May Favorites

I’ve really enjoyed putting together these favorites posts and while I usually stop at five favorites each month, this month I really had to narrow down my list to get to just six things! I guess that means I had a pretty great May!

Here are my favorites for this month:

1. New Recipes

Even though I haven’t posted many recipes lately, I am still plugging away with the plant-based diet. Unfortunately, one of the reasons I haven’t been posting recently is that I’ve tried a bunch of recipes that have only been so-so. I’m always so bummed when I put in the time and effort to find, grocery shop for, and then prepare a new dish and don’t love the final product. If I put in that much effort, I want the food to be stellar. Fortunately, I’ve had two winners this month and both were actually quite easy to make!

First, if you like Chipotle sofritas, you need to try this sofritas recipe from Yup, It’s Vegan!. The great part about this recipe is that it is super versatile – you could make burritos, salads, rice bowls, etc. using whatever toppings you like. I made burritos with black beans, green peppers, onion, pico de gallo, and guacamole. The seasoning was perfect – spicy, but not too spicy. This is definitely a recipe I will make again.

Second, I’m sharing yet another recipe from Minimalist Baker. I’ve shared several of her recipes on the blog before because they are always delicious and usually quite easy to make. This recipe for sweet potato black bean burgers satisfies both of those criteria. I will definitely make these again! I wish they had a slightly higher protein content, so I want to think about ways I can give that a boost. I’m thinking about trying to double the amount of black beans, but I’m not sure what impact that will have on consistency or taste. If I try it, I will definitely report back. In the meantime, try these burgers!

Making the Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers was quick and easy.

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2. Training Partners

I’ve traditionally done almost all of my training alone, but this month, I’ve been able to coordinate quite a few training sessions with friends.

Don’t get me wrong – I love alone time and that is one of my favorite things about training, actually. I like time by myself to think. That being said, though, now that I regularly work from home by myself, with my hubs at the office, it is nice to have some human interaction from time-to-time. I also find it makes the training time pass so much more quickly.

Luckily, there are lots of great triathletes in the Northern Virginia area and there really is no shortage of people I can tag along with for a swim, bike, or run. In fact, every single weekend in the month of May, I was able to workout with a friend.

At the very beginning of the month, I got to ride around Charlottesville with Alyssa after Monticelloman. It’s always a treat to get to ride with her and even though I was tired after the race, I was super excited to get some time on the bike with my coach. I’m looking forward to riding with Alyssa even more during her tri camp in Charlottesville this July.

The weekend after Monticelloman, I had the pleasure of swimming with some local Team HPB ladies. Cris, who I rode Skyline with last month, celebrated her birthday with a 10k “birthday swim” and she invited several friends and team HPB-ers to join in on the “fun” (use of quotes there intentional). I came for the second half of the swim and, with Team HPB’s Megan, helped pace Cris to the finish line.

Cris, in the center, finishing her 10k swim, with Megan on the left.

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The following weekend, I got to ride with Taryn at the Friends of Homeless Animals charity ride. We had an awesome time and her company made a challenging day so much more fun!

And, this past weekend, I rode with Megan after the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim Sunday (which I hope to blog about soon) and then with Mindy and Katie yesterday! It was such a great weekend, and even though it kicked my butt, I had a blast!

Since coordinating the schedules of busy triathletes is no easy task, I doubt this streak is going to continue, but I hope to plan for at least a few more coordinated training sessions leading into IM Chattanooga.

3. Vega Snack Bars

I’ve mentioned Vega products a few times on the blog before. I’m a big fan of their recovery products and have been since I sampled them at Hillary’s Tucson camp in 2014. Vega products are vegan, but I used them even before I adopted a plant-based diet because they taste better than a lot of the other sports nutrition products on the market.

More recently, I’ve tried their snack bars and I am equally impressed with the quality and taste of those. I had purchased a few individual bars from Whole Foods and then those same flavors in bulk from Vitacost, and then Vega was kind enough to send me the other flavors to try, along with a great new smoothie cup!

Thanks, Vega!

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Vega Snack Bars come in five flavors: Dark Chocolate Cashew Cherry, Dark Chocolate Mixed Nuts & Sea Salt, Cranberry Almond, Coconut Cashew, and my personal favorite, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. All five flavors are available on the Vitacost website, and if you use my refer-a-friend link, you will get $10 off your order.

These are great to throw in your office desk drawer, gym bag, briefcase, or purse for when you need a quick and healthy snack on the go. I learned the hard way that the flavors that don’t have chocolate are better for leaving in the car, since you don’t have the melted chocolate to make your fingers messy. All are quite satisfying and tasty.

4. FlipBelt

My mom recently bought me a FlipBelt as a gift. I’ve seen these before on social media, but never in-person and was very excited to give the FlipBelt a try.

In particular, I was excited about using it to hold my iPhone 6 Plus, which is too large to fit in any pocket (I didn’t really think about that when I bought it!), but which I want to carry with me, especially on trail runs when I’m by myself, in case of an emergency.

The great thing about the Flip Belt is that it is basically a waistband for a yoga pant – i.e., stretchy, wide, and comfortable, with no bounce. I actually forgot I was wearing it on my first test run!

I own another brand of race belt that I purchased a few years ago, but my new, larger phone barely fits inside and there is definitely a bounce factor. I rarely ever use it.

If you are looking for something to hold your phone, keys, and gels for long runs, and especially if you own a larger phone, you should check out FlipBelt. Thanks, Mom!

5. Trail Running

Never did I think that “trail running” would ever appear in a “favorites” post of mine. Even though I am fortunate enough to have a beautiful trail practically right outside my door, I’ve never been a trail runner. I’ve run trails only a few times in all of my years of running and racing  – in Tucson at tri camp, in Bend at Oiselle camp, and once or twice at home here in Virginia, when Alyssa has specifically assigned me a trail run. The local trail runs I have done have always been short and I haven’t explored very much, so I didn’t really realize what I’ve been missing all of these years.

A couple of weeks ago, Alyssa assigned me another trail run – this time a bit longer – so I headed out on the “CCT” a bit apprehensive, but willing to have an open mind. It only took me about 10 minutes to run from my doorstep to the trail and just a few minutes after that, THIS was my view:

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It doesn’t get much more beautiful than that!

This weekend, I went out on the same trail again, this time running a bit farther than the last. I find trail running tires out my legs more quickly than running on pavement (I’m assuming because I’m using different muscles), but I couldn’t help but enjoy the scenery and, now that it is getting warmer, the shade!

Photo from this weekend’s run.

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I’m looking forward to doing more trail running now that I have realized I have this great trail so close to home. And, who knows – maybe a trail race will be my next “what’s next?” after Ironman!

6. Vegan Desserts

(I just realized that 3 of my 6 favorites for this month involve food. I guess I’ve been eating just as much as I have been training!)

I don’t want to turn into a “junk food vegan” – I really want to maintain a mostly healthy, whole food, minimaly-processed, plant-based diet. That being said, I have a sweet tooth and I like to have a treat from time-to-time.

This month, I tried two great vegan desserts: So Delicious Peanut Butter Zig-Zag non-dairy frozen dessert & Daiya New York Cheezcake.

So Delicious Peanut Butter Zig-Zag Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert 

Even though this ice cream is dairy-free and made from soy, it doesn’t have a noticeable “not-real-ice-cream” taste. The consistency is smooth and creamy, as you would expect from a dairy-based ice cream. While I definitely plan to try more flavors, I really enjoyed the Peanut Butter Zig Zag’s chocolate and peanut butter combo: “[s]crumptious peanut butter and chocolate flakes swirled in a rich chocolate non-dairy frozen dessert base.” This is a rich and delicious dessert. Note that if you visit the So Delicious website (linked above) you can download product coupons.

Daiya New York Cheezecake

The Daiya cheesecake is equally decadent. I had seen a few posts about these new cheesecakes on social media, so when I saw them in the freezer section of my local Whole Foods, I knew I needed to give them a try. I bought the New York Cheezecake flavor (there are 3 other flavor options), and as a cheesecake lover (we actually had mini cheesecakes at our wedding reception instead of wedding cake), I was skeptical, but hopeful!

I followed the instructions on the package for thawing (this is important to note – you need to thaw this in the fridge for several hours, so don’t expect to take it straight out of the freezer and dig in!). One bite and I was hooked. Everything was right – the flavor, texture, and consistency. I will definitely try another flavor (probably the chocolate) the next time I stop by Whole Foods. Try one and let me know what you think!

Realtor Magazine Article & MooMotion Interview

Finally, since this will be my last post in May, I wanted to mention two media pieces I was fortunate enough to be included in this month.

First, I was interviewed by Melissa from MooMotion for a post on the MooMotion blog about training for my first 140.6.

Second, I was included in an article in Realtor Magazine about scheduling exercise into the work day, which can be difficult in a field where your schedule often varies significantly from day-to-day. I’m quoted in the sidebar that includes a list of ideas for doing so on the right side of the article.

I had such a great month and hope you did, too!

 

 

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April Favorites

I’ve really enjoyed writing these “favorites” posts each month, so I’m sticking with it. Here are five things I’m loving in April, in no particular order:

(1) FINALLY training in the sun! It was a very long and very cold winter in the Washington, D.C. area. I’ve done a lot of training and racing in bad weather. I ran a race in a sleet storm, another in a cold rain, and had a race cancelled because of snow. I cut one recent outdoor training ride short because I couldn’t feel my face and my fingers actually hurt from the cold. It hasn’t been fun.

Things finally seem to be turning around, though. Last weekend, I had a total blast getting in a 3-hour ride in the sun!

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It’s amazing what a few warm rays of sunshine will do for my mood. It made me really excited for everything that’s coming my way this year. I think this winter was so long that I didn’t realize that race season is right around the corner, but it is! My first tri is in less than one month. Things are heating up (literally and figuratively) and I know I have a really fun and exciting season ahead of me!

(2) No-Bake Almond Granola Bars. I tried making my own granola bars for the first time ever, using a recipe from May’s Triathlete magazine. I’ve always heard it’s “easy” to make granola bars at home, but “easy” is a relative term, and since I’m fairly new to cooking and baking, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out, it is, in fact, easy to make granola bars at home – although, I will say that the ingredients (in this case, almonds, almond butter, and dark chocolate) are not cheap!

These no-bake bars set in the fridge for two hours. I kept the dark chocolate in large chunks and that was a decision I don’t regret making.

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Despite the cost, the final product is delicious and nutritious! The recipe yields 16 bars, which you can store in the fridge or freezer. I think this recipe could be altered by using different nuts – cashews or walnuts, for example – or adding other ingredients, such as coconut flakes or dried fruit. I plan to experiment with this recipe after I finish enjoying my first batch of almond and chocolate treats.

I will say that these bars are a bit messy, so I’m not sure they are great training fuel, but they are good for snacking and/or dessert at home or in the office.

Check out the May issue of Triathlete for the recipe.

(3) MooMotion Cadence Cycling Capri. As I mentioned, it is finally warming up in Northern Virginia, which has meant more outdoor riding. YAY! Last week, I was able to wear my MooMotion Cadence Cycling Capris and a short sleeve jersey for a 2-hour outdoor ride.

After riding in so many layers for most of this winter, it felt so freeing to ride in only one layer of clothes!

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This is the first time I’ve been able to wear the capris outside and they did not disappoint! They are super comfortable, have the perfect amount of padding, and are just the right weight for this time of year. They are going to be my go-tos for spring riding. 

(4) Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Green Figs. My friend, Oiselle Flock member, fellow triathlete, and dietetics student, Taryn, always posts the most interesting nutrition info on social media. I love reading her posts! I have learned so much from her and I highly recommend you follow her on Instagram if you have an interest in food and nutrition (follow her on Instagram at: instagram.com/tmbf).

Taryn recently posted about the health benefits of organic whole green figs available in the Trader Joe’s freezer section (and, yes, she has an adorable dog, too). 

IMG_2834 I picked up a bag during my last grocery shopping trip, along with some other frozen fruit. I’ve been adding the figs to smoothies with Vega Protein Smoothie protein powder from Vitacost (use my Vitacost referral code for $10 off your first order).

One of my favorite combos so far is a ripe banana, one fig, a couple of frozen strawberries, and a few frozen pineapple bits, with one scoop of “Viva Vanilla” flavor Vega Protein Smoothie protein powder, unsweetened soy milk, and ice. I blend it all together in the Vitamix and it tastes just like a milkshake! It is an awesome post-workout treat!

I love that my “treats” are now healthy things like fruit smoothies, instead of Twizzlers! I decided I wanted to change my diet at the end of last year and I did. As Taryn says, you have the power to #makeyourhealthhappen!

(5) TriEqual.com and #50WomentoKona. I’ve posted quite a bit about the #50WomentoKona issue on Twitter and on Facebook, but I still get questions about it, so I thought I would briefly discuss it and provide some additional resources here.

No matter how complicated WTC (the company that runs Ironman-branded events) tries to make this issue, it’s really quite simple: while 50 professional men can compete in the Ironman World Championships each year, there are only 35 slots for professional women. 35 does not equal 50.

I obviously don’t have any direct personal stake in this issue, as I’m not a professional triathlete. However, I do feel passionately about this issue. As I stated on International Women’s Day:

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To me, the issue boils down to equality of opportunity (I can’t take credit for that phrase, but I think it’s perfect!) and that is a concept everyone should get behind – whether a professional or age-grouper; male or female; triathlete or not. 

If you want to learn more, I recommend the following:

  • Visit the TriEqual website for more information and to join the team of TriEqual volunteers. 

I hope everyone is having a great April!

March Favorites

Here are five things I’m loving this month:

1) Vitacost. This website is officially a new obsession of mine. They not only carry all of my favorite vegan brands (Bobo’s Oat Bars, Larabars, Vega), but they also offer great pricing, free shipping on qualifying orders, quick delivery, fabulous customer service, and an awesome referral program! Speaking of the referral program, if you use my Refer-A-Friend code, you can save $10 off your order! Claim the offer here. My husband is on a low-carb diet and they have tons of products for him, too. They also carry ingredients that I cannot find in my local grocery stores. I cannot say enough about how impressed I am with Vitacost! You should definitely check them out!

I can purchase Bobo’s Oat Bars at a local health food store, but they only carry a few flavors. I am so excited to try some additional flavors I ordered from Vitacost.com.

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2) Oiselle Toolbelt Rogas. Oiselle just needs to take all of my money because their Spring 2015 line is fierce! There are SO many items I love (seriously, you should see my online shopping cart right now), but I wanted to highlight the new Toolbelt Roga shorts. I think these are brilliant! They are super practical for long runs because they are loaded with pockets. If you’ve read my blog before, you know I am a big fan of pockets in my tri gear, so I was so excited when I saw Oiselle’s CEO, Sally, wearing these awesome shorts at Oiselle Team camp last August. Since then, my friends and I have been stalking the Oiselle website waiting for these to arrive. I am so excited that they are finally here and cannot wait to give them a try! I ordered a pair in black and I am obsessively tracking my package as it travels across the country to my door. I will let you know when they arrive!

Toolbelt Rogas rock! (photo from Oiselle website)

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3) Vega Sport Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars. I have used Vega protein powders for a while now, even prior to trying to cut animal products out of my diet, because they are the best-tasting protein powders I’ve tried. Yes, they are a bit more expensive, but the flavor is so much better, it has been worth it to me. While I love a nice thick, cool recovery smoothie after a hard workout, recovery bars are a more convenient option when I’m working out away from home. I usually have one stashed in my gym bag, one in my car, and one in my purse. That way, I know I always have something to eat after a big swim, ride, or run. The bars I used last year contain milk, so I have been searching for a vegan alternative to help fuel my muscles after training sessions this year. I am happy to report that the search is over. I recently purchased a box of Vega Sport Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars from Vitacost (I told you I’m obsessed) and they are delicious! Each bar is 260 calories and contains 15 grams of protein. These Non-GMO Project Verified bars are also gluten free. If you order from Vitacost right now, a 12-bar box is only $26.87 (the retail price is $41.79)! That’s an incredible deal!

 

4) Smashed Kale & Cannellini Bean Sandwich. If you saw my February favorites, you know I picked a smashed bean sandwich as my favorite recipe of the month and, believe it or not, I have another amazing smashed bean sandwich recipe to share this month! This Smashed Kale & Cannellini Bean Sandwich is super tasty and was easier (quicker) to make than the Sunflower sandwich. It has a great garlic flavor and the recipe made enough sandwich filling for an entire week’s worth of lunches! It’s a great way to add some kale to your diet, too. Try it and let me know how you like it!

This sandwich. So. Good.

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5) Matt & Nat Bag and Wallet. As you know, I’ve been eliminating animal products from my diet and the next logical step is incorporating cruelty-free living into other aspects of my life. I started investigating vegan handbags and came across Matt & Nat, a company I wasn’t previously aware of. I immediately fell in love with practically everything on the Matt & Nat website! Their bags are gorgeous and look just like leather. In fact, my mom – who is most definitely not a vegan – even ordered a new bag and wallet. I am now the proud owner of a Matt & Nat satchel and wallet and I am in love!! 

I knew I was going to like the style and color of my new bag and wallet, but I wasn’t sure about the quality, being unfamiliar with the brand and ordering online, but I am really impressed. I can definitely see myself purchasing more from Matt & Nat in the future. If you check them out, definitely read a bit more about the company. I think you will be impressed with their brand values and ethics.

My new Matt & Nat handbag! The photo doesn’t do it justice!

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What are some of your favorites this month?