds equate cilantro to soap, this recipe is not for you. 



Ingredients:

** little da'll do ya of olive oil
** one 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed [I have also used drained and rinsed chickpeas; kidney beans were a let-down because my mind kept rebelling "you forget some of the ingredients for chili"]
** one 15 oz can diced tomatoes, DON'T DRAIN! [I use low sodium diced; stewed also work]
**liberal dousing of dried cilantro [fresh would probably work too]
**half of a big onion, sliced very thin, and then the slices halved diametrically
** optional: I have added steamed broccoli, carrots, cauliflower when I needed to up the daily vegetable count but it really detracts from the dish's heartiness.

Method To The Madness:

** olive oil and onions into a non-stick skillet over high heat

** when the onions are a bit cooked, but not burnt or caramelized, put the drained and rinsed beans into the skillet

** douse the beans liberally with cilantro

** pour the un-drained can of tomatoes over the beans

** turn the heat down to medium-high and simmer for 3-4 min, occasionally mixing things around

** turn the heat up to high for 1-2 additional minutes to cook off extra liquid and really soften things up

 ** eat, I prefer topped with a sprinkle of black pepper

That's it.  Dinner, and maybe a snack if you are less hungry than I usually am, for $2.00, maybe $2.50 if you don't shop at the Co. of Cost.

I have always debated which nutritional category legumes fall into - carbs or protein - especially if you consume them as the main/only part of a meal.  Are you not effectively omitting one whole nutritive category? 

Well, my nutritionist's response is that legumes are one-third protein, one-third carbohydrate, and one-third fiber, so eaten in a large enough quantity they can fulfill the requirements of a meal.  Although, if you are me, that meal should not be before the last session of the day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I H(E)A(R)T(E) My Powermeter

I HEART my powermeter because it is a completely objective measure of how I hard I am working.

I HATE my powermeter because it is a completely objective measure of how I hard I am working.

I've been training and racing with an SRM since a year ago, yesterday, and while the goal is pretty simple - produce consistent, and consistently increasing, amounts of watts - the implementation has been a complete reassessment of what is effective training, what are effective training routes and situations, how to allocate effort and output, and most fundamentally, the psychology of riding a bike.

A year later, I am a completely different, and in many ways humbler but better, bike rider.  I've learned a lot about myself, my legs, my mind, my bike, and how they all conspire in racing.  I can't really tell you how to train with power, or won't actually, because any specific how depends on philosophies, physiologies, and goals, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But I can share with you a few of the painful lessons my powermeter has taught me in the past 366 days.

The first lesson of training with power is that a watt is a watt is a watt.  Heart rate changes with effort, sleep, hydration, nutrition, hormones, and the vicissitudes of Kaiser Soze, and pace (or speed) is affected by terrain, wind, road surface, effort, drafting, and all manner of adrenaline-fueled pacing schemes.  But with power, there's no faking it or hiding from it.

I refer to my PC6 as The Eye of Sauron

Thus, the second lesson of training with power is to check your ego at the door.  Sure, Mini Phinney and The Manx Missile can summon maxes of 1600 watts or more, perhaps even at the end of punishing Tour stages....but that is why they have internationally recognized nicknames!!  Mr. Legend In His Own Mind should aim - desperately hope! - for 20% of that.  Heck 15% of that.  During a pretty challenging interval

But max wattages are only part of a much larger, more relative, story.  IM racing rewards those with "high" watt outputs, sure, but even more so those who can hold a "high" watt output for a long time.  Like 5 hours long (and that's before running).  Which is just another opportunity for your powermeter to crush your ego and leave you huddled, whimpering, in the corner.

My first interval workout with a powermeter was laughable.  I came from an RPE/heart rate training program, so I set my heart rate and then tried to hold the wattage I was putting out.  And then watched as my power plummeted like the stock market on Black Tuesday, while my heart ticked steadily along.  

The third lesson of training with power is to understand your own Jedi mind tricks.  Our minds have long connected speed - as determined through all of the sensory stimuli indications of going fast - with effort.  The scenery whizzing by, the rush of wind in our ears, the feel of water flowing past our cheeks.  In some cases that hurts us: we feel like we are working harder than we are, and give ourselves credit for doing that work, simply because we are going fast.  In some cases that helps us: the wind against our face and rushing by our ears eggs us on to stronger efforts and bigger power numbers.

So lesson 3b of training with power is the exception to lesson three: use your Jedi mind tricks on yourself.  Since a watt is a watt, no matter where you eek it out, and many people find they can sustain higher watts in a certain place (due to cooling, RPE, boredom, scenery, whatever) and physiological adaptations are greater from higher watt outputs, ride where you feel strong and powerful.  This place could be outside, where the wind can rush by your ears and the pavement can flash past beneath your wheels, or inside, where you can focus 110% without stoplights and flat tires and the "Single Finger Howdy."


My Mad Scientist La-bora-tory, for when I really mean it

The fourth lesson of training with power must thusly be: reconsider the value of your established training routes.  You know that feeling when you are tearing along, good tension in your legs, a good mental vibe going, flying?  Your mind is telling you that you are working so hard.  But under rule two, be sure to look down.  You might be putting out 100 watts, in which case it's the terrain, wind, and momentum conspiring to help you.  It's fun, sure, but doing a lot less for your fitness that it is for your average speed.  And don't think drafting is any different; there's a good reason it's not allowed in triathlon.

Good scenery, yes; hard work, probably not

Lesson 4b of training with power is to find long, steady ascents or roads into the wind.  Part of the responsibility of being an athlete in training is finding training grounds that allows you to do your workouts correctly: rolling terrain tends to create big swings in power output; flat terrain allows consistency, but is very dependent on wind; uphill and/or into the wind requires a consistent application of power.  Basically, conquering hills and wind keeps you honest, about both hard work and real recovery (just go down hill or wind for the rest intervals!). 

Thanking my powermeter for displaying such high numbers during the long steady climb into the wind

Once lesson 4b is learned, lesson five of training with power can be appreciated: Training with power helps increase the watts you can push; racing with power allows you to monitor and moderate those watts across an entire bike leg.  Triathlon rewards athletes who slow down the least, and part of that is knowing what you are capable of doing - and then not asking for (much) more than that on race day.  If you can pop up to 400 watts for 10 sec every 3 minutes, attack those hills (or better yet, race ITU).  If you can't, learn to ride up hills at a wattage you can reproduce up each and every hill, and even better, maintain on the flats between the hills.  Your trusty powermeter will be there to tell you how well you are sticking to the plan.

And if you don't want to listen to your powermeter, mayhaps you'll listen to Kaiser Soze.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Masochism Tastes Funny

"What in the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks am I doing here?"

"Here" is the start line of a local 5k.  A place I do not find myself altogether that often.  Actually, I should replace "often" with "never," and then I would be telling the truth.  I raced 4k in high-school, and now I race 10+ times 4k; ¡short! and ¡fast! is a concept looked back upon through more than decade of years and obscured by a haze of braces, hormones, and French vocab tests.

The sanity of slapping down $37 for a Nike race shirt (Thanks, Lance!) and 20+ min of pain was just coming into question when the start gun sounded.  My high-school-self spoke up from a deep and underpopulated corner of my soul - "we didn't enjoy this all that much back when the racing distance was only 4k..." - but the rest of her potentially valid comment was pulled away as if I had just passed downstream of a jet engine.  Her mouth was moving, but no sound was reaching my ear.

The race wasn't long enough to warrant an actual "report," but truth be told, I was occasionally kind of digging it.  Occasionally.  And only until mile 2.75, after the course took a decided turn upward.

At this point my personal demons decided to visit me on the course: a pre-teen boy who had been yo-yo-ing all over the place since the start, suddenly flopped onto his back in the middle of the hill, smack in the middle of the road, and throwing an arm across his face, began bawling into the privacy of his elbow.
 
Zero points for style, kid, but I feel ya, bro, really I do.

I survived the sharp swerve to avoid stepping on my fallen comrade-in-arms, and I guess, successfully navigated the remaining 400m to the finish.  I don't really remember those minutes all that well, except that when someone handed me a banana, I declared myself having reached the finish line.

And that's when I figured it out: masochism tastes suspiciously like vomit.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kelzie - And Her Can Opener - Kooks

I often get asked what I eat during the day, between sessions, that keeps me full and calorie-full, but without stopping up the works.  I guess the answer is particularly important at this time of the year when all but one of my sessions per week (long ride) is too short to warrant mid-training nutrition.  I rely on the regular meals I put in my mouth to power the engine, on top of relying on those same meals to provide a good portion of my vitamins and minerals.

It's like an Iron Chef America cooking competition: SWF struggles to concoct a day's worth of meals using only her modest grasp of nutrition, extensive grasp of what her body does not prefer during training, and the tools the Industrial Revolution perfected - basic refrigeration, the canning process, and the can opener.

The secret ingredient?  Only things sold at the Co. of Cost, of course!

** I drink a low-sodium V8 with my breakfast.  Why?  Because I just *love* the taste and mouth-feel of vegetable slurry!  Umm, not quite; I pretty much slam this delicacy as a chaser for my only-slightly-more-repellant-tasting oral vitamins.  The rationale is that I need/want veggies in my diet, but even processed or cooked, they have too much fiber for me to eat until my sessions for the day are over.  I can cram only so many servings of vegetables into dinner, the meal which otherwise would have to make up for the vast vegetable consumption wasteland that is the first ten hours of my day.  So V8 is veggies for breakfast, or when traveling, or in the car...

** First course of a mid-day meal between sessions could be cereal.  It's not a perfect solution (although it is better than the rice crackers I was eating, which I found out have a GI score of 98, only two less than pure white table sugar and no additional nutritive value...gag), but Nature Path's EnviroKidz are high GI, no gluten, low fiber, and if you mix Panda Puffs and Koala Krisps together, chocolate-and-peanut-butter in flavor.  I am finally fulfilling my childhood fantasy of unbridled cereal consumption.  My 8-year-old self pouts that it's not Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms.

And since I know you are going to ask: almond milk.

** Second course of a mid-day meal between sessions could be a protein (tuna, chicken, turkey, egg, tofu) salad of my creation.  Whatever portion of protein you prefer, rinsed to lower sodium content.  I use a can of tuna (7 oz) or half a can of turkey (6.25 oz).  One spoonful of whatever mustard you prefer.  I use the Aoili Garlic Mustard Sauce from Trader Joe's, because it compliments the next ingredient: a spoonful of pesto.  Mix together and top with a handful of drained and rinsed olives.  Inhale.

It can be a sodium bomb, which I control as much as I can, but it is high in protein and good fats.  I eat it after a bowl or two of cereal, but human beings with normal taste buds could certainly use some crackers or bread to complete the meal or create a sandwich if they are not concerned about fiber and gluten.

And that's lunch!

I've got a couple of other made-up recipes to share so I think this vein of inquiry will become a series.  Feel free to put specific questions etc. in the comments and I'll answer as best I can.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pay Commensurate With Play

[click to enlarge]
[click to enlarge]

This Green Bay Packers contract has been circulating on the internet, but it is authentic and dates to when Curly Lambeau still coached the team, a full 15 years before Lombardi arrived from the Giants. 

The nonchalance of management's expectations that McGroaraty will leave his job and relocate to Green Bay to play professional football is striking.  Even more so when you know that in the 1940s the mere idea of professional athletics as gainful employment was incredibly esoteric.  At the time all Olympic competitors were required to be full amateurs.  In fact, after Jesse Owen won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, the Amateur Athletics Union revoked his amateur status - immediately ending his running career - when he pursued commercial offers.  Jesse spent the rest of his life operating a dry-cleaners and pumping gas.

When Nike was founded in 1964 by Bill Bowerman, the running coach at the University of Oregon, the company could not give Oregon collegiate runners shoes for fear that their amateur status, and all access to international and Olympic competition, would be in jeopardy.  [Not to worry: instead Bowerman hand-made each runner his own shoes, built off of the runner's individual last.]  This a full thirty years after the AAU ran one of the US's best track athletes ever out of the sport on a rail.

In comparison, Nike paid Michael Jordan $500,000 in 1984, and LeBron James $93 million over sever years.  Both Jordan and James have won Olympic medals while under contract with Nike, something that the more than thirty (30)(!) Oregon runners Bowerman coached to the Olympics cannot claim.  [In one brief moment of bi-partisanship and sanity, Congress stepped in and emasculated the AAU in 1978, but Bowerman had already retired.]

McGroaraty would have had to play almost six games for the Packers in 1944, using provided equipment, to afford the membership fees a professional triathlete in 2012 pays to simply register for one IM race, let alone not show up naked and without a bike.
 
A long way of saying that the definition of professionalism in athletics has never been unanimous, or even always easy to define.  Results, qualification, payment, refusal of payment, public opinion, and acceptance, or simple participation have, at turns, determined athletes' status.

But what about the athlete's own idea of their professionalism?  I bet that Steve Prefontaine considered himself a professional athlete even when he stayed in hostels while racing in Europe - and representing the United States - because the AAU prohibited financial assistance to "amateurs" and Steve had to pay his own way. 

Coming to grips with just how far "off" I had become this past fall, it was my definition of my own professionalism that took one the biggest hits.  I knew I could get generally healthy again, but would I be able to train and compete up to standard again - USAT's standard, the general standard of being competitive, my own standard of giving it my best and not embarrassing myself?  How would I know if, and when?  What if the answer was ultimately no?

Consider me among the most surprised when as the year started, I felt good.  Although I decided to chalk "good" up to a lack of "bad," I suddenly craved racing in a way I had only previously experienced toward Diet Coke.  Metrics like "how do I feel today?" and "am I in fitness enough to race?" have a strange way of resetting themselves when the negative end of the spectrum is completely blown out.


Actually this picture is a pretty good analogy of how I was forced to sit and watch nearly every aspect of my definition of myself as a professional go up in smoke.  Every aspect save one: how a professional responds to being forced to sit and watch nearly every aspect of their definition of themselves as a professional go up in smoke.

New (temporary, but acceptable) personal definition of professionalism: do whatever necessary to participate, again.

Coach Lambeau certainly considered simply being allowed to participate incentive enough.  He made it clear that any additional and subsequent benefits would come as result of playing the kind of sport deserving of professional benefits.  [We shall avert our eyes from the fact that professional football contracts no longer quite embrace this philosophy.]

There was a time when I was afraid a 2012 season would be impossible.  There was a time when I thought a 2012 season might kinda be almost possible.  Now I know a 2012 season will happen.  It hasn't been set, but it has been discussed and is expected; participation is nigh.

No matter which definition of professional you choose to adopt, they all share one thing: you gotta play - or die trying - to earn it.
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