Friday, June 14, 2013


Life is funny. Or at least if you're not laughing enough, you're not doing it right. So I've been doing this training thing for a few months now, along with working my first full time job, along with 2 part time jobs and, you know, occasionally trying to have a social life. It's crazy to think that 4 months have already gone by, and I've seen so much change.

For one, I dropped 10 pounds since training. This has been a bitter-sweet situation. When I was larger this would have been an amazing feeling, but part of me is disappointed because I know some of that weight loss is muscle. I have only had one person say to me that they "feel my pain, knowing how hard I had worked to put the muscle mass on" and now I can barely do two ten-lb weights on the end of the bar to do a chest press. Because I did that this week, and I was sore for 4 days. I feel like I'm that Toby Keith song: 'I ain't as good as I once was'. But after I get past the idea of muscle loss and think about the gain, I am proud of my endurance levels. Which for anyone who isn't familiar with it, endurance sports are a whole other animal, which is why you can't do heave weight training and do long distance running/biking/ of those situations where you can have the cake, but you can't eat it. Actually that's a bad example, there's no way someone could put cake in front of me and expect me not to eat it. That's rule number 1!

But aside from the fitness gains and losses I also noticed a change in my personal demeanor. I have learned more about myself, my boundaries, how to push them, and balance. Recently I was out on a bike ride and took a pretty bad spill. Enough so that my knee hurt for days and days! The week I got back from Madison I went out for a long run on the Wednesday. I was shooting for 14 miles but at 11 I had to stop completely and walk home because of how much it hurt. I'm not sure what was more annoying, having to walk for three miles and how slow it felt, or the fact that I knew I wouldn't be running for a little while. The coach lady pulled me back from runs and I may be Ironman crazy, but not crazy enough to disregard her directions. But it wasn't easy. My mind was telling me that I should be doing more, I would have to make up for the loss of running fitness. Uhg fitness loss, would I have to rebuild a running base? Really though Sam? You've been running for years now and you think that would all disappear in a week and a half?

Ok maybe that was a bit much but I was stressed and sad. The week was not kind to me and I couldn't "just go for a run" to work it out. I had a huge test coming up, one that would determine my ability to get the job I wanted, that I had been putting off for months and months. And as if that wasn't enough, I was moving the very next day. Talk about a rush to the finish. My triatha-life was not mixing well with my "real" life.

But I learned a few really good lessons last week. The first being that life happens and the second being that life goes on, but as you live it. Within the context of my situation, I found myself missing some workouts and forcing myself to sit for a few hours to do math problems. It was harder than a track workout (which if you haven't caught on I compare most difficult things to track workouts because I loath them!) But it was well worth it, because 152 minutes and 50 questions later and I had the passing results I needed. I had been trying to pass this test for a long while now, so the exhilaration and excitement that filled me up was just as great as finishing my first marathon.

But the excitement was quickly overcome when I started throwing my life into boxes and garbage bags. My friends came in to help me move all of it to my new place. I was looking forward to the new apartment, more space and a change. Because lord knows I needed a change. But I also needed to compromise my bike ride that day. That was a tough one to swallow but I had no choice. It only because easier when I just accepted it. And life went on.

The next day I started to unpack my life and my triatha-life. One of the first things I did was tape up my bib wall. That made it feel more like home :) But after 3 hours of unpacking and cleaning I needed a break. I didn't have all  my bike stuff unpacked so I thought maybe it would be a good idea to try a run. It had been well over a week and I had been rehabilitating with ice, stretching, and strength training, why not? My legs were all too ready to run! I got out 5 miles and felt great. Better not chance it though, I would still need to go back the distance I came, so I turned around. By the time I finished I only had a little pain, nothing sharp or shooting but I was quick to ice it.

What a great weekend. Could I ask for more? Passing the test I put on my "Goals for the year" list, moving to a new apartment and being able to spin out 10 miles on my sore knee. Now granted all of these "life events" were not a part of the training plan, but they happened. And I rolled with the resistance. And life was good because of it :)

Miles in Madison: Part Two

5:45am: alarm goes off and I grab my shoes, a sweatshirt and my glasses before heading down to the lobby for some coffee and oatmeal. We were heading out to ride at 7am this morning but only because it was unanimously decided by the group that our ride would be fueled by Lazy Jane's scones. But knowing my appetite and that I would be doing 84 miles, I was going to need food before then. My partner was still sore, stiff and asleep when I went back up to grab my stuff around 6:30, so he hung back and this time it was the 4 of us on our way back out.

I was really excited for the ride. I had been on the trail, I knew what to expect and the best part: I knew how to use my gears! Our "short trip" to the bakery actually took us into the city, only to go back out to the course. But it was worth it! We passed Lake Monona and the helix that I would be running up and down into transition. It was really exciting to think that in a few short months I would be back here to do an Ironman! :)

But back to the scones.....mouth watering! I actually ended up getting three of them because they were too good not to take back. I had a chocolate-butterscotch one for breakfast and I swear it made my mouth water! Back to the gas station that we started at yesterday and I was ready to go! I had a fire in my belly, which was probably somewhat related to the calorie base I had built, but also the motivation to take on this ride again.....twice!

I told myself I wasn't going to scream this time around going down the hills, and I would try to peddle down (because I refused to increase the speed I was traveling at any more than I was already going!). Jeff rode with me today, and he would amp me up: "Ok we're gonna take out this hill". Peddle up it and let out a loud "WAHOOOO!" all the way down! And we kept a pretty good pace going. At one point we were holding about 24 miles an hour. I felt proud :)

After one loop we stopped back at the gas station to meet up with Steph and Stacey. Jeff decided to head back to the hotel, so the three of us hit the pavement for round two. Steph let me lead the way for the majority of the way so that when I come back without her I would know the way. We had a great ride and I got some experience with drafting. It was terrifying at first, being that close up on Steph's back tired, but in those really windy straights, it was quite helpful. at about mile 77 we had to stop, Stacey's tube popped and I was all too energetic to change it! Jeff taught me months ago how to change a tire and I have had all too many experiences with it since then because of the crapiness that is the lake path. Steph and Stacey had a field day and made sure to document the moment :)

Once we were all tuned up it started to drizzle. We picked up the pace a bit and finished the last of the 84 miles. Pulling into that gas station felt great! I was so proud of myself and I felt like i gained a new sense of self out on that trail. I had more confidence in my biking and now I knew the loop. IMOO was that much less intimidating. The evening was filled with good food and some friends, but it was short lived, since I was exhausted and we had one more day of biking to go!

Or so we thought. Monday morning we woke up to rainy, wet roads. Not good biking conditions. So as Kris and I sat in the lounge, savoring the last of the Lazy Jane's scones, the group decided that today would be a run day and then breakfast of course! Back into the capital we went to hit the path alone the lake. We didn't get more than maybe a mile before both Jeff and I had to call it quits. His back had been acting up and my knee was still sore since the fall a week before. Better safe than sorry, and better sitting in a warm coffee shop than running in the rain :) After Steph and Stacey finished, the 5 of us went to breakfast. It was kind of the parting of the pack, enjoying a last meal together, talking about how great the weekend was because when we got back to the hotel we'd have about an hour to clear out.

So we packed up our stuff and headed out. I fully intend on going back, at least one more time before the race. But Madison was real. I gained a lot of strength, mentally and physically that weekend and I am all too excited to head back. Until then, later days Mad-Town.

Miles in Madison: Part One

"I eat hills for breakfast, lunch and nom nom nom!" The words that came out of my mouth the second day around of riding in Madison. It took nearly 120 plus miles between the two days for me to come to this level of confidence, but it was one of the best experiences I have had throughout my training. And after a few flats and frowns, I desperately needed a good bike weekend.

Friday morning and afternoon couldn't have dragged any more. I was eager to hit the road, pick up my partner and get up to Madison. Everything was set: my rented Jeep Liberty was all packed up...with probably more stuff and junk than I would need but I have yet to figure out how to pack lightly. So you can probably only imagine the excitement I felt when school got out. It's like Alice Cooper's 'School's Out' was playing on repeat in my head. Getting up to Gurnee I fought through traffic, and go figure Kris wasn't all the way packed when I got there but I was grateful for the break out of the car, knowing full well that we would be back in it for at least another hour. And being the nice guy that he was, we pulled a quick Chinese-fire drill part of the way there so I could put my feet up, on the dash board of course, and relax.

Finally we got to Madison. And of course we pulled into the wrong hotel! There are so many of them in the same area, with damn near the same name. So we pulled over to the next parking lot, checked in, carried up a carts worth of stuff plus two tri bikes and got settled. Of course I felt the need to unpack EVERYTHING I brought, I have a tendency to make myself at home wherever I go. Steph and Jeff weren't going to be in for a few hours still so Kris and I ventured out to a local tri store and then out to dinner. By the time everyone did get into the hotel it was close to 11 and we had planned to meet at 7:30 in the lobby the next morning.

This was less of a problem for me and more for Kris. Haha poor guy. Somehow though our whole group of 6 people made it down to the lobby around 7:30.....ish...and out the door to hit the IMOO trail! We started at a BP gas station, went over some rules of the road (which was actually super helpful!) and then went on our way.

The ride itself was about 42 miles from where we left. I knew I could do the mileage, it was the hills, the "three bitches" as they call them, that I was worried about. The first 20 miles were slow for me because I was learning how to use my gears. I must have dropped my chain 3 or 4 times trying to figure out how to switch from the big ring to the small one, when the best time to do that is and "oh crap we're climbing and there goes my chain". I was starting to feel defeated, but Steph was amazing. She hung back with me and we tried to work through it. Eventually I got it, but as that eventually hit we found ourselves in the area of the loop with a lot of rollers.

That rush you get when you ride a roller coaster for the first time, that drop in your stomach and the exhilaration you feel is the best way to explain going down that first huge hill. But just like riding a roller coaster I screamed my head off! I think I scared the heck out of Steph. After I got done zooooooming down the hill, screaming Steph laughed a little and I told her "I feel like I'm on a roller coaster that I have to control and that's terrifying." This happened a few more times along the way.

We hit the first bitch and I was anticipating her wrath. Half way up it leveled out and I swapped my gears out. Bad move Sam. Not long after I did that I started to have to climb again. Hot damn that was hard! We all met up at the top after the climb. I have to do that twice!? Plus two more. Oh fuuuuuu......Coming up to the second big hill I didn't know it was a bitch until I got dine climbing and Steph congratulated me on getting up it. I felt doooped! But that passed soon after when I realized there was only one more to go. And we had already completed about three-fourths of the ride. Think positive!

At least for this one I had a heads up. And I dug down deep, pushed hard and trekked my way up. I'd say despite being tired, that hill probably went the best. A quick ride back into town, which actually was the part of the ride I was most nervous during--I hate riding with cars, people are so unreliable! But it was quick and painless and we were back on home base at the gas station. One loop was sufficient enough for all of us the first day, but Steph, Stacey and I ended up going out to one of the community pools to put in some sweet sets before dinner while the guys went to brat fest. Who's the better triathletes? haha

We all met up for dinner and I STUFFED my face! I ordered a veggie burrito and in an attempt to be funny, Jeff told me I should get brisket with it. I agreed, not knowing that this was actually meat, and Jeff stopped the waitress from writing down the order and told me I wouldn't want it since it was meat. Hardy-har-har! After eating we all shuffled back to the hotel and snuggled into our rooms, we had 84 miles to take on the next morning!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hitting the Pavement

What a week! Finally Friday and I feel like I have been hit with a ton of bricks....should make tomorrow's brick workout interesting ;) But in all seriousness, it is only beginning to hit me now how much is about to happen in the span of a few weeks. Next weekend I am heading up to Madison with the coach lady to ride out the IMOO trail for the first time. Next thing you know and it's June! Which means I need to be studying more for my test, while packing up my life to move the day after that, while also getting ready for my first race, while trying to balance out work and training and the fact that my sister is about to have a baby any day now.......Did that make anyone else feel like they wanted to bang their head off the wall? Ok good, then it's not just me. I like to think that I am a fairly organized person, who is constantly in motion, but all of this is just so overwhelming!

I've never been good at sitting still, or being in the same spot for long periods of time. It's just a skill I haven't quite gotten down. It makes the fast pace life that I lead workout. But if you look at my planner there are some days that I have a break down of an hour-to-hour schedule of where I need to be and what I need to accomplish in that time. I know I have a problem, first step is admitting it. But I really hate climbing stairs so I'm comfortable at this first step :P Well I've come to find that life has it's own funny way of knocking me on my ass, literally, and telling me to slow down.

Last weekend I went out for my long ride. I was damned determined to get the full 3 hours in because the weekend before that I only got in 2 after being put in a situation that involved blowing two tubes & taking a half mile walk of shame in my socks to the metra station. But we won't get into that. So I started at 6:45am on the lake path. I always say how much I hate the lake path and how much it sucks, but there I was riding loops again. About an hour plus into the ride I was all the way up north when I was totally side-swiped by a group of runners. I took one to the knee, but did they stop to see if I was ok? No! So I picked myself, my pride, and my bloody knee up off the ground and told myself I had another 2 hours to go, shake it off.

I wished I would have had my first aid kit because after wiping off my knee and fixing my dropped chain my hands looked like I murdered someone with a car engine. hahaha. Another hour or so later and I found myself in my second loop down on the south side. I had to cross a street but it wasn't a busy one and I didn't expect anyone to turn down it. WRONG! Out of my peripheral I noticed a bus with it's blinker on and it wasn't slowing down. I had about 2.5 seconds to decide: pound the pavement or get plowed by a bus. No brainer, but damn now my other knee was wrecked and I had just about enough of this day! One more hour I told myself. Just enough time to ride to museum campus and back and it would all be over with. Hold it together for one more hour.

Honestly I'm a believer in karma and bad juju. And there are times that things happen and I think, "Yup, I deserved that." But really, REALLY, I had no idea what I did to deserve two busted up knees AND A FLAT TIRE a mile away from home! I contemplated just riding it home but something in the back of my mind said, "No Sam, with the luck you're having today you'll bend your rim and that will cost you a pretty penny". Alright logic, you win this time. Off the bike I went and in the midst of changing the flat this lady stopped to talk to me. She was impressed that I knew what I was doing and I really appreciated the compliment but really I had had a hell of a morning and was not in the mood for small talk. I moved as fast as I could to change the tube and got on my way. By the time I got home I was ready to throw my bike back on the trainer and not look at it again until the next day!

I went out to brunch with one of my best friends and fellow runner/triathlete friends and we gabbed about the difficulty of our rides over orange flavored coffee and frushi (like sushi, only with fish for this veg head ;)) I was comforted by her ability to relate to the rude runners on the lake path, hey, misery does love company, right?

Well misery really seemed to enjoy my company this past week because I couldn't seem to shake her! I missed my Sunday ride, my knees were still pretty beaten up, and my motivation levels just plummeted this week. Despite the really nice weather I just felt like my run times were slow, I couldn't finish my track workouts and I didn't get to lift once this week! It was like hitting the pavement over and over again every day this week! At which point, as I'm sitting here writing this I am picturing myself just laying out on the ground, not wanting to get back up. Because that's what it feels like. But in my mind I know I am stronger than that. I know I have overcome more difficult hardships than just this week and I can't let the pavement get me down (no pun intended). Sometimes life throws you down and gives you bloody knees. But most times, you're the one pounding the hell out of it putting in those miles.

 <------This make me laugh HYSTERICALLY every time I look at it because this is pretty much what I look like when I'm hungry! hahahaha!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Transition && Threshold

As I go through my Iron(wo)man journey I am finding that there is one thing that is changing (I love oximorons....and saying the word oximoron, haha!) No I'm not talking about track workouts, although those are always a love-hate thing, but rather this whole threshold thing. Being an intelligent and educated individual, I knew what a threshold was, but in the context of say, how long I can stay up on the weekends before my body just quits on me, or how long I can sit inside on a gorgeous day. Training threshold is kind of like this....well, not really, but I still like to think of it like that because trying to wrap my head around aerobic or lactic threshold was not an easy task.

One of the top ten reasons why I love my coach is because she tracks most everything by perceived effort. So she won't throw terms like that at me, or she'll explain it to me in a different context. In the sport of triathlon it's easy to get caught up in numbers: times, PRs, heart rate peak, and so on. Steph's not all about that. She's the kind of coach that will say, "Hey if you have the money and you want to invest, go for it, but otherwise the best way to train is to do it". Simple yet the best advice.

 So two weeks ago was my "transition" week,  where I pulled back on workouts and prepared to get into Ironman specific training. What does that mean? It means rest days change from Monday to Friday, long runs are on Wednesdays, and every weekend is a double bike workout. I swim 3 times a week and open water swims are written in for me to take on when the lake warms up! The change in schedule has me stumbling around, trying to balance out "real life" and training. But half way through week 2 and I think I'm getting the hang of it. One of the challenges I am currently having is the change in my "threshold". Up until this point I built a really solid base and I gained a lot of strength & fitness since January. My long runs were getting faster because I choked down those track workouts and my shoulders didn't burn as bad during my swims. But yesterday I finished a track workout: 2 X 1600 and 2 X 800. I dominated! Held 7:19 pace for my 1600s and felt AWESOME! My legs burned but I was too far gone gloating on my accomplishments. This morning on my 12 mile long run, I thought my legs would NEVER warm up. I remember pain like this, more like fatigue, when I first starting getting back into tri-training but I thought I had broken through that barrier!

 Looking at my training plan again I noticed a note from Steph--"You are going to be tired this month, and that's ok. Stuff is about to get real!" Even when she's not there, she is. This both eased my mind some and had me thinking. The whole idea of a threshold, or at least how I have been threshold training, is by pushing my body as far and as fast as I can, but in a way that will allow me to complete the workout and not be totally maxed out that I can't get up and do it all again tomorrow. I will carry this throughout the rest of my time training and hopefully it will do good things for me when I eventually race IMOO. But for the time being at the start of this transition time, I am going need to push past my impatience.

As posted in the blog of one of my fellow triathlete friends: "“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” –Randy Pausch

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rules of the Road && Sending Out an SOS

I'll probably end up jinxing myself, biting my tongue, or saying I spoke too soon, but after a few weeks of really, really, REALLY crazy weather....I think Chicago is finally beginning to see spring! It became official for me two weeks-ish ago when I decided to go for a quick 45 minute ride outside. And even though it wasn't part of my training plan that day, it was the best decision I had made all day! This past weekend was even better, in the 70s, sunny and begging for Chicago's cohabitants to bust open the windows and shed their jackets. And even though I learned last summer that the lake shore path is not something to train on, I threw caution to the wind and dragged my training partner out on it for our first long ride outside. Despite the areas that I knew would be congested, it actually ended up being a good ride, and we got a solid 30 plus miles in :)

So that was all well-and-good but while riding I realized that it was worth mentioning that while training there are rules of the road that every triathlete should be aware of....both for themselves and others around them.

Rules of the Road: Biking
1) Always wear a helmet, ALWAYS! My partner and I broke this rule this past weekend and I was nervous nearly the entire time. This is for safety purposes but then also it's a good habit to get into, seeing as if you do end up racing, you can be disqualified if you are seen riding around the weekend of the race without a helmet.

2) Always pass on the left and let the person know you are about to pass them! This is the one thing that makes riding on the lake path difficult, if it gets crowded there are runners, roller bladders and bikers all trying to get ahead of one another. And sometimes you will have that one biker that cuts over too close and gets too close for comfort. As a general rule of thumb, I try to stay as close to the right as possible and I will give the person a 3-5 second warning that I am going to pass them (On your left!). This becomes a problem if the person is wearing head phones. The best thing you can do for yourself is be loud and announce your presence. There was one point when I came up to a runner who was hugging the left side I wanted to pass on. Luckily he didn't have headphones in so I yelled out, "Passing on your right runner". He heard me and gave me a thumbs up for the pass. Other than that it is just common knowledge to pass on the left, since you have to do it for races and in my experience, runners stay to the right....and trying to get around them on the right will definitely put you in the position to be a victim of their loooogies and booogers! EW!

3) Along with #2, NEVER wear head phones when you are biking! I did this the first time I went riding and when I told my coach she was quick to address this. It almost seems like common sense now to ride without them, but as an amateur my thought process was that music would help entertain me. But safety always comes before entertainment. I occasionally see cyclists with headphones in, but as a general rule of thumb, leave them at home and enjoy the scenery.

4) Use hand signals. If you are going to be turning or if the road breaks, be sure to hold out your hand or point, so that people behind and in front of you know that you will be breaking from the straight path that you were on.

Rules of the Road: Runners

1) Stay on the right. It's a personal bias of mine, but I tend to stay on the right of every road or path. The lake path is nice because it has a break off the road that is filled with a light gravel, specifically for runners and to optimize the space for cyclists. Really though, when I'm running that is my time and I quite enjoy my "space". I turn my music up loud and suddenly I'm lost in my own little world. Unfortunately I have to share my "world" with others around me, so for my own safety I hug the right side so people can pass me without the fear of wondering if I am going to take a sudden turn or move into their general direction.

2) Look before you leap. When I veer off the path for water or bust a move in another direction I always look behind me before I do it. I've had some pretty close calls before, where I didn't look behind me and some biker was coming up behind me and we almost collided. I've learned that whenever I am going to move, whether that is to pass someone or cut across the path 1) Always looks ahead and behind me 2) hold out my hand and point so that everyone around me can see that I will be moving.

Sending out an SOS

As it is getting warmer outside and training hits the trails it's important that you put precautionary measures in place in case you end up in a compromising position.

1) If you know you are going to be out for a long ride/run always have food/water/electrolytes on you. Having a bonking episode while you're 30 miles from home can be dangerous. Bonking is likely to occur as you are learning what types of fuels your body needs and what it can't handle. This will help you out come race day, but never go out unprepared.

2) Carry money, a debit card, and/or a bus card on you. One of my first rides out I was about 9 miles from home when I got a flat tire, but I didn't have anything on me to fix the flat, nor did I have my bus card. You can imagine how great of an experience that was. But I learned from it. Fleet Feet actually makes these bracelets now that lets you connect your debit card to it in case you need money when you are out on the run ( I don't have one of these yet but I do have a Road ID, with my medical and contact information on it in case I were to be unconscious. It's relatively inexpensive but one of the best investments I made for myself. (

3) Designate your "Person". 99% of the time I train alone. I am not big on group training but there is always that thought in the back of my mind that I want someone to know where I am. I usually text someone before I go out and they become my "person". This becomes difficult though when living far away from your person. But never fear! There are a bunch of apps I came across that allow you to put in your training plan and if you don't return by the time you put in, it will send a text/email to your person. There are also other apps for safety purposes, if you were to ever be out and feel like your safety were in jeopardy. They make loud noises to alert others around you. And I found all of this in this article ( DEFINITELY worth a read!

It may be all-too cliche, but it goes without saying:

Safety First Friends :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Low Can You Go? Stop && Squat!

Lets clear the air, shall we? So yesterday I was reading some articles yesterday about strength training. I'm helping one of my friends train for the Chicago Marathon this year and she asked me to put a training plan together for her. Now for me, lifting is an important part of training, and I had to learn this the hard way by getting injured. I did my first marathon in 2011 and I trained on my own. In my mind, runners just need to run and body builders lift. Plus I didn't want to get bulky, I needed to drop weight to get faster, right? Well all of that came to a halt when I ran into knee and IT Band problems. I had to go to the doctor for anti-inflammatories and was told to pull back on running. In the midst of my injury depression one of my friends told me that I could prevent injury by doing certain lifts to strengthen my muscles. She explained to me that, while lifting isn't necessary every day, strength training is important to maintain stability and actually help you run stronger. Two years later and I find myself writing in this training plan, "Eat your meals but take your vitamins." Meaning do your runs as scheduled but make sure you lift 2-3 times a week as a supplement. But what lifting moves are going to be the most beneficial?

Whether you are just a runner or a triathlete the BEST strength move you can do for yourself is the squat. I didn't actually start squatting until about a year ago, yikes.
--> The reason why squats are so beneficial is because they will work almost every single muscle group in the lower body, giving you the most bang for your buck in terms of strength training. Since actual triathlon training is so time consuming already, the more benefit you can get from each exercise, the better. Any athlete doesn't want to waste valuable energy on exercises that don't provide for maximum delivery, so targeting one highly effective movement that focuses on a high number of movements all at once, you’ll be far better off because of it. 
And for my fellow triathletes and/or cyclists: When on the bike: The body needs to be in that powerful aero position where you’re able to generate a lot of power through your hips through the entire range of motion. We don’t just want power through half the pedal stroke but at the top as well when our hips are in that crunched position. A lot of people tend to curve their back and that shuts down the glutes. If you’re pushing with your quads, you’re missing out on your most powerful muscles, the glutes. The squat position is very similar to proper bike position. You want a nice flat back and activate the glutes so you’re able to transfer that power. So when you’re squatting, you’re actually training for more power on the bike.
So how does one start squating? Lightly. Grab two hand weights and simply practice your form. Watch yourself in the mirror (it may seem funny or weird but honestly form is everything with the squat, if you're doing it wrong you're only hurting yourself). Then when you're ready, grab one of the bars (without plates at the end) and practice squating with it behind your head. Once you've got all of that, add a little weight. But I highly recommend either having a spotter or putting a bench down if you're alone. Sit down on the bench but make sure to stand right back up, don't rest! 

Finally, it's important to also have balance. For this reason, other leg exercises that focus on your leg strength, like hamstring pulls, leg press & leg lifts are also important. But for now, stop, drop and squat!

Bad Timing && Boston Bombing

Friday April 19th: 3pm: I picked up one of the last copies of the Red Eye from that day and the cover said it all. It was a picture of a red reset button and under it read, "That was a rough one, who's ready for next week?" After a week of bombings, explosions, and flash flooding, I think all of Chicago was on the same page. But there I was on a Friday afternoon, ready to cash in my chips!

Monday was one of the most devastating days for runners everywhere. One of the biggest races in the world, that people work so hard to qualify for, for months on end, fell victim to a terrorist attack. About 4 hours into the race an explosive was set off just a few feet from the finish line. 2 minutes later another one went off just a few blocks down. 3 people died. Hundreds were injured. For the rest of the evening I was fixated on the television, watching this atrocity happen over and over again. I received quite a few phone calls and text messages from friends and family, some of them crying, because they thought I was there. More so, they knew I finished the Chicago Marathon this past year around that time. It became clear to me that Boston was targeted because of the large number of people that were that day, but it still leaves most of us inflicted with fear. The fact that someone would target Boston, a marathon nonetheless, is mind numbing.

The very next day I decided to support my running family. I went to school in a full running outfit and safety-pinned my Chicago marathon bib to my shirt. It meant a lot to me that I did this, but the best was yet to come. Upon seeing this, my kids were concerned for me, was I in Boston yesterday? How was my family? Did I know anyone there? We had a talk in each class and I went home with a strong sense of compassion and love, even more so than before, for my students who cared for my and my values.

But for anyone who has ever had hiccups before, you know that they don't stop at one. The last time we had a flash flood was in 2008 and it hit HARD. This time around, it was worse. Needless to say: It's gonna RAIN! Businesses and schools were shutting down, while sink holes were opening up and eating cars! Surely this has got to be the end of the world right here! That or someone is playing jumanji....

So by Friday, I think I could speak for everyone in saying that we were tapped out. What an awful week! But the weekend was ahead, and I took every opportunity to soak it up. Caught up with some friends I hadn't seen, or who give me grief for not going out on week nights, ate breakfast-for-dinner and supported The One fund with my friend Alison and bought a "Runner's for Boston" shirt. It was a nice pick up. But even better was getting to take my bike out on the lake path Sunday afternoon for the first time since last fall. It was a good end to a series of unfortunate events.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bike Bananzaaaa!!!!

Because I don't have kids, I can't say I know what it's like to feel badly for one's child when they are sick. But I do have a tri-bike, a Gwen, and this past week she has been "under the weather". Ok, actually Chicago has been under the weather, Gwen just hasn't been able to go outside because of the snow....and flooding.....sigh. But even more so, I was still struggling with this tire issue, why wouldn't it stay inflated? I had changed the tube twice, checked the tire tape and the tire....nothing made sense. So I gave in and took her to Performance. Or well, I took the back tire into Performance. By this time I had taken her apart and put her back together so many times that it was exhausting, and it was clear she needed not be put back together until this was fixed.

Shout out and props to the coach lady and her soon-to-be-hubby, Jeff, who showed me the ins and outs of how to change a tire. The first time I had to do it alone it took an hour almost and I thought to myself, "If this happens in a race I'm just going to pull out the 'damsel in distress' card". But it got easier, the 4th, 5th, and 6th time around. And at this point I can honestly say that I would have a fighting chance of getting her all fixed up in a decent amount of time that it wouldn't set my bike time back an hour :) Honestly I would recommend anyone who is doing a longer race, half or full IM pull someone aside and have them show you how to do it. I hated training for Racine last year, hitting the bike path and thinking in the back of my mind, "If my tire pops, game over." It offers a good sense of control and eases the mind.

Anyways, the point of this post is that after all of this, one of the guys at Performance had found the TINIEST hole in my tube. I couldn't even see it, but he put it up to my face and asked if I could feel the air. I felt kind of silly, especially after coming in to the store telling him and another sale's associate that I had taken it apart too many times to count. They didn't seem to see it that way though, they were actually more impressed with my ability to take the bike apart. So much so that as we kept talking they offered me an application to the store. I had to laugh, didn't I just go through this? And didn't I just decide I didn't have time? The guys were awesome though and assured me they would work with my schedule if I really wanted it. And, well, next thing you know I'll be starting at Performance in May. Oh geeeeze!

As I walked out to my car, fully filled tire in hand, I felt a great sense of accomplishment! The tire issue was solved and I had in my possession 5 new tubes (hopefully I don't need any of them for a while!) and a new connection to the endurance world. We'll see how this goes....stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Life's Tough, Get a Helmet

Not everything is peaches and cream, in life and in training, but more often than not the two seem to coincide...or collide? Maybe that's why they say to get a helmet :S Despite it only being 9 days into the month, April has been no exception. I came back from my "stay-cation" thinking I'd be refreshed and ready to get back into the swing of things. But really I just found myself living for the weekends again, sigh.

I ended up getting up at 3:15am the past two Monday's to do my long bike ride from Sunday. Now if there was any question about me being crazy, 3am makes me bat-shit crazy. I'm still baffled how I felt energized enough to get out of bed. But you know what they say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Little did I expect that by the time I got off work, I'd be hit by the boom-a-rang effect and pretty much fall victim to my bed for a few hours. Needless to say it kind of messed up my sleeping schedule.

So lets fast forward though to this past weekend, that's the good part. Friday night after getting off work, I ventured up to the north side to pick up my trusty training partner, as we had planned to ride for the first time outside the next morning. I was beyond ecstatic about this, so much so that I went over to Performance and picked up a ton of stuff-and-junk to be ready. Well around 9:30pm we were checking out the "proposed" weather report which said it was supposed to rain. The voice of reason, (that of my coach's fiance, Jeff) said he was all for mental toughness but rain is not something to tough out right now. I was slightly bummed but maybe Sunday would be better.

7:30am the next day I woke up, looked out the window and realized not only was it sunny, but it was WARM! Words cannot express how miffed I was, and well I seem to have a new vendetta against the weather man. Even still, I tried to make the best of it, so I headed to the pool with Kris. Apparently bad juju doesn't have boundaries because he had some leaky goggle problems and we called it a day. Ok, no worries, lets try running. You can't really have any problems running, right? Haha...haha...hahaha....

I still am not sure why this happened but my legs, actually more of my hips, ached and cried as I tried to get in a measly 6 miles. Are you kidding me body?! At this point I had just given in, and after about a mile and a half I made Kris stop so I could play at the park. We went another mile and a half before I pulled a detour and ran onto the beach to chase seagulls and play in the frigid water. Poor guy, here I make myself out to be training for an Ironman and his experience training with me is a wimpy 6 mile run broken up into child-like play. But it was just one of those days, and it only makes things harder to fight back.

After a much needed stop at Portillo's for a maybe-not-so-deserved-but-I-wanted-it-anyways meal of baked mostacholli and chocolate cake, we ran over to Fleet Feet to fix this goggle problem. Kris got a new pair of goggles and I indulged in a new pair of smartwool socks with some yankz. Sometimes getting a new something helps motivate training.

Ok so, my 1:40 run was kind of caboshed for the day, surely Sunday I would be able to go out for a nice long bike ride. Surely if I hadn't fallen asleep at 7pm only to wake up at 10pm would this have been easier. Or maybe if I didn't stay up until 2am and sleep until 11:30 the next day, maybe it would have happened. I can't say I was disappointed, seeing as I had already given in to the wacky-weekend woes, I decided that the trainer would be a safe bet.

If you haven't caught on yet, because at this point I certainly hadn't, I probably should have just not tried at all. But I am a go-getter kinda gal. So when I got home I decided to install the bottle cage I bought on my bike before settling in for a ride. Now it was about 4:30pm and I was hoping to be on by 5, but I noticed that my tires were flat. Which was frustrating because I thought I had just filled them. So I took the back tire off, filled it, and went to put it back on. But there is was, flat again. Ok, maybe it needs a new tube. I went through all the motions of changing the tube and luckily the tire was full. It was now about 5pm, so I worked diligently to get the tire back on. As long as I don't drop the chain....opps.....

I'll save you the dirty details, but basically another 30 minutes later I got the damn tire back on the bike but I was covered in grease and frustration....and somehow I split my finger open. Fabulous. After touching a hot pot a few times, at some point, you will finally realize not to touch it. At 7pm on Sunday night I realized this weekends training was a mess and I had officially waved my white flag.

I'm not sure if there was a helmet strong enough to protect me from the hard-fall of this weekend. There are always going to be obstacles getting in your way, trying to prevent you from getting things done. And when it comes down to it, the best thing you can do for yourself, the best helmet you can wear, is a positive attitude. It doesn't matter what brand or type of helmet you have, if you're not wearing it right, it's not going to do anything for you.