New kicks and training tricks

Flashy (and glittery) ProGrid Omni 8s

I’ll admit it; I fell behind a bit in training. I lost motivation to get out and cross country ski. I have been staying up late (well, until 11pm or so) and waking up late (7am), and haven’t been hitting the gym like I want to. My hours are lower than I want them to be because of that, and because of the whole bout of lung irritation I have been dealing with for over two weeks.

But this week, I got back in the game. I did some threshold repeats with my buddy, Erik (although I didn’t do them too aggressively, thanks to the aforementioned asthma). I got in the pool. More than once. And I will even matched my planned training volume (well, so long as I make sure to get a long run in tomorrow).

I credit getting back on track with something that lit the fire: a new pair of shoes. Lucky for me (because maybe I needed a bigger flame under my butt), I got two pairs. I bought a pair of Saucony ProGrid Omni 8’s and a flashy pair of racing flats, last year’s Saucony Fastwitch 3’s.

There's supposed to be two holes, but this was an easy problem to fix, thanks to Baberaham's toolbox!

Both shoes are sweet. The Omni’s have glitter on them (bonus) and are a comfortable, stabilizing, and responsive pair of shoes. The only downside: the pair I got was missing one of the lace holes, but that was an easy remedy with a spade bit. So far, the shoes are so good.

Look fast, think fast. Fastwitch 3s

I’m really geeked about the awesome deal I got on the Fastwitch 3s on Saucony‘s online store. The new Fastwitch (the Fastwitch 4) shoes have been released, so the old Fastwitchers that are still in stock are on closeout for $64. Since I was ordering the Omnis anyway, I got free shipping on my order to boot (free shipping on orders over $75 bucks). Talk about a steal.Nothing could get better for a poor graduate student like me.

check out the mesh liner on the inside of the shoe. No sopping wet shoes for me this year!

the soles of the Fastwitch 3s

I’m super excited to race triathlon in these racers. The Fastwitch 4s are the perfect color, too (Trakkers green, anyone?!). Underneath the shoe insert, a water-drainage system of bright yellow mesh lays between my foot and the sole. The lining of the shoe is smooth and frictionless. Plus, the shoe has a roll post to prevent my foot from overpronating. All wrapped up in 6.2 ounces. Awesome. What’s more awesome? The Fastwitch 4s are even lighter and have an even smoother and softer fabric upper. I think I found my new speedwork shoe.

And my new training tricks are rolling out. This week, I’m starting Motivation Mornings, which means I go to bed early so I can get up early and get my butt to the SDC. I think that if I can get through one week of 6am arrivals at the gym, I can easily continue to do so for the rest of the spring (routines are awesome).

I’m also planning a Swim Week (although not nearly as badass as Charisa‘s) to get me grooving into swim-shape. More tricks for swim training? Using TriSwim makes swimming completely manageable. I think part of my hatred of chlorine-ridden pool time was the way I smelled for the rest of the day. Now that I have a supply of TriSwim, I think my hair will actually be in better shape than it was before I started spending so much time in the pool. Plus, it removes the stinky stench of pool that would otherwise ruin my day. Trust me, chlori-melon is not a scent-of-the-week at Bath and Body Works. I’m also geeked about getting a new swimsuit or two, because nothing says “get yer ass in the pool” like a new suit. 🙂

Make ’em say mmm…

Here are a few of the things I’ve been enjoying as of late.

Baberaham brought me some Taza Mexican chocolate for Valentine’s Day. It is so crumbly and delicious. I have considered making hot chocolate with it, but I am enjoying eating it too much …

I am loving the Chomper Body muscle butter. I just threw on a dab of it on my legs, right after the run/shower combo. It feels amazing. At first, it just felt moisturizing, like a really good lotion. And then, the tingles came. Not tingles so strong as say, Icy Hot or the like. More like someone with a mouthful of ice-cubes was blowing softly on my skin. Very nice. More to come later on that, as well as their Booty Balm, embrocation (Crank) and body glide (Silke).

And I also am pretty geeked about Sportique’s line of products. I tossed a bottle of their Massage Oil in my purse and took it with me Wednesday to my massage therapy appointment with Mel. She was excited to use it, and it smelled really nice (a sweet blend of apricot and citrus). She liked using it, and it didn’t leave me feeling greasy or in need of a shower. It also felt like it got in deep into my skin, warming me up. I like!

I suppose its time to go work on loosening my quads with my Quadballer. Maybe a little massage oil will help get the knots out… Speaking of which- its time to do some before-bed trigger point and hit the sack! Nighty night!

IcebreakerGT = Awesome

Blogosphere, meet my new favorite shirt – 2010’s Icebreaker GT Dash Tee. I won’t say much right now, but a picture is worth… how many words again? I will leave you with this: If a shirt can make you look soooo good, why wouldn’t you want to get one?

One word: MegaTough

Nevermind all those bikes in the background, that shirt is HOT!

Get Movin’ Care Package Giveaway

This weekend’s temperatures soared to a blistery 38F in Houghton. I wanted to run around in a t-shirt and shorts, but luckily didn’t (my blindingly pale skin would have made me invisible on the white snow). All this warmer weather got me thinkin; Spring is on its way!

The days are getting a little longer, the snow is melting (well, at least it was melting… I heard a rumor of more snow this week in Houghton…). For a lot of people, “spring” means: no more sitting around watching the Olympics and eating snacks. Ok, maybe not. but really, the first race of the season is on the horizon. People, it’s time to get your butt in gear!

So I’m giving away something special. Well, many things, I suppose! Here’s some hints:

Something to get you going in the morning-

Something to keep you hydrated:

Something to ease your (muscle) pains:

Something to keep you udder-ly smooth:

To enter this grand giveaway, all you gotta do is comment on this post with what you think one (or two, or all!) of the giveaway items is (only 1 entry, no matter how many guesses you give me!). You can get a bonus entry if you tweet about it (use my twitter name, @megankillian, when you do- otherwise I won’t know!). A third entry will be awarded if you share this giveaway on your own blog. 🙂

I will be giving away TWO unique prizes to two different entrants. These prizes are huge, worth well over $60 retail (that’s a lot of goods, I think). The drawing will be held on March 5th, sometime in the afternoon, to get your spring break rolling juuust right. Each entrant will be assigned a unique number, and I’ll use random number generator to pick the three winners. Sorry, this contest is only valid for people with shipping addresses in the US (hey, I’m just a grad student, and I’m paying for the shipping!).

Disclaimer: all the products being given away were graciously donated by the companies from which they came (or snagged from my secret stash, because I like to share). Not all the items shown above will be guaranteed in both care packages.

Nordic Ski Regionals: Day 2

Today was the skate races! Men: 15K, Women: 10K. Both were exciting races to watch.

On the men’s side, Oskar Lund finished first for Michigan Tech, followed by Jesse Lang and Jesse Smith. The men’s overall winner, George Cartwright, skated across the line waving an NMU flag- a little strange, I thought.

On the women’s side, Henna Riikonen-Purtsi was the first finisher from Michigan Tech, coming across the line in 7th overall. Christina Gillis from NMU won the women’s race, and Northern swept the first three spots.

Nordic Ski Regionals: Day 1

Yesterday, I watched the men’s and women’s NCAA Midwest Regional classic races at the Michigan Tech Trails! Woohoo! Check out some of the video I took here:

Michigan Tech represented well! Henna finished fourth for women and Oskar won the collegiate race! Heading to watch the skate races here soon. Go Huskies!

Getting over it

I have been a little out-for-the-count as of late. Skipping last weekend’s ski marathon turned out to be a good idea, because all week I’ve had a nasty cough combined with shortness of breath, as well as stressful episodes of human interactions, and an all-in-all overwhelming week. But, I went to the Fast Care clinic at Shopko yesterday, and found out my (health related issue) was just an over-active asthmatic lung or two. I got bumped up to puffing a higher-level steroid inhaler, so hopefully it calms my lungs down a bit.

Now what to do about the human-related issues? Let’s just say I wish people would be responsible for their actions. A few weekends ago, some Jeep-driver with a parking problem rammed past my car to park in our private lot (he was staying with my neighbor), and took my bumper and side panel as collateral damage. True, the damage is not major, he basically rubbed the paint off my bumper with his tire and scraped the back corner panel with his bumper, but it still costs nearly $700 to make it right. Not something I particularly wanted to happen to my first-ever “I bought it brand new and took out a loan for it” car! Anyway, enough ranting.

I’m off to watch the Regional races at the Michigan Tech trails now! Women’s Classic starts at 10:30, men’s at 12:30. Woohoo!

My Limiting Factor in Swimming

Ever since I started training for triathlon, my time in the pool has been cursed. Aside from my incessant hunger when I get out of the water (unless, of course, I end up drinking too much water to have room for food), I get these debilitating calf cramps that literally make me stop in my tracks (or lane, I suppose). I can usually feel it coming on, after a few hundred yards (or even a few thousand), with the flip turn and the pointed toes, and it just lingers in the background. All of a sudden, BAM! It strikes. I can’t move my foot, and the cramp is so intense that my whole body freezes up. This usually occurs halfway of the length of the pool, so I look like I just give up on my set. I really want to keep going, I swear!

So I don’t really know what it is. Here are potential culprits:

Electrolyte imbalance: I know about hypotonic/osmolalic factors that attribute to water-getting-into-the-cells. The right amount of sodium (positively charged) and chloride (negatively charged) is what matters. There’s other aspects, too- like hypomagnesemia which interferes with the sensory nerves, and low calcium/potassium triggers. Without getting too into the nitty-gritty-sciency-ness that is proper nutritional balance (especially since I am not a nutrition expert), it’s important to keep electrolytes in check. This means not too much, but also not too little.  Real quick: there are two extremes to improper hydration. The first is hyponatraemia. This means that there are not enough (“hypo” = low) nutrients (in this case, electrolytes) to water in a system. In other words, the layman’s term for hyponatraemia is overhydration. Big problems can be incured with this, including renal losses and failure. The other extreme of improper hydration is hypernatraemia. Any guesses as to what this means?… Yep! Too much (“hyper” = high) nutrients (electrolytes) to water in a system. This is typically what clinicians refer to as dehydration.

Kicking too much: I try to make a good, honest effort to not kick much when I swim, especially when I am putting in big-yardage days, since it’s futile to kick much when swimming in a long-course triathlon (I want to save my legs for the bike and run). My arms are supposed to be pulling me through the water. But I know I do it! I flutter my feet too much when I swim (see the above photo of me? Where’s my left foot? That’s right, probably above the water). I might also be pointing my toes too much. Since the cramps don’t attack until I’m farther along in my swim, I have a hunch that my calf muscles might fatigue after a while and just go into a sort of seizure.

Pushing off the wall too hard: I’m probably pushing off the wall with too much force, which makes me point my toes and causes my calves to go haywire. Even when I don’t push off hard, the subsequent toe-pointing might be problematic. But, I don’t know how much force to use when I push off the wall. Just a little? Not much? How do you push off if you don’t point your toes (can you even??)?

Not breathing enough: I notice that when I am doing longer sets, I get really short of breath towards the end of the interval. I don’t breathe as well on the left side as I do on the right, but I am going to work on practicing alternate-breathing every third stroke to improve that. Maybe I am not getting enough oxygen and my muscles spasm because of this?

Wearing fins: This is a no brainer. I know this is part of the reason I got the Charlie Horse this last weekend. Although it was my first time wearing fins in the pool, it definitely accelerated the time-to-cramping in my calf.

Here are some things I’m going to try:

  • EFS Sports drink in my water bottle pool-side
    • Since EFS has a balance of electrolytes and calories, it should keep me in-check while I’m swimming
  • Less kicking (or no kicking) – I’ll use a pull buoy for help! I might even tie my feet together…
  • More massage!
    • I’m going to start visiting my massage therapist, Mel, more regularly
    • Supplement my visits to Mel with daily treatments of TriggerPoint Therapy
  • More time in the pool
    • Maybe my deal is that I don’t get in there enough, and my muscles just ain’t used to all that work.
  • No more flippers
    • Once was enough
  • If I follow these things and I’m still not cramp-free for five straight swim sessions, I’m going to start taking my magnesium tablets.

Do any of you awesome readers out there have any other suggestions that might help me fix this problem?

How to Assemble a Road Bike

Although I recently sold my triathlon race bike frame (and its guts are spewed all over our apartment), I have placed the order for a new (seriously sweet) tri bike frame from one of my awesome sponsors, Kestrel. However, the delivery date is T.B.D. (rumors have it that its still being optimized to be the best it can be; I love love love engineering!), and I just couldn’t go any longer without riding my trainer (seriously, who says that?).

I have also decided that this will be the summer that I race my first road race. Maybe even a crit or two, who knows. In just my first year of cycling, I’ve developed quite a passion for the sport. Training with the big kids pushes me to get to the next level. Getting other women involved in the sport is really motivating, too. So, in order to train now and race (UCI legal) later, I had to get a road bike. The awesome guys at The Bike Shop twisted my arm, I swear.

The day the bike arrived, I told everyone who crossed my path that it was Christmas. I felt giddy and happy, and I was smiling ear to ear, so excited to hop on the saddle. My LBS really helped a girl out, like they usually do, because they found me the best deal, looked through their catalogs at last year’s bikes that were still in stock, and truly helped me save money and get the best bang for my buck (I am a graduate student, after all). Since I spend a lot of my free time in the Shop anyway, I thought- what the heck, I might as well try to put my own dang bike together.

So, without further adieu, I introduce to you… my new best friend, Jamis Xenith Race.

Getting the bike into my apartment was the easy part. Actually, putting the bike together wasn’t too bad either. Most bikes these days come to your local bike shops pretty far along on the assembly process. There’s some attachments and tightening and tuning that must happen, but its not like the bike shop dudes will have to assemble the wheels for you (well, in most cases anyway).

So I decided to assemble my own bike. Easy schmeezy? I wouldn’t go that far. But it wasn’t terrible.

Step 1: Mount bike on bike stand. Since my bike is all-carbon, I had to be extra-careful not to tighten the grip too tight to the top tube, otherwise I would run the risk of cracking it. Not a good thing to do on Day One. Once its on the rack, its much easier (and safer for the bike) to take the packaging off. Again, all-carbon means I don’t want my bike really touching anything unless my wheels are on, so touching the fork to the floor is a really bad idea.

Step 2 Put the saddle on the bike. Then, assembling the bike is that much easier because I can access the cable housing for the brakes and rear derailer much easier. Another just-be-careful tip: Don’t tighten the seat post down too hard if its an all carbon post. Carbon is extra-stiff with a high strength-to-weight ratio, but doesn’t fair well under hoop stresses (carbon tube lay-up, anyway, which is what bikes are made with). So, tighten it down juuuust enough so that the seat post doesn’t move. Use a torque wrench and make sure you don’t exceed the collar’s max torque (I knew I forgot something, thanks RunningBlonde! My LBS guys have their internal torque wrenches dialed !).

sStep 3: Put on the brakes and handlebars. Some bikes come with integrated headsets, others don’t. Be careful when you are changing things like your stem (that connects your handlebars to your headset), because it could result in your fork falling off your bike and crashing to the ground (another problem if you’ve got a carbon fork).The handlebars are attached to the stem pretty easily, but what position they are in really depends on the cyclist. If you put it together and see that it doesn’t fit quite right, modify the handlebar placement by getting different length stems or stems with different angles. I ride a 60mm stem on my tri bike, which is basically nothing, and I like it that way. It all depends on your bike fit and what you want to get out of your bike.

The brakes are pretty fun to connect; there is a hole on the backside of the fork that reaches the front side, where the front brake sits (usually). Tighten the bolt with an allen wrench and your brakes are attached!  Line up the brakes and tighten the bolt down even more to make sure the brakes don’t go all wobbly on ya. Positioning the brakes just-right over the wheels is an easy affair.Step 4: Route the cables. Routing cables can be easy or it can be a lot of work. There are different cables for brakes and shifters, too. Lucky for me, my rear and front derailer cables were already good-to-go (most bikes will come like that if you buy a complete bike). Having the right length and the right tension in the cables is key (plus, the cables wear in over time, so its always a good idea to take the bike back into the bike shop and have them tighten things back down after a month or so of riding on a new bike). Step 5: Make the fit adjustments. I sold my last road bike (Marin Treviso) because of two reasons: #1- I always rode my tri bike because it was my first tri season and I wanted to get comfortable on it (hence, I never rode my roadie) and #2- riding my road bike made my crotch (sorry!) and shoulders hurt-like-hell. I could never find my sit bones, and I’d always end up propped up with the front of my pubis on the nose of my saddle. No matter how many times I’d try to sit back and find my sit bones, I never could. Maybe over the last year I’ve learned to sit right thanks to my triathlon bike (not likely), or maybe the Xenith (size 51) was made for me, but throwing a leg over that bike, at the height I arbitrarily chose for the saddle, just fit! The pedals were where they needed to be (so the crank arms were the right length, too), my sit bones were where they needed to be, my shoulders felt relaxed and my arms weren’t stretched out, and everything felt gooood. I didn’t even have to swap saddles, which is something I’ve heard that everyone does.

As a side note, I really think anyone that shells out a couple grand on a bike should get it professionally fit. Hands-down, the best thing I did to prepare for my first triathlon season was to get fit on my tri bike. I was lucky and never had any issues with back problems or cramping, on the bike or afterward, and I attribute this to the fit. I went to Peak Performance in Sylvan Lake, Michigan, to get mine done. Chad is a great guy! Very knowledgeable, and willing to spend extra time with his customers to make sure they leave happy.A few other tips:

  • Support your LBS: True, these dudes are my really good friends. But I have a passion for shopping local anyway. Wherever you’re LBS, the staff will likely have your bike ready-to-ride out the door when you buy it, so that takes all these steps out of the picture.
  • No go? Try online vendors: Not everywhere has an LBS (or a bike shop that sells tri bikes, or a bike shop with nice people). I bought my first tri bike (Quintana Roo Caliente) through an online vendor. I was nervous at first, but since my LBS couldn’t get the Scott Plasma Contessa that I dreamed about for so long, I had to get something (there was an incredible backorder those bikes were on, which I attribute to Linsey Corbin’s success at IMWC ’08)! Trusted online vendors that I’ve used: (always well stocked and very knowledgeable staff!) and Backcountry (BC is hit or miss with bike stock)

So there you have it: some (very basic) steps to building your bike when it comes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to ride my bicycle now.

Time to enjoy a cuppa joe.

It’s Saturday and I’m home alone. I can’t remember the last weekend that I was un-busy, and all by myself. Baberaham left this morning to head to Mora with some friends for the Vassaloppet, and I bailed. I am registered for the classic, but I just didn’t go. Our ride pulled up, and I didn’t get in. This is the first race I can recall that I’ve signed up for and didn’t compete in. Being the broke-a*s college student I am, I really try to avoid wasting money. But, I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday, and woke up this morning with a sore throat. Instead of sitting in a car with the (potential) top male finishers and getting them sick, I “sacrificed” and stuck around Houghton. I think truth of the matter really is: I have lost motivation to ski race this season. I have skate skied twice, both times throwing in the towel early because I was being too much of a wuss to build my shin strength. I’ve classic skied several times, a few longer skis, and I thoroughly enjoy it, especially when the wax is just right… but I’d honestly rather go for a run or ride my bike than head out for a ski, let alone race a marathon. So, I just stayed.

Sitting here, in my apartment alone (well, Abbie is here, too), I’m reflective. I don’t feel tired or hungry, nor do I feel incredibly awake and alert. I’ve put time in on the bike trainer and I plan to head to the pool this afternoon (after a few hours at the office). I watched a movie and caught up on email, and maybe tonight I’ll bake a cake. Go for a long run tomorrow (I’m feeling better). I’m really excited to just train this weekend, put in the hours on my feet and get it done. I also am looking forward to making some ice cream and enjoying the “quiet” (as soon as I started writing that sentence, someone outside started belting out an indistinguishable song).

So, I leave you with this Saturday post somewhat open-ended. Nothing exciting going on, but I’m excited about that. I have my cup of coffee, still steaming, and its smell has filled the room. The sun is peeking out from behind the gray. It’s going to be a good day.