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A Fantastic Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad in 500 Calories Or Less

The hardest part of being an aging athlete is getting the fuel right so we don’t bonk, but also not eating our way to being too heavy for a 16-pound (7kg) race bike. Finding the right balance isn’t easy.

On one hand, I ride a bicycle (one of my five) around 8,000 miles a year. That’s a low-side average. When you’re pushing out 300 miles in a week, it’s easy to not pass on that most excellent double pulled pork barbecue bacon burger with fried onion straws. With fries. Ahem. Therein lies my problem.

When I started cycling at 41, after running for the better part of a decade, I jumped my mileage up quickly and lost a massive amount of weight. I’m 6′ tall and went from 172 pounds down to the 150s. I was skinny. My wife finally said, look, mister, you better do something about this skinny thing you’ve got going on. I like you with a little more meat on those bones. Folks, there’s nothing quite like permission to eat. And eat I did. Now, at 51, I’m pushing 185 and I’m big enough that it’s time to do something to fix it. I used to eat at Subway regularly, but when you do the calorie math, I’m looking at a 1,000 calorie lunch and a 1,500 calorie dinner. Throw in a few muchies here and there, and all of a sudden, BAM! 185 stares back at you on the scale.

I started looking at salads from Wendy’s. The half-size Spicy Chicken Caesar was appealing so I gave it a go. With a piece of fried, spicy chicken. Looking up the calorie content, I’m right around 490 calories. I drink water with my lunch to save unneeded calories. I dropped three pounds in just shy of two weeks. My cardiologist probably wouldn’t be too happy with the “fried” part of the chicken, though. Then I got to thinking… that’s $35 a week just in salads at Wendy’s.

I started thinking about saving some money, because $7 for a freaking salad pissed me off a little, even if it was very tasty. Then, of course, fried

Now, if I butterfly chicken breasts, I can get at least four lunches out of a package of chicken, plus dressing and croutons… I’m looking at about $4 per lunch – and I don’t use the cheap, nutrient-void iceberg lettuce. I use the good stuff; baby spinach, spring mixed greens and a romaine heart here and there.

The key to making your own salad is getting the chicken right. Not enough seasoning and you’ve got a boring hunk of flavorless chicken. Too much and it tastes gross. Cook it too long and it’s dry. Raw will obviously get you sick (or worse).

The best seasoning for chicken is McCormick’s Montreal Chicken seasoning. Montreal Steak seasoning works, too – but go light on either. Also, if you’re really feeling adventurous and want fantastic tasting grilled chicken, is the Grill Mates Applewood Smoked seasoning, again from McCormick. Go with the applewood first, then a light dusting of Montreal. This is the easy part; lightly sprinkle your seasoning over the chicken. I find that too much is overpowering, so be judicious. While I love “heat”, as in spicy seasoning, I find too much salt off-putting.

Next is the actual cooking of the chicken, and this takes some patience and practice to get right. First, I like to butterfly boneless chicken breasts so they cook fast. The only thing worse than over-cooked chicken is under-cooked chicken. The key to juicy chicken is a properly pre-heated grill. We’re aiming for 500+ degrees F (260 C). So, immediately after you get the grill lit (or you get the charcoal going), clean the grill surface with a wire cleaning utensil. Inspect the grill to make sure no pieces of wire stuck to the grill, then wait till the you’re up to temp.

With the grill up to temp, place the chicken diagonally across the grill with the seasoned side down. I know, I know… it looks better. Shut the lid and let it go for about three or four minutes. Make sure the grill isn’t flaring up on you. When you come back, the top side of the chicken should be turning white, as though it’s starting to cook. Flip the chicken, diagonal again. and let it go for another three and check the meat. You don’t want it to be too rigid (over-cooked) or rubbery (under-cooked). The chicken will bend a little bit under it’s own weight if you grab it with tongs on either end of the chicken but not if you grab it in the middle.

Until you get the “feel” of what a cooked piece of chicken feels like in a pair of tongs, I’d cut a piece in half, the thickest piece, to make sure it’s cooked through. The chicken should be a consistent color throughout – no darker center (that’s good for steak, not chicken).

Once the chicken is done – but just done, because you’re going to reheat this, presumably in a microwave oven at work, I place them in a storage container and immediately in the fridge for the next few days.

Now, for the reheat, I like to place a damp to wet paper towel over the chicken when I reheat it. This helps keep the meat’s moisture locked in so it stays juicy. The goal is to get it just hot enough without hammering it to death in the nuker.

The rest is just building a salad. I like the aforementioned spring mix and baby spinach, a small handful of croutons, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and some Caesar dressing. Now, for the dressing, I have two favorites. I like Newman’s Own because all profits go directly to charity. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Ken’s Steakhouse Caesar Dressing its props. That dressing is amazing.

Enjoy! And remember, more lettuce than chicken!

Because It’s Easier to Keep a Train Rolling than to Start One from a Stop.

I got home from work, fully intending on riding on the trainer even though I’ve been taking Mondays off since November. I’ve had a nagging sense of “I don’t wanna” on Tuesday’s when I go to start the week again that’s been bugging me for a few weeks, now, and I got a little angry with it last Tuesday.

I get to Monday and think, “alright, a day off!” and all is well. I have a nice evening, sleep well, then get through Tuesday just fine at work until I get home and it’s time to ride and I start thinking, “maybe I should take another day off”… then I have to moderate an argument with the melon committee about getting on the bike or not. This is entirely unacceptable.

F-U-U-U-*-* THAT!

So, yesterday, rather than mess around with the argument, I just told the whole committee to sit down and shut up, “it’s easier to keep a train rolling that start one from a stop”, I explained and rolled my bike out of the bike room to set it up on the trainer.

I was rolling shortly after 5 and had one of my better trainer sessions of the new year. It was made slightly easier, of course, by watching Predator, the original Arnold movie.

And so it was. I had a sparkling dinner with Mrs. Bgddy and our daughter, watched the Rams and Matthew Stafford thrash the Cardinals and drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face. It will be easier, tonight, when I get home to roll my Trek out of the bike room and hook it to the trainer. Whenever I try to embrace “days off”, I always come back to the same concept of keeping a train rolling.

Sure, it’s because it’s true, but mainly because I know me… and after 29 years in recovery, there’s one main concept I have no problem embracing: To Thine Own Self Be True.

Ride hard, my friends. Or pay your doctor to be one of your best buddies.

Fitness and Recovery from Addiction: I Could Have One But Not The Other…

I could have recovery without being as active as I am. It just wouldn’t be as fun.

I couldn’t have fitness without recovery, though. Without the recovery, I’d already be on the wrong side of the grass.

Thank God I found the path and chose to stay on it.

On Fit Recovery Approaching 1,000,000 Hits

In the very near future, Fit Recovery will cross the millionth hit marker since I thought the blog up and published my first post a little more than a decade ago.

A million hits.

I received several comments over the years suggesting I should write more (or even exclusively) about recovery. They say all of the cycling stuff is a distraction from the good that I do writing about recovery. Believe it or not, I’m not lost on the idea but there are two distinct problems with that suggestion:

  1. Every single post on my top ten list for each year has something to do directly with cycling with one exception; I wrote a post about tight belt syndrome because I had it, struggled with it, and fixed it. That’s the one outlier. I’ve always figured it’s a good thing that the cycling posts bring the eyeballs to the recovery posts. I could be wrong about that assessment, but see #2.
  2. I really love writing about cycling, fitness and an active lifestyle. My daughters like to say I’m the most active dad they know. I write about recovery to freely give away that which saved my bacon and I write about cycling and fitness because it’s fun. One of the greatest things recovery has given me is the ability and cause to enjoy life – and I mean really love it. I try to pass on that passion in both topics.

And so it is what it is, my friends. I’ve actually been working on a little more substance around here, and a little less fluff. In the end, doing something good is more important to me than doing something fun. The key for me with writing fit recovery is that I can have both – it’s just a matter of figuring out the balance.

Thank you for reading, and for those friends I’ve made over the years, thank you for being the cherry on top.

In the end, recovery and fitness are both all about the friends we make. And blogging, too for that matter.

Whatever Happened to Those God-awful Compression Socks, Anyway? Wait, on Second Thought…

I was reading a post a friend wrote yesterday that got me laughing, remembering the horrible, terrible, all bad, no good look of someone in black, or worse, multi-colored compression socks.

Oh, you remember the look.

A veritable assplosion of color!

I’ve got to be straight, here. I hated that look and am actually a little giddy at the fact that fad has faded like a nasty SBD fart in the wind.

The fad started with runners but popularity escalated and quickly jumped to cycling by way of the faddiest of faddies, triathletes. Folks, I might have the order mixed up, here. It very well could have started with triathletes because if ever there was a group of people prone to completely immersing themselves in a fad, it’s a triathlete.

And so I started seeing them at rides, on their $15,000 Quintana Roo with 80 mm carbon wheels and their $300 tri kit, in their compression socks… as I blew by on my ‘99 Trek 5200 road bike.

To tell the truth, I always put a little extra into passing someone like that.

And just like that, they were, thank merciful Jesus, gone. Come to think of it, we don’t even see them in the evenings on the long tours, anymore…

And the universe thankfully takes away, restoring righteousness to sport by sucking compression socks down the black memory hole to hell.

Where they belong.

Praise be to Jesus.

Finally Feeling (Almost) Back to Normal After the Stomach Flu.

Have you ever noticed, when it’s really cold outside (and I mean bone-chilling cold) you sport a dull ache most of the time? It’s not anything terrible, really. I just don’t feel my normal 75 degree (24 C) self. Anyway, because of that it’s hard to really know when I’m actually back after a cold or flu. It’s almost like I have to guess.

This year’s 24hr stomach flu was, well, is, brutal. It started off normal and stayed true through the “once you get sick you start feeling better right away” bit, but after I hit 65% it dragged on forever getting to 95%. I was out for a full week before I finally felt like myself again.

I took one more easy day on the trainer Wednesday night, just to be safe and it took me a minute just to talk myself into not taking a day off. I wasn’t feeling a whole lot better last night and almost dawdled my way into taking the night off. Fortunately, I prevailed against stinkin’ thinkin’ again and had a really good session but I was shocked and chagrinned that I even had to have the debate in the first place.

And that brings me to an interesting point in this saga of trying to get my mojo back after being that sick… I’ve never had this much mental angst getting back into the swing of things. I’ve always just gone for it once I start feeling human again. In fact, usually long before that.

I’m going to evaluate what’s happening in my melon over the weekend. I’ve got some serious changes to make to get my head straight because this back-and-forth just won’t do.

Because Nobody Ever Whiskey Throttled a Road Bike… A Funny Cycling Story for a Tuesday.

Several years ago, in July, my brother had his family up from Florida visiting my mom. I had One Helluva Ride early in the morning (100 miles starting in Chelsea, MI and rolling through Hell, MI and back to Chelsea), so I stopped by on the way home to say hello. After a fair amount of conversation, my brother said mom had told him I rode 100 miles with my friends earlier in the day… he asked if I was nuts. I assured him I was quite sane and explained 100 miles on my $6,000 road bike wasn’t quite what he remembered when he drifted back to riding a dozen miles on our 35 pound steel Murray Baja’s back when we were kids. He asked to see it, so I took him out and pulled my amazing race steed from the back of my SUV.

As one would expect, for anyone who thought top of the line was an aluminum mountain bike, his eyes popped open in shock. I offered for him to pick it up (I think it was around 17-1/2 pounds at the time). His jaw dropped. I smiled. He asked if he could give it a spin and I said, “absolutely”.

He threw a leg over the top tube, put a foot on one of the Look pedals as if it were a regular platform pedal, and pushed off to do a lap around the cul-de-sac… and I looked on in sheer horror as he damn near toppled over in the first five feet. He wobbled dramatically, trying to hold on to the intractable steed. It was the ugliest “bike ride” I’d ever seen – the closest I’ve ever seen to whiskey throttling a bicycle. He wobbled around the cul-de-sac a little more, a look of determined panic set across his face… he couldn’t figure out how to put a foot down with the saddle pegged so high. He slowed to a crawl and tilted the bike, putting his right foot out to stop gravity doing its thing… and the gambit worked. Curse words followed, then “How in the f*** did you ride that 100 f***ing miles!”

Note to new cyclists: Jumping from a mountain bike, where the handlebar is a little higher than the saddle to a performance race bike where the saddle is 5″ above the handlebar is a bit of a stretch. Especially when you haven’t ridden a bicycle in 25 years. I would recommend not starting out with the bicycle aimed at a fence.

If you think I’m being silly, just in case, you should probably have someone video tape it. Some $#!+ is worth seeing over and over and over again.

Ride hard, my friends.

A Belated Happy New Year!

Thursday night, New Year Eve Eve, my wife and daughter went to see The King’s Man and I headed to the bowling alley for some practice. I tried two games the “technically correct way”, yo-yo move and all. It did not go well. After two games, I gave up and didn’t worry as much about high revs and just concentrated on getting the ball down the lane. 198. 170 (I was playing around with lines). 177. 197. and, finally, a 209. I’d figured things out those last two games, which is where I was hoping to be after that practice session.

Tired (seven games is a lot), I went home, cleaned my… erm bowling balls and got ready for bed. I started shivering two minutes after laying down and never fell asleep. By the time morning rolled around I was a mess with a stomach bug.

I will spare you the details, but it wasn’t good. I was out of it New Year’s Eve proper and much of New Year’s Day. I was well into back to normal last night – I even took my wife and daughter to McDonald’s for a burger for dinner… which was a little early, admittedly. Probably a bad idea, really.

Anyway, I feel quite awesome this morning. I apologize for not being around the last few days. I had a decent excuse. Happy New Year! And many more to come (though I’ve had about enough of this being sick on New Year’s day – that’s two out of the last four, I think).

A Great Friend of Michigan Cycling Passed Away

My wife just got an email that Dick Allen passed away just before Christmas at the age of 88.

DALMAC, our yearly trek from Lansing to Mackinaw City carries his name… the Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw bike ride.

I never met the man, but I had a lot of great laughs and memories because he wanted to prove to a fellow politician he could ride his bike from Lansing to Mackinaw City and that bikes needed to be on the roads (not sidewalks, ahem) because there weren’t enough sidewalks for a person to get there.

50 years later and we attract riders from all over the country and a couple of other nations who make the trip to Michigan to join us.

He and the local club put on one heckuva great ride. He’ll be missed, but fondly remembered.

Bike Chain Lubes, From Wet to Dry, And Which Is Best, and Where (IMHO)

I’ve used a lot of chain lubes in the last decade. It seems I’m trying a new one every year or two, so I’ve acquired quite the base of knowledge built up on what I want to use, where, and why.

First, much of the cycling world has gone “dry” lately. There are a lot of wax-based lubes out there that have people all buzzed about not having to deal with a grimy chain anymore – myself included. For a while, I used White Lightning Clean Ride chain lube for a time, but the stuff was so dry the drivetrain was noisier than I could tolerate. Then I switched to Finish Line’s Dry Wax Lube and I really didn’t like that for the same reason. Finally, I settled on Squirt Wax Based Dry Chain Lube last year. Now that, I like. It’s a better combination of dry, but not too dry to cause a noisy drivetrain – that is, unless you go on more than a six-hour bike ride – which I’m very much prone to do! The big plus is that it really is clean. I can touch my chain without getting greasy gray lube residue all over my hands. And that, I love. It’s also great on the gravel and mountain bike because there’s nothing for dirt to really “stick” to like a wet lube. Like I wrote earlier, the only down side is having to reapply every six to eight hours of ride time.

I used squirt on our whole fleet last year. Road bikes, gravel bikes, road tandem and mountain bikes. And I went through a lot of it, having to buy two bottles so far. I did get fair chain life, also. Probably a few thousand miles a chain.

Above: That’s a well-cared for chain and cassette using Squirt – but I have a special trick to keep the wax buildup to a minimum. I clean the chain and cassette with a mild degreaser every five or six reapplications. The buildup is actually supposed to be a good thing and the instructions on the bottle recommend leaving it be, but I can’t stand a messy lookin’ drivetrain.

While there’s no question I’ve enjoyed the cleanliness of the wax based lube, I decided to switch back to wet on the road bikes next season. Specifically, to my favorite wet lube of all, and I’ve used a few; Sunlite light spray lube, Boeshield T-9 (technically a dry lube), Finish Line Wet Heavy Duty chain lube, there was another spray lube in there but I can’t remember what… but I’m going back to the crème de la crème of wet bike lubes, Finish Line Ceramic Wet Lube (FLCWL for short, because that’s a lot to type) for the Trek and the Venge. Now, FLCWL is, without question, a messy lube. If you have to touch the chain on the road, you better hope you’ve got a pair of plastic gloves or some grass nearby to wipe your hands on. The stuff gets nasty. However, and this is why I’m going back, if you truly want a whisper-quiet, fast, functionally smooth and perfect drivetrain, Finish Line’s Ceramic Wet Lube is where it’s at. The stuff is slippy. Also, and this is only a minor point, the wax lubes wash off almost instantly in the rain and, on the rain bike, that’s really not a good thing. I was caught in two or three showers last year and the last time convinced me I should be riding a wet lube rather than no lube if I get caught in the rain.

I will, however, stick with Squirt dry lube on the gravel bikes (and possibly Mrs. Bgddy’s road bike if she so chooses because she doesn’t like getting her hands dirty on her chain – I am more than understanding in that regard). Even though the wax lube is vastly superior to any wet lube in terms of cleanliness, there’s no beating a quiet, trouble-free chain that’ll last a full week or two in the heat of the season and you won’t have to worry about if you hit some rain.