Wednesday, September 28, 2011

As If I Needed Another Reason to Love Brooks!

It's no secret to people who know me, or read my blog- I love Brooks!  Recently, the company launched a new line of shoes known as PureProject, for the minimalist runner.  Recently, the company was out and about promoting this new line all over the country in a fun way; they were in big cities hiding out on frequently traveled running paths.  Once a day, they posted a clue on Facebook about where they were, and the first person to find them won a pair of PureProject shoes and a few apparel items.  Guess who was the first to find them in Chicago last week???

That's right, Ryan and I found the Brooks Guru and won a pair of PureProject shoes (and that water bottle that I am holding)!  We won by just a few minutes, as other disappointed runners showed up moments after us.  

The video they made, cracks me up.  I think I need to hone up on my video-marketing skills, but Ryan is a natural.

I haven't tried them out yet, but I'll let you know what I think when I do.  There are still a few more cities on their list- go find them!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It Takes a Village...

Meet my village:
His smile alone could convince you anything is possible.  He is my husband, best friend, training partner, domestique, just to name a few.  He pretty much rode every long ride with me, pushing the pace and reminding me to keep eating.  On more than one occasion, he gave me the push I needed to get out of bed.  When I was exhausted, he encouraged me to rest.  When I was hungry, he'd cook me food.  When I had knots in my legs, he kneaded them out.  Seriously, every ironman needs a Dan.

I actually tear up when I think of how integral my mom was in my training, right up until the end of the race.  Anyone who has kids knows, it is hard to find childcare that you don't question.  Well, we would wake up early on Saturdays, feed Ryan, and then push out for 100 mile rides week after week, and not worry for a moment.  Even better?  when we would return 7 hours later, she would thank me for letting her have him all to herself.  You can't put a price on that.  More importantly, on my doubtful days she would tell me how proud of me she was, and a simple, "you can do it, sweetie" would pull me out of my rut.  Thank you, Mom!

She is my most spirited fan.  My sister has always taught me never to settle.  When I told her I was going to do an ironman after having the baby all she said was, "that's awesome!"  That pretty much sums up her unyielding support.  She also happens to adore Ryan and has done more than her share of babysitting over the past year.  Let's not forget my wetsuit folley [read on]...she looked me in the eyes and said, "don't worry about it, you're going to have your wetsuit." Oh, and she watched the whole race, on crutches.

The man behind the scenes.  My mom's wingman when it comes to watching the baby.  Also, at least one night a week, he took me out to dinner and always encouraged me to order steak.  After, he would follow-up with, "did you get enough, dear?"  He has told me my whole life that he is my number one fan, and there has never been a day that I questioned that.  He was willing to drop everything to get me my wetsuit.  I love you, Dad.

My great friend from Miami who signed up with me for IMooo.  Although, she lives in Miami and we were not able to train together, we chatted a lot and motivated one another from afar.  This was her first Ironman and she kicked ass.  Would you believe that we finished within 1 minute of each other???  She truly is a kindred spirit, and I wish she would just move to Chicago already!

It is hard to even try and convey what this little guy means to me, and how he motivates me to be better without even realizing it.  The way he lights up when I come into the room, makes me wonder if he isn't my biggest fan...He was training all summer to be the best littlest spectator there is.  More cow-bell!

There are so many more people that helped me out over the past year, and I hope everyone realizes how grateful I was/am.

Thank you!

If you can't read the clock, it took me 12 hours and 44 minutes.  This was 3 minutes slower than when I did the same race 2 years ago; just a couple of months before I found out was shocked that I was pregnant.  I guess, I can say very confidently, not much has changed since baby : )

I am not going to bore you with every detail of the race, but I will give you a quick re-cap:
Swim:  For the first time, I wasn't freaking out before the swim.  I knew I could do the distance, and I was just happy to have my wetsuit!  [Quick side-story: At 5pm the evening before, I realized I had left my wetsuit at my parent's house...3 hours away-oops.  My sister and Dad met halfway between Chicago and Madison to make the exchange at a gas station outside of Rockford.]  Back to the race.  Right before the race started, Anna and I exchanged a hug and wished each other well.  The gun went off, my goggles got knocked around a few times, and before I knew it, 2.4 miles was over!  It took me 1 hr 23 minutes, a good-enough time for me.
Bike:  Awesome.  That's all I can really say about it.  I felt strong and fast the whole way.  Sure, the hills got tough, but it was a picturesque day for riding.  I checked my watch, I was coming in at 6 hrs 20 mins and I was excited to start the marathon.  I got a little ahead of myself and started to calculate a 12 hour finishing time.  Like I said, I felt awesome...until I climbed off my bike.  As soon as I raised my left leg over my seat, my whole leg (hamstring + calf) cramped. I nearly collapsed because it came on so quickly and I did not feel it coming.  I hobbled into the transition area.
Run:  After taking a seat in the transition area, my leg stopped cramping and my spirits perked back up.  I thought, "OK, I can do this."  For the first few miles, I thought I had bounced back from my cramp and that would be it.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  I struggled with leg cramps for the remaining 22 miles.  The good news, was that I felt great and did not feel low on energy.   I managed to come up with a fast walk that allowed me to keep going without aggravating my leg.  As I mentioned, my energy was high, and I managed to walk 11-12 minute miles, a "scoot"  some called it.  When I got to mile 25, I knew I was close so I ran the last mile in.  

I did it.  Mission accomplished.

So it wasn't exactly the 12 hour time I envisioned at the end of the bike, but I was happy.  I may have been the one scooting to the finish line, but there is no way I would have made it that far without my village.

Watch the finish!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ten Tips for New Runners

Just a little list I came up with for work:

1. Set a goal. Whether you are a seasoned runner, an occasional jogger, or still in a comtemplative might feel like you are stuck in a rut; pick a race to keep you motivated.  Choose to set a personal best at a familiar distance, or challenge yourself by trying a new longer distance.  

2.  FInd the right pair of shoes.  Unfortunately, this process resembles more of a trial-and-error approach than a seamless formula.  The most efficient (not to mention cost-effective) way to do this, is to find a reputable running store with knowledgeable staff.  Do not buy any shoes until you have tested them out on a treadmill in the store, or at the very least, taken a few laps around the store. The more you try the better.  Once you have found the right pair, stick with what works!

3. Make it social.  Recruit a friend, or join a local running club; accountability,  collectivity, and comraderie are just a few of the benefits of running with others.

4.  Choose quality over quantity...every time!  There is nothing more frustrating than getting really excited about a new form of exercise, and then being sidelined with an injury.  If you are starting from a sedentary state, start gradually and be sure to pick an event that will give you ample time to bring your mileage up safely. Use shorter runs as an opportunity to work on form and footwork. Stay focused, train for your goal and remember not to go out and do too much too fast.

5. Stay hydrated.  Remember to drink plenty of water and/or electrolyte replacement drinks before, during, and after your runs.  Did you know that a 2% decrease in your body's hydration status causes significant performance decrements?  Additionally, staying hydrated can help you avoid unwanted illnesses and injuries.

6. Recover!  After high intensity track workouts and long distance runs, give your body a chance to rest and recover the next day.  Contrary to popular belief, it is the time after a hard workout that really counts; this is when your body can absorb your hard efforts, rebuild itself, and ultimately get stronger.  Use these recovery days to eat well, rest, and/or cross train.

7.  Don't ignore the core.  Incorporating strength work that targets your core can be more valuable than just adding another ho-hum run to your week.  Simple body weight exercises that focus on your abdomen, lower back, glutes, and hip-flexors can go a long way for a runner.  This will translate into better running posture, form, speed, and even flexibility.

8. Keep things loose.  Stretching, foam rolling, and hydrotherapy are all great ways to keep your muscles lose, working in their optimal range of motion, and most importantly, fending off injury.  Remember, always warm-up before stretching!

9.  Do what you can.  On those days when it seems almost impossible to get out for a run, choose a workout that you love...or at least enjoy more than others.  Whether it is intervals, hill-repeats, or a classic tempo run, get out there and do something- you'll feel awesome when its over.

10. Keep track.  Use a journal, log, or spreadsheet to keep your running program focused and progressing.  Being able to look back at where you started, and how far (literally) you have come, is a great motivational tool.  Most importantly, this can help you tailor your workouts and set realistic goals.
Happy Running!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Iron Money Pit

So race weekend is upon us, (I will write more about that later) and I am packing my bags to head up to Madison.  As I was making my list and stuffing things in my suitcase, I started to make a mental count of how much money goes into this hobby of mine.  An article I read in May, states that the average Ironman competitor earns an annual salary of $161,000...!  Trying to put it tactfully, I will just say my annual income as an exercise physiologist/trainer/stay-at-home-mom places me well below the mean, an outlier if you will.  

Here are a few ways I have managed to stay involved in a sport that I love without breaking the bank.  

Race Registration
-You can't really avoid this one.  These things are expensive, so start saving up beforehand.  Ideally, you can do a handful of races in preparation for the big one, but this can also add up fast.  Choose just a couple of races at distances you know you need to practice, or favorites you hate to miss.  Give up the rest, at least for this season.

-Look in-store, but shop online.  Look around for what it is that you need, try it on, figure out your size and then scoot home to your computer to embark on a search. This can be annoying, and certainly more time-consuming, but there are SO many great deals out there, especially if you don't mind last season's stuff.  These are a few go-to sites of mine: (duh).
*Bonus tip- before placing order, do an additional search for promo codes!

With 3 disciplines, there is no easy way around this...Again, the internet can be a huge money-saver if you are willing to put in a little work.  The disappointing reality is that you may just have to settle for good-enough, instead of that aero-helmet, or race wheel-set you pine over.

-Search craigslist, ebay, and contact bike stores to ask what bikes they are trying to clear out.  I got an outstanding deal on my tri bike by deciding which frame I wanted and then just calling up stores.  Even if you don't know a lot about bikes, act like you do- you will get a much more honest price.  
- Learn some bike maintenance 101.  Learning how your gears work, how to clean + lube your chain, change out tires, and handle bar taping are simple ways to avoid a trip (and payment) to a bike store.
-Stock up!  When you see a sale on basics that you may not need immediately, i.e. tires, handle bar tape, tubes, CO2 cartridges, buy them!  You will use these eventually, not to mention the convenience of having these on-hand when you want them.  
-Spread-it-out:  If you are not able to buy a new bike or make all the upgrades you want at once, prioritize.  New handle bars this season, maybe new wheels next.  

This may sound funny, but anyone who has trained for an endurance event, knows the trial and error methodology that goes into finding what you can eat while training/racing...and what you can't.  Not to mention, when you are burning over 3500 calories a day the grocery bill can get pretty large.  I don't need to tell anyone how to save money at the grocery store,  but these training specific cost-cutters have saved us $100s this season.  
- Energy bars/gels are great at doing what they do- providing energy.  However, 100 mile rides and long runs over the course of a season, require lots of these items.  Lots.  My replacement for energy bars?  Bagels with peanut butter (honey optional).  Without going into the nitty-gritty, you can create the same suggested amount of carbohydrates, total calories, electrolytes etc. etc., in your own kitchen.  Just cut them up and package however suits your needs.  
- Making your own gel is not quite as simple, but can be fun to try and figure out.  I am not sure where Dan found the recipe, but after a few rounds we (really, he) had gu-success!  We just keep it in the jug on the left and pour into a gu container (that holds up to 4 gus) for our runs.  
-If ready-made recovery drinks are in your budget- great!  If not, make your own- are you starting to see  a pattern???  Yogurt, chocolate milk, and smoothies are great options; just make sure it contains protein and carbs.  Vitamin C has also been reported to assist in recovery.  More than what you eat, when you eat is most important.  Ideally, eat some sort of recovery food within 20 minutes post-workout.
-Use that foam roller!  Rolling regularly can have the same benefits of massage, but for a one-time purchase price of $20-30.  

When training for an Ironman, the sky's the limit in terms of spending money.  Not all of our bank accounts reach that high, but that doesn't mean we can't participate!

Now, back to packing...