A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

If it ain't BEEF, It's not a Burger!

Burger King entered the Turkey "Burger" Wars this week adding a turkey sandwich to their "spring menu." According to news reports, BK is the first of the "big three fast-food chains" to start selling turkey burgers following "fast food health trends and customers’ demand for healthier options." Available for a limited time, the BK version of the turkey burger has only "530 calories and 26 grams of fat." Healthier? Seriously?
With all due respect to the Burger King, if it ain't BEEF, it's not a burger!
This is just wrong on so many levels. First, if it ain't BEEF, it's not a burger. The origin of the term burger dates back to the 1880s in Hamburg, Germany, where the locals ground up beef steak and formed it into patties they called a "Hamburg Steak." German immigrants then brought Hamburg Steak to the U.S. where enterprising Americans placed it between two pieces of bread to form the first hamburger. The exact origin of the hamburger is a subject of much debate, but there is no question that the first "burgers" were beef. 

Second, the perception that ground turkey is "healthier" than beef is a common "missed steak." We think of a turkey breast as lean (and it is). But ground turkey isn't ground turkey breast (think chicken nuggets) and it isn't necessarily leaner than ground beef. I wrote about this two years ago when Carl's Jr./Hardee's first introduced their turkey burger.

The fact is that the ground turkey (and bison) at my grocery store contained at least 15% fat while there were many ground beef choices that were less than 10% fat (90/10, 96/4, etc.). Since all ground meat is a mixture of fat and lean, the only way to determine the leanness is to READ THE LABEL!

The label on this package of ground turkey at my grocery store clearly 85/15, meaning 85% lean, 15% fat

But nutritional value is a lot more complicated than fat content. One 3 oz. serving of 90/10 cooked ground beef (85 grams) is a good (more than 10% DV) or excellent (more than 20% DV) source of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins for about 180 calories. Meanwhile, one 4 oz. serving of raw ground turkey (82 grams) is a good or excellent source of only 6 essential nutrients and vitamins for more than 190 calories. And a turkey burger is higher in cholesterol and sodium than a hamburger. So ground beef is higher in nutrients and lower in calories and cholesterol than ground turkey. So which is healthier? You decide!

This is why I choose beef for my pre- and post-race meals. My body needs the nutrients beef provides to prepare for and repair from intense physical activity . I don't really have anything against turkey. I just want more bang for my calorie buck. Beef provides fuel for the finish.

Ride on!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Running with Altitude

I went for a run in Breckenridge, Colorado, this morning. Elevation 9,600 feet above sea level. I was quickly reminded how much difference a few thousand feet can make. Less than a block into the run I felt like I was gasping for air and had to slow down from my normal pace to catch my breath. I live at 6,400 ft. so am no stranger to altitude. But coming up to Breckenridge is still a 50% gain in elevation.

Thursday I went for a run in Dallas at a whooping 430 feet above sea level. I ran 3.1 miles at 8:28/mile. Today I ran 4.0 miles at 9:50/mile. I'd say my exertion level was about the same for both runs. There is little doubt that elevation affects performance.

When I rode my first Ride the Rockies in 2005 I lived in Kansas City at about 1,100 ft. My biggest concern was how the elevation would affect me. I found out on Day 5 of the ride when I ended up in the ER with a sore throat and terrible headache. The people in the medical tent at the overnight stop in Leadville (elev. 10,200 ft.) sent me to the ER for a strep test.

When I arrived the doctor measured my blood oxygen level (pulse-ox) at 89 and quickly hookedd me up to oxygen. After a quick nap while waiting for my strep test to come back (it was negative), I felt much better! The doctor diagnosed me with altitude sickness, a serious, sometimes fatal, condition caused by the lack of oxygen in the air at high elevation. In my case the nap and oxygen did the trick. With my pulse-ox back up to 97 the doctor sent me on my way and I was able to finish the final day of the ride over Fremont Pass to Breckenridge the next day.

So the questions remains, how can you train to ride at elevations above 10,000 ft. if you live below 1,000 (or even below 7,000)? Probably the most important advice I have is to just be in the best shape you can. Ride lots of miles. Find the steepest, longest hills near your house and ride them often. But then, when you arrive in Colorado, make sure you stay hydrated. Being properly hydrated helps your body deliver oxygen to your vital organs and muscles when every breath counts!

This picture of my was snapped
at the Victoria Tavern on my first
RTR in 2005 (yes, that is a wig).
I look forward to a return trip on
this year's RTR!
When I look back on my first ride and what I learned from the experience, I recall the night before the ride to Leadville was the party the night before in Salida. Salida is an eclectic mountain town and the setting of the ride party that night was Riverside Park, a gorgeous setting along the Arkansas River. After dark the party migrated across the street to the historic Victoria Hotel and Tavern (aka The Vic).

Needless to say, I stayed until they kicked us out (I have a bad habit of not wanting to leave the party early). After walking back to the campground (the football field at Salida High School) I found my way to my tent and settled in to my sleeping bag. At that point I realized I had not filled my water bottles and both were dry. Making a call I would regret the next day I decided not to set out to find water in the middle of the night.

I woke the next morning severely dehydrated and no amount of water or Gatorade seemed to quench my thirst on the 60 mile, all uphill, ride to Leadville. They say once you feel thirsty it is too late to start hydrating. At least in my case, they were right. But I learned my lesson that first year and have made a conscious attempt to stay hydrated on my six RTRs since. My rule of thumb is to drink one water for every beer. I don't always stick to that, but I try. And I have avoided a return trip to the ER with altitude sickness.

I was reminded of this lesson this morning on my run, and have been pounding water ever since. Even though I don't have anywhere to ride tomorrow I don't want to end up with a headache on the drive home tomorrow (after a night out in Breckenridge tonight!).

Ride on!


Friday, March 8, 2013

The Beefman's Top Five Beef Buying Tips

I think most of my readers know I eat a lot of lean beef to fuel my physical activity. At age 48 I also need plenty of protein to help avoid age-related muscle loss. Beef is a good/excellent source of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins like zinc to boost immunity, iron to build healthy red blood cells and B vitamins for energy. But let's face it; eating steak every day can get expensive! So, here are my top five tips for enjoying quality steaks for a reasonable price:

5) Share a Steak. My wife and I often share a steak and a salad for dinner. You don't need to eat a 10 oz. steak to get the nutrients you need. One 3 oz. serving of lean beef provides half the protein you need every day for only about 150 calories. If eating out, ask your server to split the salad for you and you'll usually get darn near two full portions. But ask them NOT to split the steak. I've actually seen restaurants butterfly a filet to split it. This is a big missed steak (just like becoming a vegetarian)! A filet should always be served medium rare. Butterflying will lead to overcooking which results in loss of flavor and tenderness.

4) Grill Once, Dine Twice. At least once a week I pick up a flat iron steak, grill it for dinner and have leftovers for breakfast steak and eggs, a steak salad for lunch, or fajitas for dinner the following day. Flat iron is an affordable but also very tender steak (second only to the tenderloin)!

Two flat iron steaks and grilled corn on the cob will feed a family of four with plenty of leftovers!
3) Slice and Save. My colleague Chef Dave (yes, we have a chef on staff where I work!) taught me how to slice a full tenderloin into four meals: a tenderloin roast, petit filet steaks, kabobs and stir fry. I also like to turn a ribeye roast into several meals: a prime rib roast, beef ribs and leftover roast beef au jus sandwiches (yum!). Chef Dave also has tips for cutting a ribeye into steaks and roasts.

2) Follow the Feature. Grocery stores always feature at least one beef cut on sale at all times, especially during "grilling season" (Memorial Day to Labor Day). Featuring beef brings customers in the door so sale prices are usually at or below cost! Watch the newspaper or just look for the signs in the meat case to find the best buys on steaks (or ground beef).

And, my number one beef shopping tip...

1) Mine the "Manager's Special" Section. My first stop in the meat case is the manager's special bin where they put steaks that are nearing their "sell by" date and mark them down for quick sale. These "aged" steaks are perfectly good but often have brown spots that turn off most customers. My friend Jenny describes this in great detail on her Chico Locker & Sausage blog. But the bottom line is that brown color does not mean the steak is spoiled. Spoilage is best determined by an off odor or if meat is sticky, tacky or slimy to the touch. If it doesn't pass the sniff test I'll move on to the featured steaks (see number 2).

Hope these hints are helpful. For great beef recipes, visit Beef. It's What's for Dinner.

Ride on!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Status: Accepted. Ride the Rockies is on!

I entered my name in the "Lottery Status" search engine, hit search and the one word answer was: Accepted. For the seventh time in seven tries my name was drawn from approximately 3,000 applicants for 2,000 slots on the epic adventure known as Ride the Rockies! And it is going to be epic. Seven days, 513 miles from Telluride to Colorado Springs, over three mountain passes and the Royal Gorge Bridge. Oh yeah, and a night in Salida partying at The Vic. 
We closed down The Vic on my first Ride the Rockies in 2005, making the
60-mile uphill ride to Leadville the next day extra challenging!
My friends from Team Bar2Bar -- Woody, Paul the Pilot, and The Hankster -- also got in so I know I'll have people to ride and camp with. Woody I rode nearly every mile together in 2012. Woody is a great riding/camping companion on his touring bike with saddle bags capable of hauling a 12-pack and bag of ice from the store to the campground!
Woody riding in his trademark Hawaiian shirt. I'm planning to join his for one day this year, but otherwise will stick to my Team BEEF jersey :)
Paul the (United) Pilot typically rides tandem with his son or daughter. I actually never ridden or camped with The Hankster. He's an indoor camper who gets up early every morning. I'm an outdoor camper who raraly hits the road before 9:00 a.m. But he usually meets up with the rest of the us at the designated Team Bar2Bar watering hole.

Hangin' with The Hankster
Time to kick up the training a notch. I rode 186.5 miles in February, all but 51.5 of those on my Cyclops Fluid2 indoor trainer. Not bad, considering I spent a week in Tampa and was sick for a week in which I did not ride. And it was a short month. But I had planned to ride 500 miles by this point in my goal to ride 2,000 miles before the start of the ride on June 8 and I'm at 376.85, so I'm running a little behind schedule.

The Team Bar2Bar campground last year in Estes Park.
The good news is I'm feeling healthy and don't have too much travel in March. My plan is to ride 400 miles in March, mixing in some road rides (weather permitting).

I'd love to hear from other riders who got in. Where are you coming from? How's your training coming?

Ride on!