I will be racing the inaugural Ironman Boulder on August 3rd as a member of the Ironman Foundation – Newton Running Tri Team! I am so excited and humbled to be part of this amazing, talented, and selfless group of people. Athletes from this year’s team will be competing at one or more of six target Ironman races (Boulder, Boulder 70.3, Whistler, Arizona, Mt. Tremblant, and Kona). In each of those communities, the team will be working on service projects that provide unique, educational, and fun outreach opportunities for children who otherwise would never get such opportunities. I have included more information about the Foundation below.
As many of you may know, working with and helping children has always been an important part of my life. In college, I volunteered with the Boulder Mental Health Center as a mentor for underprivileged kids and in law school, I worked with Fresh Lifelines for Youth, a program in which I worked as a legal advocate and advisor for at-risk high school students. Most importantly, though, about 10 months ago, Jim and I got custody of his 8-year-old cousin who was living in a dangerous, unsuitable environment and we are currently going through the process to formally adopt her. I feel very strongly about helping kids to recognize their potential and to realize that they really can rise above the challenges life has put before them.
As part of the Ironman Foundation-Newton Running Tri Team, one of organizations I will be working with is ELK, Environmental Learning for Kids. ELK serves more than 5,000 underserved, urban youth (ages 5-25) each year through year-round intensive programs and in-school/after-school programs in Denver, Adams, and Arapahoe Counties. “ELK cultivates a passion in science, leadership, and service in a diverse community of learners.” Their purpose is to foster life-long learning, diversity and inclusiveness, direct experience in the outdoors, and development of human potential.
In training and racing, I constantly tell myself two things, whether it’s on a 70-mile ride, a 3-hour run, when I’m swimming lap, after lap, after lap (after lap) in the pool, or going as fast as I can in a 5k: “You are stronger than you think” and “Anything is possible.” Both of those mottos couldn’t be more true when it comes to kids and the limitless potential they have to make an impact on others and on the world!
Please help me help kids realize their potential and experience some amazing opportunities by clicking on the following link and making a donation:
Thank you so much for your support!
The IRONMAN Foundation-Newton Running Tri Team was founded to share the mission of the IRONMAN Foundation and the corporate and social responsibility of Newton Running. Since 2013, the IRONMAN Foundation has provided more than 18 million in charitable support to nonprofit organization in the communities where IRONMAN events are held. Newton Running was founded on the principle of helping others. It starts with our commitment to our community and continues with our involvement with a diverse range of philanthropic organizations.
Through this common vision of philanthropy, The IRONMAN Foundation- Newton Running Tri Team was born. Our goal is to: create an action that happens once in time but has existing or lasting results or an action that happens continually or progressively.The team will create a moment to impact people, that does it in a way to build a legacy.
Kokua is a Hawaiian word that translates as extending loving, sacrificial help to others for their benefit, not for personal gain. Through our Kokua, we hope to leave the world a better place.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I often have a lot of trouble falling asleep at night. I also have a tendency to wake up several times a night and usually have a tough time going back to sleep. You would think with all the exercising I do that I would be able to soundly sleep every night. I hate taking sleeping pills, but sometimes it’s the only way I can get a full night’s sleep. Of course, I wake up feeling groggy and usually my sleep is accompanied by strange and often disturbing dreams when I’m in a sleeping pill-induced sleep. But the other day, I found something that has completely redefined restful sleep. Marley’s Mellow Mood Tea!
I know what you’re thinking: “How can tea HELP you sleep? Tea always has some sort of caffeine (even the decaf) and it just keeps me up!” I thought the same thing. But here’s the kicker…it’s got all kinds of natural stress-relieving and relaxation ingredients like Valerian Root extract, Lemon Balm extract, Chamomile Flower extract, Hops extract, and Passion Flower extract. Not only that, but each bottle has 1 mg of Melatonin, a naturally-occurring hormone in humans that regulates our circadian rhythms. In total, each bottle of tea contains 41 mg of the the above “Relaxation Blend.” I’ve tried them three times and cannot believe how well I’ve slept! I’m asleep within about twenty minutes of finishing a bottle and even if I wake up during the night, I easily fall right back to sleep. And the best part…I wake up totally refreshed. None of that groggy, dragging feeling that comes from over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills.
The teas comes in three flavors — Green Tea with Honey, Black Tea, and Half Lemonade/Half Tea (called Marley Mellow Mood Light). According to their website, they also sell lightly carbonated 12 oz. sodas in berry or citrus flavors, each with the same relaxation benefits of the teas. I’ve only tried the green and black teas, both of which are SO good! You can buy them online or in a variety of retail establishments. I’ve been buying them at Whole Foods.
Have you tried Marley Mellow Mood beverages? I’d love to hear what you think of them. Sweet dreams!
How many of you out there have spent the bulk of your life going to school, getting your degree, perhaps going on to get a higher degree, and have finally landed a job in your “dream field.” You’ve got an office, you’re going to meetings, you’re making money…your career is finally taking shape. While you sit at your desk doing research, typing memos, and making phone calls, you think back on all the time you spent studying, taking exams, grinding out long hours, and all of the stress, pressure, and anxiety it took to get you seated in that office. And because you have worked so hard and don’t want to take this opportunity for granted, you continue to work long hours and push yourself, often sacrificing all the other things in your life that are important to you.
Until one day you go to work, sit down at your desk, and see a reflection in your computer screen that you no longer recognize. You can’t recall the last time you did something just for fun. Even if you did, you spent most of the time worrying about an impending deadline at work or an important meeting scheduled for the next morning. When people ask you to describe yourself, you immediately respond, “I’m a/an (insert name of your profession).” You are no longer defined by who you are, but what you do. That’s when you realize it’s time for a change. Time to rediscover who you are, what makes you happy, your passions, your goals, and your dreams.
Traveling to a different part of the country or world allows you to free yourself from your daily routine and all of its stressors, and experience new places and new cultures. It forces you to break out of your comfort zone and learn how to survive in the unknown. It forces you to find out who you really are, away from the job, the computer, and the schedules. But just hopping on a plane and setting off to another country can be daunting, especially if you are not a seasoned traveler. Questions start running through your mind: “Where should I go?” “For how long?” “How much will it cost me?” “Where will I stay?”
If you want to get away, see the world, and not break the bank while doing it, consider travel volunteering. There are many programs that allow you to work abroad for weeks, months, or even years. However, not all volunteer programs are free or even cheap. Many actually charge hundreds or thousands of dollars (depending on the length of your stay) for someone to volunteer with their organization. And that often does not include your airfare or costs of meals once you get there. While there are many volunteer opportunities that come with a big price tag, here is a list of organizations you can volunteer with that are free or very inexpensive:
Since its inception in 1960, more than 200,000 people have volunteered in 139 countries with the Peace Corps. Volunteers can work in a variety of areas, including education, business, health, and agriculture. Volunteers must be United States citizens and at least 18 years of age. The Peace Corps requires a 27-month commitment, which includes 3 months of training and 24 months of volunteering. For a list of opportunities around the world, and to learn more about the Peace Corps program in general, visit their website at www.peacecorps.gov.
The United Nations Volunteer Program, based in Bonn, Germany, serves 130 countries. According to the program’s website: “[Volunteers] work in technical cooperation with governments, with community-based initiatives, in humanitarian relief and rehabilitation and in support of human rights, electoral and peace- building processes. They are professionals who work on a peer basis.” Volunteers serve in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, health and education, human rights promotion, information and communication technology, community development, vocational training, industry and population. Assignments typically last between 6 and 12 months, and are renewable. Volunteers must be at least 25 years of age, hold a university degree or higher technical diploma, have a minimum of 2 years working experience, and have good working knowledge of one of the following languages: English, French, or Spanish. For more information on how to volunteer with the UNV program, visit their website at www.unv.org.
“WWOOF is a worldwide network of organizations that link volunteers with organic farmers to help people share more sustainable ways of living. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.” (www.wwoof.org.) The WWOOF organizations publish lists of organic farms, smallholdings, and gardeners that welcome volunteer help, thereby offering a wide array of tasks and experiences for volunteers. The volunteers (called WWOOFers) choose the hosts that most interest them and contact the hosts directly to make arrangements for their stay. Volunteers typically live with the host families; however, volunteers do not pay for their stay and the hosts do not pay the volunteers for their work. The WWOOF organization does collect small fees from hosts and volunteers to help maintain and develop the WWOOF network. To read much more about this unique, interesting opportunity and see where you can travel to learn more about organic farming and sustainable living, visit www.wwoof.org.
4. Work Camps
Service Civil International is a work camp program that places teams of volunteers on 2-3 week projects around the world. SCI has hundreds of opportunities in more than 60 countries, according to their website, including working with asylum seekers in Norway, helping on an organic tea farm in Japan, working with a children’s theater group in Kosovo, or repairing fencing for a wolf sanctuary in Colorado. In addition to these shorter opportunities, volunteers with SCI can also serve in longer-term programs (3 months or more) by working on social service or environmental initiatives, including teaching English at a youth center in Poland, marking hiking trails in Nepal, working with the poor in India, or teaching organic farming in Kenya. To learn more about SCI, visit their website at www.sci-ivs.org/new.
Another similar work camp program is Volunteers For Peace, a non-profit organization offering more than 3,000 volunteer opportunities around the world. In addition to the 2-3 week service projects, VFP offers Individual Service Adventures, through which you can personalize an international service project lasting from 2 weeks to 1 year. VFP also offers Group Projects, where you can custom-build an international service experience for your educational or community group. Visit www.vfp.org to learn more about their work camp projects.
5. Teaching English Abroad
A simple Google search – “teaching English abroad” – yields several million results of programs and resources for teaching English in a foreign country. Unlike the volunteer opportunities listed above, teaching English typically costs several thousand dollars, but you also are paid once you begin working. Language Corps (www.languagecorps.com), for example, pays teachers between $500 and $1,500 per month, depending on the country, as well as the details and conditions of the specific teaching assignment.
Teaching English abroad usually requires a 1 to 2 year commitment and there are opportunities all over the world. Depending on the program, the costs of accommodations may or may not be included in the program fees.
Another program, CIEE, has teaching opportunities in Chile, China, the Dominican Republic, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, and Vietnam. In Vietnam, for example, the compensation ranges from $10-20 per classroom hour taught. The program also awards a completion bonus upon successful completion of the teaching contract to help with return airfare. However, there is a $2,800 program fee for CIEE, which covers a pre-departure school assignment, an in-country orientation program, one-way transfer from the orientation to your host school, insurance coverage, program handbook, teaching guides and tools, and visa acquisition, as well as a 130-hour professional TEFL certification course. The costs of accommodations are not included in the fees and are usually your responsibility. To learn more about CIEE, visit their website at www.ciee.org.
For a comprehensive resource where you can learn about opportunities to study, teach, volunteer, or intern abroad, visit www.GoAbroad.com.
Whether you are looking to change jobs or simply want a great excuse to see the world, meet new people, and learn about different cultures, volunteering abroad could be that once-in-a-lifetime experience that completely redefines who you are and what you want out of a career.
I recently bought one of the new iPod Shuffles to use with my also recently purchased H2O Audio System. If you haven’t heard of H2O Audio, it is a San Diego based company that develops waterproof and sweatproof sport headphones and accessories, including cases and armbands for iPhones and iPods. I bought one of their “swimming solution” systems — the Waterproof Headphone System for the iPod Shuffle. The Shuffle goes inside a waterproof case, which has integrated Surge 2G headphones that can be worn while swimming. The case clips onto your swim goggles and the headphones fit comfortably in your ears while swimming. The sound quality is perfectly clear, especially when you’re under water. I found that wearing my swim cap over my ears helps to keep the ear pieces in place, otherwise they can slip out of your ears over the course of your swim. Overall, it’s a great product and has totally transformed my swim workouts! Swimming lap after lap in a pool can get pretty boring, but being able to listen to music definitely helps pass the time (and distance).
I’ve now created my ideal music playlist on my Shuffle for my workouts, which I’ve used while swimming and on the CompuTrainer for cycling workouts. On Saturday, I decided to take my music with me on a 65-mile bike ride. It was the first time I’ve ridden outside listening to music and it made such a difference! *As a side note regarding safety, I only put an ear piece in my right ear (ie. curb side) so that I can still hear cars in the lanes of traffic to my left. I also stop my music when I am riding through heavy traffic areas.
Anyway, I am so pleased with my latest music compilation that I wanted to share it with all of you. It’s a nice blend of moderate tempo songs, with some fast-tempo songs thrown in to keep things interesting and which I use to incorporate speed-play/intervals into my workouts. For example, when I’m cycling and an up-tempo song comes on, I increase my cadence (100+ RPMs) for the duration of the song. Again, it helps to pass the time and gives you something to focus your attention on besides the miles and miles you’re cranking out.
My Current Workout Playlist
Rolling in the Deep – Adele
Set Fire to the Rain – Adele
Mr. Saxobeat – Alexandra Stan
Radar – Britney Spears
I Wanna Go – Britney Spears
Till the World Ends – Britney Spears
Feel So Close – Calvin Harris
Sandstorm – Da Rude (This is a great song for the CompuTrainer!)
Stereo Love – Edward Maya feat. Alicia
We Are Young – Fun
Price Tag – Jessie J.
Part of Me – Katy Perry
Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
Bulletproof – La Roux
Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5
One Day – Matisyahu
Animal – Neon Trees
We Found Love – Rihanna
Naturally – Selena Gomez
Dynamite – Taio Cruz
Drive By – Train
DJ Got Us Falling in Love – Usher
Glad You Came – The Wanted
Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye
Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO
Hopefully some (or all) of these songs will help you enjoy your workouts a little more! Happy training!
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, when it comes to triathlons, I really struggle with my swimming. It’s kind of a love-hate relationship…as in, I hate it when I’m doing it, but love it when it’s over. I’ve read articles about proper swimming technique, watched videos, taken swimming clinics, joined the Walnut Creek Masters team, and have spent A LOT of time practicing. And while I’ve managed to complete several Alcatraz crossings (~1.5 miles, as the crow flies), and numerous triathlons, including a long and painful 2.4 mile swim at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, my swimming times are embarrassingly slow. People who have watched me swim all tend to say that there’s nothing really wrong with my stroke and that I just need to get stronger. But, I knew that I must be doing something wrong or it wouldn’t be so difficult. All of my friends who are swimmers always say how much they love swimming and how relaxing it is. Not only that, but they make it look so effortless. I can certainly crank out the yards, but it’s hard and uncomfortable, exhausting, and definitely not effortless. Since Coeur d’Alene, I’ve decided that I really need to get better at swimming and I really want to not hate swimming. I’ve also decided that to achieve those goals, I would need to hire an experienced coach to help me.
About two months ago, I finally broke down and solicited the names of coaches from the Forward Motion Race Club. I got several names, but one in particular — Greg Lynch — came very highly recommended. So, I gave him a call and a few days later, I was having my first private swim lesson. And oh what a difference it made to have someone watching me swim, one-on-one, and identifying all the things that were hindering my ability to swim efficiently. He literally broke down every piece of my stroke, explained how my arm, hand, head, and body position were creating unnecessary drag, thereby fatiguing me more quickly, and showed me how tiny, subtle changes would make me a smoother, faster swimmer. It only took a few lessons to unlearn all the bad habits I had picked up over the past five years, and after about three sessions, I was swimming faster than I had ever swam before. Not only that, but I was not gasping for breath at the end of every 25 or 50 yards. I’ll never forget finishing a 6×50 yard build set, looking up at my coach, and exclaiming, “Wow, I don’t actually hate this!” It was pretty monumental! I just completed my 8th session and Greg has informed me that my stroke is about as perfect as it’s going to get and I no longer need to keep doing one-on-one sessions. It’s time to take what I’ve learned and start building up yardage to get ready for the Vineman Half Aquabike (1.2 mile swim & 56 mile bike) on July 28th and Big Kahuna Half Ironman on September 9th.
The other day, I came across a story in the New York Times called “Delineating the Perfect Swim Stroke.” It is an in-depth article about a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University concerning proper technique in freestyle and backstroke swimming. The study looked at the best, most efficient technique for those two strokes, and did a lengthy analysis on “deep catch” swimming versus sculling. I have included the article below, as well as a link to the original article published in the Times on July 4, 2012.
All you swimmers out there, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the sculling vs. deep catch debate and what works best for you! Happy swimming!
Delineating the Perfect Swim Stroke (by Gretchen Reynolds)
Should a swimmer’s arms serve as paddles or propellers? That question, abstruse as it might seem, underlies a long-running controversy in swimming about the best, most efficient technique for the freestyle and the backstroke. It also prompted a new study from a group of scientists at Johns Hopkins University that, in seemingly answering the question, is likely to provoke even more debate.
The concern about how best to position and move the arm during the freestyle stroke (also known as the front crawl) and its inverse, the backstroke, first gained prominence back in the 1960s, when James E. Counsilman, the famed Indiana University men’s swimming coach known as Doc, decided to apply scientific principles of propulsion and fluid dynamics to swim techniques.
The physics of swimming are simple enough. To move through the water, you must generate thrust. To do so, you can use dragging or lifting forces. Drag is created by, unsurprisingly, dragging back against the water and, in the process, pushing an object, like the swimmer’s body, forward.
Lift, on the other hand, is created mainly by the flow of fluid around an object moving at an angle through the water. The fluid flows faster around the more curved side of the object, lifting and thrusting it forward. Ship propellers work on this principle.
But until Doc Counsilman weighed in, it was widely believed that swimming, for humans, involved primarily drag forces. You pulled against the water, like someone paddling a canoe, your arm remaining straight, palm perpendicular to the body. This stroke technique is often called a “deep catch” style of swimming, since you pull long and deep against the water.
Coach Counsilman was convinced, however, that lift could and should provide a majority of the propulsion for human swimmers, and that the way to generate lift was to scull, or move the stroking arm through an S-curve underwater.
In his revised version of the freestyle, the arm, bent as it breaks the surface, pulls back against the water at first, as in a paddling stroke. But then the arm starts turning sideways in a gentle curve as it begins to trace an S shape, the thumb heading up as the palm turns parallel to the body. The arm reverses that motion to traverse a full S shape before emerging from the water.
Fluids would flow swiftly around the hand as it sliced through the water and, Coach Counsilman contended, create more lift than the deep-catch stroke.
Coach Counsilman instituted this new stroke technique for his swimmers, first at Indiana University and later as head coach of the United States Olympic team. His swimmers, who included Mark Spitz, won more than 20 Olympic medals and 23 Big Ten Conference titles.
In the years since, sculling during the freestyle stroke and backstroke became commonplace among elite and recreational swimmers.
But many coaches continued to question whether lift, generated by sculling, was really the fastest, most efficient way for swimmers to reach the wall.
So the Johns Hopkins scientists, who before the 2008 Summer Olympics had studied how best to perform the butterfly stroke (their conclusion: have extremely flexible ankles and, if possible, big feet), decided now to put the two strokes to the test in a series of complex computer simulations.
They began by creating a virtual animated arm, using laser scans and motion-capture videos from Olympic-caliber swimmers. “We decided to separate the arm from the rest of the body so the we could study, in isolation, the underwater flow dynamics” around a swimmer’s arm during the freestyle stroke or backstroke, says Rajat Mittal, a professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins and a devoted recreational swimmer, who oversaw the study.
They then gathered underwater videos of elite swimmers, supplied by USA Swimming, which they categorized as displaying either a sculling or a deep-catch stroke.
The scientists ran their animated arm through multiple simulations of each stroke, requiring thousands of hours of computer time.
The result was “a bit of a surprise,” Dr. Mittal says. It turned out that lift was, as Doc Counsilman had maintained, important for efficient, and therefore fast, stroking. In all of the scientists’ simulations, lift provided a majority of the propulsive force.
But sculling did not supply much lift. In fact, it impeded both lift and drag. “Our shoulders won’t twist all the way around,” Dr. Mittal says, meaning our arms won’t lever about as ship propellers do, and the amount of lift we can create by sculling is small.
The better choice for human propulsion, he says, was the paddlelike deep-catch stroke, which actually produced more lift than sculling, along with a hefty dose of drag.
“All things being equal, our data show that the deep-catch stroke is far more effective,” Dr. Mittal says.
Of course, races are not won or lost by disembodied arms, and as Dr. Mittal points out, “all things are not equal, most of the time.” An effective deep-catch stroke requires considerable shoulder strength, which many swimmers lack, making a sculling-based stroke easier for them, at least until they develop robustly muscled shoulders.
“How you roll your body in the water with each stroke will also matter,” he says, as will overall fitness. “Sculling is less fatiguing,” so less-fit swimmers may opt to scull, he says.
But for fit, powerful swimmers, or those who aspire to become such, “my advice would be to use the deep-catch stroke,” he says.
“Anecdotally, we’ve been told that more and more coaches are moving to the deep-catch,” he continues, and his group’s findings suggest that for most swimmers, whether elite or recreational, “that is the way to go.”
I’ve lived in the Bay Area nearly my entire life, and other than the four years I was in college in Colorado and three years I was in Santa Clara for law school, I’ve lived in the San Ramon Valley. Because of that, I like to think that I’m pretty well-versed in where to go, what to do, and, most importantly, where to eat in the area. It’s a rare day that I stumble upon a new eating establishment along the San Ramon – Walnut Creek corridor. Yet, I made such a discovery today with Cherubini Coffee House in Alamo! How I have lived in Alamo a mere stones-throw from Cherubini, and have never been there is a mystery to me. Probably because any time I’m looking for my caffeine fix, I make a beeline to Starbucks or, for a change of pace, Peet’s (particularly now that they opened a Peet’s directly across the street from my house). Every time I go to Starbucks and am driving or walking back to my house, I pass by Cherubini and think, “I should really go check that place out one of these days.” Two years later, I finally ventured inside, and I’m so glad that I did.
Cheruini is located at 37 Alamo Square, just off Danville Blvd., 1 block south of Stone Valley Road. It is tucked at the end of a quiet street and backs up to the creek. There is ample outdoor seating in the front and back, as well as overlooking the creek. The shop itself is an old wooden cottage decorated with antiques and other unique and interesting trinkets. Definitely not a modern, trendy coffee shop. I was expecting coffee, tea, and pastries, but they actually serve a full breakfast, including omelets, breakfast burritos, pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, and fruit. I had the croissant breakfast sandwich with eggs and ham and it was delicious. Piping hot and very fresh. Besides the omelets, which were a couple more dollars, all breakfast items were under $6.75. While I have not yet had their lunch, they offer a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, and quiches, all for under $9. They similarly have a wide variety of hot and cold beverages and their prices are on par with or less than those of Starbucks and Peet’s. I ordered an English Breakfast tea, which they serve in a tea pot (I love places that do that), alongside a warmed mug. They didn’t even charge for the side of soy milk!
All in all, I was quite impressed with Cherubini and will definitely go back. Despite my love for Starbucks, Cherubini is a cozy and refreshing change from the fast-paced, crowded, modern corporate coffee shops.
I received an email today from a local cycling group about a cyclist who was robbed near Redwood Park, just past Stonehurst Rd. on Redwood Rd. in the Oakland Hills. Please be careful when you’re out training in this very popular cycling area!
My son works for Oakland Fire and is currently
stationed off of Skyline. He just called me. A bike rider came into
the station to report his mugging.
This just happened at approx 3pm today [Thursday, June 28th]. He was a solo bike rider. He had just come down South Pinehurst and turned onto Redwood Rd. Just
past the Redwood Park entrance as he was heading up Redwood, a van
passed him, then pulled over, a guy jumped out to stop him. He was
able to manage his bike around the guy by going into opposing traffic
and continued as fast as he could up Redwood. The van took off again
after him and passed him again. The biker went to turn around and
there was another car involved who pulled up behind him. The guy
pulled a gun on the biker, took his gold chain necklace, then took the
bike and threw it in the van.
The van was a 2 tone gray (dark & light gray) 70’ish. It was like one
of those workstyle Econo vans with window in the back and the side
door. The car was a Nissan 200SX, possibly red in color.
Please let everyone know. This was a brazen crime and there will no
doubt be more until these guys are caught. They have a lot of victims
out there waiting with all of us who do solo rides on these more
isolated back roads.
Ever since I took the Bar exam in 2004, the last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of every July always conjures up vivid memories of that 3-day experience. All the emotions, stress, anxiety, and fear that I had during those 3 days come flooding back, down to the noticeably increased heart rate and knots in my stomach. And that same physical, mental, and emotional reaction I have every year with the Bar exam now rears its ugly head on the last Sunday in June with Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
It’s been two years since I completed Ironman Coeur d’Alene. It was my first and only Ironman race. I spent 6 months training for it, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what was harder — the training or the race itself. In a lot of ways, studying for and taking the Bar exam was not that different. I spent 10 weeks studying for it and 3 days taking it…a bit of an endurance event in and of itself. But I digress…
When I think back to my life between January and June of 2010, it’s a bit of a blur. I was training six days a week, often twice per day (so on the order of 10 workouts per week). Two-a-days were pretty rough. I would typically swim at 6 a.m., shower and get ready for work at the pool, work all day, and then head out for a run or bike ride after work, getting me home about 7 or 8 at night. A couple of times, just to spice things up a bit, I actually drove out to San Francisco before work, took a boat out to Alcatraz, jumped off, swam the ~1.5 miles back to San Francisco, showered at the gym on my way to the office, and would get to work in time to be in court by 9 a.m. To further complicate things, between March and June of 2010, in addition to spending nearly every waking minute either working or working out, I quit my job at the District Attorney’s Office, started a new job in a law firm, bought a house, moved, and was planning my wedding. Ok, so it was more than a bit of blur.
The weekends were the worst, though. Those were the long training days. Saturdays consisted of a long bike ride (ie. 80 – 120 miles, depending on the weekend) and Sundays were reserved for long runs (ie. 15-20 miles). I would get up at 6:30 a.m. on Saturdays and wouldn’t get home from riding until very late in the afternoon or early evening. Then I would get up at about 7 a.m. on Sundays and run for 2.5 – 3 hours. And when I finally finished all that, all I wanted to do was lie down and relax for the rest of the day so that I could wake up at 5:30 Monday morning and start my weekly grind of work and two-a-day workouts. It was relatively intolerable.
The race itself, however, was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I went through some of the highest highs and lowest lows I had ever gone through. Several times during the day I thought I would quit. Just walk off the course and call it a day. But just when I would get to that point, I would see my family cheering me on and running along beside me, or someone in the crowd would yell out words of encouragement or hold up a sign like “Chuck Norris never did an Ironman,” or “140.6 miles…because 140.7 would be crazy!” and I would laugh to myself and remember that if I quit, I wouldn’t be an Ironman. And I hadn’t tortured myself for the past 6 months to NOT be an Ironman. It’s hard to remember a lot of that race. There are parts I clearly remember, like running with 2000+ other athletes into Lake Coeur d’Alene to start the 2.4 mile swim (click for video of swim start), picking up my special needs bag at mile 62 on the bike and getting to eat the Red Vines I stashed inside. I remember running out of the T2 tent and seeing my husband, brother, and sister-in-law standing right outside yelling my name and telling me how great I was doing. But what I will never forget was the last 1/4 mile to the finish line. It was legendary! I had rounded the last corner and the finish line was dead ahead. My brother and sister-in-law were right on that corner and I heard them screaming my name above the tens of thousands of other screaming fans. I saw them and immediately took off in a sprint. Not sure how I was able to do that at 140.2 miles into the race, but I sprinted nonetheless. I caught up to a group of runners and a thought went through my mind…if I cross the finish line at the same time as the rest of this group, they might not announce my name. So, I ran even faster. I ran faster than I had at any point in the race by a long shot. Throngs of people lined the finishers’ chute, slapping my hands and cheering louder that I had ever heard. The lights, music, screams…it was dizzying. I crossed the finish and heard what I had waited the last 14+ hours to hear…”Courtenay Bravmann, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” Like I said, legendary. Despite the hours and hours of grueling training, and hours and hours actually doing the race, it was that last 1/4 mile that keeps replaying through my head that made it all worth it. And two years later, that’s what would make me want to do it again.
To be perfectly honest, though, when all was said and done, I didn’t really know what to do with myself once the race was over. I had never worked as hard as I did leading up to the Ironman and I was at a loss with what to do with my new-found free time. All I knew was I didn’t want to train anymore, at all. I was completely over it. And it took a long time to want to start training again. I took up pilates and ran once or twice a week, but that was it. I even went out and ran the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in October, but just for fun with my friends. Eventually, though, I started to get the urge to get back into training and racing. I set my sights on Sprint Nationals in Vermont in August 2011 and the New York Marathon in November 2011. I raced a couple of sprint-distance triathlons leading up to Nationals. It felt good to be back racing in triathlons. Nationals was definitely a success when I qualified for Worlds. It was the turning point in my training and was the first time I felt my heart was completely back in the game since Ironman.
Next up was New York, where I PR’d and had just an overall amazing marathon experience to boot. If any of you are considering doing a marathon, do New York. There were thousands and thousands of people cheering on the racers for the entire 26.2 miles. It was like the finishers’ chute at Ironman but for the entire race! There were over 190 bands along the course, about 1.5 million spectators, and of course the 47,000 runners! Here is a picture from the start on the Verazano-Narrows Bridge. To put this all in perspective, there are actually upper and lower decks of the bridge, both of which were this crowded for about an hour after the gun went off. It was unbelievable!
This season, I’m focusing on a couple of Half Ironman races — the Vineman Half Aquabike and the Big Kahuna Half Ironman. Training for those will give me strong, solid endurance. It’ll be a great base for when I start focusing on speed training to get ready for Worlds. I feel like the two years I’ve taken since Coeur d’Alene has given me a fresh perspective on how I want to train and race and what I want out of both. Before it was just all about finishing. Now my goals are a bit more refined and focused. It makes training…and training hard…a lot more palatable.
As I sat at home this past Sunday night on my computer tracking two of my close friends who were competing in their first Ironman — Coeur d’Alene — I started feeling nostalgic about my experiences two years ago. There was certainly a part of me wishing I was there racing again. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought recently and I almost feel ready to give Ironman another go. Next step…start researching what race I want to try and tackle. Canada? Lake Placid? Australia? Decisions, decisions.
Where I’ll do it and when I’ll do it, I’m not ready to say. I need to be 100% committed to it if I’m going to register for another one. But at least I’m at a point that I would realistically consider doing it. And it only took 2 years to get here!
When training for an endurance event, such as a marathon or triathlon, most athletes focus their attention on…well…the training. However, an often-overlooked and equally, if not more, significant component of successful endurance racing is nutrition. As someone who has suffered from Gastrointestinal problems since I was a teenager and who has undergone blood test after upper GI after endoscopy over the past 15 years, I find myself constantly struggling to find a way to take in the proper nutrition while training and racing, without experiencing horrible acid reflux, indigestion, or other myriad problems. I’ve tried everything from gels to bars to chews and I’ve yet to find something that will actually provide me nutritional sustenance without causing me prolonged GI distress.
When I was training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2010, I even switched to real foods (granola bars, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, crackers, or pretzels) during my long training rides and although that did seem to tide me over on the bike rides, getting the proper nutrition during long training runs…and to sustain me for the marathon…was a much bigger obstacle. Plus, eating real food during the bike portion of the Ironman was not necessarily practical, since I had to carry everything I was going to consume over those 112 miles in either the pockets of my tri top (which are really, really small) or in a small bento box on my bike frame (also, pretty darn small). Ultimately, I decided on Bonk Breaker bars for the bike and Gu on the run. Bonk Breaker bars are great because they’re small, but densely packed full of all the important ingredients for an endurance event. And the best part…they are actually really good! At the time I was eating them, they only had a couple of flavors – peanut butter & jelly, peanut butter & banana (YUM!), and peanut butter & chocolate chip – but I’ve noticed recently that they’ve been coming out with new flavors like apple pie, fig, blueberry oat and espresso chip. In terms of nutritional content, the peanut butter & banana bar, for example, has 225 calories, 8 grams of protein, 35 grams of carbs…and all of their bars are gluten free and dairy free!
The Bonk Breaker bars got me through the Ironman and I would definitely use them if/when I ever decide to do another one. On the other hand, I had some issues with the Gu on the run. To be fair, by the time I got to the run, I was already about 9 hours into the event, so my body was probably going to have issues with anything I tried to consume. I felt pretty sick during the first 13 miles of the run. My body was done with processed energy products, but since I still needed to go another 13 miles, I knew I needed to keep taking in calories. Fortunately, on Ironman run courses, they have chicken broth about every mile, in addition to a whole array of other food options (cookies, chips, pretzels, chewy candies, small cups of coke, etc.). I scrapped the Gatorade and Gu and started drinking chicken broth, a little bit of coke, and water at each aid station and oh did that make a difference! I negative split on the second half of the run and had a finish time for the marathon of 4:45 (definitely not a Kona qualifier…but I was pretty happy nonetheless)! The best part was how great I felt on the second half of the marathon, despite already being out on the course for about 127 miles and 12 hours.
Clearly the combination of Bonk Bars and real food during the Ironman were pretty successful…or at least successful enough to get me through the hardest endurance test I’ve ever put myself through. Two years after the Ironman, I still find myself struggling with what to eat when I go on a run that’s longer than about 9 miles. At least, I was still struggling until this past Sunday. But not anymore. I have found something that tastes good, gives me a huge energy boost, goes down easily, and doesn’t cause me any GI distress! My new secret weapon…
That’s right…Honey Stinger! It tastes exactly like honey, but much less viscose, so it goes down really smoothly. I bought one of their gel packets a couple of months ago and it’s just been sitting in my drawer. Every time I think about trying it, I decide not to, fearing that I’ll be out on a long run and I’ll get sick, as is frequently the case when I try a new product. However, this past Sunday, I was heading out the door for a 10-mile trail run, and realized I didn’t have any other energy gels besides the Honey Stinger. I threw it in my fuel belt and was on my way. To further complicate things, it was about 90 degrees outside and the hot weather typically exacerbates whatever GI problems I would otherwise have on normal day. At about 5 miles into my run, I decided to give the Honey Stinger a try. I was shocked at how good it tasted, how easily it went down, and the fact that there was no gross aftertaste, as is often the case with energy gels. About 10 minutes later, the caffeine kicked in and I felt fantastic for the rest of the hot, hilly run! For a really interesting discussion on Honey Stinger’s background and the nutritional benefits associated with it, click on this link to TriSports.com.
I really never thought I’d be able to find something that would work this well without any adverse side effects. I’m totally hooked! Their tag line is “Pure Natural Energy” and perhaps the fact that it’s natural is the key. All of their energy gels contain 85% honey, B vitamins and electrolytes. The Ginsting gel is made with Siberian ginseng extract (32 mg of caffeine from kola nut). Honey, the main sweetener in their products, has the same glucose to fructose ratio of fruit, 1:1, meaning that “If you can eat fruit without getting an upset stomach, you should be able to eat Honey Stinger without any problems.” I absolutely can attest to that!
After struggling with training and racing nutrition for the past 5 years, I have finally overcome the nutrition obstacle. Thank you, Honey Stinger!