This past Sunday, I completed my first open-water swim race. You know the saying “Do one thing every day that scares you” from Eleanor Roosevelt? CHECK for Sunday! And you know what? It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It’s funny how that always seems to happen…
In retrospect, I’m not quite sure why the idea of doing a 1-mile open-water swim race was so terrifying. I have loads of sprint and Olympic distance triathlons under my belt now, and I’ve also done the across-and-back swim at Walden Pond multiple times, which is about a mile. I think the thought of going up against actual swimmers (you know – those people with awe-inspiring shoulders that seemingly fly across the pool) was the scary part. The swim leg of the triathlon is usually a bit of a slog through flailing arms and legs for me as I fight my way through the melee so that I can get on to the more exciting part of biking and running. Once I get onto the bike, I inevitably have a massive grin on my face because now I get to have FUN! Perhaps you wonder why I don’t just do duathlons so that I can avoid the swimming, but I’ve come to appreciate it, and even (dare I say) like it. However, taking part in an open-water swim without the possibility of catching up to people on the bike and run was a bit daunting. I knew that I had the endurance and ability to swim one mile, but I was certain that it wouldn’t be fast, and I was also distinctly aware of the possibility of coming in dead last.
As is the case for most daunting prospects, however, it wasn’t nearly as bad as my overactive imagination made it out to be, and I survived and got in a solid training swim with friends. There was also the added bonus of having a delicious BBC beer waiting for us at the finish so that we could refuel properly!
Speaking of refueling, this is a tried and true banana bread recipe that’s perfect for doing just that. As I was making this, I realized there are a couple of tips that might be helpful in baking this (and other goods!). First of all, I keep my white sugar in a very large Ball jar. Granted, I keep pretty much everything in Ball jars, but for sugar, the jar comes in handy when lumps develop. If you keep your sugar in a bag, it’s a bit difficult to work around the lumps. If your sugar is in a jar, though, you can get a great little arm workout in by vigorously shaking that jar until all lumps magically disappear!
Also – if you have a recipe involving molasses (or any other viscous liquid) and oil, you should always use your measuring cup to measure the oil first, followed by the molasses. The molasses then slides right out of the measuring cup since it’s already been oiled up! No need to spoon away at the measuring cup attempting to scrape out all the sticky molasses.
Banana Bread with Bittersweet Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
Makes 2 loaves (or 1 loaf and 1 dozen muffins)
2 1/2 cups mashed banana (approx. 6 bananas)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup canola oil (or vegetable or sunflower)
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
10 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil 2 loaf pans (or 1 muffin pan and 1 loaf pan – this is what I often do).
2. Mix together bananas, eggs, sugars, oil, and molasses in a medium bowl, beating well.
3. In a separate large bowl, combine cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and flours.
4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in banana mixture. Stir together.
5. Fold in chocolate and ginger.
6. Spoon batter into pans. If you’re using a muffin tin, fill only 3/4 full (these muffins puff up quite a bit!).
7. Bake for 45 min. (or 15 min. for muffins), or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.
8. Let bread cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Watching the Tour de France has been especially inspiring lately, since I have (drumroll, please…