Monday, August 25, 2014

Operation BIke MS: Part Five

This post is part of a series documenting my journey toward the Gateway Getaway Bike MS. Read Part Four HERE. To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis and to support me as I reach my goal of $500, please click HERE.

Two days, 60.2 miles, 17 cornfields, 593.2 hills (slight exaggeration...), 2 mattresses, 25 horses, 5 screamed expletives, and 6 deer...though I must admit...three of them were plastic upon further inspection. 

Guess who learned to make collages in Picasa?? :)

But that's enough about me. 

This installment of Operation Bike MS is all about FUEL. 

You know, the stuff you need avoid ending up in a convulsing sobbing pile on the side of the road. 

That's the stuff. 

And since I have recently taken the Paleo plunge, fueling has become a little more difficult. I already needed to avoid my allergens/intolerances (dairy, egg, gluten), but adding Paleo restrictions really complicated things. Try getting a run-of-the-mill protein bar sans rice, oats, and tons of processed sugar. Aint-a-gonna happen. With a little creativity and plenty of stubborn will, I have found tasty foods that kept me hydrated and energetic through to the last pedal push. 

One thing I have learned while training for endurance events is that fueling up for a workout begins the night before. 

And so I give you: 

Admittedly, I turned my nose up at Kombucha at first. Rotten Tea? No thanks. It took three close friends recommending it to me and all but pouring it down my throat for me to give in. You know what? I was pleasantly surprised. Think fruity beer...only it's good for you. I'm not exactly sure why it helps--but I will say I felt much more hydrated and less "hung-over" after my long ride. 

Pickle juice is just a no brainer. Salty goodness. Chug some the night before a high exertion workout and you will be much more likely to stay hydrated--especially in these crazy Midwestern temperatures. Yum!

Though my stomach can handle more than the average Joe, I don't usually have the mental capacity to make a large breakfast for myself at 5am. So...a great (almost) Paleo option is a banana with almond butter and a cup of coffee. Technically coffee is a no-no, but I really need extra caffeine if I'll be working out longer than an hour or so. 

Next up...

I typically stop every 10 miles for a hydration/re-fuel break. My current faves are GoGo Squeez banana applesauce pouches, Larabars, natural fruit strips (found at Aldi), sunflower seeds, dark chocolate squares, GinGins natural ginger candies, Laborade*, and of course, water. 

Here it is all shoved into my fuel belt:

I had to add an extra bottle cage to my bike so I could fit two water bottles, and though it was a trick, I finally found the courage mid-ride to wriggle out the pink one. Score! I filled the blue bottle with water, and the pink with Laborade*. This was just the right amount for my 30-milers, but I would need to figure out how to pack more with me when I ride farther. 

After a grueling ride, my stomach is usually rumbling for something tasty. In recent mornings, I have been enjoying this:


1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil
1/2 C. Diced Onion
1/2 C. Diced Bell Peppers
4 Button Mushrooms
1/2 Summer or Zuchinni Squash, halved and sliced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Medium Tomato
1 C. Spinach, torn into pieces
1/2 lb. Natural Breakfast Sausage (I like Beeler's)

1. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat
2. Add prepared veggies through the squash, throw in some salt and stir. 
3. Once veggies are becoming soft, add tomatoes and garlic, some more salt, and stir. 
4. When the tomatoes have cooked down a little, throw in the spinach. 
5. Saute until wilted, remove from heat. 

In the meantime--fry the sausage in a separate pan...or you can begin with the sausage and add the vegetables to the same pan. In which case, I would recommend cutting down the oil. 

Refueling and recovery doesn't end after the first post-workout meal. I find I have to be prepared with extra snacks all day. When you burn over 1,000 calories, you HAVE to replace them--and then some. With some additional stretching and rest, you should feel as good as new in no time! 


The most pressing challenge for me as a newly reformed Paleo-ite, was finding a sports drink that would do the job but not break all the rules. I used a homemade electrolyte drink during my (40 hour natural) labor with Abby and decided to see if it would work for other endurance endeavors. 

Guess what! 

It did. 

Here's the recipe:

32 oz. Water
1/4 C. Fresh Squeezed Lemon or Lime Juice
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Honey
1/2 tsp. Calcium Citrate pills, crushed

I mixed the ingredients together in an over-sized mason jar, stored it in the fridge, and carried it with me in one of my water bottles on the bike.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Operation Bike MS: Part Four

This post is part of a series documenting my journey toward the Gateway Getaway Bike MS. Read Part Three HERE. To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis and to support me as I reach my goal of $500, please click HERE.

Sixteen days left until the big weekend, and I have raised 46% of my fundraising goal! Many thanks to those who have donated--and also to those who are encouraging me through the physical process of training for the ride. I couldn't do it without you, seriously. 

This morning I woke up with a very sore back and shoulders. 


I'm guessing the pain is from poor posture on my bike--or it could be my muscles growing accustomed to the rigors of the road--who knows. The thing about it is, there's no time for whining because I have a goal to reach. No turning back now, I have 46%!

My prescribed workout today was "strength training" so I asked Coach Erin if a date with my Jillian Michaels Kickboxing DVD would suffice. She gave the go, so here was my view this morning as I flapped around like a fool:

The little one was way more excited than me to be kickboxing, that's for sure. 

After Jillian was done torturing me, I did additional weight work for ten minutes--equal to one Curious George. 

I did a few of these:

A few of these:

And this for all of thirty seconds:
And oddly enough, at the end of those ten minutes, my back didn't hurt anymore. 


I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's workout--Yoga.

Mmm...I love me some yoga.  It's a wonderful distraction from the 60 miles I will be logging on the bike this weekend...

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Operation Bike MS: Part Three

This post is part of a series documenting my journey toward the Gateway Getaway Bike MS. Read Part Two HERE. To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis and to support me as I reach my goal of $500, please click HERE.

Dark-thirty. That's what time I trained this morning. See?

Coach Erin said 10 miles today, so that's exactly what I did. See?

I only grunted in agony once--this time on Mick Deaver hill. I took it as a "short-cut" so I could get home quicker.

That was a painful lesson to learn. 

Somehow I got home in time for the hubby to leave for his first day of school, kissed him good bye, made some well-deserved breakfast, and had some quiet time to absorb some scripture. See?

Getting up super early to train has its benefits--like pulling myself together before the little one awakes. 

She loves it too, because she doesn't have to wait around for Mommy to make breakfast. See?

See you on the next ride!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Operation Bike MS: Part Two

This post is part of a series documenting my journey toward the Gateway Getaway Bike MS. Read Part One HERE. To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis and to support me as I reach my goal of $500, please click HERE.

I woke up this morning at 5:45am--fifteen minutes before my alarm was set to sound--because I was just THAT excited. This morning was slated for my 18-mile training ride. Went to bed early the night before, made sure I was hydrated...I was PUMPED.

Rolled out of bed, trudged to the kitchen, started coffee, changed into my bike clothes. Reached into the fridge for my coconut milk and heard "drip, drip, drip."


Peered down in front of me and watched coffee colored water streaming mercilessly out of the cabinets below the sink. I stood dumbfounded for a few seconds--struggling to process how my yummy coffee had magically transported itself across the kitchen to flow into yucky puddles on the floor.

Sad Face.

Several moments later, it hit me. Before I brewed new coffee, I poured the old batch out (yes, sometimes I forget to empty the coffee pot. Sue me.), and that must be what was leaking volumes.

I continued to stand with gaping mouth--struggling to form a plan.

When I finally pulled myself together and waded over to look under the sink, I found the drain pipe had torn in two--obviously the culprit of my Sunday morning coffee flood.


After a few fluffy towels and a quick call to emergency maintenance, I was set to head out the door. Fifteen minutes late, but ready to ride just the same.


My was the countryside gorgeous. I really felt at home again.  My route was supposed to take me east of town on Richland, south on Rangeline, west on New Haven, and then north on Old 63. In my youthful exuberance, however, I forgot to pay attention to my map while I was riding, so my route ended up looking more like this:

Oops. least I got a good workout, right?

Some of the hills were really tough for me, one was so steep that I was all the way down in gear ONE. But the in the midst of the grunting and growling, I kept focusing on the fact that my pain would be over inside of two hours. Those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis endure constant pain for the rest of their lives. Reflecting on this put those silly hills into perspective and surprisingly my ride improved greatly.

Other than a little soreness and lethargy, I felt pretty good afterward. Not gonna lie, though...I cant fathom riding double the distance two days in a row. Ugh. Good thing I have a couple more weeks to work up to it...

See you next ride...

Operation Bike MS: Part One

It's only three weeks away, but I'm just crazy enough to do the Gateway Bike MS!

I've wanted to join my brother, Matt, on this ride for several years now, but some wild life event always seems to prevent my participation. Grad school, pregnancy, name it, I've been there. Well, no more excuses! After hitting the snooze button twice,

I finally rolled out of bed this morning, slurped some coffee, geared up, and headed out on the hilly streets of Columbia for my ride. Trainer Erin says to do 2 8-10 mile rides during the week and a 18-20 mile ride this weekend (my goal is 80 miles over two days in the Bike MS), so I headed down old 63 to Grindstone, Grindstone to Rock Quarry, Rock Quarry to Broadway, and Broadway home. Some of those routes do not have bike paths or sidewalks, so part of my ride was a little adventurous! Especially the part when I screwed up my gearing sequence climbing a terrible hill on Rock Quarry. 


 Even so, I was reminded how much I LOVE riding and that I'm so excited to do it raising awareness for MS! :) 

Happy riding, everyone!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: International Travel Tips

A few days ago I returned from a two-week trip to the South of France.

Two weeks.

No dirty diapers to change, no snoring husband.

All by myself.

*Cue Celine Dion*

Sounds like heaven, right?

Yes, the trip was amazing. Words can't describe and pictures could never capture the virginal beauty of the sleepy village of Mons overlooking the serene Mediterranean waters. I discovered the wonders of sulfite-free wine, became acquainted with several new friends, celebrated the joining of two inspiring souls who are very much in love, and basically just breathed deeply for the first time in what seems like years.

Though the retreat was wonderful, there were a few several lessons on international travel to be acquired along the way. I remained calm and positive through every mishap, however I do hope my new found experience will help you the next time you decide to hop over the pond to embark on a wild trek through Europe.

And so I give you:

Ten Tips from a Tired Traveler

1. Be Smart When Booking Flights

I speak from experience when I tell you to book direct flights whenever possible--even if it means spending a little more money. Nothing is worse than realizing your two hour layover before your first connection has diminished to fifteen minutes due to flight delays. If you're unlucky like me, you will still sprint across O'Hare to the next gate only to find that the plane pushed off from the gate five minutes early. Yep--book direct. Or just not through O'Hare.

2. Packing: Less is More

I consider myself a fairly low-maintenance lady. A week before a big trip like this, I usually make a packing list and spend several days refining and re-thinking what I will really need to bring with me. Do I really need to blow dry my hair? No. Must I bring five books to read when two will do? No. After packing my most needed belongings into the suitcase, I still find myself weeding out seemingly excessive items. Even so, my bag somehow ended up weighing around 46 lbs--4 under the limit. Great, right? Yes, unless you consider the treacherous cobblestone mountain I needed to climb once I arrived to the village with said bag. It took me and the strength of two friends to drag the heaping monster to my door. And then I almost passed out trying to drag the thing to the bottom of two flights of stairs. How would I ever fit the three bottles of wine I planned to bring home? Lesson for you? Don't bring so much crap!

3. Travel Apps

No matter how many times I mentally rehearsed the French phrase for "I'm allergic to wheat, dairy, and eggs" my brain always froze when I actually needed to deliver it to the nice lady at the counter. Though I didn't have reception to use data on my phone, I already typed in these words and other helpful sentences into my iTranslate app. If I was too jumbled up to actually speak the words on the screen, I could simply show my phone to whomever I needed to speak with and they instantly knew what I was trying to say. The long list of pre-loaded phrases was a life saver (literally).

Another app I like, Trip It,  plans your travel itinerary using information it pulls from your email inbox. Trip It was able to access all of my ticket confirmations and reservations so I was able to view an easy to read list of my travel plans. Since I had a few flight mishaps along the way, I did end up needing to confirm gates with airline websites, but that wasn't Trip-It's fault. My favorite part about using this app? I didn't have piles of paper to keep track of. Wonderful!

There are so many travel apps out there--peruse them and find the ones that will help you!

4. Fighting Jet Lag

My best advice? Sleep on the plane. Whatever you have to do---just get some sleep. I brought earplugs, Aleve, an eyemask, and a little extra money for some wine. Another tip from a friend was to stay well hydrated. I concentrated more on fluids during my flight to the EU than I did on the way back, and I noticed a sizable difference. I was also surprised to see water fountains and/or bottle-fill stations in the airports, so bringing an empty water bottle in your bag would be an excellent idea. Just don't use a straw bottle with a bite-valve, it will erupt in your carry-on during the flight. I unknowingly tested and proved this theory not once, but twice. See below for info on a wonderful travel towel.

5. Carry-on Must Haves

In addition to the items listed above, I will ALWAYS pack extra clothes, glasses, contact solution/case, and a toothbrush in my carry-on. I've never had problems with bags before this particular trip, but I was sure glad I had an extra pair of undies handy when my mammoth suitcase didn't appear on the baggage claim belt in Nice. Though my things were hand delivered to me the next day, I know of several others who haven't been so lucky.

6. Money Matters

To have financial peace on your journey, I recommend a little pre-trip budgeting. Figure out how much money you plan to spend (in whatever currency you will use...for me it was euros), and use this spreadsheet to keep track while you are gone. I used a paper version because I didn't have access to a laptop, but since this spreadsheet has all the formulas plugged in, using it on a computer would be much easier. Though I didn't use one, I'm sure there are apps that can help you with this as well.

7. Cover Your Butt

Passport: If something happens to your passport while you are roaming the world, you'll have trouble coming back to the US without verification of your identity. To prepare for this dreaded occurrence, I recommend leaving a copy of your passport with a trusted family member. As an extra precaution, I also made an extra copy and hid it in another (locked) part of my luggage.

Credit Cards: Make copies of these as well and give your financial institutions a heads up on where and when you will be traveling. If you forget this step, you may find yourself in a big mess when the company cuts off your spending.

Security: When traveling internationally, it's a good idea to register with the US Embassy in the country you plan to visit. Even if you never need to contact the embassy while you are abroad, the program can keep you updated on travel alerts and warnings.

8. Let the Locals Be Your Guide

I'm sure this is a gigantic surprise, but people do things differently than we do! Who'da thunk? One day on my trip, I made the poor decision to jog part way down the mountain and back. When I reached the top, I was gasping desperately and incredibly thirsty. Previously, I noticed several places in the village where water was continuously flowing out of spickets on the wall. Thinking the purpose of the fountains were of purely historical or decorative nature, I didn't give them a second thought. However, as I was trudging back from my jog, I witnessed a local (a runner who had effortlessly passed me along my way...grr) walk up to the wall, cup her hands, and slurp the hydrating goodness. Really?!? I'm allowed to DRINK from the fountain? I'm such an idiot. Nevertheless, acting as if I planned it all along, I swiftly fell in behind the savvy French lady and took a nice long glug myself.

9. Smuggling Wine

Wine in France was literally like 4 euros. GOOD WINE. The best wine I've ever had. Don't be like me. Buy the wine cheaply from the cute village market and pack it in your checked luggage. DO IT. I was a dork and waited to get it in the Duty Free section at the airport. The same wine was quadruple the price. End result? I have crappy American wine in my refrigerator again. Boo. Hiss.

10. It Is What It Is

If you choose to heed any of these tips, heed this one. Arrive at your departure gate with NO EXPECTATIONS. It's so easy to build up the anticipation of your international adventure to be a dreamy fantastical traipse through gold encrusted happy land. Though my trip was wonderful, there were definitely bumps and dings along the way. I wasn't always in a good mood, and I didn't always feel physically equipped to do what I needed to do. Nevertheless, I had a very realistic attitude about the whole thing and entered my journey without many expectations. It's a good thing, because even though things didn't pan out perfectly, I was able to roll with the punches, find humor in the dysfunction, and enjoy every cobble-stoned step of the way.

Tried and True Travel Gear

Nook HD--The charge on this thing lasts FOREVER. I contentedly read Gone with the Wind for the duration of my flights.

Airplane Headphone Jack Adapter--Unfortunately only one of my flights had a screen within my view, but it was also the only plane that required a two-pronged headphone adapter! Score!

Travel Towel--There were no available towels in my rental apartment in France, so I brought this one with me. It was a lifesaver--especially since we also didn't have a dryer. It was big enough to wrap all the way around me and absorbent enough to get me and my waterlogged hair completely dry without all of the bulk of a regular bathroom towel.

Jewelry Organizer--I usually don't require this much vanity, but seeing as though I was in a wedding and needed to accessorize several formal outfits, I figured I'd make a concession for myself. This bag is amazing--a place for studs, rings, and roomy pockets for necklaces and dangly earrings. I got mine at Target (and the colors are way cuter), but they aren't listed online.

Ginger Candies--These were a delight! I found them at a local healthfood store--and they settled my stomach during take-offs and landings. Also useful during pregnancy!