Friday, May 30, 2008

Guest Writer Friday

Well, I have tons I could say but I am lacking in time. Lucky for me, one of my friends in my cycling group wrote an incredible ride report yesterday that I absolutely loved and felt it should be shared outside of the cycling group.

Before I let Lee take it away, I should preface this with a couple of sentences. I've mentioned Lee before; he's a friend of mine that I've been cycling with over the last 3 years or so. He hung with me the first day I rode with the group, when I knew nothing about pace lines, conserving my energy or how to pull or be pulled. He loves to joke about how that day. Lee has made goals every year that he has always successfully completed.

Last year, he and his wife were going to France; Lee decided he had to climb Mont Ventoux. He trained for months and arrived home with a new mountain under his belt. Also last year when the 4 of us rode our epic 125 mile ride together, Lee's seat rail broke around mile 95 or so. He could've called the wife to come pick him up, but no, he held on. Tired, dehydrated and with a broken seat, he stayed the course and rode the finish with the rest of us.

I believe on that 125 mile ride, the 4 of us said "Let's do the Terrible Two together next year." We agreed that we would train together and it would be awesome. 200 miles, 16,000 feet of climbing over every single major climb in Sonoma County on the longest (and nearly hottest) day of the year. it is nearly June. The TT is a mere few weeks away. And then there was one.

I was the first to resign from the ride. I realized that as I had declared this to be the year of triathlon, there was no way I could integrate enough riding to train for the Terrible Two AND be a great triathlete. It just wouldn't work. Someday, I will do it. But not this year.

Then David & Pat realized the same - they're both doing IM Arizona in November. Vineman in July. No way they could do the kind of training needed, either.

That left Lee.

And he stayed the course. He has spent the last 5 months under Coach Tim's guidance, riding out his plan to a T. He has been out there on long rides in the early hours on Saturdays and Sundays, by himself, with others, determined and committed. Enduring and mastering rides on hot days, cold days, rainy days, all filled with merciless climbs that would inevitably make him stronger to be ready for this big day.

So now the time is nearly here. Is Lee ready? I'll let him tell you...

Lee, last year at our TT

Okay. . . So I don't normally post reports about training rides but yesterday's ride was different. I ended the ride with a total feeling of euphoria. And not the kind that starts as tickle from sitting on the seat funny.

So I take off at 6:30 for my usual jaunt into Oakmont where coach has me doing the large hill there twice. No worries. I head out on Montgomery and turn onto Summerfield to cut through Spring Lake Park. As I make the turn I notice a mountain biker trying to catch my back
wheel (at least I thought it was a mountain biker, more later). For some reason I do not want this to happen. So as we cruise down Summerfield, into a stiff headwind, I get as aerodynamic as possible and lift the pace. I am now doing 24 mph into the wind and feeling great. However, some traffic issues allows him to stay close.

We turn onto the road leading to the back entrance.
There is a small 1/4 mile hill and some rollers leading to the gate. I now decide one of us will be in pain by the time we reach the gate so I come out of the saddle and find a monster gear and hammer it all the way. When I reach the gate he is nowhere in sight. Man I am feeling strong.

So I cruise into Oakmont to start the big climb. This is a 1.5 mile climb that gains 700 feet. It begins with a sustained 20% grade (max is 22%) before settling in. Just as I hit the climb I see 3 cyclists in front of me. Great! Just what I need is a good carrot. I actually decide to stay calm and practice letting people ride away on the climbs. That didn't last. One was struggling and I caught him before we finished the opening steep section. As I begin catching the other 2 I can tell they are caught between waiting for their friend and not letting me catch them. (As a cyclist you can sense these things. Or is it my over active imagination that lets me sense such things?)
As I continue to gain on them, it was a guy and a girl, the guy simply takes off and finishes the climb in great shape. I once again decide not to catch the girl and will ride at my own pace. That's when I notice her head and shoulders are bobbing up and down so I know she is struggling. I catch her just as the hill levels a bit and she accelerates. I let her go but actually finished with her on the final part of the climb. At this point I actually went back down to their friend who was struggling and rode with him to the top. BTW - this entire episode was completed in the middle ring. Time to descend. I let them take off ahead of me but actually caught 2 of them on the way down. At the bottom, they head for home and I head back up the hill. This time I spin up in the triple relatively easily on the lower section and then hammered the top back in the middle ring. One more descent and now I head for home. On the way back my "mountain biker" passes me ( I could tell from the kit). He is actually on a tri bike and now I feel even stronger.

So where's the euphoria? For weeks I have been doubting my ability to complete the TT. That is gone. I know I will struggle at times and I will be dead once it's over but as a result of my last 3 rides I am confident I can do it. That's quite a feeling. (Big shout out to Tim's masterful plan to get me ready.)

One last thing. On Sunday, as I was nursing a swollen and painful hip, I officially registered for the TT. We are go for launch.

Yeah! Go Lee!!

I really wanted to share this because I think about how we all have goals we set for ourselves. Sometimes we doubt our abilities, ourselves or even our true commitment to reaching those goals. I'm so proud of Lee for really setting this goal and remaining committed, not to mention his confidence he's reached at this point. I'm so proud to be involved in a sport where so many people do this for themselves and really succeed!

As I end this post, I want to wish EVERYBODY who is racing this weekend (Eileen, Bree, Paul...I know I'm forgetting somebody...I'm sorry!) ALL THE BEST. Remember to be PROUD of yourselves. Be PROUD of your successes so far. Be PROUD of your commitment and your goals you've set. Be PROUD of everything you've achieved and worked for. You really do deserve it. :)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Where's Sarah Been?

This image is from today's APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day - my homepage). It's a "Fogbow" over Ocean Beach in San Francisco San Diego (I stood corrected by the photographer! Thanks, Keith!. Go to APOD to check it out!! THEN go to Keith's blog to see even more incredible photos.

...Haven't been writing!!

I just haven't had a moment to sit down and write, much less do other stuff around the house that has to get done. There is still a HUGE stack of papers that need to be filed; I FINALLY got to the pile of clean clothes that were spread out on the guest bed waiting to be folded; I FINALLY went to the store to replenish the very depleted cupboard and fridge (no bananas! no eggs! no cheese! no cucumbers or spinach! the list went on...); I FINALLY got Quasi smog-checked so I could complete my car registration; I FINALLY registered for the Santa Barbara Triathlon and figured out a few other races to would think with a 3 day weekend I would've had time to do all this and more.

But no, I didn't.

Anyway, I don't have a lot of time right now, either. But things are happening. I'm finally sitting down with my friend who is also a coach to talk about website work in exchange for a Vineman coaching plan (YES!).

I'm riding around Lake Tahoe on Sunday and planning to meet up with Courtenay and Greg for dinner on Saturday (YES!).

I went to yoga last night and was able to successfully hold some balance poses I've never been able to hold (YES!).

I went to a track workout on Tuesday evening with the Empire Runner's Club of Santa Rosa at a different track than I'd been running alone at and it was SO GREAT. Running with people (esp track workouts - I can run trails alone) is SO MUCH BETTER and harder!

I've been cooking a LOT and have some REALLY DELICIOUS recipes to share. I even made chocolate chip cookies last night for the first time in ages. I forgot how easy they are. I made the rest of the dough into ready-to-bake balls and froze them so now I can have fresh-baked cookies any time.

So anyway, in between all of that, working a full-time job and of course, training LOTS...hasn't left me a lot of time to write. I realized the other week that I've really enjoyed blogging - between the friendships I've created through this triathlon blog world and also simply getting back into the habit of writing regularly. I have always loved writing and similar to reading, fell away from it after college. It's so much easier to write when you do it on a regular basis.

BTW, I'm thinking that the weekend after next (June 14 or 15) I'd like to do a Vineman course ride. If anybody is interested, let me know if you'd like to come along. If you want to come up the night before if you live further away, just let me know!

Recipes to follow shortly, as well as a possible guest writer.

Out for now!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On a serious note...

I'm sure since most people don't live under a rock they've heard the news about Sen. Ted Kennedy's brain tumor diagnosis. There was an article in today's SF Chronicle about the issue titled "No cure for malignant glioma like Kennedy has."

Well that's a cheery headline, isn't it?

In all honesty, it _is_ true. There is not really a cure yet for the type of tumor he has. In all the research that's been conducted, they haven't been able to come up with the silver bullet that works for everybody who is diagnosed with this particular type (there's over 120 types of brain tumors, fyi....but his is the most common malignant type).

But there is hope.

And that's why I hate titles like that. So what if there's no cure? Just because there isn't doesn't mean that the treatment he receives won't extend his life for another 10 years. I know people who were diagnosed with this type of tumor 10 years ago and told to get their affairs in order because they only had 6 months. Treatment has come a long way over the last 10 years and there continue to be new developments. It just happens to be a very complicated cancer.

Doctors really don't know a damn thing about prognosis. But they feel like they have to say something because we demand it (well, some of us do).

Anyway, I am not going to go on standing on this soapbox with this subject. Lance Armstrong, among countless thousands of others, have shown us what hope is about and why we must have hope and live strong. I truly believe it with all my heart and soul and also firmly believe that as patients we must be our own advocates in this system.

We must be educated. We must seek support. We must fight for our right to a second, third, fourth and fifth (and maybe 6th?) opinion. We must demand to be treated with respect. We must demand the respect of honesty - whether that honesty comes in good news, bad news, or *gasp* uncertain news. We must lean on others. We must be strong ourselves.

Why am I writing this? Well...I've been really struck by this issue. I used to work in Patient Services for the National Brain Tumor Foundation and was very passionate about that job for 4 years. I left only because I was moving up to Santa Rosa and a 60 mile commute wasn't my cup of tea.

I can't tell you how many people I spoke with said "I wish we had known about your organization sooner."

I am frustrated by the media's attention to this issue. Nowhere in the last few days has there been any mention of brain tumor support organizations. What about ALL OF THE OTHER 120,000 PEOPLE DIAGNOSED WITH PRIMARY AND SECONDARY (metastatic) BRAIN TUMORS EACH YEAR?

They count, too. And they need to know that there is hope. There is support. There's a place to connect with other survivors who've been through it all. If anybody knows someone who is not sure where to turn with their diagnosis (like I said, primary or metastatic), please let them know about the National Brain Tumor Foundation. Let them know they're not alone.

NBTF can be reached at

Here's the letter I wrote to the author of the article (who DID write me back a nice note!):

Hello Sabin,

My name is Sarah Trejo and I am formerly an employee of the National Brain Tumor Foundation, which is a nationwide non-profit based right there in San Francisco. I felt moved to write you in an effort to give a push for more awareness on this subject. I suppose there will be more news coverage of this issue as Sen. Kennedy's health progresses and he moves forward with his treatment.

I wanted to alert you of NBTF's presence in SF (, 22 Battery St, Ste 612) but also to perhaps encourage you and/or other writers who may be continuing to cover this to not only use NBTF as a resource for your articles (the organization has been around for over 25 years and continues to be the leading provider of education and support to brain tumor patients and their families), but also to share with reader the kind of support and information that is available to those affected by this disease.

While I am no longer affiliated with NBTF, I feel very strongly about the work that they do and the kind of support they provide, from pamphlets/brochures to teleconferences on treatment updates to trainings for caregivers, among many other things.

I can't tell you how many people would call us and say "I wish I had known about your organization sooner." I hope you'll consider them in any future pieces you may write.


Sarah Trejo
Santa Rosa, CA

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Song list for the week

So I was having more fun with iTunes over the last couple weeks and thought I'd share my recent acquisitions as well as some older ones that I left off my last Top 10. I really get sick of my music quite quickly, and vow to have at least about 4 weeks between the next time I repeat a song in spin class. I've had spinning students tell me they don't notice, but I SURE DO!

Of course there's some songs I could listen to over and over and over. But I digress. Here's the list:*
*I make NO claims on these videos! Some are just downright STUPID!!! It's the SONG I'm recommending, NOT the video!!!!

1. Kung Fu Fighting (Paralyzer Disco Remix) - Carl Douglas - 3:36 (sorry no YouTube video on this one - gotta listen on iTunes - but it's the best of all the remixes - GOT TO HAVE THIS PARTICULAR MIX, in my opinion) **And I played this in spinning yesterday and one guy says "IS THIS KUNG FU FIGHTING?!?!" Then they cracked up...

2. World, Hold On - Bob Sinclair & Steve Edwards - 6:38

3. Take On Me - a-Ha - 3:49

4. Look On The Floor (Solasso Remix) - Bananarama - 6:43

5. The Bomb! - Bucketheads - 3:23

6. Feel Alive - Benassi Bros. featuring Naan - 4:48 (I LOVE this song...just gets me going at the beginning of a workout)

7. Jerk It Out (Jason Nevins Extended Remix) - Caesars - 5:50

8. Rhythm Is A Dancer (CJ Stone Club ReMix) - Snap! - 7:46

9. Murder On The Dancefloor - Sophie Ellis Bextor - 3:55

10. And to take you back...Beautiful Life - Ace of Base - 3:41

Feel free to share any particular songs that get you going...I love having my ears opened...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ride Report

Since I don't really have any races coming up (race schedule FINALLY posted!!), and yesterday's ride was such an awesome one, oh and I like writing race reports, I thought I'd write a ride report.

Our group has been pretty split lately. Lee is training for the Terrible Two and has a strict schedule he's following, which at this point involves more miles and elevation gain than I care to partake in.

Pat and David are training for Ironman Arizona and had the Auburn Triathlon this weekend so they weren't around.

The Sonoma guys were going to meet up with Lee and leave from Sonoma, which would've been a good 20-30 minute drive to meet up with them.

Tim had to be in Napa that day so he was doing a big chunk of the same ride I did a few weeks ago.

This left Matt and I to figure out a ride that would provide enough miles for me and enough climbing for both of us to feel ready for the ride around Lake Tahoe in a few weeks (overall this ride doesn't have too much climbing, but around mile 50 of the 72 mile ride you are presented with Spooner Grade, a nice long, drawn-out climb, followed by several rollers from miles 60-70 or so).

We hopped onto the internet and perused rides posted to and found one that looked like a nice 45 mile ride with about 2500 feet of climbing. Perfect!

The ride would take us from Santa Rosa east over Sonoma Mountain via Calistoga Road and St. Helena Road, to the top of Spring Mountain and down, down down into St. Helena into Napa Valley. From there we would head 8 miles north into Calistoga, then turn west and back up over the mountain via Petrified Forest Road to Calistoga to Mark West Springs and back into Santa Rosa, where we would head about 5 more miles south into our part of town.Off we went. I'll admit I was actually somewhat apprehensive and I couldn't figure out why. Was it the fact that I knew it was going to be another hot day? Was it because admittedly I haven't done a whole lot of climbing lately? Was it because I'd driven that Petrified Forest Road from Calistoga and KNEW what a climb it was?

In any case, my head was not in its usual spot. However, I wouldn't let that stop me and knew that it would only be 5 short miles before the climbing really began, so I didn't have too much time to allow my thoughts to interfere with my intentions.

As we made our way to Calistoga Road, I marveled at the hills around me, in addition to the mountain that loomed ahead. It was utterly gorgeous. I felt so thankful in that moment to be where I was and to have love for a sport that would put me in this spot today. Our little country road began to pitch up, and as I looked up, I could see the T-intersection straight ahead. It was left or right. Right went down, left went up. No question which way we were turning.

"CLEAR!" I yelled back to Matt as I made a left onto Calistoga Road. Not much shoulder. I was only on my 23 of my cassette and knew it was time to go down a notch. A few minutes into it I was humbled down to the 27 - my lowest gear. This pitch reminded me of some of the steep hills of Berkeley, the ones that demanded you stand up because sitting would result in going backward.

"Damn," I thought. I hoped the entire 10 mile climb wouldn't be like this.

There was a lot of traffic on the road, and it began to make me a bit nervous. Large trucks towing boats and horse trailers passed by, followed closely by cars in a hurry to get out to the lakes and wineries of Napa County, I supposed. As I would stand up I began to feel slightly uneasy and just hoped that I could hold my line and not get hit by a car.

After a little while, I heard Matt yell up to me "YOU'RE ALMOST THERE!"

Really? That was a relief. It wasn't so much the climbing (which was tough, but still doable - one of those ones you might describe as a slow grind) as the high traffic volume that was beginning to get my nerves on edge.

I could see the crest and picked up my pace, huffing and puffing and letting out a small cry of joy as I came over the hill. I found a place to stop and wait for Matt just a few yards ahead. As he came up the hill, he said the words every cyclist hates to hear: "I've got a flat."

My first words were "wow, you rode up that on a flat?" As he changed it, a team of cyclists rode by us – full kits and matching bikes - I was secretly happy that we hadn't been passed on the hill.

Tire changed and resuming our journey, I said "I hope there aren't this many cars the rest of the climb." Matt responded "no, we're going to be turning on St. Helena Road - these cars will stay on Calistoga Road." I let out a sigh of relief. Good!

St. Helena Road was simply one of the most calming, beautiful and inspiring roads I have ever ridden. We rode in and out of groves of redwood trees that provided us shade and cool in between the patches of sunlight and warmth. I smelled the dampness of forest, and as we would emerge into the open, the smells would transform to grass, hay and an occasional nice-smelling flower. Butterflies were out and about, especially attracted to the blue and yellow of Matt's jersey.

There were occasional steep grunts, but the rest of the road meandered mostly in a flat way, some slight inclines, and altogether incredibly enjoyable. These are my favorite kind of climbs.

The bulk of the climb was at the end, where we emerged from the trees and began our ascent to the peak of the mountain. I was determined to make it up there quickly, spinning and thinking "strong legs, light hands!" I passed Pride Winery and knew we were very, very close.

Suddenly, the road flattened out and there before me lay the entire Napa Valley. Across the valley of vineyards, Howell Mountain stood high, and I thought of the very place I was just two weeks before, staring out at this direction and smiling at the beauty. What a REWARD!!! It was so gorgeous! I lamented not having a smaller camera to take along with me, but I did make a feeble attempt to capture it with my camera phone.

It was such an incredible feeling of being 'on top of the world,' not to mention the fact that 2 months ago I was up there with a friend and our moms wine tasting and thought "wow, this would be a great mountain to climb." And here I was!

I chuckled to myself - what had I been so nervous about? I know my strength. Why did I question it? Has there ever been a hill I couldn't climb? Have I ever had to walk my bike (okay, the very top of Mt. Diablo where it pitches straight up and it was my 3rd ride EVER...I wonder if I'd have to do that now...) or turn around? NO! Why do we play these mind games with ourselves? I DID IT and I was pretty proud of how great I felt.

We stopped to take it in, reapply sunscreen, drink up some sport drink, and get ready for a long, twisting descent. I couldn't WAIT!

The road went down, down down and I don't know if I've ever been on a descent where I had to use my brakes so much. At times slightly nerve-racking, but mostly thrilling and so much fun that I couldn't keep my mouth shut from smiling. I must've swallowed at least a couple of bugs.

As we made our way into the town of St. Helena, I smiled and drew in a deep breath. What a rush! I would do that again in an instant. Except unlike skiing where you experience a similar feeling and simply hop on the lift to go down again, this would require another 40 minutes (at least) of uphill grunting and grinding before you were able to experience the sweet reward that this descent was. No doubt going up this side would be considerably more difficult than the side we came up on!

We took turns in pulling up the road to Calistoga, an easy 7 miles with a couple of inclines but I was determined to remain strong and keep a hefty pace before we stopped for a coke in town. Rewards are meant to be worked for!

Pulling into a small diner, we removed our sweat-soaked helmets and chucked our gloves on a table. The tourists of Calistoga looked at us like we were nuts. It was about 10:15 a.m. and the day was already turning out to be a hot one. It's these times I feel like a bad-ass and don't care that I stink like sweat and b.o. and may possibly be offending those around me. In my head I have a short conversation:"What were you doing this morning? Oh me, I just rode over the mountain from Santa Rosa. Yeah, it's been a nice morning. I earned this Coke."

We shared a Coke and a bag of Salt & Pepper Kettle Chips. The salt tasted sooooooo good. Never have I enjoyed potato chips this much until yesterday. I let each chip just sit on my tongue, scintillating the salty taste buds and let them become saturated with all of the salt each crisp contained. Mmmmmmm.

Filled our watter bottles with ice and water. Out the door, ready to resume our journey back west. It was definitely warm and we had a bitch of a climb coming up. North another two miles and left on Petrified Forest Road.

I don't know why I get nervous when I know a big climb is coming. Am I nervous that I'll go slow on it? Am I nervous just because I know it's hard? In any case, I was starting to get nervous again. I told myself to suck it up and be strong.

The pitch started. I think because of the heat and how exposed the road was, it was easily the hardest climb we'd had. It had some pretty steep pitches as our first climb of the day did, but it was a longer climb (I think?) and I kept my mantras close to me and attempted to reach a meditative state by repeating them and focusing on my breathing.

Before I knew it, I was approaching the top! Wow, that wasn't so bad!

Just kidding. Nope, false flat and as I looked ahead, I could see the cars continuing to rise up ahead. Oh, damn.

I poured some ice water over my neck and resumed the climb. I knew the top was after this section, so again, I decided I was going for Queen of the Mountain and committed to pushing hard up it.

There is nothing like having your heart pounding hard, your legs beginning to fill with lactic acid, sweat profusely pouring down your hot head and breathing so hard you swear you've never breathed so hard in your life. Then you stand up and push it more.

And THEN you reach the top.

YES! I knew this was the final big climb of the day and it felt SO GOOD to just blast up it like that! Pouring ice water all over my neck, I gulped down more air and allowed the heart rate to come back to a more reasonable number as I waited for Matt.

We were rewarded with another descent, not quite so thrilling as Spring Mountain, but fun nonetheless. I got down into an aggressive tuck and let gravity take me down the hill. I thought I was Ms. Speedy but Matt zoomed past me and I yelled "DAMN YOU AND YOUR 25 POUNDS YOU HAVE ON ME!"

Suddenly, though, as it began to flatten a bit, I zoomed past him. He slowed down considerably, which seemed odd. Grudgingly, I slowed a bit. This kept on for about a mile. Finally I said "what's wrong?"

"I just kind of stopped going fast," he said. "It's like I had to work on that downhill. I don't get it."

We pulled over at a turnout to inspect the bike. Sure enough, his back wheel was horribly out of true and was rubbing against his brake. What a way to ruin a descent!

He opened up the calipers and we went on our way. Still, it was bad enough that it was still slowing him down a tad. Thankfully, the biggest part of our ride was over and we only had about 12 more miles.

Matt convinced me to ride at my pace until we got closer to town, so I agreed. I got down and just took it away. It was incredible how GREAT I felt!! I couldn't believe how much power my legs still felt like they had, and I had an easy time powering over the rollers that presented themselves over the next 4-5 miles.

The country roads began to come to an end, and we rolled into town. An easy spin for about 4 miles down Old Redwood Highway brought our ride to an end.

As we came to a stop, my head dripping with sweat, salt caked on my face and my neck ready for a good crack, I smiled and gave Matt a high five. "What an AWESOME way to start a weekend!" I said.

That one definitely goes down into my top 10 list.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Latest Adventures

I swear the next post will be about Chicago. It's been a busy week and there's actually other stuff to write about. Go figure.

THANK YOU for all of the FANTASTIC input on shoes. It looks like I'm going to have to give a pair of Asics a shot, and that buying new shoes every 3 months is a fact of life. I can deal with that. It makes me happy, actually, to know that I'm running enough to go through them as much as other triathletes do. It means that I'm actually putting in the miles I SHOULD be, as opposed to always arriving at races and thinking "wow, I should've done more running."

Today is Bike to Work Day. I still need to buy a commuter bike. Given Courtenay's success with eBay and other people's similar success, I think that's going to be the place to find a cheap used commuter bike. I don't want anything special - just something to ride around town so I can a) give Quasimoto a rest (my fabulous 1989 Nissan Stanza) and b) I can be living a more sustainable lifestyle given that most of the around-town traveling I do is all on flat roads and there's no reason I can't get around by bike.

We volunteered to help run one of the 'aid' stations with the YMCA and the City of Santa Rosa. It was pretty fun, though I would've liked to see more cyclists. It was pretty cool, though. The folks at REI were making pancakes for everybody and they had a bike stand for anybody who needed any quick fixes made to their bikes.
Me and the Group Exercise Coordinator at the Y, Dawn

I made more stuff on Tuesday evening after Yoga. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Matt was not such a fan, but me? OMG I looooooooooooved it. I'm salivating just thinking about the two dishes I made.

I began with the Ottolenghi Red Rice and Quionoa 'Salad' from 101 I finally took my own photos, hooray!

As far as substitutions go, I went to two markets that specialize in more natural foods and have products you wouldn't find in more mainstream groceries, but never found any red rice. I went with brown long-grain and it turned out fine. In fact, I used only about half of the rice I cooked and saved the rest for the next day's fried rice and egg burrito. I also didn't get any arugula - I went with a spring mix, and it was still fine, though I do think if I had been able to get some nice arugula, it would've added a nice flavor that the spring mix lacked.

I thought that the different textures of the dish were incredible. You had the different grainy-ness of the quinoa and rice competing, then you had the crunchiness of the greens but a different crunchiness from the pistachios, and the nice softness of the dried apricots. They come together so well once they hit your mouth, and the flavors that they all produce is just...well for me, it was harmony. Matt wasn't so won over, but what can I do? This was downright MY KIND OF DISH! I would absolutely make it again and again. Here's the receipe from 101

Ottolenghi and Red Rice Recipe

Heidi notes: Ottolenghi uses (and recommends) Camargue red rice. The red rice most available to me is a Butanese red rice. Use whatever you can find or substitute a good brown rice, farro or wheat berries. I should also note that I've adapted the recipe measurements to suit U.S. cooks.

1/4 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup quinoa
1 cup red rice (see headnotes)
1 medium white onion, sliced
2/3 cup olive oil
grated zest and juice of one orange
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
2 handfuls of rocket (arugula)
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Spread the pistachios out on a baking tray and toast for 8 minutes, until lightly colored. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and then chop roughly. Set aside.

Fill two saucepans with salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer the quinoa in one for 12 - 14 minutes and the rice in the other for 20 minutes. Both should be tender but still have a bite. Drain in a sieve and spread out the two grains separately on flat trays to hasten the cooling down.

While the grains are cooking, saute the white onion in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil until golden brown. Leave to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl combine the rice, quinoa, cookied onion and the remaining oil. Add all the rest of the ingredients, the taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature.

Makes a large platter.

While the rice was still cooking and everything else was pretty much finished, I moved on to start the Carmelized Tofu dish, also from 101

If you're not a huge brussels sprouts fan, maybe this dish is not so much for you. However, if you're on the edge, I would give it a shot. I think the flavors really get absorbed by the sprouts and bring out a different flavor so that you only get a little bitterness at the end. I would definitely make it again, though probably cut the sprouts up a little more than I did, as well as use a little less sugar. It was a bit sweet for my liking, though I still really enjoyed the tofu that way.

I would definitely make it again! Here's the recipe from 101

Carmelized Tofu Recipe

I used the Wildwood Organics baked savory tofu here, it browned up nicely and held it's shape, and as was mentoned in the comments it is non-GMO. Though any extra-firm tofu will work.

7 - 8 ounces extra-firm tofu cut into thin 1-inch segments (see photo)
a couple pinches of fine-grain sea salt
a couple splashes of olive or peanut oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, washed and cut into 1/8-inch wide ribbons

Cook the tofu strips in large hot skillet (or pot) with a bit of salt and a splash of oil. Saute until slightly golden, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and pecans, and cook for another minute. Stir in sugar. Cook for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Scrape the tofu out onto a plate and set aside while you cook the brussels sprouts.

In the same pan (no need to wash), add a touch more oil, another pinch of salt, and dial the heat up to medium-high. When the pan is nice and hot stir in the shredded brussels sprouts. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring a couple times (but not too often) until you get some golden bits, and the rest of the sprouts are bright and delicious.

Serves 2 - 3 as a main, 4 as a side

Enjoy! In case I don't say it before the weekend, GOOD LUCK to all those racing this weekend. Courtenay & Greg at Columbia, Kelly, Jocelyn and fellow cycling friends David & Pat at Auburn, Christine at Harriman, Chris & Loren at UVAS, that it? I hope I got everybody.

As far as races, I need to post my calendar, I know. But I don't know what to do between now and Vineman! I'm riding the ride around Lake Tahoe on June 1, which of course is not a race, but that weekend is full, in other words. June 7-8 I have a wedding to go to on 7th (though it's an evening one...) and so the 8th is prob not a good day to race even though there's a gazillion races that day. Hm. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Running shoes: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 8

I fell in love with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 8 back in February when I went to Sports Basement.

I was graduating from the Ariel down to the Adrenaline due to my awesome orthotics. Right around that time, I found out that Courtenay and Loren were also fans of this shoe, with the one caveat: they didn't seem to last as long as other shoes.

I also remembered Court writing about how she figured it was time for new shoes when she started having pains while running and realized it wasn't because she was just weak (I swear I remember that but I can't find that post...).

About two weeks ago I started having a couple weird twinges of pain right below my knee. Nothing big; I'm so clumsy that I figured I bumped into something like I always do. Then last week after a run on the treadmill I was really kind of hurting. Saturday I went out for an 8.5 mile run - nothing too fast and nothing new. Yet Sunday I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a train.

WTF?! I thought something was so wrong with me, like how did I become so weak all of a sudden? COME ON, BODY, DON'T BE SO WEAK SAUCE!

Then I looked at my mileage on the shoes - 196. I should get more than that, right?

Then I looked at the shoes. Oh.


So, when I was in Napkinville Napa on Sunday for Mom's Day I went to the Napa Running Store and got my $92 pair of shoes (and THAT was with a 10% discount!).


If I'm going to have to buy these every 3 months, that sucks!

Especially since besides this ONE thing, I LOVE LOVE LOVE these shoes. They fit my feet PERFECTLY, and I've never had any pains or blisters or toenails falling off because of them.

I think it's Brooks' plot to make you have to buy them more often.

Swimming is BY FAR the cheapest sport of the three, unless you want to wear the waterproof mp3 player while swimming.

Hmph. If anybody else had shoe recommendations/reviews (and Ben, I'm well aware of how awesome your KSwiss shoes are) for moderate motion control (aka 'support'), feel free to throw 'em out here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

One of the greatest inspirations

I wanted to share this video that my friend Jessica made and just shared with us.

Most of you who read this blog didn't know me last year when Jessica made her attempt to swim the English Channel.

All the words in the world can't do enough justice for me to describe how inspiring she was. From the moment she announced to all of us "I'm going to swim the English Channel" up until days after the attempt - I remained inspired, because if anybody would do this, I KNEW it would be Jessica. Her commitment was unwavering and unending. As she described it, "I honestly believed, with every single bone in my body, up until they had to pull me from the water, that I was going to make it." She had believed that from the very day she made her deposit with the Channel Swimming Association.

She spent a year training. Numerous swims in the San Francisco Bay. All swimming, all the time. Jessica had a plan and that woman STUCK WITH IT. I was so impressed by her ability to get into that COLD-ASS BAY when it was 48 degrees in the middle of winter and DARKNESS, and complete her training swims.

So the day finally came last year. July 8, 2007. I got word that Jessica had received the go-ahead to make her jump. I was one of the friends who would distribute update e-mails from her mom, so I was glued to my computer when I woke up that Sunday morning.

I was so excited. But the first e-mail I woke up to was "Yikes!"

Jessica had been swimming through tons of jellyfish for an hour. Luckily, she hadn't been stung badly, but was a bit unnerved by having jellyfish everywhere.

That was about 4 hours in.

Time rolled on, and the first sign that things were wrong was when she threw up all of her nutrition at 11.5 hours.

What Jessica didn't know was that she had come down with aspiration pneumonia. Her final blog post tells the whole story of that day, so I won't re-tell it here.

But what I do want to say is that she kept on. For 3.5 more hours, she kept swimming. She really believed she was going to make it. She swam for 30 miles that day, coming within 1.5 miles of the French coast. Unfortunately the tides were off that day, and all but a few who attempted it that day never made it.

So some might say she failed. She didn't make it to France.

Kind of like some of you out there who feel like you failed somehow because you made mistakes at a race, or it didn't come out nearly how you expected.

But in the end, it's not the result that matters. It's the heart you put into it. It's what you gave. It's the experience you had. It's what you learned. It's what you took away. It's how you changed as a person because of everything you did to prepare. It's how you will do things differently going forward.

It's also the fact that you chose to SHARE your experience with others, no matter the outcome. The ups and the downs, the good and the bad, you are making a choice to let friends, family and strangers in on your adventures and your lessons. I think that in itself is a form of success.

Jessica didn't fail. She succeeded in spite of SO MANY odds that were against her that day. Her shoulder is still messed up. She's moving on. She's taking up cycling, which I'm happy about (because there's no way in hell you'll ever catch me doing anything longer than Donner Lake, which is 2.7 miles!).

And she's still working it all out. But she remains one of my greatest inspirations for the way she handled her entire experience, from beginning to end.

Great job, Jessie. I'm so glad to have you as such a great friend.


First - I LOVED LOVED LOVED Chicago. If it weren't so damn cold there in the winter and so humid in the summer, I could definitely see myself moving there. What an amazing city. Highlights and pictures to come soon (later today or tomorrow).

Since I don't have a lot of time to post, I thought I'd share something utterly hilarious that my 17 year-old sister shared with me yesterday (it's how I stay hip...she tells me what's up these days with kids...;)

The website is called "Gizoogle." Now, assuming you haven't been living under a rock, you've probably heard something in the past 5-10 years about this whole 'rapper-talk' or whateva you want to call it. But it involves inserting the sound 'izzle' into the middle of words and cutting off the end of words...for example, if you wanted to say "For sure, my friend!" you would say "Fo shizzle mah nizzle!"

It's totally dumb but I think it should go on that website called "Things White People Like" and then be listed under "White people love to make fun of gangsta talk and try to say things like "fo shizzle!" and think they're all cool and funny when they do." So true.

Okay, so here's the real point to ALL of this (I swear I'm trying to be more like Ben and get right to the point):

So you go to "Gizzogle" ( and enter in a website. Say, for example, (you must enter the whole http://www part). Gizoogle then TRANSLATES the website into gangsta talk!

It's really pretty hilarious.

However, what I typed in next for "translatin'" what even funnier. I had it translate my blog...

And you know how I write a little something for each person's blog on my blogroll?

Well my, my it translates my dear friends' descriptions is utterly hilarious:

Here's just a sample (by the way, it changes every time you do it...try it a few times!):

Before Gizzogle: Courtenay's Blog - She's a super-duper cyclist & triathlete and induces much laughter in her writing.

After Gizoogle: Courtenay's Blizzay - She's a bitch cyclist & triathlete n induces much shot calla in her writ'n . Aint no L-I-M-I-to-tha-T.

Before Gizoogle:The Marathon Life - Devon's chronicle of her running exploits as a super distance runner

After Gizoogle:
The Marathon Life - Devon's chronicle of her bustin' exploits as a snoopa distance gangsta

Before Gizoogle: Bree Wee's Blog - ALWAYS has a smile on her face; makes even the toughest workouts seem fun!

After Gizoogle: Bizzy Wee's Bliznog - ALWAYS has a smile on her face; makes even tha toughest workouts seem fun!

I LOVE that - ha! Bree, you are now "Bizzy Wee!"

This one is just plain wrong but if you know Loren...

Before Gizoogle: Loren's Triathlon Training Blog - Occasionally features really cute kid pics.

After Gizoogle: Loren's Triathlon Train'n Blog - Occasionally features really skanky kid pics.

Okay, anyway, go play for yourself.

I Gizoogled "" and I LOVED how there's this picture of Greg and Arnold (the pot-bellied pig) and instead of it saying "From The Diary of Greg Remaly," once Gizoogled it now says:

"Fizzle the Diary of Greg Remaly: Pro triathlete Greg Remaly raps `bout tha ups n downs of train'n through tha winta n early season .. n introduces his pal, a pot-bellied pig in tha mutha fuckin club.

Wow. Okay, on with my day.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rants and...well yes, just rants, really (about healthcare)

(First I just wanted to say thank you for the words of wisdom on my bike fit...I appreciate the suggestions and am definitely going to go into the Hub when I get back home...THANKS!!)

Just a few things I needed to get off my chest...

1) Has anybody noticed that the Wall Street Journal has really fallen by the wayside? I mean...since Rupert Murdoch (aka Fox Network owner) took over 8 months ago or whenever it was...countless contributors/columnists have left (not to mention the editor), and the articles have become so much more...broad and mainstream. They're crap. For all I know, this paper could be USA Today at this point. It's gotten that bad. (I mean...even some of the columnist wrote a whole Page One article yesterday about being a juror in the Uma Thurman stalker trial...SINCE WHEN THE HELL IS THAT KIND OF 'NEWS' REPORTING FIT FOR THE WSJ? US Weekly, maybe...hell, The Journal of Popular Studies People too...but WSJ? Come on.)

2) But last week, there was an article in the WSJ regarding health care that made me LIVID. I meant to post it so that I could write a whole thing about it, but I never got around to it. It was about how many hospitals (non-profit ones included) are now asking patients to pay upfront for their care before they receive treatment (see “Cash Before Chemo." If you don't have WSJ subscription, I posted the article here on my blog. It's utterly sick that some of these non-profit hospitals are turning SIGNIFICANTLY larger profits than their for-profit counterparts. Hmm. It also raises the issue of, "well fine, fair enough, hospitals and doctors DO need to be paid, that's true; but now that costs have spiraled out of control, NOW you're asking people to pay out of pocket for things up front? WTF IS WRONG HERE?" Then we confront the question that needs to be asked, which is, do we all deserve fair and equal access to the same level of care, regardless of insurance/ability to pay?

3) This also comes as I just found out what my new healthcare premium is going to be since I switched to an independent plan. Um, let's see, I'm one of the healthiest people in this WHOLE FREAKING COUNTRY, but because last year I was 'diagnosed' with plantar fasciitis (I think my doc did that so that my orthotics would be covered by the insurance I had...but really I needed them because I have no arches), my premium went up about 55%. FIFTY FIVE PERCENT.

HUH? Somehow, I'm a super risk because of that. *rolls eyes*

Thankfully, they'll let me appeal it 12 months from the date of diagnosis, so I should be good to go in another 2 months. Until then, I'll pay through the wazoo. So dumb.

"Cash Before Chemo"

This is the article I referenced from the WSJ. Apparently you can't view it if you're not a full subscriber, so I wanted to make it accessible to anybody who would like to read it. Ugh, WSJ YOU ARE SO LAME!!!

Cash Before Chemo: Hospitals Get Tough
Bad Debts Prompt Change in Billing; $45,000 to Come In
By BARBARA MARTINEZApril 28, 2008; Page A1

LAKE JACKSON, Texas -- When Lisa Kelly learned she had leukemia in late 2006, her doctor advised her to seek urgent care at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. But the nonprofit hospital refused to accept Mrs. Kelly's limited insurance. It asked for $105,000 in cash before it would admit her.

Sitting in the hospital's business office, Mrs. Kelly says she told M.D. Anderson's representatives that she had some money to pay for treatment, but couldn't get all the cash they asked for that day. "Are they going to send me home?" she recalls thinking. "Am I going to die?"
A growing trend in the hospital industry means cancer patients like Lisa Kelly are being asked to pay cash upfront before receiving treatment.

Hospitals are adopting a policy to improve their finances: making medical care contingent on upfront payments. Typically, hospitals have billed people after they receive care. But now, pointing to their burgeoning bad-debt and charity-care costs, hospitals are asking patients for money before they get treated.

Hospitals say they have turned to the practice because of a spike in patients who don't pay their bills. Uncompensated care cost the hospital industry $31.2 billion in 2006, up 44% from $21.6 billion in 2000, according to the American Hospital Association.

The bad debt is driven by a larger number of Americans who are uninsured or who don't have enough insurance to cover medical costs if catastrophe strikes. Even among those with adequate insurance, deductibles and co-payments are growing so big that insured patients also have trouble paying hospitals.

Letting bad debt balloon unchecked would threaten hospitals' finances and their ability to provide care, says Richard Umbdenstock, president of the American Hospital Association. Hospitals would rather discuss costs with patients upfront, he says. "After, when it's an ugly surprise or becomes contentious, it doesn't work for anybody."

M.D. Anderson says it went to a new upfront-collection system for initial visits in 2005 after its unpaid patient bills jumped by $18 million to $52 million that year. The hospital said its increasing bad-debt load threatened its mission to cure cancer, a goal on which it spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The change had the desired effect: The hospital's bad debt fell to $33 million the following year.
Asking patients to pay after they've received treatment is "like asking someone to pay for the car after they've driven off the lot," says John Tietjen, vice president for patient financial services at M.D. Anderson. "The time that the patient is most receptive is before the care is delivered."

M.D. Anderson says it provides assistance or free care to poor patients who can't afford treatment. It says it acted appropriately in Mrs. Kelly's case because she wasn't indigent, but underinsured. The hospital says it wouldn't accept her insurance because the payout, a maximum of $37,000 a year, would be less than 30% of the estimated costs of her care.
Tenet Healthcare and HCA, two big, for-profit hospital chains, say they have also been asking patients for upfront payments before admitting them. While the practice has received little notice, some patient advocates and health-care experts find it harder to justify at nonprofit hospitals, given their benevolent mission and improving financial fortunes.

In the Black

An Ohio State University study found net income per bed nearly tripled at nonprofit hospitals to $146,273 in 2005 from $50,669 in 2000. According to the American Hospital Directory, 77% of nonprofit hospitals are in the black, compared with 61% of for-profit hospitals. Nonprofit hospitals are exempt from taxes and are supposed to channel the income they generate back into their operations. Many have used their growing surpluses to reward their executives with rich pay packages, build new wings and accumulate large cash reserves.
M.D. Anderson, which is part of the University of Texas, is a nonprofit institution exempt from taxes. In 2007, it recorded net income of $310 million, bringing its cash, investments and endowment to nearly $1.9 billion.

"When you have that much money in the till and that much profit, it's kind of hard to say no" to sick patients by asking for money upfront, says Uwe Reinhardt, a health-care economist at Princeton University, who thinks all hospitals should pay taxes. Nonprofit organizations "shouldn't behave this way," he says.

It isn't clear how many of the nation's 2,033 nonprofit hospitals require upfront payments. A voluntary 2006 survey by the Internal Revenue Service found 14% of 481 nonprofit hospitals required patients to pay or make an arrangement to pay before being admitted. It was the first time the agency asked that question.

Nataline Sarkisyan, a 17-year-old cancer patient who died in December waiting for a liver transplant, drew national attention when former presidential candidate John Edwards lambasted her health insurer for refusing to pay for the operation. But what went largely unnoticed is that Ms. Sarkisyan's hospital, UCLA Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital that is part of the University of California system, refused to do the procedure after the insurance denial unless the family paid it $75,000 upfront, according to the family's lawyer, Tamar Arminak.

The family got that money together, but then the hospital demanded $300,000 to cover costs of caring for Nataline after surgery, Ms. Arminak says.

UCLA says it can't comment on the case because the family hasn't given its consent. A spokeswoman says UCLA doesn't have a specific policy regarding upfront payments, but works with patients on a case-by-case basis.

Federal law requires hospitals to treat emergencies, such as heart attacks or injuries from accidents. But the law doesn't cover conditions that aren't immediately life-threatening.
At the American Cancer Society, which runs call centers to help patients navigate financial problems, more people are saying they're being asked for large upfront payments by hospitals that they can't afford. "My greatest concern is that there are substantial numbers of people who need cancer care" who don't get it, "usually for financial reasons," says Otis Brawley, chief medical officer.

Mrs. Kelly's ordeal began in 2006, when she started bruising easily and was often tired. Her husband, Sam, nagged her to see a doctor.

A specialist in Lake Jackson, a town 50 miles from Houston, diagnosed Mrs. Kelly with acute leukemia, a cancer of the blood that can quickly turn fatal. The small cancer center in Lake Jackson refers acute leukemia patients to M.D. Anderson.

When Mrs. Kelly called M.D. Anderson to make an appointment, the hospital told her it wouldn't accept her insurance, a type called limited-benefit.

"When an insurer is going to pay the small amounts, we don't feel financially able to assume the risk," says M.D. Anderson's Mr. Tietjen.

An estimated one million Americans have limited-benefit plans. Usually less expensive than traditional plans, such insurance is popular among people like Mrs. Kelly who don't have health insurance through an employer.

Mrs. Kelly, 52, signed up for AARP's Medical Advantage plan, underwritten by UnitedHealth Group Inc., three years ago after she quit her job as a school-bus driver to help care for her mother. Her husband was retired after a career as a heavy-equipment operator. She says that at the time, she hardly ever went to the doctor. "I just thought I needed some kind of insurance policy because you never know what's going to happen," says Mrs. Kelly. She paid premiums of $185 a month.

A spokeswoman for UnitedHealth, one of the country's largest marketers of limited-benefit plans, says the plan is "meant to be a bridge or a gap filler." She says UnitedHealth has reimbursed Mrs. Kelly $38,478.36 for her medical costs. Because the hospital wouldn't accept her insurance, Mrs. Kelly paid bills herself, and submitted them to her insurer to get reimbursed.

Mr. Kelly arranged to borrow the money from his father's trust, which was in probate proceedings. Mrs. Kelly says she told the hospital she had money for treatment, but didn't realize how high her medical costs would get.

The Kellys arrived at M.D. Anderson with a check for $45,000 on Dec. 6, 2006. After having blood drawn and a bone-marrow biopsy, the hospital oncologist wanted to admit Mrs. Kelly right away.

But the hospital demanded an additional $60,000 on the spot. It told her the $45,000 had paid for the lab tests, and it needed the additional cash as a down payment for her actual treatment.
In the hospital business office, Mrs. Kelly says she was crying, exhausted and confused.
The hospital eventually lowered its demand to $30,000. Mr. Kelly lost his cool. "What part don't you understand?" he recalls saying. "We don't have any more money today. Are you going to admit her or not?" The hospital says it was trying to work with Mrs. Kelly, to find an amount she could pay.

Mrs. Kelly was granted an "override" and admitted at 7 p.m.

Appointment 'Blocked'

After eight days, she emerged from the hospital. Chemotherapy would continue for more than a year, as would requests for upfront payments. At times, she arrived at the hospital and learned her appointment was "blocked." That meant she needed to go to the business office first and make a payment.

One day, Mrs. Kelly says, nurses wouldn't change the chemotherapy bag in her pump until her husband made a new payment. She says she sat for an hour hooked up to a pump that beeped that it was out of medicine, until he returned with proof of payment.

A hospital spokesperson says "it is very difficult to imagine that a nursing staff would allow a patient to sit with a beeping pump until a receipt is presented." The hospital regrets if patients are inconvenienced by blocked appointments, she says, but it "is a necessary process to keep patients informed of their mounting bills and to continue dialog about financial obligations." She says appointments aren't blocked for patients who require urgent care.

Once, Mrs. Kelly says she was on an exam table awaiting her doctor, when he walked in with a representative from the business office. After arguing about money, she says the representative suggested moving her to another facility.

But the cancer center in Lake Jackson wouldn't take her back because it didn't have a blood bank or an infectious-disease specialist. "It risks a person's life by doing that [type of chemotherapy] at a small institution," says Emerardo Falcon Jr., of the Brazosport Cancer Center in Lake Jackson.

Ron Walters, an M.D. Anderson physician who gets involved in financial decisions about patients, says Mrs. Kelly's subsequent chemotherapy could have been handled locally. He says he is sorry if she was offended that the payment representative accompanied the doctor into the exam room, but it was an example of "a coordinated teamwork approach."

On TV one night, Mrs. Kelly saw a news segment about people who try to get patients' bills reduced. She contacted Holly Wallack, who is part of a group that works on contingency to reduce patients' bills; she keeps one-third of what she saves clients.

Ms. Wallack began firing off complaints to M.D. Anderson. She said Mrs. Kelly had been billed more than $360 for blood tests that most insurers pay $20 or less for, and up to $120 for saline pouches that cost less than $2 at retail.

On one bill, Mrs. Kelly was charged $20 for a pair of latex gloves. On another itemized bill, Ms. Wallack found this: CTH SIL 2M 7FX 25CM CLAMP A4356, for $314. It turned out to be a penis clamp, used to control incontinence.

M.D. Anderson's prices are reasonable compared with other hospitals, Mr. Tietjen says. The $20 price for the latex gloves, for example, takes into account the costs of acquiring and storing gloves, ones that are ripped and not used and ones used for patients who don't pay at all, he says. The charge for the penis clamp was a "clerical error" he says; a different type of catheter was used, but the hospital waived the charge. The hospital didn't reduce or waive other charges on Mrs. Kelly's bills.

Continuing Treatment

Mrs. Kelly is continuing her treatment at M.D. Anderson. In February, a new, more comprehensive insurance plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield that she has switched to started paying most of her new M.D. Anderson bills. But she is still personally responsible for $145,155.65 in bills incurred before February. She is paying $2,000 a month toward those. Last week, she learned that after being in remission for more than a year, her leukemia has returned.
M.D. Anderson is giving Blue Cross Blue Shield a 25% discount on the new bills. This month, the hospital offered Mrs. Kelly a 10% discount on her balance, but only if she pays $130,640.08 by this Wednesday, April 30. She is still hoping to get a bigger discount, though numerous requests have been denied. The hospital says it gives commercial insurers a bigger discount because they bring volume and they are less risky than people who pay on their own.
The hospital has urged Mrs. Kelly to sell assets. But she worries about losing her family's income and retirement savings. Mrs. Kelly says she wants to pay, but, suspicious of the charges she's seen, she says, "I want to pay what's fair."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Off to Chicago, weekend recap, RECIPE!!

So I'm off to Chicago for 3 days. Partly work and partly play. I'm SO stoked because we're going to catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and besides being a video game nostalgia freak as well as a (no longer) closet kung-fu fan, I also LOVE baseball.

In fact, one of my ideas of an awesome vacation would be to tour the country by bike over summer and stop at certain baseball fields to catch games.

Don't get me wrong, I still like to paint my toenails; I still have SOME feminine qualities about me.

I guess I haven't written since Friday; it was QUITE a weekend!! I was all OVER the place!

Saturday had me up and at it very early as I prepared to head over the hill to Napa and meet up w/some Lombardi friends for a 78 mile epic ride. It was utterly GORGEOUS. I was reminded that I live in a beautiful part of the world. We started at the bottom of Silverado Trail in Napa, went north, turned east to go past Lake Hennessey and out to Lake Berryessa (where the tri was happening, so for once I got to cheer on LOTS of triathletes on their race!), up along Berryessa then back west through Pope Valley. GORGEOUS. I LOVE POPE VALLEY. Then up, up, up onto Howell Mountain and I swear to god that climb is a BEEATCHH!!!!

BUT then the rewards came. I wore a smile all the way down that descent. I wish I had a bike computer because I swear I must've hit at least 50 mph coming down Howell Mtn. The entire lush, green Napa Valley lay before me, Mt. Veeder staring straight across the valley at me, no cars in front or in back of me, the sun was shining, and I thought "wow...I am really lucky to be here. To experience this. To LIVE this."

That right there was happy. Happy that we have our health. Happy to recognize so much beauty. Happy to taste the air and feel the warm sun on my skin.

Moments later, though...I wasn't so happy coming back down Silverado Trail. I was in a lot of pain, to be honest. Yet, it wasn't pain from my legs being tired so much as for some reason my left hip and knee were bothering me. Both my sets of toes kept losing feeling. I just wondered if it was the fact that this newer bike position (aka super-aero) isn't really meant to go much longer than 50-60 miles.

It's amazing how we can go from such elation and happiness to so much pain and being near tears, ready to just let our inner 4 year old out and throw a big fat tantrum right then and there. I was ready to cry, ready to throw my bike on the side of the road and flag down one of the limos I kept seeing, carrying lots of happy drunk people going wine tasting. My back was hurting, my neck hurt, everything HURT. God. 18 miles of hurt.

But, I made it. And actually, I still went fast. There were mile markers on the road and I kept forcing myself to keep spinning away, knowing that the faster I went, the faster it would be over. Like Kanye says, 'that that don't kill me will only make me stronger..." (I know Kanye's not the first to say that!).

I'll admit that I stopped to take two stretch breaks to stretch my hips and my neck and it helped SOOOOOO much!'s like that, huh? We have days where everything is awesome, then we can go through the lowest of the lows.

But then we get through it. We're strong. It's times like that where you realize how strong you can really be, so you tell your inner voice to shut the hell up and quit acting like a baby!!!

I also wanted to get back because I had so much left in my day to look forward to.

A friend who did the race that day lives near Lake Berryessa and was having a big BBQ at his house post-race, so we headed over there after the ride. After a shower and some delicious BBQ food, I felt like a new person.

I hung out for awhile and then packed up and headed south down to Oakland to visit with my good friend Alice. We went out to downtown (Courtenay might appreciate the fact that downtown Oaktown has become signicantly more hip in the last 5 years or so...) to a cool wine bar we've come to know and love.

My favorite quote from the evening came as we were back in Alice's living room chatting and the back of my head was against the front window. Suddenly we heard what sounded like blanks being fired and she said "uh, might want to move your head."

Yes, now that I live in SR, that was my brush with danger for the weekend.

Sunday morning I packed up and drove across the Bay Bridge to the Embarcadero YMCA of San Francisco to sub a spinning class! My buddy Bill needed a sub for Sunday a.m. and I thought "well, I'll be around..." so why the hell not?

Maybe um, because my legs were sore?

But actually, it was nice to spin it out. What was even nicer was that I had emailed some old spinning students from the SF YMCA and alerted them to the fact that I was teaching and if they had nothing better to do, to come visit!

I had the opportunity to catch up with some of my 'regulars' and it was good times.

Finally, after all the visiting and fun, I headed back north with a big smile on my face, satisfied with such a fun weekend, and looked forward to hearing about how WF/St. Croix went for folks.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF YOU for getting out there and putting yourself up to the challenge!! I know not everybody was happy with their races, but it's helpful to remember that these are always learning experiences and we can take what we learned and apply it next time. So here's to getting back on the horse no matter how you did and having an even better day next time! (myself included...)

I'll finish up this long epic post with a recipe. :)

My friend Devon posted this about a month ago and I made it back then (though she used almond milk pepper jack cheese; I used regular pepper jack). WE LOVED IT SO MUCH. So last night, we hosted a little Cinco de Mayo fiesta and I made it again. Once again, it was a HIT. Though I had a lot of extra and you know what? Re-heat and put an egg and avocado on top and you've got one YUMMY breakfast.

Stuffed Poblanos

1 can (14.5 oz) Fire Roasted Tomatoes with green chilis
2 chippolini onions (or 1 small white onion), chopped
3 cloves garlic (2 whole, 1 minced)
salt and pepper
1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup tofu cut into little cubes (I added this; if you're not a tofu lover just nix it)
1/4 cup organic cornmeal
1/2 cup grated pepper jack cheese
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large poblano chilis, halved lengthwise with stems in tact, seeds removed

Preheat oven to 425. In a blender combine tomatoes, half the onions, 2 whole garlic cloves puree. Season with salt. Pour sauce into a 9x13 baking dish, set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine beans, cornmeal, 1/4 cup cheese, tofu, remaining onions, minced garlic, cumin and salt and pepper.

Divide mixture evenly between poblano halves. Place on top of sauce in baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over top.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until poblanos are tender, sauce is bubbling and cheese crispy. (Note: the instructions have you cover with aluminum foil, bake for 45 mins. Uncover and continue until sauce is thickened and cheese is browned, 10 to 15 minutes). Mine turned out tender enough, sauce was thick enough and cheese crispy enough. Plus, who wants to wait that long!

Cilantro Lime Rice ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp garlic sauce (store bought--olive oil, garlic, s&p, lemon)

Cook rice as you normally would.

In the blender combine cilantro, lime juice and garlic sauce with 2 tbsp water. Blend until smooth. Stir into cooked rice and fluff with a fork.

(once again I had to steal Devon's pic because I was too rushed last night to take my own, but ONE OF THESE DAYS...)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Well-wishes to all...

Aaaah! It's Friday!

Aaaah! IT'S MAY!

We all know what that means...the First Friday of May...

There are folks down in King City/Lake San Antonio right now, getting their camp on or enjoying the pleasures of the local hotels of King City (YEAH COURTENAY AND EILEEN AND ROCKETPANTS AND DAN AND RAY!), prepping for Wildflower.

There are folks in St. Croix enjoying the sights of a GORGEOUS place (damn, wish I were there...maybe next year I can afford it...) before their big day...GO BREE AND JACKIE AND MEL (and anybody else I might have missed)!!!

There are some of my Lombardi buddies gearing up for a more local, Wildflower-style race out at Lake Berryessa...GO JOHN, JERRY & STEVE!

And maybe others racing in other places?

To ALL of you...

All my best to you. Have a GRAND time. Have FUN. KICK SOME ASS (especially your own)!

Then there are the rest of us...gearing up for yet another training weekend. :)

I'm going to do the Healdsburg TT tonight. We ran into my friend Tim last Saturday evening, and he had done it on Friday...apparently his legs were STILL trashed. Nice.

Tomorrow some of the other Lombardi guys and I are going to crash the bike course of the Lake Berryessa Tri (it's a pretty small local race so it's not a big deal) and make it our training ride. 56 miles the morning after a hard-core TT effort is going to feel reeeeeaaal good. ;) Still, the atmosphere will be awesome and so will the scenery, so I'm just going to go have a good time with it.

Overall I felt pretty trashed this week after last Sunday. I ended up kind of taking it easy so that I could start the weekend off right and have a good couple of intense training weeks coming up.

I'm glad my last recipe sounded good to people. I'll finish off with one I made Wednesday night, which was SO easy and SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO YUM.

This was another one from 101 It's called "Lazy Day Peanut Noodle Salad." We both LOVED it.

Once again, I failed to take a picture, so this is from 101 Cookbooks!

As for modifications, I used these tofu noodles we had picked up a month ago. No reason not to use soba noodles, I just happened to have these other ones in the house.

Also, I added more green beans and also sauteed some mushrooms and added those to the final mix. The mushrooms were a great touch.

Finally, instead of creamy peanut butter, I only had crunchy. I thought it was nice because the nuts added a nice crunchy texture to the softness of the noodles and mushrooms. (note: for anybody who uses Skippy/Jif/pb that isn't 'natural', it probably isn't good for this recipe; you def want the natural stuff sans sugar)

Here's the recipe:

I used asparagus in this version, but you can use any of your favorite in-season vegetables. This time of year peas, asparagus, and carrots all make great additions to the noodles and peanut sauce.

1 8 ounce package soba noodles
1 bunch asparagus spears, ends trimmed then cut into 1/2-inch segements

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup (brown) rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
drizzle of toasted sesame oil
big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4-1/2 cup hot water

1 small bunch of spring onions or scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup peanuts
12 ounces extra-firm (organic) tofu, cut into small cubes (feel free to heat the tofu in a skillet if you like, but cold is good too)

Big a large pot of water to a boil. Boil the soba noodles per package instructions.In the last minute or so of cooking toss in the asparagus. Drain noodles and asparagus, run under cold water for about a minute to stop cooking, and set aside.

Make the peanut dressing by combining the peanut butter, rice vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and a big pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Thin with hot water - the amount you'll need depends on the original consistency of your peanut butter. I like it the consistency of a thin (non-Greek) yogurt. Taste and season with a bit more salt if needed.

Gently toss the noodles, asparagus, spring onions, peanuts, and tofu with a big splash of the dressing. I reserve a bit of each ingredient to sprinkle on top of the serving platter to make it look nice. Add more dressing a bit at a time, until the salad is dressed to your liking, reserving any extra for another use. Taste, sprinkle with more salt if needed, and enjoy!

Serves 6 - 8.