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Archive for August, 2010

Banana Walnut Granola

Banana Walnut Granola

I’ve made a few variations of this USA Weekend granola recipe ever since discovering it, and this is my most recent favorite.  It’s perfect with cold milk and fresh blueberries.  You might read through the ingredients and think, “One tablespoon of vanilla? Is that a typo?”  but trust me:  an absurd-seeming amount of vanilla extract is the secret to awesome homemade granola.  The imitation stuff is probably fine, and if you’re a Costco member they carry large inexpensive bottles of real vanilla extract.

Banana Walnut Granola

Banana Walnut Granola

Adapted from USA Weekend

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped banana chips
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tbs. canola or other flavorless oil
1 Tbs. water
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees, and spray a 9×13 metal baking pan with cooking spray.  Mix the oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt, coconut, walnuts and banana chips in a bowl.  Combine the maple syrup, oil, water, vanilla extract and cinnamon in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until simmering.

Drizzle the hot liquid over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.  Spread the mixture onto the baking pan, and squeeze it to form small clumps.  The wheat germ mixed with the hot liquid forms a kind of mortar and helps make those great crunchy clusters that are otherwise hard to get with homemade granola.

Bake at 275 for 35-40 minutes until light golden brown, stirring once or twice.  The granola may not be as crispy as you would want it right away, but it will get crispier as it cools.  Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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Thanks for the kind words about my race report!  I’m so used to my husband’s eyes glazing over when I talk about races that it’s unusual to have people actually be interested.  🙂

Kendra over at Kendra Through The Looking Glass is running a Change It Up Challenge where each week in August she’ll present a challenge designed to get you out of your fitness ruts and shake up your routine.  I love this idea so I joined right in.  The challenge for the first week is to change your workout three times this week.

One of my biggest workout ruts that I fall into is only doing cardio.  I hop on the strength training wagon now and then, but I don’t stick with it long enough for all the sets, reps, weights, exercises, etc. to become as mentally easy and second nature as heading out for a run.  So strength training was the first thing I thought of for changing up a workout.

To get even further outside my comfort zone, I decided that for my first changed workout I would try out a piece of exercise equipment I’ve had sitting around for over a year but have NEVER used:

TheraBand Resistance Band

(not my picture)

I got a TheraBand resistance band last year through a wellness program at work.  But I had no idea what exercises to do with it, so between that and my general aversion to strength training it’s been sitting in my closet gathering dust.

But no more!  I found this routine on Livestrong targeted towards swimmers, and did 3 sets of 12-15 reps of each exercise (except for the flutter kicks because my core strength sucks).

It’s always a little awkward doing new exercises for the first time, but I actually had fun with it and it was harder than I expected.  Like most things, the resistance band has both good and bad aspects.

Pros:

  • It’s super portable, perfect for tossing in a suitcase when traveling.
  • The resistance is very adjustable.
  • I definitely was able to get a good workout.
  • Grabbing the band is much more convenient than dragging out my dumbbells or going to the gym.
  • It allows you to do lat pulldown / rowing type exercises (which are great for swimming) without a cable machine.

Cons:

  • It’s a multiple sets, high reps kind of strength training, which I find kind of tedious.
  • Gripping the band made my hands a little sore and crampy after a while.
  • It gives your hands that latex-y, swim cap smell.  They do make latex-free bands, which might be better.
  • The routine I did required anchoring the band at waist height, and seeing as my husband hasn’t talked me into installing a pole in our house yet, it was difficult to find something vertical to loop the band around that was also strong enough to pull on.  I ended up using a fence post in the back yard (my neighbors already think I’m crazy).

The overall verdict?  I think if I had the right routine, I could get into doing a resistance band workout regularly since it would be really convenient to do at home.  I’ll continue my search for exercises, but at any rate I’m glad I finally tried it out.  Thanks for the inspiration Kendra!

Have you ever used a resistance band, and if so what kind of exercises do you do?  How do you feel about strength training?

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It’s a good thing I don’t believe in omens, because when I left for my race Saturday morning at 5:30 am, the skies definitely looked portentous.

But maybe things would be better to the west, where I was heading.

Hmm, not so much.  There was actually some pretty impressive lightning and thunder in that direction, and I debated whether it was worth the risk of driving two hours only to find out that the race was canceled.

I decided to just go ahead, and I’m glad I did because although I ended up driving right through the lightning and pouring rain, by the time I got to the race location it was beautiful, clear and sunny (and nice and cool due to the storm passing through).

The race was in Ellensburg, Washington, and after some GPS mishaps (someday I will learn to actually map out directions in advance) I made it there around 7:30 am.  Which didn’t leave me as much time as I would have liked before the 8:00 start, but was just enough time to take care of the essentials (packet pick-up, port-a-potty, transition area setup).

Transition area

The whole race course was really well-planned and well-situated.  The swim was in a smallish pond in the park, and the water was the perfect temperature to go wetsuit-less (around 68-70 I think).

The bike course was nice and scenic going through farmland and country roads, with no major climbs.  It did have a long section of that demoralizing kind of slight uphill that seems like it’s flat but you’re just really slow for some reason, but it was made up for by a corresponding section of gradual downhill that makes you feel like you are a speed demon.

The run course may have been my favorite, partly because it was shorter than a normal sprint tri (2.7 miles), and also because it was mostly on trails and in the shade.  I wish I lived nearer to Ellensburg so I could come do open water swims and runs at this park!

The finish line

I was pretty pleased when I saw my finish time (around 1:30) on the clock, and even more pleased when I realized I could subtract some time off that since I was in the second wave that started about 5 minutes after the first.

Things I would do differently do next time:

  • Not leave my race belt with race number in the car.  Luckily they had chip timing so it didn’t seem to be too big of a deal, but I think technically I could have been DQ’ed for not having my race number on.
  • Not put my bike on an empty rack that wasn’t mine.  Since I got there late, my assigned rack was pretty full and there were completely empty ones to the side.  I rationalized it by telling myself that my rack-mates wouldn’t have wanted me moving their bikes and gear to make room and squeeze on there.  But really, if you saw someone with their bike like this (and the bike number making it clear that it’s on the wrong rack):
    Me hogging the bike rack.

    Taken after the race, but I had the rack all to myself during the race.

    …you would think they were a selfish jerk.  Or at least I would.  I know it’s not really a big deal, but I hate breaking or bending rules, and this was not worth the guilt it caused me.  I do wish the race organizers had reassigned the racks once it was clear that there were going to be several empty.

  • Not break the buckle off of my helmet in T2.  Apparently I was in a really big hurry, and ripped the helmet off?  I didn’t notice this until after the race.  Too bad I spent so much time looking for my race belt and ended up with a slow transition time anyway!

Things that I’m glad that I did or that went well:

  • Going wetsuit-less for the swim.  It was so nice not having to deal with it in transition.
  • I pushed myself enough that it was definitely hard but I didn’t blow up.
  • My run pace was around 8:40 mpm, which for me lately is awesome for 2.7 miles, let alone following a swim and a bike.

Overall this was a great race for me, and it’s made me much more excited about doing more triathlons this summer.  I haven’t been racing much lately, thinking that it’s not worth all the effort and the money, but I’m really glad I did this one.

Do you enjoy racing, or would you rather just do your own thing and save the entry fee? It’s weird because I’m not especially competitive, but for some reason I just love races and end up having so much fun.

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