Sunday, September 29, 2013

Viva Bike Vegas Review - Week #5 30Things-30Weeks-30YearsOld

Some of you might remember a few weeks ago when I was trying to figure out which fall races/athletic events were worth depleting my savings account doing.  Well, one of the more pricier activities was the Viva Bike Vegas sponsored by Zappos.  
Shortly after the post that discussed the many spectacular racing opportunities this fall, with reckless disregard for my bank account, I signed up for the 18 mile ride.  
"Viva Las Vegas" - how could I resist including a little Elivs in this post?

As the day for the ride came closer, I got more and more excited, especially after that fateful trip to REI during which the fine people of REI made me look more legit.
Don't I look like a real cyclist?
Finally, last Saturday morning (September 21), I woke up around 6:30, put on my super sweet cycling getup, loaded my beautiful bike in the back of my car and headed to Town Square for the start of my Viva Bike Vegas experience.  
I did have a minor fail-moment when I first arrived.  I had already donned my cycling jersey prior to arriving at Town Square, but once I got there, I remember that your numbers go on your back when you're riding.  This was just a bit of a "runner fail" - I'm used to being able to put my number on while wearing my shirt.  Fortunately, for once in my life, I was actually early, so I had plenty of time to ask a nice volunteer to pin the tail on the donkey my number to my back.  I also had time to snap a few pictures, enjoy the atmosphere, and even witness someone proposing to his girlfriend at the start line!!

The main reason I wanted to take part in this event was that for the first several miles you ride straight down the Las Vegas strip.  We were required to stay behind the pace truck the entire way down Las Vegas Blvd, so I was able to take bunches of pictures.  Basically, the next couple pics are shots that you've seen before (and probably shots that I've even posted on this blog), but this time there are cyclists in the picture too.
obligatory "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign with my fellow cyclists
passing Planet Hollywood with the Paris ahead of us
As we continued down Las Vegas Blvd, we passed several notable sites: (1) casinos, casinos, casinos; (2) what seemed like a hundred tattoo parlors; (3) even more wedding chapels; (4) my office; and (5) the Pawn Shop from Pawn Stars.

Eventually, we turned left on Stewart Avenue (a couple of blocks north of Fremont Street), in front of the new Zappos headquarters.  We rode down Steward and turned left on Main Street to head back towards the finish line at Town Square.  At some point after we turned on Main Street, the pace car left us and we were able to pick up the pace and get a real ride in.  Over the remaining nine miles, we snaked our way through some back roads and then came to Warm Springs Rd., rode over the I-15 overpass and then turned left, looped around, to the parking lot at Town Square and my 18 mile adventure came to an end.

**Just in case anyone does this ride in the future, the last turn after you ride over I-15 is easily missed. At the bottom of the overpass, you must turn left to loop around and actually go back under the overpass to access the finish line.  I saw several riders miss the left arrow and turn right into the Town Square parking lot.  You CANNOT access the finish line unless you make the LEFT turn.  I was fortunate to be riding near a rider that had done Viva Bike Vegas the previous year, so I followed her and crossed the finish line without a problem.**  

18 miles is my longest ride to date.  Hey, I'm new to this road cycling thing and I still have to try to get runs in so marathons don't kill me.  It was really fun and the amenities at the finish line were basically the bomb dot com. 

Plus, everyone got a medal and a sweet Gatorade towel.
In addition, the Nevada Department of Transportation was giving away a bunch of safety swag and I'm a pretty big fan of bicycle safety.  I was especially amped about the reflective slap bracelet.  The wonderful ladies at People for Bikes advised that your seat post is a great place to store the slap bracelet and it will be available should you need it some night on a ride.  I was also excited about the red flashing clip-on light.  I'm storing it in my bike pouch in case I find myself out at night, I can just clip it on my backpack or the back of my shirt/shorts to make myself more visible (and be in compliance with traffic laws).
This was a really great experience.  I really don't have anything negative to say about the entire event.  I mean, they could make that last turn a little more obvious, but that's the closest to a negative comment I can come up with.  I definitely want to start riding more often.  Vegas seems to have it all as far as getting in shape for cycling.  If you ride from downtown towards Red Rock, it is a long gradual climb.  Alternatively, you could ride the Red Rock Scenic Loop or any of the multitude of bike routes near Lake Mead for a more rolling hills type of ride.  Vegas really has it all...I just need to take advantage of it more.

I also want to do another organized ride again soon.  Anyone know of any great rides in the Southern Nevada, Southern Utah, Northern Arizona or Southern California?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Pep Talk + Last Night's Swimming Workout

I haven't really been feeling like my normal merry self lately (see what I did there?)  For some reason, I just haven't been getting the joy out of my activities, like I used to.  I've been spending a lot of time on my couch trying to figure out why running even 3 miles sounds like the last thing in the world I want to do.  I think I'm mostly frustrated because I haven't really found the running support system here in Vegas that I've had in my previous locations like Knoxville and Memphis.
However, yesterday afternoon I was reminded that, even though I don't have the in-person running buddies that I used to have, I have the online community of runners and fitnessistas, about which I was largely oblivious to until approximately one year ago.
Everyone has days or weeks like that, I'm sure.  That's why training partners are such beautiful people.  When you're feeling defeated, they show you that your next run or your next workout may be the one that makes you feel victorious again.  Even though I don't have a training partner here in Vegas, all I need to do is read about the latest running adventures of Gina or Lisa or Jill and I feel ready to hit that pavement again!  And that's more or less what happened tonight, except rather than hitting the pavement, I decided hit the pool.
To write last night's workout, I followed the same outline that I discussed in last week's swimming tip.  I started with a Warm-Up that made up just under one-third of the total yardage, followed by a Main Set that is slightly less than one-half of the total yardage, and then a kick set and a cool down.  

     300 Swim
     150 kick (I did this on my back in streamline position, but you could use a kickboard instead)
     4 x 25 build (first 25 slowest - fourth 25 fastest)
Main Set
     300 Swim (50 hard / 25 easy)
          50 kick
     200 Swim (75 hard / 25 easy)
          50 kick
     100 Swim (25 hard / 25 easy)
          50 kick
Kick Set
     4 x 75 fly kick on your back (GREAT ab workout!!)
          - I changed this from 6 x 50 to 4 x 75 to make it a better ab workout
Cool Down
     200 easy swim

I felt so great when I got out of the pool; it was about as close to feeling like a new person as I could imagine.  I haven't been doing nearly enough running lately and this is going to have pretty disastrous effects on my upcoming Chicago Marathon.....but, I don't want to think about that now.  I just want to keep riding this post-swimming high into today's run and beyond.  I'll worry about the Chicago Marathon later. (isn't denial the greatest? haha)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Swimming Tip #3 - Strength Training to Avoid Injury

Many people use swimming as their go-to workout when injury side-lines them from running.  And for good reason!!  Swimming is great low-contact activity to incorporate when your legs are injured or when they just need a break.  However, if you're not careful, swimming can lead to over-use injuries.  
I'm sure this is not news to you, but swimmers are particularly prone to rotator cuff injuries.  
via Wikimedia Commons:  By Young Lae, Moon M.D. Chair of 3D Based Medical Application Working group. Chairman and Professor of Orthopaedics, Chosun University Hospital, Korea. [CC-BY-3.0 (]
I definitely experienced some serious shoulder pain in my day, but it was never so bad that it required surgery or anything.  My shoulder injuries were easily managed by a little e-stim (electrical muscle stimulation), lots of ibuprofen, and even more ice.  

I'm pretty sure the reason I remained relatively injury free during my swimming days was due to a concentration on certain strength training exercises.  Many of these exercises can be done quickly and will not only protect you from swimming injuries, they will also make you a stronger, more stabile swimmer and might even keep you from injuring your shoulders in running if you happen to be swinging your arms too much at the shoulder.

The first set of exercises focus on strengthening the muscles around your rotator cuff so that your rotator cuff isn't as vulnerable.
If you don't have any resistance bands (for example, these), you can also do these exercises with small dumbbells.
I thought about making my own videos, but why re-create the wheel when these lovely people have already done such a fine job.

In addition to strengthening the muscles around your rotator cuff, you should also focus are your back (specifically, your latissimus dorsi muscles).  

Most of the power behind the swimming stroke should come from your back and not actually your arms.  By strengthening this area on your back, you'll be taking a lot of the pressure off your puny arms (I don't care how "big" you think your arms are, I promise you, your back muscles are bigger).  So, here are a couple of strengthening moves for your back that you can do at home:
  • Lawn Mowers - Start with a 10-15 pound dumbbell.
  •  I found this description at and it is as good a description, or better, than I could come up with.
"Stand beside a flat bench and kneel on it with your right knee and right hand resting on the bench.  Pick up the dumbbell from the floor with your left hand in an overhand grip.  Pull the dumbbell up to your side until it touches your ribs or until your upper arms is just beyond horizontal.  Extend your arm down toward the floor until it is almost straight to complete one rep.  Do two steps of 12 to 15 reps."
  • Supermans - Basically, lay on your stomach on the floor and make like the man of steel by lifting both your legs and both your arms off the ground.  Hold as long as possible and repeat the hold two more times.  You can check out a more detailed description with pictures here.
Go through this routine of shoulder and back strengthening moves two to three times per week and then focus on using the back muscles that you've strengthened while you're swimming.  I think you'll really feel a difference in your swimming and, if that wasn't enough of a benefit, you'll also help prevent injuries!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Week #4 30-30-30 - Fantasy Football!!! (Thirty-Things Thirty-Weeks Thirty-Years-Old)

I've been a little absent lately.  I need to take a little break to think about and center myself.  I was sort of having an existential crisis.  Well, that sounds a lot more serious than it was.  I think I had just been doing too much and not taking the necessary time to recover.  

With my little hiatus, I got a bit behind, but I'll catch up soon.  Without further ado, I give you Week #4 of my 30Things 30Weeks 30YearsOld.
One thing that may not have been clear from this blog is how much I love football.  I grew up loving Iowa Hawkeye football.  
I think this looks more like my brother, but my mom says it's me
that furry guy with me is my first best friend Snookums
Years later, I attended grad school at the University of Tennessee and became a dedicated fan of the Volunteers.  
My parents drove to Knoxville to see Tennessee get creamed by LSU my 3L year
(Mom!  I bet you nearly drown in that shirt now!!)
Sometime in the middle of all that, I started becoming obsessed with NFL football.  Given my love for the city of Chicago, Da Bears were the obvious choice for my team.  
My husband and I are so cool.  For our 3 year wedding anniversary we went to Nashville to see the Bears play the Titans in a preseason game.
As I've spent more and more time following NFL football, I've wanted to join in on the fun and frenzy that is FANTASY FOOTBALL!  So, when I got an email from my brother and his friend from college asking if I wanted to join their fantasy league, I didn't even hesitate.

So, on a fair August evening, we held our draft and, for being 9th out of 10 in the draft order, I did AWESOME.  My opinion of my draft proficiency is clearly biased; no one else shares this opinion.  
My team name was awesome when I was starting Cam Newton.  However, I benched him this week because Russell Wilson is going to own the Jags this weekend.
As far as my team, I'm pretty happy with my players at running back (Jamaal Charles & Matt Forte) and I feel good about my options at quarterback (Cam Newton & Russell Wilson).  However, I'm pretty weak at wide receiver, but I'm hoping the recent addition of Eddie Royal to my team will help shore this spot up.  

All that being said, my success this season so far has been the very definition of mixed.  After two weeks, I've won one and lost one.  I won my first matchup and lost my second.  So far, I'm projected to win my Week 3 matchup (against my dad). 
I should have written this post after week #1 when I was 1-0
Okay, I know this post is probably incredibly boring to most people and it is definitely not related to running or even related to any sort of fitness.  However, on the off chance that you too have fantasy teams...based on my research and a short text discussion with a friend that's in a different league, you should consider claiming Willis McGahee off of waivers.  It's looking like he's going to be signed by Cleveland after their big move today.  He won't be much help this week, but could be helpful in the future.

Ah!! I'm totally a fantasy football junkie!

This final picture is completely unrelated to anything else in this post.  However, last week during all those storms, I snapped this amazing pic of an incredibly vivid rainbow.
For real - no filter - I didn't even use the HD mode on my iPhone!
Any football fans out there?

Are you in any fantasy leagues?
          (I do not understand how people have time to be in multiple leagues!!)

If so, who was your first round pick?
          (I can't remember, but it was either Jamaal Charles or Matt Forte)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday Swimming Tips #2 - Planning Your Workout

I know it's Monday...suffice to say that, when it came to my blogging life, I sort of dropped the ball this week; other things had to take priority.  So, I'm going to do the Swimming Tip that I meant to post yesterday today.  I really promise to be on time with this next week.

Once you've made sure that you have your basic gear, I highly recommend that you avoid just going to the pool and swimming back and forth.  You'll get bored in a matter of minutes and you won't get the quality workout that you were hoping for.  
Just like everything in life, you'll usually be more successful if you go with a plan.  Therefore, I give you this weeks Sunday Swimming Tip:

Disclaimer:  You'll never hear me use the word "laps" when referring to swimming distances.  Some people use "laps" to mean one length of the pool, while others use "laps" to refer to two lengths of the pool.  For this reason, I'm going to start by teaching you how to refer to you swimming distance by the actual yards or meters you swim, just like seasoned swimmers.  

Math for Swimmers
I know, I know, I said "MATH"!!!!!  If math gives you anxiety, just breath, I promise this is the easiest, least-scary math you'll ever encounter.  It is basically counting by multiples of 25.    

Most of you are probably swimming in pools that are 25 yards long.  There is a small chance that you're swimming in a pool that is 50 meters long.  You'll know if it is a 50 meter pool because the pool will seem so long that you almost can't see the end of the pool because of the curvature of the earth.  Okay, that might be an over-exaggeration, but they're seriously, seriously long pools.  If you're unsure, just ask someone at your pool.  They should know.  If for some reason they don't, you can try walking the length of the pool.  Your stride is likely close enough to a yard that you'll be pretty close to the 25 strides if it is a 25 yard pool or you'll be well over 50 strides if your pool happens to be a 50m pool.

Now, regardless of the length of the pool, the math is really simple.  If it is a 25 yard pool, then everything is in multiples of 25:
          1 length of the pool = 25 yards
          2 lengths of the pool = 50 yards
          3 lengths of the pool = 75 yards
          4 lengths of the pool = 100 yards
I'm sure you get the idea.

If you're swimming in a 50 meter pool, it's the same idea, but the math is even easier; everything is a multiple of 50!  Also, for those like me that have difficulty with english to metric conversions...just remember that meters are longer than yards.  So, 50 meters is a bit longer than double the 50 yard pool. (50 meters is 54.7 yards, to be exact)

How much time do you have for your workout?
When planning your workout, the first thing you'll want to consider is how much time do you have to spend in the pool.  I recommend allowing at least 45-60 minutes for your workout, but I'm sure it is possible to get a great workout in 30 minutes if you amp up the intensity and decrease the amount of rest.  Eventually, you'll figure out an approximate amount of yardage you can accomplish in a given amount of time (right now, I can usually do about 2000 yards in 45 minutes), but it may take you a few sessions to figure this out....and, of course, it will change as you get more and more in shape!

If you're a beginner, see if you can aim for 1000 yards per workout.  It may only take 30 minutes, or it may take closer to 45-60 minutes.  But, won't you feel AWESOME knowing that you swam ONE THOUSAND YARDS?!!?! (By way of review of the previous "Math for Swimmers" section, 1000 yards is 40 lengths of the pool - you can totally do that!)

The actual workout:
In general, my swimming workouts consist of four parts: (1) the Warm-Up; (2) the Main Set; (3) the Kick Set; and (4) the Cool Down.  

1.  Warm-Up
I like to start out my workouts with a long-ish, easy swim.  Depending on the workout, the warm-up may be your longest continuous swim of the workout.  This is also a great place to break out those zoomers that we talked about last time.(link to last post)  

I typically do a 300 yard swim (12 lengths of the pool).  If you're really new to swimming, try to do 100-150 yards (4-6 lengths of the pool) without stopping or with only minimal pauses on each wall.  This continuous swim will warm up your swimming muscles.  You may also surprise yourself with how long you can swim continuously.

If you you really want to get warmed up for the workout, try to add in some sprints after your long warm-up swim.  I'll frequently add in 8 x 25 build 1-4 and 5-8, with 15 seconds rest between each 25.  In english, this means that #1 is slow-ish on #1, #2 is a bit faster, #3 is pretty hard, and #4 is nearly an all out sprint.  Then, I repeat that for numbers five through eight.  When you'r starting out, you could modify this to 4 x 25, with 30 seconds rest between each 25 and alternate between a hard 25 and an easy 25.  So, that set would look like:  
  • 25 yards hard
    • 30 seconds rest ("SR" = seconds rest)
  • 25 yards easy
    • 30 SR
  • 25 yards hard
    • 30 SR
  • 25 yards easy
    • 30 SR
And, with that, you're warmed up, and ready to move on to the main set.

2. Main Set
There are so many types of main sets that you could do.  Most main sets consist of repeats like 10 x 50 with 15 SR or 6 x 100 with 20 SR.  However, those types of sets are easy for you to come up with on your own.  

An alternative to straight repeats is a ladder.  In a ladder, each distance is longer than the one before, until you get to the "top" of the "ladder," and then you head back down the ladder.  For example, a basic ladder would be 25-50-75-100-75-50-25.  Your longest swim is 100 yards (4 lengths of the pool).  The total yardage for the ladder would be 400 yards.  You can take as much rest as you need between each distance...see if you can do it with less than a minute rest each time.

3. Kick Set
Pretty self-explanatory here.  Grab a kickboard and go. Most pools have a stock of  If you haven't used a kick board very often, it may feel awkward.  You may even feel unstable, but if you put your arms all the way at the end of the board so that the end of the board closest to you is almost in your armpits.  This youtube video will give you a visual of kickboard use.
Also, if you feel like your hips are sinking when you're trying to use the kickboard, you need to press down on the kickboard a bit to bring your body into alignment.  This video explains it more (although the video is a little on the long side)
If you're feeling pretty comfortable with the kickboard, try doing 4 x 50 yard kick with about 15-30 seconds rest.  If you're feeling a little shaky, go for 8 x 25 yard kick, again with about 15-30 seconds rest.

4. Cool Down
Yay! Finally! You made it!!  This is possibly my favorite part of the workout.  It is like the savasana of  the swimming session.  Basically, swim 100 yards or so pretty much as slow as possible and unwind.  You just completed a legit swimming workout.  You're awesome!!!

A Potential First Workout:
Warm-Up (200-250 yards)
100-150 easy swim
4 x 25 (hard-easy-hard-easy) 30 seconds rest

Main Set - Ladder (500 yards)

Kick Set (200 yards)
8 x 25 kick 
4 x 50 kick

Cool Down (100 yards)
100 easy swim 

Total Yardage: 1000 yards

A final note about counting your rest:  In the sections above, I've discussed a certain amount of rest between sets or reps.  To figure out how much time has passed during your rest breaks, you have two primary choices.  Option A: you can wear a waterproof sports watch and just watch the seconds tick by.  Option B (my favorite option): in most pools, you'll see a clock that isn't really made to tell time.  
The pace clock at my pool
This is a pace clock.  The red hand on this clock moves with the seconds and is perfect for watching your seconds tick by until it is time to start your next swim.
Monday's workout
I typically write out my workout ahead of time on printer paper with sharpie and then take it out to the pool with me.  Do NOT forget to throw it away at the end of your workout.  The people at your pool will not be happy with your dried crumbled up paper being left behind for them to deal with.
I usually post my workouts on the blog and I've also started keeping a list of my swimming related posts on the "Workout Aquatica" tab above.  Another great resource that I've talked about before is the workouts available at  Kiefer posts a new "beginner" workout each month and all the workouts there are easily modifiable to make them easier or harder--the easiest way to modify these workouts is to increase/decrease the number of reps in a set or to increase/decrease the amount of rest.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Swimming Tips

Yesterday while I was watching my beloved Tennessee Vols blow away Western Kentucky (hey, I have to enjoy these wins before we get to the SEC matchups), I spent the commercials perusing a plethora of running/fitness blogs.
This is a picture from Fall 2012, but I'm missing Knoxville this weekend
While reading all of the great content out there on running and yoga and healthy recipes, I began to wonder if there was actually a place for my blog.  I started this blog primarily as a journal to document my fitness goals and chronicle my athletic endeavors.  Also, my photo roll on my iPhone was getting full and I needed to put the pics somewhere that I could look at them in context.  I jest, mostly.  However, by my nature, I'm a person that likes to help others; I love helping and sharing my triumphs and my much more frequent defeats to help others in similar situations in the future.

Ok, I'll get to my point...

In the world of fitness, my area of expertise is unequivocally swimming.  Whether you're primarily a runner looking to incorporating more cross-training, a runner sidelined by injury, or an aspiring triathlete that might be intimidated by the swim, tune in on Sunday for my Sunday Swimming Tips.  
Today I want to talk about what you should take with you when you head to the pool for a swim.  
I'm going to be providing links to products that I recommend either on or Amazon.  I do NOT receive any compensation if you follow these links and make purchases.  My goals for this blog are not related to making money.

**The first three are admittedly obvious (swimsuit, goggles, swim cap).  The final two suggestions may come be more surprising, but I think you'll really thank me if you take my advice**

#1 - Swimsuits (Kind of the most important, no?)
Just like when you're running, you're going to want to wear something that feels like it is keeping everything in place and isn't going to fall off if you make one wrong move.  I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending that you wear something racer-backed.  When it comes to training suits, I'm not really a brand loyalist.  I tend to buy whatever is cheapest.  I think I normally gravitate towards Speedo or Nike, but I've definitely worn TYR, Hind, and Dolphin before too.  I will tell you, though, that polyester suits will last waaaaaaaaayy longer than lycra - so I pretty much only swim in polyester.
A few of my favorite suits - all polyester (i like color)
(1) Nike; (2) Nike; (3) Dolphin; and (4) Dolphin
If you already know your size, you can usually find some great deals online at places like or  If you haven't been tried on fitness swimsuits yet, I recommend going to Sports Authority, Dick's Sporting Goods, REI, etc. to make sure you get the size that is snug, yet comfortable. Swim suit sizes are weird - their even numbers and a size 24 is the size I wore when I was 8 years old.  Through high school and college, I wore something in the range of 26 to 28 for competition and a 28 to 30 for practice.  I know wear a size 32 for my workouts.  Oh, and if you take my advice on the polyester suits (which you totally should), they run a bit smaller.

Here's a great polyester suit on sale for less than $35 with lots of sizes still available.

#2 - Goggles
This one is tricky because everyone's face is different, so you may have to play around until you find the ones that are most comfortable and the most reliably leak-proof.  Fortunately, goggles aren't that expensive.  I use these for most of my workouts ("swedish goggles"), but I don't recommend them for beginners; they don't have pads and can feel uncomfortable/painful if you're not used to them.  The Speedo Sprint goggles are a solid, inexpensive option ($5.80).  A more expensive option, but, in my opinion, the most reliably leak-proof are these Speedo Vanquisher goggles ($17.99).
The purple goggles are the "swedish goggles" that I swear by, but don't recommend for newbies.  Elsewhere in that pile are a pair of mirrored speedo vanquishers (sort of on the bottom) and a pair of black/smoke Speedo sprint goggles.
One other consideration is whether you'll be swimming outside in the sun.  If so, you'll want to consider purchasing a version of these goggles, or whichever you choose, that are "mirrored"; they have more of a sunglasses affect, so you won't be swimming and squinting.  I wear these mirrored Speedo Vanquisher goggles when I swim outside, primarily for open water swimming and triathlons.  

By the way, you don't necessarily need to order these online unless you live in an area without a sporting goods store or you're already placing an order with and want to avail yourself of the free shipping on purchases over $64.

#3 - Swimcap
Basically, my recommendation here is that you wear one.  I really wouldn't recommend going without.  Having hair in your face when you're trying to do a swim workout is more annoying than hair in your face when you're running.  

Really, there aren't many considerations that go into choosing a swimcap other than, which color goes best with your skin tone.  I mean, there are silicone swim caps (~$6-12) and latex swimcaps (~$2-5).  Silicone caps are more durable, but I've never felt the need for anything more than a latex cap (and I'm usually prone to buying the more expensive gear because if it costs more, it must be better, right?)
Random assortment of swim caps
Odd that I have one from my brother's alma mater, but not my own?
If you start doing any competitive events that involve swimming (open water swim races, triathlons, etc.), they usually give you a swim cap, so you'll start accumulating them.  But, starting out, there is truly no reason to spend any more than $3 on a plain, latex swim cap that will be perfectly adequate. You can check out a bunch of caps here.

#4 - Zoomers or "Training" Fins
My recommending these may come as a surprise for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I think these are critical for anyone who is getting in swimming shape after any hiatus, whether it be your whole life or even a few months.  Second, I want to be very clear that I'm not recommending the huge, floppy, Scuba Steve flippers that you use for snorkeling or scuba diving.  These are shorter and make it MUCH easier to push off the walls.  
Pictured are Zoomers by Finis; I use these. ($27.95)
Kiefer also offers its own version that looks similar, here, but I've never used them. ($22.95)
So, basically, when most people swim, they kick a lot to help them keep afloat and that takes so much energy that their concentration on the remaining parts of your stroke isn't there.  By wearing zoomers, you get a lot more propulsion out of less effort with your kicking, so that frees up some energy to focus on what you're doing with your core and upper body.  This will especially help if you're currently at a stage where you're uncomfortable swimming even one or two lengths of the pool.  

Now giving swimming a shot and let me know how it goes! 

I look forward to your questions, comments, and suggestions.  Either comment below or feel free to contact me at MerryMarathoner26.2(at)gmail(dot)com

Friday, September 6, 2013

I need to narrow down my list of races I want to do - HELP!!

I am DESPERATE for anyone's help!  Fall is always full of such wonderful athletic opportunities that I find it difficult to limit myself.  However, I'm reasonably certain (although not 100% sure) that my calendar and my pocketbook can't handle all of these....

#1 :: Bank of America Chicago Marathon - 10/13/2013
I've said it a million times, I know, but I'm already signed up for the Chicago Marathon, my third Chicago Marathon in a row
#2 :: Ragnar Las Vegas - 11/8-11/9/2013
I'm excited to let y'all know that I'm going to be doing my second Ragnar Relay in November when Ragnar comes to Vegas!  

Assuming I make it to the finish line of Ragnar Vegas, I'll also earn the Saints and Sinners Medal because I will have done Ragnar Wasatch Back and Ragnar Vegas in the same calendar year!  But, the most exciting part of all is that I'll be doing this with my daddy!!  He's going to fly out to Vegas for the weekend and participate in his first Ragnar Relay!!!!!  It is going to be a blast =)

Okay, now for decision time....  
All of the these sound soooo fun!  How am I supposed to choose?

#3 :: RTC Viva Bike Vegas 18-mile ride - 9/21/2013 - $125 (ouch!)
So, I've never done an organized road ride (except for the ride portion of the Amica 19.7 Triathlon), but I'm intrigued by this one because the first part of the ride goes down the Las Vegas Strip.  Doesn't that sound neat?
However, the price is steep (and the price doesn't include the cost of a cycling jersey, which I'd probably convince myself I needed).  Is it worth it?  I don't know....  Help!!

#4 :: TriRock San Diego Spring Triathlon - 9/22/2013 - $130 (yikes!)
I had such a blast at my first tri that I immediately began searching for others.  This was one that I keyed in on because San Diego is a relatively easy drive and I have friends with whom I can stay in San Diego.
That being said, the registration is not exactly cheap and is the day after the Viva Bike Vegas...not ideal, but not completely undoable (probably ill-advised, but that hasn't stopped me before)....

#5 :: Slam the Dam 1.2 mile Open Water Swim - 10/5/2013 - $60
Seriously, swimming is my jam....takes me back to so many happy memories of swimming competitively from the time I was 8 through my senior year in college.  As with cycling, open water swimming is something I haven't done often, or at all until the Amica Triathlon......but, I *really* love it.

This one sounds just awesome.  It isn't crazy expensive and maybe, just maybe, I have a small chance of least in my age group, which would be pretty groovy.

#6 :: IronGirl Sprint Triathlon - 10/26/2013 - $95
Finally, this one.  I've all but decided that I will absolutely sign up for this one.
However, since I'm not yet signed up for it, I figured I should include it in the list of maybes.

Okay.  Now, here's where you come in....If you were me, which of these would you sign up for?  All?  One?  Somewhere in between?


Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Second Thursday 30-30-30 Post (Thirty-Things Thirty-Weeks Thirty-Years-Old)

Well, it is Thursday once again...and so far, two weeks in, I'm sticking with this 30 Things - 30 Weeks - 30 Years Old weekly post.  
Before I get to this week's post, I just have to comment on how awesome the weather was last night!  
Vegas unexpectedly got a late afternoon rain shower that majorly cooled things down here in the valley.  It was 77 degrees as I was driving home.  True, it was humid (for Vegas anyway), but I took advantage of the weather and really enjoyed the heck out of a 4 mile run outside!  It wasn't super fast, but I negative splitted it, so that's a win.

Okay.  Now, to the matter at hand.  

It has been a lot of fun brainstorming new things that I want to try out and accomplish before hitting the big 3-0.  Also, I'm still soliciting suggestions =)
Many of you may remember that I somewhat recently did a triathlon with little/zero preparation other than running.  It was so fun that I vowed to eventually train for and actually try to be competitive in another triathlon.  A later purchased a fancy road bike from craigslist.  However, I've only done minimal biking and really didn't know what I was doing.  Well, I set out to remedy that.  I started by meeting a friend for a 12 mile ride and during that ride, he advised me on some items that I'd want to have with me when I go for longer rides.

Thus, as soon as we finished our 12 miles, I headed straight for one of many mother ships:  REI.  The first item I wanted to pick up was a second water bottle holder.  I had one already, but my bike frame clearly had a spot to install a second.  And, here in Vegas (home of the hottest summers on the planet - ok, that's not true) it never hurts to have a second source of hydration.
The new bottle cage was somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.
I'm sure I could have installed it myself (even though I'm terrible with tools), but the nice people of REI were so kind to go ahead and install it for me.
Now, I knew that I needed to start carrying some replacement and repair products.  So, the next crucial item on my shopping list was a bike bag to hold said repair products.  Now, I envisioned one that would fit under the back of my seat.  However, the people of REI pointed out and recommended this bag that fits on the frame behind the handlebars.  I especially liked this bag because of the top pocket with the clear window so I can see my phone screen!  (Heaven forbid I go for a 1-hour ride and not be able to see who is text messaging me or what MapMyRide has to say about my current ride)
This one was approximately $35.
The next step was a bit of an unknown to me and is the main purpose of this post.  I knew that I needed to have certain items with me when I went on long rides.  Unfortunately, I was pretty clueless as to what said "certain items" included....  Fortunately for me, I can easily head on over to my neighborhood REI.  If, however, I was still living in some of the more rural places I've lived (yes, mom, I just sort of called my home town "rural"), such friendly, helpful, knowledgeable people may not be as accessible.  So, these are the things that the kind REI fold recommended to have with me on my rides:
  1. CO2 cartridges to help inflate a tire, whether you've replaced the tube completely or just re-inflating after applying a patch.  Alternatively (and more environmentally friendly), you can purchase a hand pump that attaches to your frame.  I considered that.  Although the hand pump is certainly more cost-effective in the long run, the CO2 required less outlay of cash up front, so I went that way.
  2. Park Tools & Patches.  Now, I have to be honest, I haven't tried to change a bike tire (or a car tire for that matter).  I know generally how to take my wheels off and I'm hoping that I can just figure it out if it comes to it.  Lucky for me, there are directions on the back of this package.  You better believe that I cut that out and put it in the bag...just in case.
  3. Spare Tube.  Pretty self explanatory.  If I get a flat that is not patchable, it seems like a good idea to have a spare tube to replace the flat.
  4. Valve Adapters.  This allows me to rei-nflate my tires using the air compressors found at gas stations.
After compiling these items, I put them all in my handy bike bag.  There is still plenty of space for keys or some sort of fuel.

In addition to the pictured items, I bought a pump to have at home so I can do a better job of keeping my tires inflated.  Apparently, they were crazy low when I got to REI.  Lucky for me, my friends at REI hooked me up with some air.  I should take a picture of my pump because it is awesome.  You hook it to the bike and pump and it has a built in pressure gauge!!  No pumping and checking and pumping and checking.  So user friendly!

Finally, my REI peeps also gave me a sweet map of the bike paths/roads in Southern Nevada for FREE!  Love that place.  The map is pretty great and it looks like it is distributed by the RTC.
I do still need to invest in a headlight and blinking taillight and I promise I'll get to that, but until then I'm just avoiding riding at or before dawn and at or after dusk.

Oh yeah, REI was having a sale and I decided that I this trip was not complete without an article of clothing to make me look like a *real* cyclist.  Obviously, I needed a cycling jersey!  This was actually a pretty phenomenal deal.  I think it was ~$41! 

Don't mind my handy-dandy nuun water bottle.  It is just there to accentuate the nifty back pockets that come standard on cycling jerseys. =)
In case you're wondering, I have no allegiance to REI other than my appreciation for their great service.  From the number of times this posts mentions the store, you'd think I was getting paid a chunk of money each time I said the name.  I assure you I don't.  I just trust that the people there are knowledgeable and they've never tried to upsell me, unless it was truly necessary.  In fact, they've been known to downsell me by talking me out of expensive purchases in favor of more reasonably priced ones.

Any cycling words of wisdom out there?