Adjusted Reality

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

Tag: offseason (Page 1 of 11)

Looking up the hill…

When I first started racing, my year was pretty periodized by default.

In 2009, I ran a half marathon and then after that, shut it down for a few months. Because that’s what normal people do.

I wasn’t a complete nut yet, and I had these natural cycles before I even knew what periodization and offseason and all those other coach-y schedule-y things meant.

Yearly, I would maintain a baseline fitness level (ten years ago, that looked like 4-5 hours a week – 3x weights, 2x running, and either some arc trainer and/or DDR to round out the hours).  I would sign up for a race occasionally, train 2-3 months for it, and then go back to my base fitness level right after.  There was never any compulsion to “keep what I gained” by boosting my training beyond that 4-5 hours unless it was for a reason.

Then I started racing more.  Since I was racing more than a few times a year (with smaller races to support the bigger ones), and I feel like 2-3 months is the absolutely minimum amount of time I feel like I need to be prepared for a race, I was pretty much constantly training.  It was new and fun and exciting and it made me toy with the fact that I might actually be an athlete!  I remember at one point, I decided to take 5 weeks off because I had been on for something like 17 months.  My body pretty much collapsed that entire offseason – I couldn’t run the whole time because as soon as the heel I injured the last race of the season felt better, my back went out for the entire Christmas break.  The universe was yelling “STAAAHHHHHPPPPP!!!!”.

I’ve learned that for my mental and physical well being, I need to pretend to be a normal mortal human for extended periods of time or I break down.  The length of time I need is predicated by: a) what I have just done to my body and b) the length of time I’ve been “on” and also c) how I feel about life right then/stress levels/etc.

I also have learned that offseason racing is tricky to navigate.  When you sign up for something simply because you do it every year, or because your friends are doing it and you have major FOMO, or because you have a husband that would rather race every weekend vs train, you have to watch your expectations.  For me, FUN racing is when I PR, when I leave it all out there, when I’m a ball of sweat and snot and making the pain face at the end.  Everything else is just paying money to go for a jog with friends.

And sometimes paying money to go for a jog is ok, especially if you get to look like a rainbow threw up everywhere while doing it.

There’s a time and a place for that, for example, the Turkey Trot this year.  I know I’m not going to PR (though I’m pretty sure I’ll beat last year no matter what…), but it’s an excuse to get up, ride my bike ~20 miles and go run 5 before I gorge myself on turkey.  I absolutely and positively plunked down my 25$ registration fee solely to motivate myself to get my ass of the couch that morning.  However, I’m usually not a huge fan of jumping into a race untrained.  Results may vary, but for me, they’re usually not positive.

So, right now I’m mentally and physically stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

Crazy Athlete Me says:

  • I’m mad at my mojo for being absent and I should be making time for more than a few hours a week and maybe 2-3 of the sports instead of just one of them.
  • What I did over the summer is not worthy of an offseason.  Three sprint races, one slow century and one century that got cut short is just maintaining fitness, right?
  • I’ve not run in so long I’ve forgotten what running feels like (it’s been 2 weeks) and I’ll never be able to get back up to 13 miles in time, let alone get faster.
  • All of a sudden I’m going to gain back all the weight I’ve ever lost in my life because I’m only training a few hours a week and I’m not starving myself.

Crazy athlete me likes to go out and try to ride 100 miles on her bike, unready for such a thing, for absolutely no reason.

Coach me knows:

  • I am an athlete that needs time off right now.  Work is crazy and stressful.  We’re starting a kitchen remodel that will upheave our lives for 2+ weeks.  I am working through some rotating pain between my knee and heel which is starting to be on the mend because I’ve resisted being a dumbass and rested it.
  • I should not discount the amount of work I did over the summer on the bike and in triathlon.  Even if Ironman warped me to think so, training an average of 7-8 hours a week is not insignificant and still warrants a break after.
  • I have plenty of time to build towards a good half marathon at the end of January.  I will not lose every morsel of fitness I have earned by taking a few weeks to do whatever.
  • My body is actually responding positively in terms of weight loss over the last month or so… perhaps because I’m listening to it and giving it what it needs?  I *know* it’s not because I’m maintaining more of a deficit (probably less because I’m training less and mostly just trying to eat less crap but not less food).
  • And the biggie I say to everyone else but it’s hard to say to yourself – it is always better to show up uninjured and undertrained vs properly trained and limping.

So, here I am.  I have new running shoes I’ve had for over a week that I haven’t even worn yet.  I haven’t ridden my bike on roads since October 22nd.  I haven’t done weights in over two weeks even though they’ve been on the schedule.  I haven’t swam in almost a month and with the cold snap today… not sure it’s going to happen this week.  My mind is reeling with insecurities about my muscles and endurance shriveling up into nothingness, as well as wasting beautiful days and my gym membership funds not training like crazy this season like I typically do.

I miss dis place – literally the gym and also the figurative place of being so smashed (and accomplished) after a really long hard workout.

However, my mind is also thanking me PROFUSELY that I’m not trying to maintain any sense of a training schedule while shipping an update at work.  I have been much less of a basket case and handling things much better than normal.  I usually have some major breakdowns this time of year when I am in training mode and I’m thankful that hasn’t happened (yet).  My body is LOVING this break.  The weight is falling off (knock on wood, let’s not jinx this) and when I actually do something like the bike intervals I did this morning, I feel GREAT, not tired, not stale, but like my parts are all starting to work in harmony again.  When I DO get back to training, it will be nice to start from a rested, recovered body and see how that feels for once!

As long as my heel continues to cooperate, I have my first run back scheduled for next Monday, but we’ll see how things go from there.  It’s neat to occasionally reap some rewards when you don’t rage against the universe’s wishes and I’m trying hard to listen even if it makes me do things I don’t like from time to time.

I’m at the bottom looking up the hill right now.  Thirteen miles at a fast pace seems super far away right now.  But I’ve been down these roads before.  I know how to climb them.

October Wrap Up, November Goals

I like to do shit.

Sometimes that shit is riding my trainer outside the bike store with my teammates blaring music at all the restaurants nearby.  The obnoxious tomatoes ftw!

Goals are, like, my drugs (or anti-drug? or maybe we could with a far more appropriate analogy and say I live for them? …nah).  I love to make them, I love to plan them out, I love to conquer them, and I love to say, “what’s next?”.

I spent the first four months of the year plugging away at a single goal called Ironman.  Then, after a little bit of recovery, I took the blinders off and have been plugging away at a million smaller goals.  Century ride, check!  Getting faster at running short distances and fixing my running form?  Kinda check.  Writing a book?  Getting to the halfway point.  Four usable bedrooms, check!  Twenty million other things I typically ignore during training for a big event?  Either check, in progress, or on the plan.

While I’ll have some days where I feel a little overwhelmed, normally I’m super excited to be progressing towards things I want to do. And then, like late last week, my brain and body pretty much decided that it was time for a complete stop in the way of some MAJOR lack of mojo and heel pain that wasn’t just a twinge.

I committed to waiting until my heel is pain free for 3 days until I run on it.  Even today I’m not quite there yet (close but no cigar), but I think that means the earliest will be next Monday IF I have no twinges this weekend.  I am so frustrated that I’ll be getting a late start preparing for 3M but I’m going to trust that these things happen for a reason.

I had an unplanned day off on Monday and I wanted to do all the things and it was gorgeous outside so I should have ridden my bike everywhere.  Except, I slept until 11 (over 12 hours of sleep).  I read my book in bed and dithered around the house and finished writing a chapter in my book and couldn’t muster any sort of give-a-shit so I rode the trainer while reading more of ROAR (which I have since finished and highly recommend to anyone who is not just a tiny man).  I haven’t done a weights session since early last week.  I haven’t made it to the pool.  I might ride the trainer again sometime this week but it’s also just as likely I’ll sleep in instead.

I feel like I’m letting precious time and beautiful weather slip through my hands.  I feel like I’m in the worst shape of my life for this season (because I’m usually in the best shape right about now).  You’d think I’d feel rested after riding my bike twice in a week and getting lots of sleep but I’ve felt like a frickin’ zombie all day so of course that makes me reconsider resting to begin with and maybe I should just suck it up and muddle through…

“No,” the universe says.  “Hard. Stop.”  It’s not screaming yet, but it’s also not whispering.  And using it’s stern voice.

While I’m trying to discount what I’ve done over the summer/fall as “just having fun”, I averaged 2/3rds of my IM training volume (~30 hours per month from July through October, vs ~45 hours per month from January through April).  Thirty hours per month is actually fairly close to my average 70.3 training volume.  Whether I like to admit it or not, whether it really feels like it or not, even if it was “just” for 3 sprint triathlons and 2 century rides, I just went through a training cycle.  And I need some faffing off time.

I hear you, universe.  No need to yell.  I’ll give you a little more time.

I’ll sum my October totals here:

  • 1000m swim (1 swim)
  • 20 miles run (6 runs)
  • 318 miles biked (17 rides)
  • Weights – 7/8 planned sessions (the last one last week)

Almost 30 hours total.  Even though I feel like I haven’t done much, the numbers don’t lie that it’s 1 hour a day average.  I deserve a little break.

November goals:

  • Swim at least twice.
  • Give myself the rest of this week off and then resume strength training next week and make 8/8 sessions.
  • Allow my heel to heal and then gradually ramp up running, however long that takes (I have 12 weeks until the race, I’d rather train for 8 of them healthy than 11 of them with a hurty heel).  When I do start again, err on the side of more sessions vs big mileage.  3×3 days a week at lunch and then more miles on Saturday is better than 2 longer runs.  My body is used to the 3 mile runs.  It’s not used to much more and yes, an hour lunch run right now is going to feel like a long run until I get some more miles under me.
  • Cycling is now my support sport.  Trainer rides, commutes if I can get up early enough to get mostly home before it’s stinkin’ dark, warmup and cooldown for long runs… I expect it to be my worst mileage month since June and that’s totally fine.

Priority is: 1) healing then running 2) weights 3) cycling 4) swimming (sorry swimming, you’ve been last on the list for a while).  If I can only get to the first part of #1 and #2 in this month, I’ll be a little disappointed, but OK.

Scale/food

I have paid so much attention to this week’s food, the most related picture I have is our D&D costumes.  I mean, my name technically is FORK, but…

Here’s another place where the not-quite-end-of-year-but-close burnout hit me.  But I think it’s working out alright.  I’m actually making some real progress here and it’s encouraging.

I stopped tracking my food around October 22nd and haven’t really restarted yet.  Because of that, it’s just about impossible for me to guess what my overall stats were for October.  However, I didn’t stop weighing at least.

  • Oct 1-7: 185.1 avg
  • Oct 8-14: 186 avg
  • Oct 15-21: 185.7 avg
  • Oct 22 – 28: 184.6 avg

So, I’m looking at 185.3 as my average for the month of October, which is -2.1 lbs from my average last month.  My clothes are fitting better and I was literally walking around yesterday in my underwear asking my husband if he thought the elastic went out (and no, I’ve just lost some belly fat, since my others fit the same way).  The good news is it’s continuing to drop… right now is that lovely wonderful TOM and I’m still averaging less than I was last week.  Momentum is on my side, finally.  Just in time for the holidays.

How do I stay sane and not eff things up and gain 7 lbs like I did last year?

Simplify tracking – only the bad stuff.  I am going to have a hard time tracking calories and diet quality next month with camping and a launch and a remodel and all sorts of other shenanigans going on.  I was trying to figure out how I can still keep myself on the wagon but also not stress myself out and I think I’ve figured it out: only track my negative diet quality points/calories.

If you think about it, it’s actually perfect.  Hopefully, my laziness will take over and if I realize I have to track the fun size snickers and I don’t have to do anything if I eat the apple, I’ll go the way of less resistance.  I’m good at eating the good things.  The meals I cook are all roughly similar amounts of calories.  I’m actually pretty decent at eating the right amount if I eat mostly the good things.  So, hopefully, this will be a low stress way of making sure I stay on track.

They are holi-DAYS not holi-MONTHS.  On Halloween I had 2 ciders and ate a few fun size pieces of candy.  I still have a handful of heath bars left over which I’ll dole out to myself as treats throughout the year.  Thanksgiving is delicious, but I’m not a leftovers gal, so that one is really just about that day for me as long as I don’t bring home half a pie or anything (and if I do, it goes directly in the freezer in bite size portions).  Christmas is a little trickier because we celebrate both Eve (neighbors, ourselves) and Day (family) with food-heavy traditions, but again, it’s two DAYS.

So, in November, I’m committing to these two things:

  • Eating like a normal healthy human being on all days except for Thanksgiving. Even if it’s take out during the kitchen remodel (I’ll get healthy takeout).  Even while camping.  Even when I come up with excuses.
  • Log everything I eat that’s not on the Diet Quality positive points list (sweets, fried, refined grains, massive amounts of calorie laden sauce, super fatty meat, alcohol).

Life

I’ve been told to be myself unless I could be a unicorn, so for Halloween proper, I was BOTH!

Summary – things got done.  Not all of them.  I probably need to narrow my focus a little bit going forward or I’m in danger of getting overwhelmed of OMG ALL THE TO DOs.

  • Writing:
    • Take my old outline and make sure that it’s all absorbed in the new one. (CHECK!)
    • Write at least two chapters.  (DONE!)
    • Bonus: finish the one I started last month and got stuck on. (NOPE!)
  • Reading: Finish A Demon Haunted World (60% – I’ll keep plugging away but it’s hard to read all at once).  Read The 4 Hour Work Week (Saving for December) and You Are An Ironman. (CHECK!)  To be fair, I started and finished ROAR! by Stacy Simms, which I planned to read this month.
  • Wills:  Actually do this! (NOPE, sigh)
  • Business plan/website: NOPE! I literally have a document with eight words.  It’s becoming clear to me that I need to focus on one thing at a time, and my focus right now is the book.  This officially goes on the 2018 plan unless I get a hair up my hiney over Holiday Break.
  • Clean off all the bedroom surfaces.  I was about to make excuses and then realized how close I was so I got up and did it.  At least, on my surfaces and shared surfaces.  I will just ignore the ones on my husband’s side of the bed like I normally do. 🙂 (DONE!-ish)

In November, pretty much the primary focus will be on the kitchen remodel.

Pack up the kitchen between now and November 13.  The goal is to do one box per day.  That should give us more than enough time without getting us overwhelmed and give us the opportunity to go through what we have and get rid of some stuff instead of shoving shit in boxes willy nilly.

Get the cabinets Nov 11.  We plan to rent a trailer and then our cabinets will live in the garage until they are ready to go in the house.

Figure out the counters.  We bought slabs of granite and have since reconsidered being so cheap about it because our counter shape is pretty custom and we’ll already be saving an insane amount of money doing the rest ourselves so we’ll splurge on having someone do the counters.  We have one estimate for about 3 grand, I want to price a few others to see if that’s reasonable.

Figure out the cabinet colors.  These came unfinished, so it’s actually up to us to pick out exactly what we want.  I really liked the ones we got the estimate for, so I’ll probably try to find the slightly off white for the top, and a dark grey/almost black for the bottom (but I also want to nail down the countertop color before we buy them).

Pick out the backsplash and decide if I want to change the wall color.  I love my apple green kitchen walls but I keep thinking about possibly going red, or turquoise.  Even if we stay with the same color, I definitely want to repaint since it’s been 10 years.  Then… we’ll decide what backsplash would go with or if we even have enough place to put a backsplash where it will be worth it.

Purchase an above-the-stove microwave.  I am so ready to have a microwave that doesn’t take 20 minutes to cook something frozen, but we didn’t want to buy a new one until we remodeled.  So, so, so soon.

Look at the actual remodel process like a race.  It’s messy, it’s uncomfortable, I’m going to get cranky about stuff, but the finish line is worth it.  And, we have some pretty awesome and experienced people on our team (Zliten’s parents).

Other productive stuff:

Read books.  Finish Carl Sagan, finally.  Read 7 habits of highly effective people.

Write book.  I think I can commit to two more chapters OR one chapter and finishing the chapter I started and didn’t finish.  I think it’s probably time to start at the beginning with chapter 1, but whatever I’m motivated to write at the time I sit down will totally work.

Non-productive fun stuff:

Camping!  Heading out to the woods this weekend with some friends.  Of course, we picked a weekend in November as they’re not really warm weather people… and the highs are looking like upper 80s.  D’oh!

Comedy.  If we can make it out, we have SEVEN admit-2 comedy tickets left that expire at the end of the year.  To be fair, some of the shows we’ve seen have not allowed us to use the discount passes, but we should probably try to use some of them (and drag along some friends).

Tri Series Party.  It’s always awesome to celebrate a great season and sometimes get cool prizes!

…and that’s a wrap.  Time to go eat healthy food and be productive to start out the month on the right note!

Ramblings on paralysis, perfection, dysmorphia, and self-sabotage

Let’s dispense with a lot of the tracking and formalities for the moment.  I’ll probably be back later in the week to do my normal recap because I like keeping track of that stuff, but for now, let’s focus on some deeper noodle-probing.

Did I sound a bit unbalanced last week?  Well, I was (am?).  It was super weird.  Consider yourselves my therapists while I lay down on the couch and babble for a while.

My husband and I get along really really really well, for many, many reasons, but one major one is that we don’t sweat the small shit, and when find that we do, we figure out what the problem is and fix it.  We both tell each other to “use your words” a lot.  I believe if you explain the reasoning behind why someone feels the way they do, even if you don’t agree, then you’re more apt to reach a compromise.  If you ask for what you want clearly, you’re much more likely to get it.  An example from yesterday, saying “I put this thing here” is less likely to get me to remember to bring it than “hey, here’s this thing, you are responsible for grabbing it when we leave”.  We’re all guilty of both sides, both being more vague than necessary and also not paying enough attention to infer someone’s requests from something that doesn’t directly smack you on the head and say DO THIS.

So, we’re typically great communicators and truly heated disagreements in our house are rarer than a blue moon.  However, this office thing is REALLY getting bad.  We can’t talk about it without both getting defensive.  His point of view is that it’s not a huge priority, we’ve been busy lately, how it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be, and our old office in San Diego was messy, so why does it matter if there’s crap on the floor and ten unused monitors on a table?  My counter is that we’ve prioritized other things and I just want to GET THIS DONE, about how if we half ass it I won’t want to spend time in it and it will become a junk room again in a few months and then he’ll be unhappy about it, and how I want at least a semi-uncluttered space to be creative.

We both have valid points.  Within minutes, the office would be technically usable, but there’s still a LOT of junk in it, and from previous experience, junk multiplies.  But, either way, why the heck does this bother me so much I get snippy every time we talk about it?  I’m not a neat freak.  It’s been this way for 10 years.  Why is it like rubbing salt in a fresh wound now?

I found this fantastic article about paralysis by perfectionism, and at first I was like “pssssh, that’s not me, I don’t expect to be perfect”, but it really hit home when I read it.

The office is a self-imposed roadblock to a lot of projects I want to start, one being writing my book.  I write alllll the time, but I can’t seem to make myself spend any time on this book, because, frankly, it scares the hell out of me.  Why? I’d say I have no idea, but I do.  I’ve had “write a book” on my To Do list half my life.  It’s one of those goals I hold on a (pretty ridiculous) pedestal.  I’m terrified that I’ll write a book and it will be rubbish, so I keep making excuses as to why I can’t start.

I feel like this one isn’t so hard.  Once I figured it out, I’m ready to conquer it because that’s just stupid self-sabotage.  I just need to put myself on notice and on a schedule.  Well, I’m committing to it, starting this week.  Booyah.  Go take a flying leap off a cliff, fear, insecurity, and getting in my own way!!!

Let’s delve deeper to murkier water.  I’ve been thinking about the online coaching business, and I actually came up with what I think is a BRILLIANT idea to set myself apart.  However, once I really thought about it, since it involves a lot of me in spandex where I can’t just pick still shots at the angle that makes me look good, my thought was “no effing way, not looking like I do now”.

Here’s the thing – I know I have some INSANE body dysmorphia going on.  I used to wear both glasses and contacts (not at the same time, silly, but switching off about 50/50).  Sometime in the last few years, the way my glasses are curved makes me see myself as a skinnier person in the mirror.  It’s to the point now where I only wear my contacts when I ABSOLUTELY have to because to me, I look 20 lbs heavier and even my go to favorite outfit looks awful so I have self esteem issues all day.

Then, just last week, it hit me.  “Contacts me” is how I look to everyone else, and that kind of makes me ill because I don’t like how she looks at all.  She’s my unflattering race pictures, she’s the group pictures on facebook that you go and untag yourself in, and the girl you see out running and biking and think “awww, good for her”.  She’s the girl that even looks terrible in my go-to slimming outfit.  I give her a break most of the time because she’s still the same badass that covered 140.6 miles in less than 16 hours, but in purely self-image matters, we are at odds with each other.  She can’t be me because I want to like me but I don’t like her and I really just don’t see that changing without weight loss, if we’re going to continue to be real.  It’s resolved by actually buckling down, and looking a little more like this.

Even without my brain playing weird tricks, I know I look like a reverse before and after, with the BEFORE picture being how I look now, vs me 6-7 years ago.  I don’t like how I look, I don’t feel comfortable in most of my clothes, and I knew it would take a while to decompress and stop acting like an asshole after Ironman, but three flippin’ months and I haven’t made a lick of progress (or, that is, I made a little in two months and then erased it all with six lazy days in the woods, which I think is almost worse). That’s just unacceptable to me.  I have to fight SO HARD for this and I’ve lost 3 months with nothing to show for it.

It’s one step forward and two steps back with these things.  I feel like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill for eternity only to have it roll back down and smack it in the face – this is how weight loss has felt to me for the last 7 years.  That’s a long time to spend most every day working toward a goal and actually have it constantly getting WORSE over the years.  Let’s all agree that losing weight is the WORST.

I have a lot more mountains to climb that just my self-sabotaging nature that don’t have to do with my writing aptitude or lumpy body.  I have a veritable handful of unpublished posts laying out a lot of the things that make me uncomfortable (actually, let’s be real… terrified) about this whole process, about trying to put myself out there as a coach someday.  For an adrenaline junkie, for an Ironman, for someone who’s more than willing to get up on stage or get on camera in front of thousands of people, this sounds STUPID.  What on earth could I be scared of?

I’m comfortable at being a badass in the physical sense but some things that normal humans do naturally scare the hell out of me.

  • I’ll get up in front of thousands and talk or act before I’ll ask ONE person outside of my family for help (and even that takes work for me).
  • I’ll jump off a cliff into a lake, but I’ll cling like hell to a sure bet where I’m just comfortable with vs jumping into something new that could be AWESOME.  I’m ALLLLL about the evil I know.
  • I would rather swim bike and run for 16 hours straight than actually call a financial planner to figure out what to do with my money and find out if I can ever retire because I have to call and then go see another human that is going to ask me a lot of questions and I live in a state of constant decision fatigue so that will be hard.  And then, after all that torture, I am afraid I won’t like the result (haha, you have to work FOREVERRRRR!!!).

Yep, I’d probably choose to do every moment of that race over again right now completely out of shape versus most of the adulting left on my list.

At this point, I’d like to tell you how it all became happily ever after and the weight fell off and the projects got done and I stopped being scared of ridiculous things and conquered the world, the end.  But I’m afraid I’m not at the happily ever after.  Yet.  Last week’s To Do list is almost all still there, waiting for me, reminding me that I’m either lazy, or terrified, or both and the future is full of a lot of mundane BS that I have to get through.

However, at least now I’m aware.

I’m not being naggy and petty about the office for no reason.  I’m doing it because it feels like it’s standing in the way of my goals.  It feels like there is a mountain of house organizational menial type bullshit standing in between me and actually getting to work on what I want, things that will actually directly make progress on big long term scary goals.  And it’s frustrating me because I’m failing at something I can actually have some control over, versus something like my weight loss, which feel like the formula for success is 2+chicken=periwinkle blue.

Now, I have decisions to make about how I start chopping the wood and carrying the water here.  Either the way out is through, or I need to put the blinders back on, and find a little spot of zen in my chaos and get to it.

10 Camping Tips for People Who Are Not AT ALL Rugged

As I’ve said before, I grew up in a family who’s idea of roughing it was a hotel without an indoor pool.

Nature and I have only really recently became BFFs.  I always liked the IDEA of being outdoorsy, but not the reality.  While I’ll never lose my enjoyment of posh penthouse hotel rooms overlooking a sprawling downtown city center, I have also come to love being in the middle of nowhere as well.  Here are my tips for those of you who relate to the meme above but also secretly want to become a badass woodsy nature princess.

1. GET A GOOD TENT.  Even if you ignore everything else I say, DON’T CHEAP OUT.  Every time we are able to set up our 200$ REI tent in less than 5 minutes and watch other people struggle for over an hour, I thank my husband for not listening to me when I said “dude, why don’t you get that 40$ one that’s the same size?”.  If you don’t want to commit, you can rent a nice one from REI.  If you still don’t want to commit, borrow a crappy one from someone for your next trip and I guarantee you’ll be sold.

One of the telling things about how outdoorsy I am is that my best tent picture is actually from my backyard…

2. Double thick air mattresses.  People make fun of mine, and I’m certainly not at the rugged “backpack only hike in hike out” level, but it beats the hell out of sleeping on the ground.  PRO TIP: get something like this so that you’re not screwed if you end up somewhere without power.

3. Bring so many layers if it’s cold.  My first time in the winter, I just couldn’t get warm and I think I had on every article of clothing I brought simultaneously.  Conversely, in the summer, you’ll need WAYYY less than you think.  Bring a couple swim suits, a few super comfy things to wear, PJs, and you’re pretty much set for a week.

#hammocklife forever

4. Hammock.  I get tired of sitting in camping chairs after a while and it’s nice to have somewhere to recline.  I just bought a new one that has mosquito netting and while I can’t vouch for that specific one yet, that’s probably where you’ll find me on every camping trip for every moment until forever.

5. TP.  Even for improved camping with bathrooms.  Sometimes you don’t want to walk that far and the woods are closer.  Sometimes they’re out.  Sometimes you need something absorbent for a non-bodily waste related reason.  There’s no reason not to have a spare roll of TP in your car.

You see flowers, I see a nice field to pee in when that sun goes down… as long as I have my TP…

6. Improved camping.  Spend the extra money, it’s worth it.  Access to showers (even if they’re gross) and being able to plug stuff into charge if needed is great and not usually much more expensive – though they usually fill up quicker. PRO TIP: if you do find yourself on the primitive side of things and there are improved sites in the area, asking one of the campers there all nice like will usually net you use of their power to charge your phone, or the combination to the showers. 

7. Here’s the order to unload the car:  Tent, pump up and place mattress in tent, make the bed, THEN everything else.  It doesn’t work the other way if you have a tiny one. 🙂

8. The no-PTO-mini-vacay: go out Friday night (with enough time to set up before dark) and come back Sunday morning.  This is better than the “go to the woods for one night to get drunk and eat hot dogs” trip, you get a full day and night in nature.  You don’t get the three day effect, but this way you don’t have to take time off work and you also get almost a full Sunday at home to relax and unpack.

No matter how long you get to have this as your view, it’s soul-refreshing.  But I do recommend 3 days.

9.  The three day camping effect.  However, if you can swing it, something magical happens on that third day.  You feel lighter, unburdened, and probably more relaxed than you have in years.  You’ve forgotten your to do list, schedules, and the importance of the time of day, and day of the week.  You morph from worrywart and sufferer of decision fatigue to your cooler, more relaxed camper persona, who’s most pressing concern is whether to walk down to the water or continue to sway in the hammock.  It’s a chance to spend multiple days in mono-task mode which is a HUGE luxury for a lot of us and one of the most creatively refreshing things you can do.

10. Just do it.  You’re going to whine about all the gear.  It’s going to be too hot, too cold, too windy, or it might rain.  It’s going to seem like a lot of work and you may as well just stay home because you could get soooo much done.  But… go camping.  At least sometimes.  It’s good for your soul.  Your inner woodland nymph crying to get out will thank you.

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Six days of food in the woods….

With all other time constraints removed, we both love cooking.

Not as much as eating, but it’s up there.

So, while I’m sure some people would find vacation where you prepare every meal sort of tedious, we rather enjoyed it.  The only frustrations were the meals that didn’t come out quite right or quick enough, but Zliten loves to grill and I like making sides, so it was never like UGH I HAVE TO COOK AGAIN.  There were some challenges, but it was fun to try things that you normally wouldn’t think to eat in the woods.

Our setup was pretty great.  We had a sink with running water, and a cutting board that fit nicely over the sink (so you could use one or the other but not both at the same time).  We had a gas grill and a stove with two burners.  We had the potential to purchase wood to build a fire, but we never did.  We also had a microwave in the camper (from the previous owner), but we tried not to use that.

We brought about 7 bags of food total, which seemed like an INSANE amount while packing up.  We didn’t use all of it, but we did a pretty darn good job.  While I completely overpacked on the clothing aspect, I only slightly overpacked for food.  I might be a little less obnoxious about it here next time knowing there’s a convenience store a mile away, but for fresh produce it would have been a drive.  Anyhoo, the goal was to exist the whole time on the food we brought, and besides a beer run mid-week (camping = less booze, more beer), we did it.

Meals:

Meal #1 – Hot dogs.  Because it’s camping and you have to.  We cooked these on the gas grill the day we got there, and it was so late and we were so tired from work and packing and setting up that I think we just ate them with a side of beer (and were obviously too tired to get a good picture).  The specific dogs aren’t my favorite (the applegate NATURAL not organic like I usually get) but everything tastes better while camping.

Meal #2 – Bean and cheese breakfast tacos.  We took a can of beans and reheated it in a pot while toasting the tortillas on the stove.  We caved the next day and heated it in the microwave, rather than have to clean the pot again.  We ate these for breakfast on day 2 and 3, and then I think we ended up sleeping so late or had food left over that we didn’t dig into the second can of beans or eat protein bars until the last day.

Meal #3 – Fish tacos with coleslaw.  We made tilapia tacos twice, the first time with lemon pepper, and the second time with cajun seasoning (both with avocado oil and vinegar).  Fish was cooked PERFECTLY both times by our master griller on the gas grill and I prepared some fresh coleslaw and topped it with a sprinkle of cheese and hot sauce.

Meal #4 – Turkey sandwiches.  This isn’t super revolutionary, but instead of pre-made, I brought all the produce and cut it up from scratch.  It was kind of nice to have a non-grilling quick meal, but it was also sad not to have grill meat and it was a ticking time bomb because fresh deli meat goes bad quickly.

Meal #5 – Sausages and bbq beans.  This was kind of a mid-day snack meal after a big breakfast and a veggie snack, before a big dinner.  The beans were cooked on the stove and then we cooked the sausages on the gas grill (and the beans were cold by the time we ate).  We couldn’t figure out what to eat with these particular sausages, but our garlic mustard seemed to fit the bill.

Meal #6 – Dutch oven chicken and pasta with broccoli and cauliflower.  This was an impromptu thing when I realized that we had chicken, leftover pasta, fresh leftover veggies, cheese, avocado oil, fresh garlic, and seasonings.  We actually had the neighbors cook the chicken on their smoker grill egg thing (of love and wonder), and then boiled up some pasta, and tossed some oil, garlic, and fresh veggies in the dutch oven.  Combine with cheese, salt and pepper and it was worth the time even if I may have been extremely HANGRY waiting for it.

Meal #7 – Beef stew.  This was our experiment.  We did this from scratch as well, with 1 lb grass fed stew meat, fresh onions, potatoes, celery carrots and…well… a bag of frozen veggies.  At first we thought it was a fail because the beef was super chewy with the first bowl, but after giving it another hour, it was PERFECT.  So, two options next time: make with ground beef, or know it’s a 3-hour wait for this one.

Meal #8 – Burgers.  Because you’re camping.  We only brought two grass fed patties and ate them the second to last day with a side of veggie pasta salad.

One cannot live on main dishes alone, so here’s the support crew of snacks and sides…

Fruit.  I ate a bag of cherries in two days, and the rest of the days I noshed on plums and cuties.  The plums were a little too ripe and half of them went bad but I am just peeling the last clementine now.  Next time, I might pick some more HYRDRATING things like melon, but it was also nice to not have to refrigerate them.

Cut up veggies and hummus.  Since we had a ton of meals involving fresh veggies, the leftovers went to snacks.  Sadly, *some* of them went bad but I’m going to chalk that up to them being held hostage by the other (heavy) cooler on top.

Roasted corn.  Because, you kind of have to when camping, it’s the perfect grill veggie.

Veggie pasta salad.  This was the experiment.  I was going to prep it ahead of time but I got busy, so I legit just brought all the ingredients (5 different types of veggies, dry pasta, oil and vinegar, spices, two types of olives, feta, cilantro) and it took three days and three smaller Tupperware to make it, but on day four… it was worth it and was 3 servings of side-dish love.

Jerky, nuts, and protein bars.  Since I was missing my normal yogurt breakfasts, I felt low on protein all vacation.  This helped.

Julio’s tortilla chips.  Hint: avoid these.  They were so addictive that we went through 20 servings of chips in like 5 days (instead of those veggie snacks).  Then we looked at the ingredients and whaddya know, the third one was MSG.  My plan was to just bring a smaller bag of chips for both of us and next time I would try to keep it to that.

Smores. This was a challenge because we rolled sans fire.  We roasted one marshmallow on the propane burner and put one together and that was okay.  Then, I put together two smores and wrapped them in foil and put them on the grill.  Much better.

Avocado oil popcorn.  This may be one of the best things I have put in my mouth in a long time, and it was SUPER simple.  Avocado oil in dutch oven.  Two kernels.  Wait until they pop.  Put more in.  Wait until the popping slows.  Salt.  Serve.  Wonder where this has been all your life.

Fourth of july oreos.  Because it had pop rocks in the middle… duh!  I think we still have 2/3rds of them two weeks later.

For those of you who are interested in even MORE details, read below.  Here’s my entire packing list to keep two people fed well for a week.

Meats (all of these lived in the big cooler with all the ice and stayed at least fridge temp the whole time):

  • 2x package of 2 vacuum sealed chicken breasts (the ONLY thing left was two of these).
  • 2x package of 4 vacuum sealed hot dogs
  • 2 vacuum sealed burgers
  • 4x 1 vacuum sealed tilapia filets
  • 2x packages of 2 vacuum sealed sausages
  • 1 lb vacuum sealed stew beef
  • 1 lb of turkey (this stayed in the fridge)

Produce (and what I planned to use it for):

  • 1 big bag of potatoes (stew, potential snacks or sides we didn’t do, only used a few)
  • 1 big bag of onions (stew, sandwiches, burgers, potential campfire onion snacks we didn’t do, only used a few)
  • 1 head cabbage (coleslaw – I still have half of this but you can’t buy a tiny head of cabbage…)
  • 1 bunch of celery (stew, snacks, pasta salad)
  • 2 bags of carrots (stew, snacks – only needed one)
  • 4 heads of broccoli (pasta salad, pasta snacks, planned to grill some but didn’t – only needed two)
  • 1 head cauliflower (pasta salad, pasta)
  • 1 head of cilantro (pasta salad – needed just a little, the rest went slimy)
  • 2 tomatoes (burgers, sandwiches – needed just one, might have used both if the salad stayed good)
  • Bag of salad (sadly, this went slimy two days in or I would have eaten the crap out of this)
  • Cucumbers (never ate because no salad, but magically they stayed good and I’ve eaten them this week)
  • Bell Pepper (pasta salad, snacks)
  • Corn (side dish, only ate 2 of the 6 and the rest went bad)
  • Random leftovers from the fridge that had no place in the menu  – asparagus and green onions (used onions in the pasta salad but the rest of both went bad)

I am a condiment aficionado.  You might could get by with less, but I feel like the space was mostly worth it.

  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, montreal seasoning, garlic powder (and fresh), cajun, lemon pepper
  • Avocado Oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Honey
  • Dressings: coleslaw, lite ranch, italian (FYI, light ranch + red wine vinegar makes a better coleslaw dressing than coleslaw dressing).
  • Relish, mustard, ketchup, avocado oil mayo, hot sauce
  • Green olives
  • Pickles

The rest of it:

  • 2 cans refried beans (used one)
  • 2 cans bbq/onion beans (used one)
  • package of flour and corn tortillas (used half, used the rest at home)
  • leftover shredded cheese and a block of cheddar (used half, used the rest at home)
  • meant to bring feta for the pasta salad but got goat instead (used half, ate the rest at home)
  • pantry snacks: marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate, oreos, chips, nuts, jerky, protein bars, jar of popcorn kernels (ate most of the chips and jerky, a little of the rest)
  • Nuun for electrolytes (which we didn’t really use)
  • Many types of teas (which we used three times)

And we tried to go minimal on dishes, here’s what we brought:

  • 2 bowls
  • 2 mugs
  • 8 plastic plates (but we only used two)
  • 2 forks, spoons, 1 butter knife, 1 steak knife
  • 1 big knife
  • 2 potholders
  • 2 spatulas
  • 1 small pot
  • Dutch oven
  • All the foil
  • Paper napkins and paper towels (probably could have just brought the latter).

All in all, I think we did REALLY well on our first trip out.  Here are the few observations and things I might change next time:

  • The meat situation worked out REALLY well.  I was worried, but the cooler kept things cold enough as long as we got ice every or every other day.
  • Next time we’ll rearrange things so the coolers don’t get stacked on top of each other so often.  I definitely reached for chips instead of veggies because they were more accessible.
  • I am impressed with the amount of produce we were able to get through, and how well it did for a week in a cool, protected, but not refrigerated or chilled place.  I honestly think I would have eaten most of it if it wasn’t for the hostage situation with the other, heavier cooler on top of it much of the time.  I will definitely make sure that each veggie is being used in at least two dishes plus snacks if it’s big (like the cabbage, broccoli, etc).
  • Buy all the produce the day before.  It will last longer (hi slimy salad).
  • We will definitely bring our charcoal grill too.  The gas grill was convenient, but it didn’t get very hot in the wind, and dutch ovens cook better with coals on top.
  • We need to not do meals where we cook on both the gas grill and the gas stove… unless we grill something like chicken and then toss it in something on the stove (in the dutch oven on top of pasta).  Even in the heat food cooled too quickly to do that.
  • My original thought on day 2 when I started cooking it was to prep the pasta salad beforehand, but it was kind of a fun challenge and it was one less thing to do before the trip.
  • Having minimal dishes made us have to do them right away which is a GOOD thing when you live in the same room as them.
  • Next time we’ll have to try at least one new thing!  I could easily replicate this whole menu now and have a great week of eating, but what fun is that?  I think next time I’d like to try and make a big pot of chili or maybe I’ll find another great dutch oven recipe out there.

Camping food is magic.  First of all, it tastes WAYYYY better than cooking at home.  Also, I ate and drank like a big piggie, and I didn’t gain any weight.  Magic!

Do you have a great dutch oven recipe or an idea of something great to eat while camping?  Hit me up!

 

 

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