Pasta Alyssa

After this blog post I had an overwhelming response from people all dying to know one thing: What, in the world, is Pasta Alyssa?? So scrumptious that you can eat it week after week, both for dinner and lunch the next day, and not get sick of it? It must be made of magic!

Well, the wait is over! I will hearby in this post explain the magic of Pasta Alyssa.

PSYCHE! Not one person was even remotely interested in what Pasta Alyssa entails. I deliberately didn’t say it in my last post, and not one person took the bait! Drats. It’s probably telling me then that no one cares, but due to the fact that I love it, this blog post will be devoted to it nonetheless. I have successfully spread Pasta Alyssa through Federal Hill and Hunt Valley (Pam can vouch for that!) and those that have attempted it always come back with good reviews

First, I should point out that I in no way made this recipe up. The fact that I call it Pasta Alyssa is entirely based on the frequency I make it and the fact that it can’t be called Pasta-something-else because the ingredients always slightly change and I can never completely recreate the recipe. In fact, despite making it tens of times, I still manage to mess it up… the other week at Ryan and Ed’s. Oops. Thanks for not commenting on the fact that it tasted weird guys!!

First, drop a dollop of olive oil into a pan and make it hot. Then chop up some garlic….maybe 2-3 little wedges of it. If you are lazy you can also just use the minced garlic that comes off the shelf. Now at some red pepper flakes. If you don’t like spicy things, don’t add too many. Now you add the sausage. You can use italian sausage (I prefer this) but you can use whatever variation. You need about 1/2 a pound, or 2.5ish links. Take the sausage links out of that weird wrapper thing that’s really thin and add it to the pan, breaking it into small pieces. Now cook all of that together until the sausage is browned.

MEANWHILE you should have about 3/4 a pound of Kale. You can also substitute spinach for kale.  Cut it from the stems and boil it for about 5-10 minutes. Strain the kale from the water, keeping the water it was cooked in if possible. Then start boiling your noodles in that pot of water. I like to use fettucine, but really any box of pasta will work (you can use the whole box). Take the kale and squeeze the water from it, chop it up into bite sized pieces.

NOW once your sausage is browned, add 2 little cans of diced tomatoes. You can also use the diced tomatoes with the garlic and oregano – do not use the one with peppers and onions (this is what makes it taste weird). Also add the kale pieces. Bring that all to a simmer over low heat.

When your pasta is cooked, strain the water, and then put it back in the pot. Pour the sauce you made over it and mix. BOOM! Pasta Alyssa is ready! A little parm cheese and you’re good to go.

Best Week Ever!

Seriously am I on VH1 right now?! Just as I was coming down off of cloud 9 after Ironman Arizona, I got some GREAT news: I have been accepted as a member of the Rev3 Triathlon Age Group Team!!  While I will be posting more about this in the weeks to come, I couldn’t wait to get something out now. Woohoo!!!  You can learn about Rev3 here, and check out the rest of the team being announced here. And, of course as we get closer to 2012 you will get all sorts of dets from me too 🙂

In other news…

When I’m not doing this all the time…..

(Photo courtesy of Mike Mashner….also one of the only photos of me from IMAZ with my eyes (quasi) open. Apparently in races I sleep-run.)

I do things like hang wine:


Or bikes.

(Insert super excited picture of me being really proud of doing these things involving stud finders and screws and molly bolts and drills…..all by myself!)

Finally coming down

As I got back to Baltimore this week, went back to work, even got back in the pool and on my bike, a sense of normalcy has returned after I stepped off of cloud nine from the weekend I had in Arizona. And of course following the amazing weekend with a holiday like Thanksgiving is bound to create a sentimental vibe. There are so many people who I want to thank for helping me achieve my goals this year; these thank yous are a very personal thing and ones that I have ultimately decided to leave off the blogosphere for the sake of being able to be totally candid — having this blog I take forgranted that so much of my life is an open book…not everyone wants their story on the internet 🙂 So keeping this in mind, I am going to put a different spin on today’s post. Not as sentimental but hopefully somewhat inspiring and a worthwhile read nonetheless.

One of the most common questions I have had since people have caught up on who I am and the progress I made in this sport, is “how?” How do I do it? How do I balance my job, training, social life etc? How does it all work?

Whenever I am asked about this I always find myself searching for the right words, taking a deep breath before I start, not quite sure how to convey how it is that everything gets done. That’s because the truth of the matter is that when looking at the larger picture, I really am not sure how it all gets done. It’s a lot and there’s no other way to spin it. After many hours of thinking about this question on the bike…running…and in the pool, I’ve decided that I get through it not by looking at the big picture, but taking it day by day. And this isn’t something that comes naturally to me. There were days when I was crying because I was tired and hungry (yes, I was so hungry but I was too tired to get up and get food so I started crying. Props to Ryan for dealing with that one!). But on those days Ryan or Carly would remind me that all I had to do was get through the next day. When you stop looking at 20 hours of training, and just look at 2.5, it suddenly seems a lot more manageable.

But in addition to that, there are a lot of other little tricks of the trade you can do to help make your day by day routine easier. So, here is is, my top 5 tips of the trade:

-Doubles! No, not twice a day workouts. (Well, yes those are necessary, but not my point here). Get 2 of everything. Two mascaras, two hair brushes, two hairdryers, two of everything  – keep one in your swim/gym bag and one at home. And then when you have 2, actually make a third “emergency bag” to keep in your car for the days when you forget your swim bag and need to head right to the pool from work!

-I’m not saying that putting your credit card number all over the internet is a great idea, but I will say that many a night have I needed to eat stat but had forgotten my wallet somewhere. Chipotle has my credit card info stored in my account and as long as I have my phone (and therefore the internet) I could order my dinner and have it within minutes, wallet or no wallet. Lifesaver!

-Cook in double. And by double, I once again mean triple. You’ll need double because you’ll be eating twice as much, and by tripling it you get the leftovers for lunch the next day (making eating healthier at work and not going out for lunch every day easier). Have a few fast and easy meals that you don’t mind having to eat weekly for awhile. Ryan and Carly ate more “Pasta Alyssa” than they would probably care to admit, but it worked!

-Learn to run/ride from everywhere. Have running and riding routes from home and work that you can get through. If you don’t feel comfortable being able to do your workouts from anywhere, when meetings pop up and you’re running late, or traffic is so bad you can’t bear the thought of the drive home, get your workout done up at where you work. Or vice versa, I learned to accept riding out of the city and the fact that it would be slower and involve more traffic and lights. I learned the routes I like and don’t mind either way now.

-Always keep some spare underwear in your car! No seriously….at some point you will forget to pack it for after an early morning swim, and you don’t want to have to get through the day with a bathing suit under your work clothes!!

Ironman Arizona Race Report, Part 2

Okay….so I left off at the end of the bike leg in my last post.  One thing I didn’t mention was that at the end of the bike I had noticed a nagging stomach cramp. In the aero bars it just hurt, but if I sat up to stretch it out it wasn’t going away either. It was really uncomfortable and when I handed my bike off to a volunteer in T2, I literally had to walk to get my bag for the run. When I heard Claire and Mike yelling for me I managed a jog, but I was not sure how things were going to go from here. The volunteers in the changing tent were great and got me suited up for the run. I opted to do a full change here into my Oiselle stride shorts and singlet….comfort on the run was a big factor to me as I was trying to do everything I could to change even the smallest things that bothered me in Louisville.  As I headed out to the run I could still feel the stomach cramp, but I could tell that step by step it wasn’t necessarily getting much better, but it was bearable. And that’s all I was asking for.

Now I’ll insert a bit of background here. Since February I have had numbers written on my bathroom mirror. These were 1:10/5:40/3:50….all told with transitions those would give me around a 10:45 race. I had done my share of research and I knew that going into either of my Ironmans this year, a 10:45 would offer me a fair shot at a Kona spot. I also felt that these time goals were achievable, and at the same time if I was capable of racing a 10:45 by the end of the year and that didn’t yield a Kona spot, I would still be proud of getting to that point.

Back to the race. As I headed out for the run, I had no clue where I stood. Between getting the flat and not being able to pay attention to who was flying by, as well as getting confused with the loop course as to who was passing who, I could have been first or last and been none the wiser. But I did know that in Louisville I had similar splits and was 3rd coming off the bike, so I held onto that for dear life and hoped it was close. I also knew that if I wanted to get that 10:45 I still had a chance – I just had to find a way to do it on the run.

It turns out, I was in 6th at this point. As the first mile mark passed I took a split and had to do a double take – 7:53! Whoa. Keep it easy, relax, breathe. Mile 2 – 9:20. Ha! After these first couple splits I realized I had to stop taking them or I’d drive myself crazy. My legs felt good and the bottom line was that I was RUNNING! Around the 5k mark I ran into the amazing support team we had out there – Claire, Mike and Ryan’s parents – who looked as relieved as I felt that I was moving. As I made my way to the other end of the run course I found Hillary – another person happy to see me running 🙂 She gave me my first update on the field in front of me and assured me that I needed to do nothing other than keep going at the pace I was running.

As anyone knows, a marathon is full of ups and downs. For the first time though I felt in control. Each time something came up and my confidence began to waiver and my legs began to slow, I kept my head. What was the problem? How could this be fixed? The first couple times I had issues the solution was simple: a trip to the porta potty! I have a strict no pooping-your-pants-before-mile-23 rule so I was okay with a brief stop at mile 6 and again at mile 17ish. The first half marathon felt surprisingly good but when I hit mile 13 my body let me know that I was going to have to work for this. Right after I started to slow I ran into Hillary again who’s advice hit the spot – keep pushing the calories, everyone is going through the highs and lows, just push through it. Again reassured, I kept my eye on the prize and just kept moving.

The run course is very contained and was getting fairly crowded so I kept my sights on everyone ahead and kept picking people off. It felt good to finally have a race where I was doing the passing. In fact, for the first time ever in a marathon – open or triathlon – I was running through the water stops and running up the hills.  Finally I was entering the third and final loop. My mental state must have been a little loopy though because I remember that when Claire and Mike yelled to me “Third! You’re in third!” I thought they were implying I was supposed to be finishing my third lap or something and tried to yell back at them that no I still had another loop to run! As I kept going and thought about it more though, what they had said finally registered. I was in third place. That’s not a garunteed Kona spot. That’s just *almost* a Kona spot. I didn’t feel comfortable enough at this point with how I was feeling to ignite any sort of back burner so I had no choice but to keep plugging along and try to hold pace. At the 10k-to-go-mark Claire and Mike were waiting again. I had actually lost 30 seconds on the girl in second (probably due to my bathroom break).

It was here that I figured I may as well give it a shot and begin to pick it up. Let’s see what I have in me. So I just ran. Around 22 miles in I saw Hillary and she just looked at me and yelled “GO. GO NOW. LEAVE IT ALL ON THE COURSE.” Those words struck a chord yet again. She was right – I needed to leave it all out there or I would always wonder if I held back and it cost me a trip to Hawaii. So I found another gear. The funny thing about the Ironman is that you can be running 8’s and feel like you are absolutely flying because the general pace of the crowd slows considerably after the 10 hour mark. Mile 23. A downhill. Mike and Claire were there again. I see Mike look at me, look at his watch, and look at the paper he was using to keep track of splits for the girls ahead of me. He couldn’t even contain his own surprise that the gap to 2nd place was now down to 3:30. I was gaining ground pretty rapidly, but did I have enough miles ahead to get it?

I threw my gel flask away as I passed the next water stop, grabbed one more cup, and then began one of the most nerveracking 3 miles I would ever race. I felt like a crazy woman as I made each turn, making my way down to the final stretch along the lake. By now the sun was set and through the darkness, around mile 25. 5 I heard familiar yelling.  Claire and Mike were there, yet again, and they were no longer making much sense. Just a lot of words, plus my name, plus “30 seconds.”  Finally what they were saying came clear – I had made up 3 minutes. The look of panic and excitement that the gap was now under a minute was clear. I only remember one thought from this point: Oh Shit.

Over a million thoughts began racing through my head at this point. What do I do? Which girl is it? Can I see her? Do I sit and wait to make the pass? Do I have the energy to go any faster? What do I do???? Somehow, I managed to compose myself and push everything else out. I found the ability to just run. As fast as I possibly could. Within a quarter mile I made the pass and I felt like I was running for my life as I made that final turn into the finishing chute, practically throwing myself at the finishing mat.

10:45:51. Second place. A 50 minute PR. A Kona spot. A dream come true.

The volunteers helped me over to where Hillary was waiting and I could barely believe it myself as I told her how the final mile unfolded. They moved me over to the med tent to make sure I was okay – more than anything I think I just wanted out of the craziness of the finish area and the med tent was quieter.

After having a couple days to reflect I am still reliving the highs and lows of the race. Most surprising to me is still my 3:47 run split – the fastest of the age group! After having run splits of 4:06/4:18/5:12 from my last Ironmans, a 3:47 is still unbelievable to me. There are so many people that I have to thank and who deserve recognition for helping me make this race happen, so please look out for that post as well as my other post-race reflections in the next few days!

Did someone say Aloha?! Ironman Arizona Race Report Part 1

It was a year ago this weekend that I sat down with Hillary to chat about 2011 and my background and where I was hoping to go. I am absolutely beside myself to be sitting down today to write that yes, we accomplished our goal: this morning I accepted the second of two Kona spots allotted to my age group at IM Arizona. But before I get there, I should probably talk about how this came about….

Race morning was flawless. Ryan and I woke up around 5 which wasn’t too early in the grand scheme of racing. Everything looked good with my bike, and while I was pretty nervous I didn’t have to think much as Ryan helped walk me through all the bag drop offs and got me zipped into my wetsuit. Getting everyone into the water was taking quite awhile and by the time I was able to hop in it was 6:55. That was great considering the water was a chilly 62 degrees, but a little unfortunate as there’s about a 100 yard swim to the actual start line so I had to move it to get into a starting position I was comfortable with. After Wisconsin was a successful swim start for me last year, I decided to employ the same strategy and just start near the front, in the thick of it all. My theory is that as long as I am confident to keep moving amongst all the limbs, I’ll just get carried along. No use trying to waste extra energy if I can help it! The starting cannon went off and sure enough within seconds it was like a washing machine. I focused on just staying calm and staying with the pack. It felt like forever to get to the turnaround, but when I saw 29 minutes on my watch I knew I was on track for a solid swim. The waters opened up a bit on the return trip but it definitely felt slower. I made the final turn and was out of the water in 1:05:37 – pretty much exactly the same as I swam at Louisville. I’ll take that! Into T1 I went, threw on my helmet and jersey and headed out for the bike.

I generally have a hard time holding back at the start of the bike because I really am just so excited to be out of the water and onto land. But, I had a firm race plan in my head and I wanted to execute it. So I did my best to keep things comfortable on the way out and hit the turn around, where I was pleasantly surprised to find a tailwind for the return trip. And, not just any tailwind, one that was helping me along to push 28mph most of the way in. Woohoo! Back into loop 2, I noticed a headwind again on the way out, turning into a crosswind….turning into a….. wait. What. Why do I have a tailwind at the end of this section? As I hit the halfway point of the bike my fear was confirmed as sure enough, the winds had shifted and we now have a nice headwind for the return trip. This meant I was hurting to push for 16-18mph in many of the downhill sections! Yikes. But I didn’t have to worry about that for long, because a larger issue had come to light: my rear tire was flat. Very flat. I pulled off the side and evaluated the situation, glancing at my watch and seeing I was 4:10 into my race. I had a spare tube, air, and a tire lever. A single tire lever. I made an attempt to get the tire off with it, but there was no hope without some more leverage. By now a state trooper had pulled into the median and asked if I needed help. Yes please, I did. He asked for my bib number and said he’d call. That was cool, but also I still had no clue when help would arrive. A few people rode by and asked if I needed help, and I asked “tire lever?” at a woman after she asked.

The woman stopped her race and pulled off, unclipped, and began to remove her tire lever from her seatpost.

I repeat, she stopped her race to help me.

Insane. I can’t thank this woman enough. Her selflessness did not go unnoticed and I will be sure to pass the favor along when I have the opportunity.

I ran back to my bike with the tool in hand and began to make my best attempt at getting the tire off. It was on there realllllly good. I was making some sort of progress, I guess, when help did arrive. The man helped get my tube fixed and my rear wheel on in, are you ready for this, 6 minutes! That, plus the 4 I spent bumbling around, left me only 10 minutes out from where I was. I high-fived the helpful tire-fixer, hopped back onto my bike, and got moving. I had a good cushion from the speedy first lap, so I knew I had some hope. After the adrenaline died down though, reality set in as I realized I still had about a third to go. Yikes. Coming in for the second loop, I yelled to Mike and Claire (our fearless spectators/ support crew) that I got a flat and could they please pass that information to Hillary. I figured my change in time for the loop may have caused some concern. They got that message to her before I rode up to where she was and as she spotted me she was practically jumping over the barriers yelling to me: KEEP YOUR HEAD IN THIS RACE. DO NOT LET THAT SET YOU BACK. She was right. I was still in it. The third lap was kind of a blur as I made sure I could get as much nutrition in me as I could bear. With the winds still challenging on this loop I think everyone’s spirits had dropped somewhat, and we all just wanted to be off our bikes. I happily hit the turnaround and charged for home. All things told, my bike split was 5:45:11. That’s about 3 minutes slower than Louisville, but with the mechanical I wouldn’t complain! Yes, I was still in this race!

(to be continued)

Hopped off the plane at PHX

Since arriving in Phoenix last night a general scan of Tempe shows a rapid increase in the sighting of compression socks, lock-laces, and IMAZ cycling kits (for this current year’s race!) so you know the race is getting closer. Yesterday I knocked out a swim and bike before travelling the rest of the day. We arrived here in Tempe at 6ish and had time for a quick shakeout run and dinner (Z-Tejas – definitely recommend it!) before feeling the effects of the time difference. That meant bedtime was an early 8:30 and I slept full through until 7ish the next day. Gotta love how dark hotel curtains keep the rooms 🙂

Today is a rest day so after a good breakfast and couple loops at the expo I have been staying off my feet. We did get lunch at Chronic Taco though which was clutch. AND I got to steal some of Hillary’s time as we met at Starbucks for a pre-race catch-up/pump up! The weather out here is wonderful and I really am looking forward to a solid race on Sunday…I will update more tomorrow with tracking info and my final race thoughts!

Crazy Girl

Well folks, it’s here. I am within the one week window to Ironman Arizona and the nerves are here. The good side is that I am confident that once I am out in Tempe, I will be cool and calm and ready to face the day. The downside is that it means the next couple days are a little stressful, mainly because of one thing: packing.

Now, let’s look at the facts. This is my fourth Ironman. I have also traveled to several other large triathlons in the past few years. I am, by all definitions, a routine machine. I know exactly what needs to go, how it goes into each bag, and how to carefully pile them on top of me as I walk through the airport in a few days. But, it’s not so easy. Despite knowing everything I need – and having packed all of the neccessities last weekend – I have a classic case of over-packing syndrome. What if it rains during the morning? What if it rains in the evening? What if it blizzards? What if we go to a nice dinner? What if I want to get my nails done and need flip flops? What if I need to walk around for awhile and need sneakers, but not the sneakers I’d run in for the race – you know, like, cute-walkable-make people wonder if I’m going to do the Ironman because a girl wearing shoes that damn cute cannot also be an athlete-sneakers?

All of these questions haunt me until the moment I sit down on the plane. I’ll be sitting at work….thinking about work….planes…excel….codes……..STRAPLESS BRA! Yes, I need to pack my best strapless bra for that one shirt that I might wear if we go to a restaurant between the hours of 5-7:15 where we might sit outside but it will still be a warm enough to wear that shirt with some nice shorts and my sandals.

A few hours later….more data….emails…..oh look someone brought twizzlers today….multiplication….ZIPLOCK BAGS. Definitely, need ziplocks.

This goes on all day, and mostly all night. I sleep with a pencil and paper next to my bed in case I wake up in a panic because I forgot to pack…..oatmeal? Ha. I also “lost” Amelia for a few minutes this evening and managed to convince myself that I had accidently packed her inside my bike box. Clearly, I am losing it. Carly got to witness this insanity.

In a couple days I will be watching the sun set behind “A” mountain in Tempe. But until then I apologize for everyone who has to deal with this crazy girl 🙂

New York City?

(That’s supposed to be said like in those old Pace Picante salsa commercials)

After last weekend’s whirlwind 5K adventure we made one more stop before heading into NYC. We met up with Brian Shea of Personal Best Nutrition. Brian has been a friend of Ryan’s for quite some time now. Ryan and I will both be using some First Endurance products at IMAZ and Brian has been a great contact and a wealth of information about nutrition in general as we made our race plan. I definitely recommend him as a contact for any nutrition needs you have!

We hit the road and got to NYC just in time to throw our bikes in my sister’s apartment and head out to dinner.  By the end of dinner Ryan and I were already falling asleep so we kept things quiet and got to bed at a reasonable hour. Despite getting an extra hour to sleep it was still tough for me to get up the next morning for my long run. The plan was to try to get it out of the way before the marathon even started (with a 10 am start time that’s actually possible). It was my lucky day as Ryan was running with me for the first 80 minutes or so; he helped me keep the pace honest, and once again I found myself surprised with the pace I was able to keep over that time. After his run was done I had a little bit more to add on before we headed out to the marathon course.

We made it out to mile 17.5 just as the elite men were passing by and staked out a good cheering spot. Lucky for us our friends are fast and so we knew we’d never have to be in one spot for too long. This was especially lucky because it was a chilly day in the shade of the buildings. While we waited here we met up with Erin and Meg, some more of the greatest support team ever for a marathon!! Seriously – we had 10 people racing, and over 10 people out there supporting.

Me, Erin and Meg

After all our runners passed us here – and they looked great – we headed over to Central Park to catch them in the final miles.  For us, this meant another mile or so of a run to make sure we got there with time to spare. It’s always inspiring to watch others at mile 24 of a marathon, so I really liked being at this spot. Soon enough though our runners were through again so we headed on to the finish. Of course though, not before I got a hot dog. And maybe nachos.

All our runners finished the race in under 3:25 – INSANE! Carly NAILED it and got herself an 8 minute PR – only positive splitting the race by 12 seconds. Does it get any better than that?? I don’t think so!!!

I really wish I knew what Melissa was looking at in this picture. Oh well.

After the race it was back into the car and back to Baltimore! Congrats to everyone who ran NYC on a great day!

Video: Trainer Tips


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