Ode to the Trance

Years ago, when I was in high school, my life was endurance sports. I ate, trained, and slept cross-country (…I suppose I can’t say much has changed). I wanted to be the best on my team, the best in the league, and the best in the state. My parents encouraged me to excel. My dad would pick me up from school at 430pm every day, even in the off-season, where I’d train on my own through the blistery cold Lake Erie winters. But I did it because I loved it, and it was my boyfriend, my best friend, my everything.

My sophomore year, I developed issues with my hips and spine that caused to me take a season off from track and field. I took up pole-vaulting, because it was the only thing I could do that didn’t aggravate my hip. I watched my half mile record get crushed by my friend, Vanessa, the fast exchange student from France. I couldn’t even defend my title. I tagged along with the state qualifiers that year to support them: that was the only season, out of eight, that I didn’t qualify for the state championships myself.

I found out that I had developed a curvature in my spine, also known as scoliosis, and the only treatment for it was orthotics and muscle strengthening. I hit the weights, got a pair of shoe inserts for my Nikes, and thought I was on my way. I hobbled out of the room and kept visualizing the shape of my spine. An “S”, really? My spine can look like that? I soon discovered the world of biomechanics. It took time to be able to run again, and I learned patience and diligence. I read as much as I could about different shoe types and foot types. I learned about the gait cycle and foot strike and toe off. I mapped force vectors in my head as my foot hit the ground. My dad’s physical therapist taught me how to tape my arch to hold it up and prevent its collapse, and how to strengthen my arch with therabands. She provided some insight that if I got my hands on the right kind of shoe, it might alleviate the situation.

I quickly retired the old Nikes, and my dad took me to Dave’s Running Shop to get another pair. After I told him my alignment issues, the guy working, a lanky collegiate runner, led me to a rack of the Brooks line, and pointed to the Trance. He told me about “arch posts” and “stiffness gradients,” and how the foot rolls after it hits the ground. My dad bought me the pair, even though they cost over $90…

My back got stronger and straighter, and I was running again by the end of the season. Not fast, but at least I was running. I ran through the summer, and I had the best cross-country season of my high school career. I wore the Trances on every run. I retired the shoes every 500miles and made the hike down to Dave’s for a new pair. My dad was happy to see me running again, and I was happy to be pain-free.

When I decided to run in college, the Trances came with me. I eventually switched to the Adrenalines, because they were a little cheaper and lighter. They were impossible to find, but I bought a pair every time I went home for the holidays. I hammered through countless pairs and countless miles. As an undergraduate student in biomedical engineering, I hoped to one day work on designing shoes like the ones I wore. I wanted to work in a gait lab. During my senior design project as a biomed engineer, I worked in an orthotist’s workshop. I really thought that was what I wanted to do. I moved to Bozeman, Montana, and worked in a gait lab. I issued Brooks shoes to the subjects involved in my master’s thesis research.

Rockin’ the Brooks on a run up Lookout Mountain in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula

Although my plan eventually changed from the gross mechanical to the more molecular approach to joint disorders, I still have the utmost respect for the design engineers at Brooks Running Co. And although I’ve deviated a little in the past, I always return to my favorite tried-and-true brand.

In the past year and a half, I’ve been having issues again with my hip and knee. I had been ordering the past-year’s version of Adrenalines, and something seemed to change. I saw a chiropractor and he issued me a pair of heat-moldable orthotics. I still couldn’t shake the tight hamstrings and soreness. Plus, the orthotics seemed to pull the energy out of my legs and into the road. I felt like every step was along a sloshy, muddy trail. Finally, I rolled the dice and ordered a pair of Trances, and used them for the first time in a half ironman race. I was surprised how zippy I felt, how quickly my feet rebounded. The shoe was responsive, but I could also feel the connection with the road. Curious that maybe it was by luck and not design that I felt so good during that half marathon after the bike, I packed the shoes with me to California, where I tested their true durability on the Western States trails of Lake Tahoe. Again, I felt connected to the trail, but not pulled down by it. My feet didn’t get blistered or sore, they just responded to the trail as I ran for hours on end.

And so it was, I’m now reunited with the Trance. They are my training partner and support crew. The new Trances are much different than the old version I remember from 2000.

  • They are light! They are race-worthy for those that are less biomechanically efficient.
  • The larger toe-box has great ventilation.
  • The look sharp (that’s important, right?).
  • They are flexible. My foot can go through its natural roll, butthe shoe still provides structural support to my arches. But, I don’t feel like I’m wearing a boot or a highly supportive shoe.
  • Although they aren’t necessarily worthy of a sockless run, they are in my bike-to-run transition zone for triathlons.

To check out the whole Brooks line, go to the Brooks Running Company’s website. They have something for every runner. Their clothes are pretty nice, too πŸ˜‰

Could it be? The best “snack bar” ever?

After the brief stint of traveling over the weekend, Adam and I came back to Houghton late, exhausted, sluggish, and hungry. Who’d have guessed that a half-ironman would work up your appetite? (um… that was sarcasm) We had stopped at a restaurant in Hayward to grab some grub, but my brat (sans bun) and fries had already vacated my tummy. It girgled and I scrambled to find something to munch on. Cookies? Chips? Anything sounded good. That’s why I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning when I opened the mailbox to find a box from Larabar.

Let me start out by saying that, even if I hadn’t been starving and exhausted, I’d still have been super excited to see said box. I always grab a Larabar from Jim’s on my way home from the pool following afternoon swims, and it’s my number-one go-to-food for a deceivingly healthy snack. Regardless, I tore open the box and to my amazement, I got not one but three new-(not yet released) flavors of bars. I couldn’t stop smiling. And they all sounded amazing. The day just kept getting better.

My favorite food as a kid: Peanut butter and jelly. What did I get in the box? A PB&J larabar (well, actually two)! I thought the days of delicious PB&J ended when I gave up wheat and gluten. I doubt I’m the first to say: “Gluten free bread tastes and smells like cat food.”

The new flavor Larabar is by no way misleading. I bit into the bar and was brought back to a time when I ate Wonder Bread smeared with Jif and jam, only this bar tasted even better than that. Then I thought to myself, “ok… maybe I’m just really hungry. Maybe I should not get too excited about this just yet…”

So the next day, I grabbed the other peanut butter and jelly bar for a mid-ride snack. After my first bite, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. If Jim’s Foodmart doesn’t stock this flavor, I am going to have to order a few cases for my own secret stash. Scratch that: I think I am still going to have to order a few cases, anyway…

A few interesting facts about Larabar:

  • All their bars are gluten free, dairy free, soy-free, GMO-free, and vegan. So what could be in them that tastes good? They are practically the most simple food I’ve ever purchased ready-to-eat, besides dried fruit and nuts. That’s because Larabars are pretty much just fruit and nuts! The Peanut Butter and Jelly bar has peanuts, dried cherries, and dates. That’s it! Besides, I don’t think GMOs make anything taste better… but its good to know that what I am putting in my body is REAL FOOD!
  • The bars are tiny, but pack a lot of punch! The Peanut Butter & Jelly bar has 22o calories, which is about the same as a granola bar the same size (or less), but has 6g of protein! I am trying to get away from thinking of foods as macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins), but for those that need to consider this for dietary reasons, keep this in mind: would you rather eat something to eat it or eat something that tastes good, satisfies, and is good for you?!
  • It seriously satisfies. I could eat 200calories from a candy bar the size of my thumb and want seventeen more, or I could eat a Larabar and be happy. They also don’t melt or freeze, so they make the best training food. Slip one in your pocket and you can be outside for that much longer!
  • It’s real food. Dried cherries. Lemon juice. Dates. Almonds. Healthy, good-for-your-heart-and-soul foods. No hydrogenated oils. No fillers or additives that just don’t belong. Maybe that’s why it tastes better!

I’m really excited to try the two other flavors they sent along… But I won’t announce them just yet. You’ll have to come back tomorrow!

Chisago Lakes Half Ironman Triathlon- Race Report!

This weekend, Adam and I ventured in my new wheels to Chisago City, Minnesota, where we aspired to knock down a second half ironman before the Big Race in September. We left Saturday morning and took the scenic drive from Houghton through Hayward, Wisconsin.
See the sparkle? Isn’t she a beaut? πŸ˜‰

After a long lunch at ‘Za, we headed over to Paradise Park for packet pickup and to get our feet wet in the lake. We then headed out to Lindstrom (only three miles away!) and checked into the motel.

Our motel was slightly seedy, but it had a bed, a roof, and a toilet (and a $50/night fee), so we weren’t complaining. We stopped at a local grocery store for snacks and relaxed with some air conditioning and Harry Potter in the room. After eating a whole bag of ginger snaps and taking a very half-assed nap (I couldn’t stop jerking myself awake!), we went for a run around the town of Lindstrom to get the junk out of our legs. We returned to our formerly vegetative state of watching television and laying around, eating sandwiches, and staying hydrated.

We made for an early bedtime (maybe 9pm?), and woke up at 4am. I ate a few handfuls of peanut butter puffs and packed my transition bag. I strapped a plastic baggie to my water bottle and filled it with Honey Stinger chews (the Chew Strategy), sealing it off with a hair tie so that the chews wouldn’t fall out. This proved to be beneficial in two ways, explained later. We then threw our bags in the car and headed back to Paradise Park.

We arrived just before 5, so we got a great parking spot near the race start and staging area. We put our wheels on our bikes and pumped the air in the tires, and headed over to transition. It was also nice getting there so early because we found our bike spots without a cluster of other bikes around, and it was easy to get our transition area set up.

We lingered around the transition area until it was time to clear, pulled on our wetsuits and headed to the beach. The race start was great. The water was still as warm as the day before, but the air was cooler, so I had a bit of a chill before we got into the water. It was exciting to be there, because there were some fast racers there (Dave Thompson; Marlo Mcgaver; Julie Hull). The waves went off in 2min intervals and there wasn’t any rhyme or reason to the placement- I think it was based on who registered first- except for the first wave that contained the Elite level. We waded into knee deep water and headed out in wave 8, 14 minutes behind the first group.

The swim went by fast. It seems to not take too long to get to the last buoy, but getting back to the beach seemed to drag on a little more. I also noticed that I wasn’t necessarily swimming in a straight line, moreso just wiggling, and I tried to stay focused and swim straight, digging my arms deep out in front, and keeping the buoys at the right distance away. I also got into a good rhythm with another swimmer, and saw her feet for two-thirds of the swim. Then, I felt my swim cap starting to pull away from my forehead. I felt my head, and my hair was exposed, and it kept peeling and peeling away… so I finally just pulled it off. I thought it would have helped to hold on to it, but it just filled with water and weighed me down and slipped out of my hand. Oops!

When I saw the balloons at the beach, I thought I was close, but no matter how many strokes I took, the balloons stayed the same distance away. So I finally just put my head down, swam hard for several strokes, then spotted, and before I knew it, I was swimming past people that were wading out of the water. Sweet!

I stood up and dashed across the beach, peeled off my suit from my shoulders and headed up the hill to the transition area. I spotted my bike area, because someone near me was clever enough to have a balloon near their bike. I pulled off the rest of my suit and threw on my bike shoes and helmet. I raced out of T1 and was on my way to a great day on the bike.

The Chew Strategy ended up being a great move, as it was the only solid aid I took for the whole bike, and it was easy to eat and access. It also had that hair tie wrapped around the top, and since I lost my cap during the swim, I also lost the hairtie. BONUS!

The bike course was fast. It started on the same course as the sprint triathlon, so it was a bit crowded. Adam went by me somewhere around mile 10, I think. Once the sprinters peeled off, the field spread out, and I went into the 20mile straightaway with a good headwind and no one to stop me. The straightaway was deceiving, though, because the road was new and one of those uphills that you don’t see but know is there. I was hammering away, and couldn’t touch 20mph. I kept flying past people, though, and my adductors would ache. I would change my riding style and use more of my quads, and my legs would get relief.

When we finally turned off the straightaway at around mile 30, I put the hammer down. I hit some higher speeds thanks to the gradual downhill grade, and continued to pass people. One guy was a little less excited to be getting overtaken than the others. He would resume the pursuit position on the few slight uphills we had, and I’d fly past him. He’d overtake me on the downhills as if I had done something wrong, and once overtaken, I’d ease up to give him room. But we kept running into these slight uphill grades, and I kept catching back up to him. Finally, I went into a higher gear and got him out of my sights. We started to bottleneck around mile 45, and it was particularly interesting when a car decided to drive in the lane that the race was using. I would have enjoyed drafting off this vehicle, but they were going slower than the speed I wanted to go, only I couldn’t pass them because the shoulder was narrow and gravely. Finally, the course turned and I threw down a hard five miles. I tried to not enter T2 after a hard push, so I eased up and cruised into the transition area. I was surprised to see Adam by his bike as I made my way to rack mine. Wasn’t he much farther ahead of me on the bike?

The run started out fast. I ran a mile or two with a guy from Iowa I had passed back and forth on the bike. I couldn’t really control my legs, though, and let them go. I started counting the women that passed me on their way back to the finish area, and they were looking strong. Ten, twelve, fourteen ladies went by, and then I turned to the loop-around at mile 6. When I hit mile 7, the guy from Iowa caught back up to me and we ran a few miles together at 7:38min/mile pace. I was surprised to see Adam on his way out, because I thought he was ahead of me on the run. He started feeling better than me, and took off. I was glad that I took a flask with me on the run, because some of the aid stations were more than a mile apart, and it was a hot day! I started feeling not-so-excited to be running around mile 11, and just kept moving forward to the finish line. When I came into the finish area, I had a huge smile on my face when I saw the time. 5:06… which was really a 4:52 (subtracting the 14min start delay). SWEET! I broke 5hours!

After I crossed the line, I grabbed some grub and waited for Adam to come in. He crossed under his goal time, and crushed his previous time by over 30minutes! We waded in the water for a quasi-ice-bath, and then I went to watch the awards. I printed out the result from the finish line computer, and I had finished 13th overall, 3rd in my age group. I couldn’t really believe it. Not too shabby. I got a really beautiful Swedish glass trophy, and then Adam and I took off back to Houghton.

Thanks to Kenny G. for the great race-day photos. I could hear him cheering me on through T2 as well. Kenny, you rock! John M Cooper Photography is also credited for some great race-day photography (watermarked images).

Miner’s Revenge

Two weekends ago, The Adventure Mining Co. and The Bike Shop hosted the first annual Miner’s Revenge bike race in Greenland, Michigan. The course was publicized on a large scale, and over 100 people entered! Not too bad for a first-year event.

I didn’t ride the course, but hiked it afterward. The course was a figure-8 style and was pretty challenging. The big ski hill climb after the mine, followed by some technical downhill terrain, made for a few broken bike parts and even a taco’d wheel. Luckily, no one was injured more than the regular mountain-bike-related scrapes and scratches.
Some of the racers take the downhill portion pretty seriously!
Gathering around the starting area…

As the “official” timer, I got to hold down the fort at the finish line, but my friend AJ took some photos at the aid station on top of the ski hill!

Hike’a’biking up some serious grade!
This guy is just givin’ ‘er.
R.Tervo making his way to the top

The Miner’s Revenge was a huge success! The racers had a great time, the course was challenging, and spirits were high. Looking forward to next year’s event… and maybe I will even compete?!

Tahoe – Long time overdue

I guess I never did report about the ASME Bioengineering Conference in Squaw Valley last month. Here’s my attempt to remember everything that we did !

I arrived the day before with my advisor and the two other students from Tech (Nicole and Meghan). Katie and Rob picked me up from Sacramento and drove me to Tahoe. We had a delicious lunch at the Evergreen, which had a cool view of Tahoe. After lunch, we went to the lake and then took a hike along the paved walking path. It was so nice to be able to spend time with them and catch up, even though it definitely wasn’t long enough.
Rob wading in Lake Tahoe

Squaw was such an awesome venue. We were right outside Olympic Village, and the trails were literally only a few hundred meters away. I went for a run every day I was there! So excited.
View from our resort

Meghan, Nicole, and I went to the Olympic Village for dinner on Tuesday night. We went to Mamasake. Whenever I get a chance to have good sushi, I can’t pass it up! I had the Stop Drop and Roll nori, which was blasted with habenero and serrano peppers and habenero oil! It was surprisingly not burn-your-mouth-off spicy, and was probably the best roll I have ever had. It was cool to walk around the Village and see where the 1960 Olympics were. Squaw is also the spot where the Western States 100 ultramarathon starts!

Olympic Village, where the Western States 100 starts
Our nori! My stop drop and roll is at the bottom.

Wednesday, the first full day we were in Squaw, there wasn’t a whole lot going on for the conference. I went for a run with a student from Dr Haut’s lab at Michigan State, and when I got back, Meghan, Nicole, and I took the rental car to the Glen Alpine Trail. We drove some pretty crazy roads to get there. The trail was awesome. I was wearing my new Montrail flippy-floppies because my blisters were so bad from the weekend’s triathlon, and the run didn’t help them. We weren’t sure quite how far we made it, because after we passed Lake Gilmore, the trail disappeared… but we were perfectly content with that. This was such a beautiful trail to hike! I would be in for running it, too. We had the trail completely to ourselves the entire way up, and on the way back down started passing people. It was a very peaceful and quiet hike with great views and climbs.

The start of the hike
Proof we were there πŸ˜€
Rockin’ my Mountain Hardwear gear!

At Lake Gilmore

After the hike, it was time to get serious. We enjoyed the welcoming banquet and socialized with our peers. The following day, sessions started, and it was time to get our learning on! Of course, I was still able to squeeze in a run everyday- and the trails were awesome. I found the actual Western States Trail, and did a lot of longer runs. A few runs in particular included 3000+ft climbs to scenic overlooks, and I mastered it all on singletrack. Gotta love it!!

Nicole and I both had poster presentations on Thursday. I didn’t get too many questions, but Nicole was in the Bachelor Student Poster Competition.

There were some really good sessions, networking, socializing, and entertainment the whole week. Meghan and I were in the PhD Student Paper Competition. I got honorable mention (top 5) and she took home 2nd place. Pretty awesome showing for Michigan Tech!

Me and my poster!

It was a long week, and I was excited to get home. But before I left, I got to hang out with the one and only- Robin! She and I had an exciting time catching up in the car ride from Sac to Santa Cruz. We went over the San Francisco Bridge, had ice cream at Baskin Robbins, got stuck in a traffic jam (to be expected, right?), and took a nap (well, at least I did). We saw some windsurfers, and then met up with Brandon at their apartment.

Of course, one can’t go to Santa Cruz without going to the wharf! So we had a delicious dinner at a little mexican restaurant overlooking Monterrey Bay. Sweet! It was so great to see Robin and Brandon! How cool is it that I got to see Katie and Robin in the same trip?!

All in all, it was an eventful and awesome week! Now I have to get back to the real world…

Century ride #2 of the season

I feel like I should have done more than just two century rides thus far this season. I suppose I have done quite a few longer-rides, but nothing shaving off a hundred miles on the QRoo. This weekend, Adam, Ian and I headed out to Aura (outside L’Anse) and get our second century under our belts.

We left after a delicious breakfast at Ian’s house, and hammered out a good 18.6mph average pace (according to my bike computer). I didn’t do an extraordinary job of starting and stopping my GPS watch when we took off and took breaks, respectively, but you can check out the jist of our ride here. What a beautiful route! The roads were not heavily traveled, and all were in really good condition. I was excited to get into L’Anse and ride along the bay, because even though it was windy, it was a gorgeous ride. The ride back was a little more difficult than the way out, because the legs felt a little like lead, but it was a tough and enjoyable ride.

It’s time for me to start getting more mentally tough. I have a little over two months to prepare my body and my mind for the longest race to date, and I am both excited and nervous. I need to start training harder, going longer, pushing farther, and getting through the barriers that are ahead of me. I haven’t quite hit the mark of “not taking it personally,” especially with my training. Last week was really hard on me emotionally, with two of my key workouts (one running, one biking) where I was blasted out by my training partners. But I’m working on it. I need to separate my mind and my body and just push my own limits, and not let others push my buttons.

Biggest swim of my life, so far!

Today, Adam and I ventured to the SDC to swim some laps in the pool. Last week, I accomplished a big swim (at least, big for me) and I wanted to do a little more.

I read Amy’s Training Blog and came across her recent post, her “accidental 4850yd swim.” I thought it was worth a shot, and I convinced Adam to join in the fun.

We started with the 1650yd “warmup” with a pull buoy, and used paddles every other 400yds. The 3x400IMs were tough, and I wasn’t able to go 100yds butterfly (I honestly don’t know if I have ever, in my life, been able to go 100yds butterfly without stopping!). So, I did as much of the stroke as I could and finished out that part of the IM with freestyle. I focused on my breathing and stretching in breast-stroke, and found another gear by the time I got to the third set. The 5x300s (with the first 7 strokes of each 50yd hard) definitely made the set go by fast! But my favorite part of the entire workout came at the end, when I did 4×25 no breathers. My total yardage was 50yds short of Amy’s posted workout, because I wasn’t quite sure if it was a good idea to try for two more no-breathers… but dammmn, was it an awesome workout.

Two hours later, a bag of Jalepeno Krunchers ad a Virgil’s Cola helped my recovery, and I just mowed down a big plate of rice and black beans. My ring is tarnished and my eyes are twingy from the highly brominated pool (it was exceptionally cloudy today), but it feels good to have that awesome swim in the bank. Next week? I’m going to try for over 5,000yds. πŸ˜€ And even better news, I meet with my new swim coach on Thursday for some one-on-one help. Maybe there’s hope for me yet!