Friday, December 28, 2012

About Hydration Made Simple

Just about everyone knows the benefit of proper hydration.  Whether you are an athlete or not, this is one of the staples of good health.  Before I get to the meat of this post, here's a quick reminder:

The amounts of water that is recommended to drink is staggering.  Well, staggering if you don't drink enough water.  Actually, the recommended daily intake of water is determined by a host of factors... body weight, activity, weather, etc.. again, we're not here to talk about this...

For me, it's recommended that I compliment my daily intake with 64 oz of water. "Compliment" because water comes from a bunch of different sources, mostly the foods we eat.

I always had a hard time trying to drink up.  Took a bottle of water with me around all day long, and it usually made it home at night.  Hardly touched.

I think the issue was that I was looking at the 64 oz and figured "I could never do that".

So I broke it down to it's lowest common denominator, or to an amount that I could easily put my hands around.  It turns out that if I drink 4 oz per hour for 16 hrs a day, I would consume my recommended amount.

Second problem was to figure a way to remember to do this each and every hour.

Here's the solution:

This Nalgene water bottle holds exactly 32 oz.  As you can see, I made hourly marks on the bottle every four ounces.  After drinking the 2 pm portion, I refill the bottle and it's ready for the rest of the day.  This bottle is BPA free, made in the USA and there are no plastic bottles to throw away.  Added benefits.

It was difficult at first getting used to drinking all this water.  The timing of being away from facilities had to be just right.  But now my body is getting used to this new routine.

Yes, it was as simple as that.  Take the big picture (64 oz) and break it down into manageable pieces ( 4 oz /  hr).

Come on over this blog's facebook page and click "like"... Easiest way to keep up to date with my "Journey Beyond Ironman"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

About 26.4.26 Final Public Thoughts

"Final Public Thoughts" because from here on out, I need to quietly and privately reflect on the events of yesterday, the week behind it and December 14, 2012 and how they affected me, my family, those around me and our county.

All across the country everyone has been paying tribute and memorial to this horrible day in history.  We, in Nashville were no different.  You can read my account on how this came about by clicking here.

As predicted, the running and triathlon community (and I would venture to guess that a few non-runners were present as well), responded in a manner and fashion worthy of high praise.  Total tally was 1012 runners, running over 10,000 miles and over $30,000 in donations collected.  This does not take into account the on-line donations.  Final count to be announced soon.

The angel assigned to me, or the one that I randomly picked, I can't remember how it happened, was Dawn Hochsprung, 47.  She was the school principal.  I promptly put her in a pocket designed for the iPod shuffle my running hat has.  Today I would carry my angel here, not my iPod.

My wife and both our daughters had joined the run.  They were there early in the morning for we had a job to do.  After we all had our angel assignments  we proceeded  to inflate 27 balloons with helium   Yes, we chose to inflate one for the "mom" as well.  This was my daughter's idea.  We all agreed. 

These balloons were to be released right before the run started.

I took all 27 balloons with me and weaved through the crowd handing one each to random runners.  It seemed like everyone wanted a balloon, but when I explained that we only had 27, everyone understood.

These are two video clips that were made from yesterday.  They captured the spirit of the event, so I will not go into detail because I'm afraid I can't do any better than this.

I've become aware of a couple of occurrences that took place before the run  that have left me wondering and scratching my head a bit.

1).  As we lined up ready for the start, the balloons were scattered throughout the crowd.  As they were released, it appeared that the wing gathered them all together as the floated up to the heavens.  I thought I had imagined this, but several folks mentioned the same thing to me.

2).  My brother lives in Florida, outside Tampa.  He had been following the events that led to this run.  Being a runner and a new triathlete he wanted to help.  He signed up and committed to running 26 miles.  His longest run ever.

Since he couldn't be here, he decided to make his own angel.  This is what he did...

And because he couldn't be here, I picked up an angel for him, and this is it...

He did not know I had him an angel, I did not know he made his own. When I told him and we realized the coincidence, we didn't know what to say.

3). This morning as I was going through facebook, I read a reply to a post.  It appears that my friend Shari's angel was Benjamin.  Again, and angel picked or assigned randomly.  Shari was one of the first people to get a balloon. I picked one from the bunch.  Shari's balloon was Benjamin's.

Additionally, upon discussing this new found information, my wife Monica told me that the same thing happened to her.  Both angel and balloon were one and the same... Chase!

4).  My sister noticed:  "Funny you would get the principal's name since you're very much a teacher/mentor to so many..."

I don't know what this all means, perhaps you could make some sense of it.  I am not a believer of coincidences per se; I believe that there's a greater power in control.  To me, this was obvious yesterday.

As I try to decompress and move forward, I'm taking with me the fact that I now have my very own guarding angel.  From here on out, every race I run, every event I participate in, I will carry the brave Principal's memory with me and I know that just as she had her student's back that December morning, she will have mine.

For Charlotte, Daniel, Rachel, Olivia, Josephine, Dylan, Dawn, Madeliene, Catherine, Chase, Nancy, Jesse, Ana, James, Grace, Anne, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Lauren, Mary, Victoria, Benjamin and Allison...I will never forget and May You Rest In Peace!

Friday, December 21, 2012

About "Normal to Excellent"

Last week at a regular scheduled semi-annual visit with my doctor he ordered a host of "tests" to run. So many that when I arrived to get blood drawn the nurse came in with so many vials that you would have thought I was there to donate blood, not to get blood work done.

And why so many tests, you may ask?  Well, this was the result of conversation with Doc regarding how I was feeling; overly tired, sleepy, etc...  I had never experienced this at this level before, when I had it was very manageable.  I would just take a day or two of extra rest and problem be gone.  This time around, this feeling just kept hanging around.  Of course you can imagine my concerns.

I arrived at the doctors office this morning with a lot of expectation.  Not sure what I was going to hear, I expected the worst.  Not sure what the "worst" was, but I was ready!  Bring it on, I thought!

When he came in to the examining room, he had a big smile on his face.  Maybe he always carried that smile; he's been my doctor for over 25 years, maybe I just hadn't noticed before.

After all the normal pleasantries, he opened my file, which by now it looks like volume "R" of Encyclopedia Britannica, and quickly began to hum and scratch his head.  "Ohh oh" I thought.  "What is he looking at?"

"Well" he said, "Everything looks good.  No... everything looks great!"  Now I was the one with the smile.  He proceeded to tell me that "Each and everyone of the numerous tests he requested came back "Normal To Excellent"; physiologically there's no real reason for you to be feeling the way you are."

So what was the problem?

After some discussion regarding my peculiar situation, he concluded my visit by saying:  "You're not as young as you used to be.  Listen to your body and take an extra day or two or three of rest.  You can't be out there running and cycling and swimming with kids half your age and expect to keep up with them."

So, there you are!  Proof Positive once again that Exercise, Diet and a Healthy life style is the way to Go!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

About 26.4.26

If you live in the Middle Tennessee area and you happen to be a member of its outstanding running community, or one of your friends happens to be a runner and is on facebook, perhaps you have heard about the amazing event that is taking place this coming Saturday at 8 AM, here in Nashville.

On Monday afternoon, Robbie Bruce had the bright idea to involve a few of his friends in a 26 mile run in memory of each of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  So he texted his business partner and friend to solicit feedback.  Two texts later the decision had been made.

Later on that evening, my daughter recruited me to be one of the 26 runners that would participate in this event.  Yes, the idea was to have 26 people (individuals or relay teams) each run 26 miles. Each person would also donate $1 per mile.  These funds would go to the United Way of Western Connecticut.  WOW.. How awesome.  Immediately I agreed.

I posted on facebook my intentions to participate.  I read Robbie's post about the "why" of this event and it made all kinds of sense.  He has a 7 year old son and a mother and sister who are teachers.  He felt the need to do something.  I agreed.

Immediately all of us who had committed started recruiting.  We needed to find the 26 individuals or enough to fill relay teams.  Before we had a chance to take a deep breath the ball started rolling.  Everyone who could or though they could committed to running.  I think by the end of that night the initial goal had been reached and surpassed.

Within the first 24 hours the numbers had jumped to over 200.  And they were rolling in faster than could be tracked.  A facebook page was created for the event so folks could get the information needed.  This event had taken a life of its own.  People were asked to go here and agree to "attend".

Information was coming out rapidly.  All TV Stations in Middle Tennessee reported on the event yesterday, as did the local newspaper.   People were getting excited.  The numbers kept growing.  Changes would have to be made to the original plan.

As of this writing 640 people have committed through the fb page to participate.  This number has grown to a point where the original route has been changed.  We are now running from Nashville's LP Stadium.  The Nashville Running Company had originally agreed to host the event.  WOW, who knew! Thank you Lee Wilson for being there willing to do this.

Folks can run, walk or a combination of both.  They can do 6.5 miles, 13 miles, 19.5 miles or all 26.  As a matter of fact you can do any distance you want. There will be no starting gun, no timing chip, no finish line.  This is being done to "remember and support".

We expect the number to surpass 1000.  We just do.  We have no doubt, just how many past that will be an awesome number to see.

Additionally, many runnres who will be out of town, or that have heard of this event, have pledged to run their miles on their own and make a donation on line.

You don't have to run to participate.  A page has been set up so donations can be made.  Click here to go to this page.  There's also a option to purchase bumper stickers or tee shirts. Click here for more information.

A personal message from me to the Nashville and Middle Tennessee Running Community:  I am proud and honored to be associated with such magnificent, caring and giving people.  I am thankful that you folks have allowed me the opportunity to get to know you through these past few years.  You encompass the true meaning of Love.  Thank You!

Monday, December 17, 2012

About Winter's Ab Workout

Having had to nurse an aching back for the past few weeks, my winter workout/challenge has been delayed for a spell.  Two years ago I started, what I hope now is a trend, to dedicate the winter months to a specific workout.  First it was P90X in 2010 and the 100 Push-Up Challenge in 2011.

Today I started with the following chapter.  I found out last year that the most productive work I could do to help with my swim, bike and run was to work on my core.  This I have always heard, but had never really put into full and constant practice.  I would do stuff to work on the mid section but never really concentrating exclusively on this.  I am not ignoring the rest of my muscle groups, I'm just going to focus in this area for the next thirty days.

Here's what my routing will be, each day for the next 30 days...

1).  50 CRUNCHES.  Ideally, the crunches would be done freestyle.  However, due to my bad back I have to do the assisted type.  I will do the Ab Machine Crunch.

2).  15 PUSH UPS.  Perfect Form Push Ups.


5).  10 ROLL OUTS


7).  15 PUSH UPS.  Perfect Form Push Ups.



10). 50 CRUNCHES.


12). 10 ROLL OUTS.


14).  50 CRUNCHES.

This routine is performed without stopping in between exercises.

After finishing this routine, I will do:

1).  PRESS UPS:  Press up and hold for 8-10 seconds.  Repeat for a 10 count.

2)  CHILD POSE:  Will hold for about two minutes and repeat two times.

Please navigate over to this page's facebook page and click "like". 

(Thank You to my G+ friend Neila Lott for the inspiration for this workout)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quick & Easy Meal Planning & Prep for Athletes, Part 4

This post is part of an ongoing series of articles addressing meal planning, prep, and menu ideas for endurance athletes. To view the firstsecond, and third articles in this series, please click on the corresponding links.

As promised earlier, today's post will provide some healthy, quick, and easy meal ideas with links to corresponding recipes (from my recipe blog) that can be used during training season. Listed below are two ideas for each dish category:

1. Homemade Muesli - Deceptively simple and packed with high-energy nutrients, this is a great choice for those days when you just don't feel like eating the usual (i.e., store-bought, boxed cereals). It's also an excellent alternative to hot cereal, especially when the warmer weather rolls around. I often make big batches of it and then store it in a large, resealable plastic bag.
2. Blueberry-Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes - When most people think of pancakes, probably the last thing that comes to mind is health. ;) However, that's what sets these pancakes apart. They're healthy AND delicious, not to mention, extremely quick and easy to make; plus, they're real people-pleasers for both children and adults alike. They just taste like regular, honest-to-goodness pancakes, but the great thing is that the batter isn't made with a single drop of butter. Surprise your family by making them this special treat on a weekend day, and just watch their faces light up with smiles. :) There's nothing quite like the taste of light and airy buttermilk pancakes with warm, gooey blueberries that just melt in your mouth.

Lunches & Dinners:
1. Teriyaki Salmon Burgers - This meal is a nice alternative to regular (beef) hamburgers, especially if you're trying to up your Omega-3's and reduce your weekly red meat consumption for health reasons. Not only is salmon a rich source of Omega-3's, which are great for reducing post-exercise inflammation, but it's also a great source of protein. For more nutrients and less contaminants, be sure to choose wild salmon over farm-raised whenever possible. Wild salmon contains more Omega-3's than farm-raised; it's also 20% higher in protein but 20% lower in fat.
2. "Cheat Sheet" Chili - Made with lean ground turkey meat, beans, vegetables, tomatoes, and a bunch of dried spices, this dish is great for those times when you are tired from a busy day of work and workouts and just don't feel like putting in a lot of effort to cook. :) This chili is also portable and freezes well, so you can make it in advance and take it to work with you or eat it for future dinners. It's a huge time-saver!

1. Shirazi salad - This recipe contains just 3 major vegetables (OK, technically a tomato is a fruit, so 1 fruit and 2 vegetables) and a very short list of ingredients. Plus, you don't even have to turn on the stove. Can't get much easier than that, eh?! It's not just healthy, but it's so fresh, crisp, and delicious! Try it for lunch and add a protein source like shrimp, grilled chicken or beef, or if you're vegan/vegetarian, add tofu, black beans, or chickpeas instead. Or serve it for dinner as a prelude to other Mediterranean courses like falafel, pita spread with hummus or babaganoush, or shish kebabs made on the grill.
2. Cucumber, Tomato, & Artichoke Salad - Here'a another very simple but tasty, 3-ingredient salad. The dressing is easy enough to make, and you can make it ahead to save time. Or, do I what I do: Plan ahead and make a large batch of dressing, which can be poured onto salads in future. (The dressing will actually keep for quite a while.)

Recovery Snacks & Beverages:
1. Almond-Cherry-Sesame Crunch Bars - These energy bars are not only easy to make but they also make great on-the-go snacks as well. They can either be eaten as a regular snack during the day, eaten as recovery snacks, or consumed as fuel a few hours before a workout. If you're in a rush to get out the door in the morning but don't want to miss breakfast, you can also grab them to take with you as you're walking out the door. This high-energy bar is basically a complete meal in bar form, so it will provide you with all of the essential nutrients to keep you going throughout your busy day. And, it's much healthier for you (and fresher-tasting!) than most commercially sold energy and meal replacement bars.
2. All-Natural, Watermelon-Coconut Sports Recovery Drink - This drink is ideal for endurance athletes because it's got the perfect mix of key ingredients to ensure proper recovery (i.e., essential electrolytes, Omega-3's and powerful antioxidants) and contains the recommended 4:1 carbs to protein ratio to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle. For maximum effectiveness, be sure to consume this drink 15-20 minutes after a workout. If you're short on time, you can skip the green tea and just replace it with more coconut water, or just brew some green tea in advance and store it in the fridge for future drink-mixing.

If you'd like more healthy, athlete-centric recipe ideas, you are welcome to visit my recipe blog or check out the list of fitness and nutritional lifestyle books that feature my recipes, menu plans, and sports nutrition content. These books are part of Brett Stewart's 7 Weeks to Fitness series (from Ulysses Press).

Best wishes for health & happiness,

-Corey (a.k.a. "Cyberpenguin.")

 For more tips on healthy eating, sports nutrition, and wellness, feel free to follow my public Facebook feed, recipe/nutrition blog, Cooking with Corey, and/or running blog, See Corey Run. My recipes and sports nutrition insights will also be featured in an upcoming series of nutritional lifestyle books for athletes. For more information, please visit The Athlete's Cookbook Facebook page.

Friday, December 7, 2012

About ACME Closing The Doors

Just a few days ago we received the sad news.  Our local Tri Shop is closing its doors!

I was in total shock and disbelief.

My very first contact with the world of triathlons was at ACME Multisports just a few days into 2008.  I remember walking in the doors this particular Saturday afternoon and having one of the owners, Mark Evans, spend more than a couple of hours with me.  He answered, very patiently I may add, every question I had.  I know some of them seemed a bit elementary and maybe bizarre, but nonetheless he answered them all.  I returned a couple of days later and purchased my first bike.  Thanks to Mark, I entered the world of triathlons.

I cannot remember a time during the past four years when I didn't have a question or two or twenty that Alan Curtis (another one of the owners) or his staff did not take the time to answer for me.  If I were to calculate the amount of money, and time, I spent inside their store, I'm sure I would surprise myself.  A quick summary shows that we bought three bikes and at least 10 pair of shoes (mine, wife's and daughter's combined).

But I guess that was not enough to help keep them open.

I am not sure that the triathlon community in Middle Tennessee is aware of the void that will be left when ACME closes their doors.

I cannot remember a local event where ACME was not involved in one way or another.  It seems like whenever anyone planned a race, a ride, whatever, their first contact for support was ACME, and they were  always there.  I look at my race bibs and so many of them have their logo in the background.

And how about sponsorships?  Just about every tri team or club within a hundred mile radius was supported by ACME.  Not just with sponsorship fees but with great discounts to members. 

And lets talk race support.  ACME was always there with their bike repair trailer, pumping tires, replacing parts, getting everyone ready to race.

I understand the business side of the decision, but it doesn't make it any easier to accept.  I understand that no matter how hard they tried, sales were not there.  In an era of Internet competition, independently owned and operated business like Allen's and Mark's have a tough go at it.  They cannot compete in price with the faceless business promising a cut price and two day delivery.

I am an avid supporter of locally owned and operated business.  I fight on their behalf on a daily basis.  I see posts on facebook of someone asking for recommendations of where to buy this, that or the other thing, and it annoys me to no end when most recommendations are directed towards Internet sites.

We need to take a step back and ponder a bit.  Where are we going to go get our tri questions (equipment or otherwise) answered in a manner that only ACME could?  Where are we going to go to get our races and events supported and sponsored in a way that only ACME did?  I'm just not sure.

I hope that we have learned some sort of a lesson here.  Sure, ACME may not have been able to compete (in prices) with those faceless Internet sites, and ultimately they fell victim to this but it goes deeper than just the few bucks we saved. How many of those Internet companies where there when you crossed the finish line?  When you finished your first race?  When you struggled with your Ironman training?

When you spend your money in the Internet, remember that NO taxes are contributed to your local economy and specifically your schools and that NO Internet supplier provides employment to your next door neighbor.

To Allen, Mark and the rest of the ACME staff... We will miss you!  And Thank YOU!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

About Great Runs

Not all runs are good runs because some are just great ones!

I have been running on a great string of fast paced runs.  Okay, maybe not a great long string, just a few.  Okay two!

Last week I had two of my fastest runs in a very long time.  On Tuesday I ran 6 miles at at blistering 9:09 pace.  I followed this up with another 6 mile run on Thursday at an even faster 8:49 pace.

I must admit two factors were involved in this turn around.  One was/is the great running weather we're blessed with and the second could be my new shoes... Nike Free!

During the weekend I ran 14 miles at my usual turtle 10 and change pace.  This was on purpose.  Ran it with friends and they took it easy on me. They have no idea how much I appreciated that.  Wore the Brooks Pure Flow.

Today I was back on the road.  Wanted to see if I could surpass last weeks lighting fast run.  My totals today were not as impressive.  6.5 miles @ 9:02/m.

HOWEVER.... this may not have been as "good" a run as last week's but my goodness, today's run was just a "great" run.  I felt fantastic. Smooth running, steady pacing.

Gotta love days like this!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

About The Marathon That Almost Was

First and foremost, I must say that our hearts and prayers are with all those affected by mega-hurricane Sandy.   What a terrible, terrible path of destruction she left.  The images and stories are enough to send chills up your spine and enough to leave you speechless, if even for a moment.

As most of you who follow me know, I have been training long and hard for one of my most awaited marathons; the 2012 ING NYC Marathon.  I have run the miles, all the miles preparing myself for this event.  I have counted the days until I could cross this item of my bucket list.

As of today, I have entered 49 races ranging from 5k's to Ironman, and everything in between.  I have started all 49 of them and I have finished all 49 of them.  NYC Marathon was to be #50.

I say "was to be" because due to the events of the past couple of days, and after long thought and consideration with the help of my family, I have come to the sad conclusion that I must defer my entry to next  year's race.

The picture started getting more in focus when we found out that our flight to NYC has been cancelled, and that there's nothing available for us to book at this point and time.

The news also reported that electricity would not be re-stored to parts of Manhattan for 4-5 days.  That would be Saturday or Sunday at best.  Even if we had managed to get to the city, what would we find?  And even if we could get there, how about returning home?  When would we be able to do that?  What about food supplies?  What about transportation?  Still reports of the subway being under water.  Way to many things that could put a damper on what should be a memorable experience.

But the damper on my experience was not what ultimately led me to make this choice.

Recovery from something like this takes a tremendous amount of resources; these need to focused on helping people get back to some sort of normal life. They should not be focused on making sure a visiting marathoner has a good experience.

The logistics of this recovery are a nightmare... Here's what a post on facebook had to say;

"I hate the comparisons to 9/11 as I don't think it's appropriate, and it's been brought up by the media and politicians. I was in NYC for 9/11. This is different in terms of the specific area of impact on logistics - transportation, electricity, water, sewage, cable/internet, cell phone coverage, etc were all running for the rest of Manhattan and the metropolitan area. It is hard time for a lot of my friends in Manhattan and NJ right now, many of which are displaced. They are telling me that I should not come up. They are having a HARD enough time trying to get to work with the amount of street traffic. Subways and other public transport will not be running for a while. No running water or electricity for days. So sewage is also an issue. Lines for groceries, which are emptying shelves. People walking around with flashlights at night, no traffic lights let alone as they climb stairs in darkness to their apartments. Still spotty cell phone coverage because towers were affected. Many hotels are not operating, and many residents are already taking in friends and family. Not much more room for visitors right now...

I don't know that our immediate presence in the next few days would contribute to NYC's economic recovery, but instead perhaps create more inconvenience and distraction for the existing residents. Perhaps we should allow emergency, health and safety services to be devoted resources to recovery, restoration and to those in need. A nice gesture would be for NYRR to donate our non-refundable fees (at least the the non-sunk cost portion), which are currently being spent on clearing Central Park for the race only and installing race signage."

The reports are that the race will still take place.  I'm sure there's plenty of people that'll find a way to get to NY to run the race and I'm sure they'll make the best of it.  Everyone has their priorities and own reasons for doing what they do...

...But for now, I'm doing my small part; albeit a small part, to help in the recovery.... I'm staying the heck out!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

About Ironman 70.3 Branson

Before I get to the meat of the matter, there are a couple of housekeeping notes to take care of...

First and foremost, I would like to...

Thank God for giving me the physical and mental strength necessary to accomplish this task.
Thank my wife and #1 fan, Monica, for without her this would never have been possible.
Thank my coach and friend, Barry Baird for giving me the tools necessary to train for this event.
Thank whatever possessed me to upgrade my bike's cassette to an 11-28.  Clearly, without this, this job would have been nearly impossible...

Secondly, this race was dedicated to the memory of my friend Melanie Davis.

Selecting a race, or races, has always been an easy task for me.  There's no set criteria for doing so, other than the race site has to be within a manageable driving distance and for now, it has to be a race I haven't done before.  I'm always looking for a new and improved challenge.

And so it was how IM 70.3 Branson was chosen.

Yes, I did some research and YES I read all about the "Bike" course.  It seems that this race is solely identified with its more than "brutal" bike course.  But how bad could it be, right?

Upon registration last spring, I made two phone calls; one to my wife in which I told her "we're going to Branson" to which she replied "cool".  The other to my coach in which I told him I had registered for my third IM 70.3 of the year and this one in Branson, to which he replied "I see a lot of hill repeats in your future".

As the event date got closer and closer, I began to wonder, as I (and most all of us) do, if I had done enough.  Quickly, with the encouragement of family and friends, I began to trust and have faith in my training.  I had been there before.  It would all be okay.

We left for Branson on Friday morning.  The short eight hour drive, took almost ten.  We took our time.  It was a relaxing kind'a day.  The entire way I was at peace with myself.  I was ready to rock this race.  I remember thinking how cool, calm and collected I was.

And then we started getting closer to Branson. The roads, the hills, the mountains. Oh my goodness they were big, bad and went on forever.  The car, we have a medium size SUV, was having trouble keeping up with the climb.  The tachometer's needle kept moving up.  These were for real.  My happy disposition turned into one of concern.  My wife kept looking at me and all she could say was "Oh. My. God."  Thanks dear, I hadn't noticed!!!


For the most part, registration was well organized.  A bit confusing trying to figure out which line to stand, but quickly we were set straight.  We did notice however, that the lines were moving somewhat slow.  Didn't know what could be taking so long.  "Number Please", "Here's your bag", "Here's your band".  This process has never taken more than a minute or so, but today it seemed uncharacteristically slow.  Then we realized why.  The volunteers were elderly women.  This is not a negative observation by any means, for when we saw this, we totally understood and patiently waited our turn.

"Number?" She asked.
"228" I said.
"Did you say 238?"
"2. 2. 8. Ma'am"
"Oh, thanks young man"

Then she pulls out the Equipment Claim Ticket and said:

"This ticket you will give to your loved ones.  It is what they will need to claim your equipment should you get hurt or something"

"WHAT?  Should I get hurt?  I have done many of these races and I have never been told that.  Are you trying to tell me something"  I said.

"Oh no!  But just in case, give it to your family.  They can't get your equipment without it."

I knew what she meant.

Next I moved to the lady in charge of putting the blue arm band on my wrist.

"And how are you today?"  I asked her

"I'm doing just fine" she told me.  "Have you done this race before" she asked.

"No ma'am, I have not."

"Oh dear.  Have you been to the Highroad yet?"

"No, ma'am, I have not!"

"On my!  Oh well... good luck and have fun!"

"Thank you ma'am.  And thank you for volunteering."

So, I left registration with my bag in hand, armband in place and the lasting images of these two fine ladies.  I know they meant well.


Yes, both Bike and Run gear needed to be checked in.  And why?  Because there are two different transition spots.  Eight miles from each other.

So I checked in and racked my bike.  Then we drove to T2 and left my shoes and visor for the run.


We had been told that there was no parking allowed at Swim Start / T1.  Athletes and Family needed to go to T2 and take a shuttle back to T1.  This sure seemed like a catastrophe waiting to happen.  My wife graciously volunteered to drop me off at Swim Start at 5am and then she would drive and take the shuttle back.  Probably one of the smartest moves we made all weekend.  The shuttles were few and far in between.  There were athletes arriving at swim start with only seconds to spare.  Not bueno!

The temperature that morning was in the high 30's, low 40's.  Saving grace was the fact that there was no wind.  The water temperature was 74.2.  Yes, wetsuit legal.

As soon as there was some light, we jumped in the water to warm up.  I did for about 15 minutes.  It felt good.

My wave was off at 7:04.  First age group wave of the day.  This was a blessing because I didn't have to wait around in the cold air.

The water was beautiful.  Clear as could be.  You could see the bottom of the lake for the first 25 yards or so, the rest of the swim, you could see your hands.  Also, it didn't smell or taste of fish or diesel.  It was a pleasant swim.

Other than the swim in Augusta three years ago, I have never broken one hour on the 1.2 mile course.  I say "other than Augusta" because I don't count that one.  The river current is responsible for most of my speed. The Army Corps of Eng. had raised the water level by opening up the dam, as they do every year for this race, to increase the flow of the river.  Today in Branson, my official swim time was 57:10.  It was going to be a good day!


All of our Swim gear would be transported by the organizers to T2 after all bikes left.  Because of this, we had to leave all of our stuff inside a plastic bag, marked and tied.  This is just what someone who has a slow T1 time to begin with does not need.  It took me 9:29, but I got out.


Left "Bike Out", rode 100 yds out of the parking lot and turned left.  Rode about 1/2 mile and then the "hills" began.  After that point until mile 50'ish there was not a flat section on any road.  You were either going up or going down.

It didn't take long to find out why this race is defined by this course.  I don't think that any words, or pictures will do this course justice.

Ironman 70.3 Branson Bike Course

Upon entering the infamous "Ozark Mountain Highroad" it became quickly apparent that today's plan would be one of survival.

The Highroad is a bit over 7 miles long.  We would ride this over and back, 2.5 times.  Each climb would be done twice, one (the longest) would be done three times.  All climbs are at category 5 climb, which means the climbs are at least a 3° but not quiet a 6° and they have to be at least .5 mile in length.  I can tell you that these were a lot longer than that!

Total elevation gain for the day was 7709 feet.

I took each climb, one at a time.  Did not worry about what was in the horizon, for I could not see it, it was either around the bend or over the mountain.  I climbed each climb using every bit of every gear I had.  I was able to keep a constant cadence and a steady, albeit slow, speed. Not once did I have to get off the saddle, but more than once I had to stop at the top to catch my breath and fuel up, for after the quick descend, there was another climb waiting for me.

As it always happens, the descends are fast, to fast.  I remember one time my speedometer read 40.5 mph.  Obviously moving at that speed you would get to the next hill quick.  It took a lot longer to go up.  Every time.  Amazing how slow distance adds up when your speedometer only reads 4.5 mph.

Physically I felt as good as could be expected.  I had to deal with a couple of issues, but dealt with them quickly and swiftly.  Additionally, several times the quads felt tight, almost to the point of cramping.  Again, I managed to keep these in check for I knew that the run would be tough if my quads cramped.

After exiting the Highroad, another huge hill awaited.  But that would be the last.  Or so I thought.  As promised, it would be all downhill from here, plus a relaxing flat that would serve to get the legs ready for the run.

I welcomed this change of pace.  The worst was over and I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Rode around a ball park, on the bike path, for half a mile, give or take.  Exit park, turn right.  Then BAM... surprise!  One more hill.  Not just any hill.  This was a stinking wall.  As per my Garmin, the grade here was 6.2%.  It was such a surprise that I didn't have time to react, barely had time to shift to proper gears.

I considered un-clipping and walking the bike up the hill, but at 1 mph that would have been disaster.   So I took a deep breath, got off my saddle (for the first time today) and made it to the top.  I had to stop.  My quads were on fire.  I could see the knots and they were big. All the saving I had done during the previous 55 miles gone!  Spent!  Quads were shot.  The run would be hell!

Bike time:  4:24:43 (actually faster than I had thought)


The quads were hurting so bad, I almost fell to the ground when I got off the bike.  But I didn't.  Gingerly walked to my spot, racked my bike and changed gear.  Couldn't sit down.  I knew if I did, I would not be able to get up again.  Total T2 time was 3:22


As I left T2 my wife Monica was waiting for me with a huge smile, a great bit "attaboy", two thumbs up and a "So proud of you.  I love you".  All I could say in return was "Damn, that was hard"

I started running slowly, my feet were actually moving the way they were intended to move.  Until about half a mile down when the quads erupted again.  This happened in front of the biggest crowd I had seen all day.  How's that for timing.  "Never let them see you hurt" I always say.  So I sucked it up and made it out to a less crowded spot.  Walked some to get the cramps out.  This proved to be the theme of the run:  run some, cramp some, walk some, repeat.

Three loop courses are brutal.  Specially if the first two loops take you by the finish line.  But again, with every step I realized I was getting closer to the finish line.  Yes, the pain was intense but I've been there before, I've dealt with it before, I would do it again today.

The last loop didn't hurt so bad.  I was going from aid station to aid station.  I would thank the volunteers and high five most of them.  This made the last 3 miles plus more bearable.

And then there it was.  The finish line.  Run time:  2:54:10.  Ironman 70.3 Branson is in the books.


A race like this cannot be compared to any race because there are no races like it.  Other than the swim portion, nothing is equal to or even comes close to being equal to.  So comparing times against other performances would be useless.  I realized this early on and this was one of the factors which helped me "finish" the race.  Had I attempted to make a specific time, I would have been toast.  I'm glad I did not.

Here in Middle Tennessee we train in what we considered a pretty hilly terrain.  We have access to The Natchez Trace, which by all accounts is very hilly.  But nothing, absolutely nothing around can prepare you for what this course throws at you.  You just do the best you can and pray it was enough.

Word on the street this weekend, and this is not confirmed, is that this event will cease to exist.  This was probably the last year for Ironman 70.3 Branson.  In my estimate, there were no more than 800 athletes signed up and of those, more than a handful did not show up.  Although this event was well organized, it felt short of what I've come to expect from the Ironman events.  Small details that make a big difference were just not there; No name on the bib.  Not enough medals for the participants (although they did promise to mail them).  Not enough shuttle buses for athletes and family.  Not enough porta-potties.  I can see where the budgets were cut, and this made a difference.

My coach told me on Sunday after the race that I should be proud of having conquered the "toughest course on the 70.3 circuit".  He told me that I have earned "bragging rights".  I put this experience right up there, next to my Ironman finish as a highlight of my triathlon career.

So what's next?  Not sure what's out there.  I do know one thing's for sure... picking "me too" races, well that's not for me.  Any suggestions?

Monday, August 13, 2012

About Losing A Friend

It's never easy when you get the call.  Your heart sinks, your blood gets cold, your body sweats and your stomach knots up.  You look at the phone incredulous, you're hoping that somehow this turns out to be a bad dream.  But as details start coming through, then reality sinks in and you're left numb and speechless.

The loss of a friend is never easy, compound this with the news that it was a tragic, senseless event.  Add to the grief the fact that your friends life was taken by the hands of a loved one; a child, her son barely 15 years old was responsible for the gruesome act.

This is what happened to our friend, fellow triathlete and teammate Melanie Davis.  I will not go into details of her tragic passing, for this post's intention is to celebrate what she meant to our triathlon and running community and what she meant to us individually.

We met Melanie a little over two years ago.  She was this tall, skinny person who started showing up at group runs with this terrific smile, attitude and an Austrian accent most of us quickly adored.  What we soon found out was that she was a natural athlete; running seem to come natural to her.

She joined our local YMCA's training group to get herself ready for the Women's Half Marathon.  Soon she would add a score of other events including the Goofy Run and Half Challenge where she set a p.r. on both the half and the full marathon.

She joined our triathlon club a bit over a year ago.  Can't pinpoint the exact time for it always seemed like Melanie was there.  And here as well, she proved to be an outstanding performer.

Melanie was committed.  She was committed to her fitness, she was committed to her friends.  This commitment never wavered.  This is one of the reasons we loved her so.  Whether an open water swim at 5am, a bike ride or a run equally early, she was always there.  She made, as we all do, her training partnerships.  She never let them down.

But it was not just about training and racing.  She was the consummate motivator.  Always had an encouraging word for you as she passed by you on the course.  I mentioned her smile earlier.  Yes, it was contagious.  You could not be around her an not be happy.  You could not be around her and not feel better.

Our triathlon and running clubs are, like most others around the globe, made up of like minded individuals who get together  looking for a way to improve their skills.  What we get in addition is an extended family.  Folks with whom we not only train with, but folks with whom we make life long friendships.  We share stories on the runs or the rides; we open our souls and expose our weaknesses.  And we do this, because we become brothers and sisters.  When one hurts, we all hurt.  We really do.  And our family is hurting, really hurting right now.

We are much better individuals because we got to share Melanie's friendship if even for a short point in time.  She has left an ever lasting impression on each one of us.  And we rest a little easier tonight, because we know that on that next workout, she'll be watching from heaven pushing us to do our very best.

R.I.P. Melanie.  We will miss you... we will miss you dearly!

Monday, July 9, 2012

About Ironman 70.3 Muncie

There's plenty to cover about this event so I will forgo the usual pre-event chit-chat and get right to the meat of the matter.

This event was to be my second (of three) scheduled 70.3 distance events for this year.  "Was to be" because as it turns out, due to Excessive Heat Warnings issued by the National Weather Service, the Ironman 70.3 was shortened for safety reasons.  The new distance, a modified Olympic Distance (1 mile swim, 30 mile bike, 10k run) would take place.

The announcement was officially made at the 2:00pm athlete meeting.  An immediate and collective "whaaaat?" could be heard throughout the conference room.  Explanations were made by the race director and safety personnel as to the reasons why this decision was made.

Almost immediately the buzz around the triathlon community, both on site and on line was about this change.  Opinions on both sides were strong, stronger on the side that didn't care for the change.

As for me, I was disappointed and extremely bummed out.  I had trained for the possibility of extreme heat and I felt I was ready for whatever would come.  But, as I have learned to quickly do, I remained cool, calm and collected.  I quickly realized that there was nothing I could do about this, that no matter how much bitching and complaining I did, I was not going to change anyone's mind. I thought about what had happened and I understood why the decision was made.  I still didn't like it but I accepted and moved on.  I had a race in less than 16 hours.  I had to get ready.

What I do not agree with and I still don't, is the fact that in order to make it up to the athletes, the WTC offered a $125 discount towards the registration fee of any one of four races:  Steelhead, Timberman, Branson or Austin... problem was/is that all these races are only for the 2011 edition and the discount can not be applied to a race you have already registered for.  I have already registered for Branson.

As it quickly became apparent to many, the choice of races was made without consideration of the athletes.  It was made to help the WTC fill races that usually don't sell out.  Should anyone register for any one of these races, its just found money for them.  Most of us already have our events scheduled for the remainder of the year.  Not much room to add an extra race, at an extra expense at the spur of the moment.  All these facts render this offer invalid.

In my opinion, great damage was done to WTC's public opinion today, not so much due to the fact that the decision was made but how it was made.  Many are of the opinion that they waited until the last moment, when most everyone had arrived or were well on their way to the site, at a time when it was to late to turn around and go home.  Two folks I met in the hotel, one from Texas, the other from London, England were not to happy about this.

The weather did not change overnight.  This decision could have/should have been made at least two days before.  Again, the athletes were not taken into consideration.  It was all for economic reasons... or so, many believe.  I don't know what I would have done had I known earlier.  Good thing I didn't have to make that choice.

I do believe that the WTC has a lot of mending to do.

For me, there was a bright side to all this:  This would be my first Olympic Distance event.


As is the case with all Ironman events, registration was a breeze.  Everything well organized, problem free.  What was surprising to me was the quality of the expo.  Not up to standards, I thought.  Event merchandise was lacking something.  Not the usual pop.  I usually purchase a cycling jersey and a visor.  This time I did not.  It just wasn't appealing to me, so I passed on it this time.  Even at the 50% reduced price offered after the race, I still passed.


I had been told by many who raced here last year that the venue was spread out all over town; hotels at one end of the city, registration somewhere in town, race site other side of town.   I was told there would be a lot of driving involved.  Not so!

My hotel was 3 miles from downtown Muncie where the Convention Center is located and the registration / expo was being held.  The race site was 8 miles from downtown.  Total driving from hotel to site was eleven miles.  Not any more, actually a lot less than a lot of other races I've been to.


Race start had been moved up to 6:30.  We arrived at 5:00 am (this means that the alarm clock went off at 3:30 am).  We were lucky because parking was close by and well organized.  I had opted not to check in my bike the night before, so hauling the bike a short distance in the morning was a plus.

I organized my transition area in what seemed just a couple of minutes.  I must be getting better at this!  Had plenty of time to compose myself and put my game face on.

Met up with my wife and grandson and walked down to swim start.  We were allowed to get in the water to warm up if we so wanted.  I did.


As usual, us old guys went first.  That is after the pros and the paraplegics.  As I was waiting our turn, I happened to look back to see how big the wave was and was amazed at just how big it was.  I estimated some 75-100 of us, age 50 and over.  As it turns out, there were 160 of us.  Oh boy, the swim would be crowded!


As usual I found me a spot to the outside of the crowd.  I swam here the entirety of the leg.  It would prove to cost me an extra tenth of a mile (longer) but in the whole scheme of things, this turned out to not be a big deal for me.

The water was cloudy and murky and somewhat warm.  The swim out seemed like it took forever; that first red buoy would not come... it just wouldn't!  The swim back was difficult in that you couldn't see a thing.  The sun was in your eyes the entire way.  I had to follow the swimmers in front of me, which I hoped were following the swimmers in front of them, and so on.  I had no idea where I was in relation to the swim finish, so I just swam until I got there.

My Garmin showed a time of 51:38.  Official swim time was 51:00.  I was pleased, very pleased for this is a very efficient time for me.


Let me say this right of the bat:  From point in to point out, T1 is a long, long way.  I did not find out how long, until I looked at my Garmin's data and it showed it to be over a quarter of a mile from in to out.  Is this long?  It seemed long!

I still need to do a lot of work here.  A lot!  Yes, due to issues with my feet, I have to wear socks, compression socks.  This takes a long time because the feet have to be dry in order to put these suckers on.  Did I mention that this takes time, a lot of time?  And just how much time did it take? 6:41... see, I told you this took time!


The bike course was fast.  Flat and fast.  It was also crowded.  Due to the shorter distance, an out and back with a loop back was added to the middle of the course.  In this area you had to be careful with how and when you passed, if you dared.  We had a slight wind on our back most of the way, this was a welcome change for me for I always seem to find head winds in my rides.

Somewhere along mile 10, I noticed on my Garmin that my average speed was 23.2!  WOW!  I knew this would not last but I was hoping I could finish with an above 20 mph average.  I worked hard to get this done!  My Garmin read an average of 20.1.  The official time came in at 1:27:31 making the official average 20.57!  Fastest bike split ever for me!  Did I mention this course was fast?


Much better time:  2:45.  Not great, but much better!


Coming out into the run was challenging.  My legs felt good but my back, my lower back was tight and stiff.  I could not run upright; slighter than normal bend forward.  When I tried to straighten up, it would pinch my nerve.  My only thought was "Oh crud, not this, not now".  I haven't had a back episode in a couple of years, but today was not the day!  I was hoping that at the first water station when I could walk, my back would be okay.  As it turns out, it was. The rest of the way, the stations were spread out about 1/2 mile apart.  This also proved to be helpful.

Having to deal with my back right of the bat I had not even noticed that the doors to hell were wide open!  The heat would hit you in the face like a sheet of hot lard.  It was suffocating and made it hard to breathe.

Up to this point I had been thinking that this weather did not warrant the shorter course.  Up to this point I had been thinking all along that I could have finished the original distance without a problem.  But as I got deeper into the run, I began to praise God that it was only a 10k that I had to run for I quickly realized the difficulties of running any longer.


The approach to the finish line was uphill.  The chute towards the finish was on grass.  A couple of obstacles to cross (really,,, a slippery wooden piece of plywood placed on the ground to cover something), but nothing to worry about.  Crossing the finish line was uneventful.  The usual medal and finisher's hat was handed out.  But then I noticed a barrage of sick athletes.  Many were throwing up, and yet many more were receiving medical attention.  A couple were being carried out on stretchers to the waiting ambulances.  If this was as it was, I would hate to think how it would have been had the race gone the full distance.


I did not choose this race as a training race for an Ironman.  This was not my first 70.3 distance event, and relatively speaking I did not drive a long way to get to Muncie.  Therefore the issue of the event being shortened was not that huge to me.  Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with those who feel like something was taken from them this weekend.  I will not stop participating in WTC Ironman sanctioned events but sincerely hope the powers that be reconsiders the terms of the "discount offer".

As far as the race itself, I'd like to see WTC pay a bit more attention to the small details.  Somehow I left feeling that this race is like an "after-thought" for the organizers.  However,  I will be back.  I'd like to do the entire 70.3 just to see how I do on the full bike course.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Quick & Easy Meal Planning & Prep for Athletes, Part 3

This post is part of an ongoing series of articles addressing meal planning, prep, and menu ideas for endurance athletes. To view the first and second articles in this series, please click here and here, respectively.

Today, I'll be concluding my list of food prep shortcuts and practical time-saving strategies to help athletes better plan and prepare their meals:

8. Think and plan for your long-term nutritional needs.
  • Take inventory of your pantry and keep a list of commonly used, healthy non-perishables. Stock up on nutritious dry goods (i.e., staples like legumes and whole grains, etc.).'
  • Make and freeze commonly used ingredients for future use. For example, if you are boiling a chicken, save the meat for other dishes (i.e., chicken tacos or tamales, etc.) and then freeze the stock. Then you can defrost the stock at a future date and use it to make quick, easy soups or add it to entrées for additional flavor. If you purée fresh pumpkin to use as an ingredient for pumpkin pie in the fall, then you can freeze the leftovers and use them in December to make pumpkin soup for the holidays. (Or, if you're like most people, you'll probably just use the canned stuff. I like to make it fresh and then freeze it at its optimal ripeness to maximize flavor and nutritional content.)  -->Tip: To prevent freezer burn, keep your freezer well-stocked, at a constant temperature, and fill your containers as full as possible before freezing the contents. If you are freezing items in double-layered plastic freezer bags to conserve space, be sure to remove as many air bubbles as possible before sealing.
  • Stock up on frozen fruit, and use it for smoothies; it'll also double as an ice cube replacement; however, unlike ice cubes, frozen fruit won't water down your smoothies. :) 

9. Do as much kitchen prep work in advance as possible, wisely utilizing free time on nights and weekends. This makes the process of preparing meals go immeasurably faster. This way, when it's time to cook and serve dinner for the family, you'll be able to relax a bit more and spend more time with your family, as a good deal of the prep work has already been done.
  • Depending upon how long something keeps, you can either prepare a particular component of a meal (i.e., a simple salad dressing, easy homemade tomato sauce, etc.) or the entire meal itself (i.e., soup, etc.) a day or two in advance and, then based upon what it is, either refrigerate it or freeze it for future use. For example, make the peanut sauce for the chicken satay a day or two in advance and then refrigerate it. Or, marinate the fish the night before, dumping all of the ingredients into a resealable plastic bag and then tossing them into the refrigerator. Then, all you have to do is take it out of the fridge the next day and cook. :) Or, an even more efficient technique is to marinate two different main courses in the same prep session, placing them into the fridge in separate resealable plastic bags. That way, you've just prepped for two consecutive nights of meals and are way ahead of the game.
  • Cook a single, large meal on a weekend and then refrigerate any leftovers, which can then be served as different meals to be eaten over the first few days of the upcoming week. Or, prepare several meals at once (for more variety) and freeze them for future use. If you'll be using the former strategy, just be sure to pick dishes that won't spoil after a day or two. (For example, cooked meats, tomato sauces, soups, and some homemade condiments will keep longer than cooked rice or refrigerated, raw marinated meats.) For those refrigerated dinners with a shorter shelf-life, it's probably best not to make as much and just eat the leftovers for the next day's lunch. If you'll be using the latter strategy (i.e., freezing leftovers), just be sure to pick dishes that are known to freeze well.
  • Make more than you need and freeze the leftovers. This is a slight variation on the above suggestion, except that one large meal is made with the express intention of freezing the remainder, versus eating it over the next several days. Eating leftovers saves both time and money, and freezing them means you won't waste food and also won't have to eat them the next day if you don't feel like it. :)
  • Another strategy is to also pick entrée recipes that share many common ingredients and prepare them in advance. For example, chop up the garlic, shallots, and other common ingredients, divide up the portion sizes for each recipe, and put each one in a covered container or resealable plastic bags. Use them for lunch and then dinner, or for two nights of dinner in a row. This will save you a lot of time especially when the week starts to get really busy. This is a great technique to use when you don't have enough time to prepare entire meals in advance but would like to get a jump on the food prep nonetheless.
  • You can also save yourself time and money by premixing non-refrigerated items like your own healthy snack mixes or DIY dried spice mixes, etc., which take virtually no time at all. See my recipe site (i.e., Cooking with Corey) for some corresponding examples. (Click on the "snacks" and "spice mixes" tags to view some of these recipe ideas.

10. Cut down on kitchen prep work by using healthy, pre-prepared ingredients with zero or minimal processing. Here are some practical examples:
  • If you're short on time, go to the fresh produce and/or "organic/health food" aisles and select the healthiest choices. It's actually rather easy to toss together a simple, produce-centric meal with little to no effort. (In some cases, you might not even have to turn on the burner or your stove or fire up your grill.) Add a simple healthy protein source et le voilà, you have a quick and easy meal. -->Tip: Avoid pre-washed bags of salad as they often contain substandard lettuce that is often soaked or rinsed in chlorine bleach. (The same goes for many other types of bagged produce as well.) Not only does this process strip the salad of its nutrients by denaturing (i.e., destroying) molecules containing valuable phytonutrients, but the cumulative effect of repeatedly ingesting these denatured molecules has a rather deleterious effect upon cell composition (and hence tissues) in the human body.
  •  Don't forget to check out your supermarket deli or salad bar for healthy selections. Depending upon where you go or what stores are available to you, you might be pleasantly surprised by some of the amazing selections you can find if you just know where to look. I've often found healthy food selections even in some of the most generic of supermarkets. For example, our Safeway has several fresh and healthy gourmet selections that can either be used as components for a meal or the meal itself. Look for items like precooked organic, free range chickens or turkeys (i.e., roasters), Mediterranean selections like tabouleh and hummus, or pre-prepared ingredients like fresh roasted red peppers, etc. It's a lot less expensive than a restaurant and also means you'll be spending far less time in the kitchen.
  • Don't forget to ask the butcher or the fishmonger to pre-prepare (i.e., pre-cut, fillet, and/or debone, etc.) selections for you. They can expertly prepare food for you in no time at all, which can save you a whole lot of time in the kitchen. You can also ask them to cut pieces into individual portion sizes of your choosing. Remember that 3-4 oz. of meat/fish counts as one serving. (A serving of bone-in selections is going to be a little bit heavier, and varies according to the particular cut you choose.)
  • Certain kinds of canned or frozen produce will also work in a pinch. The key to keeping it healthy in this particular instance is to think "no or low" when it comes to processing, sodium, and preservatives. For example, you could use no-sugar, low-sodium tomato sauce from a can to make eggplant tomato marinara. When available, I tend to pick frozen over canned. This is because certain types of frozen produce can sometimes contain more nutrients than some of the "fresh" selections in the produce aisle as frozen foods are typically picked fresh and frozen at the peak of their freshness. Other pre-packaged alternatives include some of the non-refrigerated cartons found in the organic/health food aisles. For example, low sodium organic soups can make decent substitutions when you don't have time to cook from scratch.
  • Use precooked selections that you've either bought or pre-prepared yourself. Use shelled, precooked shrimp that's already been deveined. Use last night's chicken you made for soup meat, sandwiches, or chicken enchiladas.
  • Choose foods that cook quickly or can be served raw. For example, buy no-bake lasagna noodles or choose mussels, which cook in 5 minutes flat. And then there are California sushi rolls, which can be bought fresh at the supermarket and require no cooking at all.
  • If you're in a rush, use dried spices instead of fresh to save time. That way, there's no chopping involved. :)
  • And last but not least, remember that "pre-prepared" doesn't always have to mean that it's made by someone else. :) Seize the moment (when you can carve out the time) and pre-prepare nutritious, easy-to-make meals and/or meal components yourself. That way, you'll keep things fresh, simple, efficient, and healthy.

And that's a wrap. :) Next up in the “Quick & Easy Mealing Planning & Prep” series is part 4, in which I'll be providing quick and easy meal ideas and recipes that can be used during race training season.

-Corey (a.k.a. "Cyberpenguin.")

For more tips on healthy eating, sports nutrition, and wellness, feel free to follow my public Facebook feed, recipe/nutrition blog, Cooking with Corey, and/or running blog, See Corey Run. My recipes and sports nutrition insights will also be featured in an upcoming series of nutritional lifestyle books for athletes. For more information, please visit The Athlete's Cookbook Facebook page.