Suriving Spring Break on a diet of Zone 2 and my annual St. Patty's Day Smoke!!

It's back to work for me today as Spring Break 2014 has come to a conclusion.  Spring Break is just starting for my wife and daughter as I picked up Alexa from the University of Iowa Friday afternoon and brought her home for the week.

Two traditions continued for me during break...

The first is to get as much mileage outside on the bike as possible to celebrate coming out of winter and from all of those hours on the basement trainer.   The second annual tradition is to smoke some corned beef after soaking it in a bucket of water for 12-24 hours to get the salty brine rinsed out of it so it becomes pastrami.  Boiling corned beef in water with cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc... is the method to draw the salt out of the meat in the traditional sense.  I like my method as it adds the wonderful taste of smoke to it for a traditional pastrami.

The first tradition had me doing consecutive 2 hour rides on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Although Zone 2 is a non-racing power and heart rate zone, the cummulative effect of doing many hours of it in a row and on consecutive days provides plenty of training stress to hopefully put some base in your tank and boost your FTP a little bit.  It would be nice to have the time and weather to do multiple weeks (say 2 or 3) in a row, but Iowa did not provide that this year and it's a bit of a sidetrack from the structured plan I am following, but I do like to at least get a week of it in during my breaks.

By Wednesday, I felt the cummulative effect start to take hold.  I felt good enough to take the day off the bike and hit the basement gym to combine my upper and lower body work all into one mega session which gave me plenty of muscle soreness to pedal through on Thursday and Friday.

The promised temperatures of the low 60's did not materialize on Saturday as we all had hoped, but I did get out for my final and big ride of the week with the goal of knocking out 40-50 miles.  The prescribed ride called for a warm-up, then an hour in Zone 2, a half hour in Zone 3, and to finish in Zone 2.  The training stress of the entire week certainly made that Zone 3 effort against the wind going to Carlisle test my mettle.  However, in the middle of it I really settled into it and actually had to pull back a bit as I crossed over into Zone 4 for a few minutes.  I managed to get 35 minutes in the tempo and then dropped back to Zone 2 for the remainder of the ride back to the house for a nearly 200 mile week.  I now enter into my final 2 weeks of the base building period which will lead me into the first scheduled mountain bike race, and the Bike Iowa Renegade Gent's gravel race/ride.

The second tradition started early on the morning of the final long mile ride that Saturday provided.  I was up very early to start the fire, make the onion/garlic paste rub and load the brisket and pastrami into the smoker.


I mopped it a few times before heading out on my ride...


The meat was looking good at the 4 1/2 hour point before I left on my bike ride...


We had guests coming over for Saturday night dinner to celebrate St. Patty's day a bit early, and I was a bit in fear I would need a huge nap when I got home from the ride after being up so early, walking the dogs, getting the fire going, preparing the food, etc... .  However, the 35 minutes spent in the 165-171 heart rate zone had the opposite effect on me.  It energized me, woke me up, and I was brimming with energy which lasted until about 9:30 PM and surprised me.

My colleague Bernard and his wife Susie came over for dinner, and I did final preparations between 4 and 6 which included vacuuming, making the baked fries, setting the table, getting the meat in foil and in the warmer to braise, and all the what not one does when company is coming over for dinner.

We warmed up with smoked salmon spread, crackers and wine...


The fries were done, so I got up to get the meat sliced and the buffet all set up.   The meat looked spectacular.  Brisket on the left, pastrami on the right...


And the spread was laid out and ready for consumption...


It was a fun evening of socializing, enjoying the spoils of a 10-11 hour smoke, and unwinding before heading back to work for the 2nd half of the semester.

All in all, my two annual traditions for this time of year were upheld thanks to favorable weather/trail conditions to get out on the road bike and the opportunity to smoke some nice meat and enjoy it with others.

Zack spent the weekend in Lawrence, KS and in Kansas City where he saw Street Scene, La Boheme, a recital, and rehearsed with his accompanist Kyle for April 12th's Winterreise they are doing at Simpson.  Tara, Alexa and I went to Jordan Creek to shop on Sunday afternoon where I scored a new 11 x 17" non-stick baking pan on sale for 1/2 price at Younkers and a great cookbook from Barnes & Noble.  We met up with Zack at the Cheesecake Factory for a weekend ending family get together which was really nice.  They are great kids and Mom and Dad couldn't be more proud of both of them.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!  We have enough of the smoked meat leftover to celebrate a bit more this evening....  ;-)

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