Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How much is your brain worth?

This morning I helped out at the Trifest for MS training series and one of the coaches asked the question...How much is your brain worth?  It was a great question and one that many people new to sport probably haven't thought about.  The point that he was discussing was the importance of a good helmet and the fact that a helmet is a mandatory safety element in any triathlon.

After the training session was over, I headed out for my long run.  I somehow managed to cover a route that included many sections of the urban multi-use trail in our city.  I was so frustrated to see so many cyclists out there on all types of bikes (road, mountain, and cruisers) that weren't wearing helmets.  Apparently, they think their brain is worth nothing.

Helmet use is probably one of my biggest pet peeves.  It kills me to see parents out riding with their children and the children have on helmets but the parents don't.  Any fall from a bike is the potential for an injury and why wouldn't you protect your brain?  It's the most amazing super-computer on the planet and we are all so lucky to have one of our very own.

Here's an infographic with some more information on bicycle helmet use and statistics.  Please remember to wear your helmet and encourage safe riding to your friends and family.

As for me...I've been shopping for a new helmet this season.  I haven't quite found the combination of perfect fit and color yet but I know that I'll find a great one soon.  I'm just looking to expand my helmet collection with a new one but remember that if you have had a fall or accident you should consider replacing your helmet.  Always check the inside for any cracks in the foam or missing pads that would impact the fit.  Make sure you have a good fit and that includes tightening the chin straps...a loose helmet is likely to fall off in a fall and not offer you any protection.

Wear your helmet and enjoy your ride!!!

Infographic source: Christensen & Hymas, LLC

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Swimmer's Weather Dilemma

I love my lunch time swim workouts but every so often I encounter the swimmer's dilemma...rain.  I'm very lucky to have outdoor and indoor swim options during the summer.  I usually spend all but a few days doing outdoor swims because there is nothing better than getting a little sun and a good workout in.  

This week there were two days where rain played a factor in deciding what to do for my lunch workout.  The first was on was storming hard and for the life of me I couldn't fathom heading out into the storm to get soaking wet and then jump into the pool.  I know that seems silly but silly I am! 

No matter how great your umbrella is you are bound to get wet in the rain when it is storming hard enough.  I headed to grab lunch from the cafeteria and got a chuckle when I looked around and saw that one of my normal swimming workout partners had also chosen to take a rain check on the lunch swim.  

On Thursday, we were all swimming outside and we discussed the forecast for Friday.  The meteorologists were calling for an 80% chance of rain all day.  No fun! We all decided that we would swim indoors if there was rain.  

Sure enough on Friday it was raining and it seemed like the rain fell even harder right as it was time for my lunch workout.  I got to the gym and got lucky to score a close by parking spot.  Our gym gets super crowded for lunch workouts and I was very thankful. Unfortunately, my parking spot was in an area with horrible drainage.  I swear the water was an inch deep and running fast through the parking lot.  My shoes were platform sandals and my feet and jeans still managed to get wet.  

I jumped into the pool after a quick hello to a friend and began my warmup.  I knew what workout I wanted to do and it was a set of 50's that would hit 800 yds.  I knew my total distance that I wanted for the day so I came up with a warmup and early set to help me hit my goal.  Warmup was 400 yd easy swim followed by 4 x 50 yd of drill/swim in IM order.  

Set one - 500 yd ladder.  25 yd on 30 sec.  50 yd (free/back) on 1:00, 75 yd (50 free/25 breast) on 1:30, 100 pull on 1:50 and then go back down with same.  

As I was finishing up my 500 yd ladder one of my workout buddies showed up.  He had given the rain a little time to let up.  I offered him a 200 warmup because I was ready to hit my 50's.  While he did his warmup I swam a 200 pull.  

Set two - 4 x 50 x 4.  The first set of 4 x 50 are free/stroke on the 1:00.  The second set are all free on 50 sec.  The third set are pull on 55 sec and the final fourth set are free on the 45 sec.  You get a little rest by changing the interval times so that it isn't a complete descend from 1:00 down to 45 sec.  I'm still struggling to hit the 45 second intervals.  I come in right on the 45 seconds so it's just touch and go.  I end up finishing the set of 4 about 3-4 seconds slow which is a bummer but I'll get there.  

A second workout buddy joined us doing the workout during the 50's.  The two of them decided to take the 50's even faster and do a set of 4 on the 40 second interval.  I swam a 150 pull while they did that.  I ended the workout with a 150 yd cooldown to hit 2400 yds for the day.  That's a little more than I would normally swim during a lunch workout but after surviving the monsoon I wanted to get my money's worth in the workout! 

My jeans were still a little damp from the puddles when I got cleaned up and headed back to work.  Thankfully though the rain had let up and it was barely a drizzle as I left the gym.  I was able to avoid any torrential puddles and so my shoes were much drier when I returned to work.  Apparently though one of the lunch crew decided to swim outdoors after all.  

Here's a quick list of some of my swim tips:
1) Variety - it's your friend.  Swim different strokes, swim different distances.  Don't just swim the same thing every time you get in the pool.  
2) Drills and Kick work will make you stronger.  Research different drills and try out new ones every so often.  
3) If there is torrential rain...roll up your pants! (oh wait, that's not a swim tip!)
4) TriSwim Shampoo and Conditioner is your will keep your hair looking and smelling great.  No green hair here! 
5) Push yourself - you'll never hit a faster interval if you don't try to.  Some days it might work and some days you might fall short but you've got to go for it or you will never succeed.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shark Sprint Triathlon 2013 Race Recap

My very first triathlon was the Shark Sprint Triathlon in 2009.  Every year I look forward to this race and use it as a measure of my fitness since the course is very consistent each year.

The race is a 500 yd lake swim, 15 mile rolling bike course, and 5K mostly flat run along park roads.  Here is a quick recap of my race times:

2009 - 1:50:09
2010 - 1:41:45
2011 - 1:43:11
2012 - 1:39:06

Last year was a big improvement for me.  I was pretty pumped to break the 1:40 mark and remember feeling pretty good when I finished.  The race is in July which means it is notably hot.  There is no avoiding the heat but mother nature decided to give us a little break this year.

Race morning I woke up feeling nervous and unprepared.  I had my race bag packed the night before yet I felt like I was forgetting something.  I headed out around 5:15 with my goal to arrive at the race site by 5:45.  As I pulled into the lake, I was surprised when the volunteers directed us to continue towards the boat ramp for parking.  Normally we have to park a long way from the transition area and walk down so it was great to get to park a little bit closer.  My friend Mandy was just ahead of me in the car line so we headed towards transition together.

Check in was quick and easy and then we began deciding on where to rack our bikes.  We selected a spot that was wide open and in a straight shot out of the bike out.  We set up our areas and went through the routine of getting transition set up to be as fast as possible.  That means shoes loosened and pointing in the direction you want and items set up in the order you will put them on.  With plenty of time, we got some other race morning details taken care of...timing chips, potty stops, and catching up with triathlon friends!

The women were slated for the 3rd and final swim wave.  The water was a perfect temperature and actually felt cool since the air temps weren't that hot out yet.  I staged myself along the buoy line but back 2-3 people.  This has been a race tactic that I have successfully used in the past.  I allow the first swimmers to take off and then ease into my swim.  It helps me avoid some of the tussle that normally happens at the start of the swim but still have good positioning.  My swim went really well...I stayed on the buoy line for almost the entire swim.  I was a little wide of the buoy for one section but got back without adding too much extra distance.  I caught up to some of the men in the wave before me and stayed in the top 15 for female swimmers.

The transition run out of the lake is up a hill side and it has been challenging for me in the past.  When I got into transition I went through my, helmet, sunglasses, go.  I try to remind myself of what I'm going to do as I finish up the swim so that it goes quickly and I don't forget anything.

The first few miles of the bike course are more uphill than downhill.  It feels challenging and it takes awhile to get momentum going.  On the way to the race, I heard the Sheryl Crow song Take It Easy and that became my motto for the bike.  Each uphill I came to I sang the chorus to myself and took it easy trying to keep my heart rate in check and my legs from burning out.  Once I hit the middle miles of the course I was having a blast.  On the flats I could get in a groove and felt like I was flying.  As I made my way towards the BIG hill on the course, I reminded myself that I could get up it no worries.  Just get in my granny gear and works every year.  I might not be super fast getting up that hill but I get up it! After Chicken Hill, I did my best to fly back downhill to the lake and transition.  The course has about four miles of rolling downhill for the final four miles.  It's great and you can definitely pick up time lost on Chicken Hill through this section.

I got into transition and again went through the process to change from bike to run.  I put my race belt on as I was leaving transition.  The sun had finally peaked through and the temps were warming up some for the run.  I was quickly passed on the run by several other racers.  I tried not to worry about that and instead cheered on all the other racers finishing up their runs.  I passed the first water stop around mile 1 and the cold water tasted great with the heat rising.  Mile two was tough but I kept running.  I had a goal to not walk during the run because that has been a weakness in years past.

Finishing up the run I could hear people talking behind me.  It sounded like someone was being paced/coached which if you know triathlon then you know that outside assistance is not allowed.  There was a sharp turn and uphill to get to the finish line this year.  Well, as I was making my way up the hill another woman came storming past me.  It was so confusing since when I looked behind her I didn't see another woman and I could have sworn that two women were talking behind me for that final 1/10th mile.  I did ask the woman if someone had paced her and she said no just another racer.  I was glad to see in the photos that she was telling the truth and what I thought I heard of two women talking was really just her talking to the male racer who must have been struggling.
Check out the grimace as she charges for me in the final 100 yds.   

My finish time was a huge course PR for me of 1:32:25 (about 6 minutes PR.)  I had improvements in all three disciplines but I'm most proud of my run improvement.  My 5K time was a 29:34 which is a great time for me especially in a triathlon.  My bike average was 17.8mph which was another good improvement for my performance on this course.  I was really happy with my time and in a bit of disbelief about the times.  I managed to also win the Athena division which was a fun surprise.  Another great year for the Shark Sprint and probably the best weather yet.
Celebrating our podium with Jenni, Me, and Jayme.
Final Splits: Swim 8:50, Bike 50:36, Run 29:34

Photos courtesy of and Mark Frentz.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Swim Fun ~ User's choice

Most days our workout crew makes up our swim workouts on the spot as a collaboration of whoever is working out that day.  We end up with a lot of variety from day to day and it always keeps you guessing.

One of the signatures of our workouts are doing ladders.  It's an easy workout to fall back on and it is easy to keep the group together.  But every so often we end up with a day that includes a large number of repeats of the same distance.  In those instances, it's fun to make the repeats into a game of user's choice.  Usually you can make it divisible by the number of people that you have so that each person gets to select how to swim 1 or more of the intervals in your set.

Here's an example:  we had 3 of us doing the workout and needed to complete 12 x 50.  We split that up as 3 sets of 4 and each of was in charge for a set.  For my set, I went with drill/swim for each 50.  Swim the first 25 as drill and then the second 25 as swim in IM order.  One of the guys went with the option of pass the rabbit where the slowest in your group is the rabbit.  For that, the group swims the first 25 at the rabbit's pace and then sprints to pass the rabbit and finish.

While those are basic options you sometimes end up with a set full of goofiness.  Here are some ideas that one of the guys had us do for his set in the workout.
- Water Polo - swim head up, water polo style
- Sculling - several options you can do with this one.
- Somersaults - swim 7 strokes, execute a complete flip turn somersault and continue swim 7/flip, swim 7/flip down the length of the pool
- Corkscrews - swim alternating between freestyle and backstroke.

These are fun drills that you can incorporate into your workout to keep the fun in your fitness.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

HumaGel Funding Campaign

A few months ago I got the opportunity to try out the new HumaGel chia based energy gel.  I loved it!!!

The fruit flavors were awesome and it was so much better than typical gels.  HumaGel was developed not by a large national company but by two guys who wanted a better tasting and better ingredient based gel product.

Now is your chance to help them keep chasing their dream.  They have launched a funding campaign to help fund their first full production run.  They have been self-funded up until now and unfortunately have to secure a new manufacturer.  At the same time, they are launching two great new flavors.  That's a lot of excitement for a small start up company!!!

Here's your chance to help...the perks are great and if you haven't yet had a HumaGel I can tell you that you will love it.  I also love how much fun the guys had in making their video.  Here's my previous review if you want more info on the great gels.  Ch Ch Chi Chia Huma Gel Review!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Joining the Posse

Isn't that the truth...having a posse to watch your back makes all the difference! 

I have followed pro triathlete Bree Wee's blog for almost as long as I have had a blog.  One of the original blogs that I followed was based out of Hawaii and that blogger would frequently mention and reference other Hawaii athletes which is how I discovered Bree.

Bree Wee has always followed her passion and her dreams.  Her current dream is to qualify for Kona this year and she is on a points gathering path trying to earn the points she needs to solidify her spot on the starting line in October.
Bree is an inspiration to me with the way that she approaches life and training.  She spent a few months recovering from a stress fracture in her foot and came back smart and strong.  Besides the normal challenges like recovering from an injury, Bree has faced the challenge of supporting an international race schedule as a somewhat self-supported professional athlete.  She has a few more races this year to get her points and she needs our help.  It's summer time which means that her normal paycheck of substitute teaching isn't available.

I want to help...that's why I have joined the Bree Wee Postcard Posse! I am passing along a monetary prize that I won because I know that it will make a difference for Bree and help her fulfill her dreams.  Check out Bree's blog if you want to help or if you want to enviously bask in the glow of her Hawaii training lifestyle! Seriously, the photos that Bree posts make me jealous! Vacationing in Hawaii is definitely on my bucket list!

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Newest in Transition Runs

Throughout triathlon training it's very important that you do a lot of practice with transitioning from the bike to the run.  We like to call these combination workouts Brick workouts.  Some says it is because your legs feel like bricks when you start to run! Others say it is called a brick because you are stacking together two disciplines like you would stack bricks.  Either way...bricks are an important part in building a solid foundation to your triathlon training.

We sometimes call our runs off the bike a transition run.  The duration is usually about 15-20 minutes...just enough to get you past the point when your legs and brain transition and stop fighting the switch from the bike.

Well, I have news to share...there is a whole new transition run in Northwest Arkansas! Let me share with you the latest in transition runs...

Well, I hope you can tell that we were having a little fun!  This video was our submission for a contest hosted by SkinStrong which is a anti-chafing product.  They posted their own version of Prancercise and put the challenge out to create your own and share for a chance to win a SkinStrong party pack.  Here is Slik showing off the prizes!
Photo: Enjoying the Prancercise submissions so far (especially ones sent from people on vacation).
If you haven't submitted yours yet, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get your prance on and then upload it here before midnight tomorrow night!

Slik's packing up the party for the winner!

Truth be told I saw a Facebook reminder about the contest on Saturday and texted Mandy that we should totally make a video during our bike ride on Sunday.  Mandy's sister had shared the original Prancercise video with us so we had to make sure Jody could join us and be in the video too.  We had a lot of fun laughing and prancercising in the neighborhood during our bike ride.  We had Jody's husband film our fun and then Mandy put it all together into our WINNING video submission!  Even though we won with our awesome skills... we will return to our regularly scheduled transition runs next week!  Check out SkinStrong's YouTube channel for some of the other fun video submissions!