Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Paleo Friends and Family Challenge

If anyone wants to virtually join in, the 6-week Paleo Challenge is on. My mom, my daughter, hubby, and some friends are all joining in.

So far I've completed 6 weeks of Paleo myself, with only one real cheat day (yesterday went out for an awesome burger and chocolate malt with birthday gal Carrie).

Results so far for me:  11.5 pounds GONE, also down 3.5 % body fat so I have been losing fat, not muscle. Just had to pile up a whole ton of clothes that no longer fit to give away to Goodwill.

The rules are simple:

1) Think about what a paleolithic hunter-gatherer would eat
2) Eat that

Okay, so maybe it isn't that simple to eat like a caveman in modern times. So here's some basic guidelines:

1) Every meal consists of meat or fish + 1/4 to 1/2 pound of vegetables (yes, you heard me right!)
2) No legumes, potatoes, rice, grains (yes this means no PB&J sandwiches, no soy, no peanuts, bread, pasta, etc.). Tree nuts are fine.
3) Fruits and starchy veggies like yams, squash, sweet potatoes only after a workout, and only in moderation.
4) Strict paleo is no dairy. Okay, I do cheat on this one since we drink raw milk and I think it's a great protein source. You can decide for yourself on this one. For sure no sugary yogurts or highly processed cheese food substances.
5) No sugar
6) Limit of 4 alcoholic drinks a week (not all in one day!) Red or white wine is fine, no beer. Yes, beer is made from grain.

I think that's it. It's a good idea to take some "Before" photos and measurements, as well as weight and body fat. If you've recently had blood work done (cholesterol, etc.) that's another good point for comparison later. You don't have to share this info with anyone, but if you want to later that's good too!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Swim Workout: The Noose

First of all, I'm happy to say that I have some swimmers who keep track of pesky little details like the yardage totals in my workouts. I accidentally almost gave my swimmers a 2600 yard warmup set! An accountant in Lane 3 is a good thing to have. Let's just say I'm not a morning person. I write up my workouts at night, but in the a.m. when I'm standing in front of the whiteboard trying to translate my notes to action, sometimes things get muddled.

I think maybe this is why I love Winnie the Pooh so very much, I should just always wear t-shirts with Pooh quotes on them, and then that would explain my state of mind precisely. Like maybe this one:

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

-- Winnie the Pooh

That could probably sum up quite a few of my blog posts as well. So if things don't seem very Thingish, just Bear with me (ha ha).

The main set of this workout I borrowed from the fabulous folks at Go Swim.TV, a website with a treasure trove of videos, techniques, drills, and workouts. I was looking specifically for something we could do now that we're 2 weeks out from the big swim meet to keep us sharp without pulverizing my swimmers in yardage. As it turns out, this is quite a challenging main set. As I was swimming struggling through it, I first thought it should be called "Frog in a Pot" because of the old adage that a frog won't jump out of a pot of boiling water if you turn up the heat gradually enough. Then I thought maybe it should be called the "Theory of Relativity Set" because the intervals that seemed tough in the early stages of the set (like the :50), then looked blessedly long by the time you get to the really tough stuff at the end. But I think maybe "The Noose" sums it up because it just keeps getting tighter and tighter around you the whole time. It's a good one, definitely one to keep in your repertoire for a challenging day!

Warm Up

4 x (25 head-up crawl + 25 head up halfway down lane)
4 x (25 head-up crawl + 25 head up halfway down lane)

3 x 100 Pull, Desc.


Main Set

5 X 50 on 1:05 swim (or 4 X 50 on 1:15)
5 X 50 on :55 swim (or 4 X 50 on 1:05)
5 X 50 on 1:00 swim (or 4 X 50 on 1:10)
5 X 50 on :50 swim (or 4 X 50 on 1:00)
5 X 50 on :55 swim (or 4 X 50 on 1:05)
5 X 50 on :45 swim (or 4 X 50 on :55)
5 X 50 on :55 swim (or 4 X 50 on 1:00)
Rest break of no more than 1 minute
5 X 50 on :40 swim (or 4 X 50 on :50).

3300 or 2900

100 EZ, 100 Med

4 x 25 Flip & Glide
4 x 25 to Wall hard finish

200 EZ

Total Yardage: 3900

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pemmican: Maybe I'll Try That Next

Now that I've mastered the powerbar, I might have to turn my hand to something even more primal: pemmican. I just have to wrap my head around things like rendering lard first!

But wait, I also found a recipe on Epicurious that substitutes crumbled bacon for mixing in rendered beef fat. That sounds a lot easier. I love the fact that they included a wine pairing recommendation at the bottom of the recipe!

Which reminds me, I think I need to get myself a copy of Sally Fallon's seminal nutritional bible/cookbook Nourishing Traditions. I've checked it out from the library a couple of times but there's always a long waiting list and really, with a cookbook it pays to keep one around.

I'm also in the middle of reading The Paleo Diet for Athletes, which I was surprised to find out was co-authored by Joe Friel, writer of The Triathletes Training Bible (which I also currently have checked out from the library, oh I love our public library!). Sadly, while the library had a copy of Loren Cordain's The Paleo Diet, they didn't have the one for athletes so I went and picked up a copy of that one for myself. What I was really wondering about was what kind of paleo-style carbs to use to fuel my endurance training, and the timing of eating them. I'm still only on the introduction (got it yesterday) but it looks like it's going to be a good resource. I'll post a review when I'm done with it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pretty Paleo Protein Power

I've been looking for a decent homemade alternative to those soy-protein isolate protein bars that fuel most athletes, and given my current eating habits, the more paleo the better for me.

I call these "Carrie Bars" in honor of my friend Carrie who gave me the recipe. She's my cooking mentor, always coming up with new and cool foods, always nutritious and fun. Seriously, she made Ratatouille the other night that was so good my teenager asked for seconds and then asked for the recipe!

To me, these bars still taste too sweet, so I'm experimenting with how much honey I can cut out and still have the bars hold together. I already cut the added sugar out of the recipe, but I think maybe the honey can be decreased still more. I also added the coconut, Chia seeds and hemp seeds, because those are nutritional powerhouses, and removed the rolled oats (1/2C) and the puffed grain cereal (1/2 C) that were in the original recipe. I have to admit, the original ones tasted better with the cereal, it made them lighter and crunchier, but I'm trying to stay away from grains right now and the kids love these the way they are so it's all good.

I usually quadruple the recipe, but that's because my kids love to pack these along whenever they need a quick snack, and hubby has turned into a mountain biking monster and so he needs lots of easily available fuel as well.

Carrie Bars

1/2 C. Slivered almonds
1/2 C. Sunflower seeds (raw, unsalted)
2 T. Flax seeds
2 T. Chia seeds
2 T. Sesame seeds
2 T. Hemp seeds
2 T. Shredded coconut

Combine all of these and spread in a large glass baking dish or edged baking sheet. Toast for 5 minutes at 350 degrees, stir and toast for 5 more minutes until the nuts are aromatic and slightly browned.

Dump into a large mixing bowl and stir in:

2/3 C. Raisins or dried cranberries
2/3 C. Dried currants
2/3 C. Dried chopped apricots

Then in a saucepan over med-low heat, combine:
1/2 C. Almond Butter
1/2 C. Honey
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt

Stir well until lightly bubbling. Remove from heat and immediately pour over nut mixture, stir until blended. Press into well-greased pans and chill to set. Yummm!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Sugar Hangover

Wow, stop eating almost anything sweet other than fruit and all of a sudden you can taste the sweetness in ordinary things. Who knew that almonds were so sweet, and that a carrot could taste like an apple?? Then if you actually eat what would be an ordinary amount of sugar for most folks (a small slice of cake), you can FEEL what it's doing to your body. Last night at my writer's group I ate some fantastic gluten-free chocolate cake made with coconut flour and coconut oil in the frosting. The hostess also went out of her way to make it low glycemic since we have diabetic members, so it probably wasn't even nearly as sugary as a regular cake. To me though, after over a month of eating paleo, it tasted immensely sweet. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating a slice. You see, I have basically no willpower. As long as I keep stuff like that out of the house, I'm fine. But confront me with a piece of chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling and maple-pecan icing? Fugeddaboudit.

Today however, I paid the price with a walloping sugar hangover. Seriously, it feels like I went on a complete bender last night. It's weird how your body can become so accustomed to ingesting this much sugar that you don't feel it at all, but now that I've gone cold turkey it's like I can feel the toxic effects crawling through my veins. I'd like to think that this sensation will help me avoid eating the next piece of chocolate ganache that stares me in the face. I can't imagine wanting to feel this way again anytime soon.

In the meantime, my latest body fat measurement was 17.8%, the lowest I've been since training for the Ironman, so the paleo eating plan must be doing something right!

If you are interested in an excellent, concise, and very understandable summation of sugar, insulin, fat storage, etc. check out Mark's article The Definitive Guide to Insulin, Blood Sugar & Type 2 Diabetes (and you’ll understand it)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Barefoot Running: Easy Does It

This post was suggested by my friend Carrie, who is new to barefoot running and just got a pair of Vibram FiveFingers. Her running form is already pretty darned good and she's been running in the Nike Frees, but even so a 3-miler in the Fiverfingers left her with some sore calves and a bit of soreness in the feet. The thing is, when you run barefoot or in barefoot-style shoes, your feet act differently than they do in even the most "free" of full-coverage shoes. One thing I've noticed about running barefoot is that my toes splay out and actually grip and push off of the ground individually. Really, this is kind of cool, and the sort of thing that tells me that what my foot does in a shoe is radically different than what it does without them.

When I first started doing some barefoot running and then using the Fivefingers, I took it extremely easy. I would take my regular shoes along and run barefoot in the grass for short times and then switch back to wearing shoes. Eventually I could run longer and longer barefoot and spent less time in the shoes. When I got the Fivefingers and transitioned to running on harder surfaces, I again took it very easy and kept the distances short at first, working up to longer and longer runs. Now I can do 9 - 10 miles in the Fivefingers and am hopeful that eventually I can even do marathon or ultra distance runs in them. I've actually gotten to the point where I hate running in my regular running shoes anymore, I can feel how they make my running style less efficient.

Here's a good article with some guidelines to easing into barefoot running, from the Living Barefoot site.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not Catching the Drift

Here's a great drill to focus your attention on a high-elbow catch, something that brings you a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to propulsion in swimming. One thing I've noticed in watching most swimmers is that they allow their gliding arm to slowly drift toward the bottom of the pool before their catch. Not only does this add drag and reduce your glide, it also reduces the amount of useful water that you can catch and move behind you. So it's a double-whammy of less glide and less propulsion every time you let your arm drift down. Use this drill and get rid of the drift, you'll see your speed improve!

Here's the rest of Saturday's Master's workout. Whew! I was happy to see my 100 times for the fast ones hover in the range of 1:15 - 1:16, with the fastest being 1:12. That's a 5-second improvement over last week, meaning the arm is still on the upward curve of getting better. This is a workout meant to focus our intensity for our upcoming Master's Association Championships meet in a few weeks. The 2:00 interval allowed everyone in the pool to swim together, which was fun, especially since we had a full house with 4 - 5 people in every lane.

Skill: High Elbow
Drill: Catch-Up Catch – keep elbow on surface of water

Warm Up

300 Swim, alternate free/non-free by 25s
6 x 25 Drill
200 Kick, alt. free/non-free by 25
6 x 25 Drill

4 x 75 Cruise, hard, cruise with good turns

Main Set

21 x 100 @ 2:00

#3, 6 fast
#9, 12 faster
#15, 18 faster still
#21 all out

Other than the fast 100s, the rest are swimmers choice, you can swim other strokes, cruise, or do drills, pulls, or kicking.

100 EZ
6 x 25 Drill
2 x (75 Pull, 75 Kick, 75 Swim, 75 Pull)

100 EZ

Total Yardage: 4150

Friday, March 19, 2010

Nervous Nellie Rides Again

My bike and I are like two halves of a titanium/human fusion that were separated at birth. Normally, that is. Now we've been apart for two months while my arm recuperated, and just today we've been reunited again. The scene was set, the sun was out, the bike path beckoned... and I've lost my cycling nerve. I felt like a six-year-old whose mom had just let go of the back of the seat and has discovered they're now pedaling on their own. Every little thing on my two-wheeled journey appeared as a gigantic hazard, from little Fifi on her extendo-leash coming perilously close to my wheels to the bits of gravel on the path to the lady who scatters cracked corn for the ducks on her back porch, enticing them to a dangerous bike path crossing to the homeless people in the underpass who could at any moment swerve into my way. I wanted a jersey with foot-tall neon letters saying to all "STAY AWAY FROM ME". Whoa, talk about your Nervous Nellie. I am definitely afraid of tipping over, which makes me a far worse cyclist than when I didn't think about it much.

It has definitely reminded me of what it's like to be a newer cyclist, my tires haven't felt this teeny and skinny and barely-balanced in decades. I put my foot down at every stoplight, braked at every corner, and gave everything a wide berth. I know the comfort level will come back, and for today I was just more than grateful to be out there on the bike, especially with that almost-spring sunshine bearing down. The wetlands are full of birds right now and the bike path meanders through them with the sounds of meadowlarks, kingfishers, and red-wing blackbirds all around. So I got a great big happy smile on my face to go with my now sore back, neck, and quads!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

So Close To Normal, Yet So Far For Swimming

I've never had physical therapy before, but after just one visit and doing the exercises this week my arm is feeling better than ever. For most things, it's very close to normal and I can even pick up a bag of groceries, open a door, or unscrew a jar.

For swimming of course, any deviation from normal is so darn noticeable. I think it really speaks to the importance of perfect form in swimming because really my arm is so close to being able to straighten that you wouldn't notice it in every day use. But in the pool, those slight milimeters of not-quite-straight make a HUGE difference in my swimming stroke. This tells you that if you're not getting your arms straight during the glide phase of your swimming stroke, you're doing yourself a huge disservice.

There are only two things my arm can't do quite correctly in the stroke. The first is be completely straight in front of me while gliding, and that alone cuts down on my speed when I stroke with the left arm. I can literally feel the glide go away with every other stroke. The second thing it can't do is to keep the high elbow on the catch and that makes a huge difference in the amount of propulsion that my left side can produce. These two things together point out in my mind the importance of good form, good flexibility, and keeping the elbow high in the catch.

As my arm gains flexibility, my speed is gradually coming back. Two weeks ago I couldn't break 1:30 for my average 100 pace. This last Saturday I hit 1:23 in my 300s, 1:21 in my 200s and 1:17 in the 100s. That's a huge difference in about ten days, and it's all due to flexibility and form, not any kind of conditioning. So if you're reading this with an eye to improving your swim times, you might think about doing some drills and working on straightening out your gliding arm, and keeping that elbow high on the catch! It might make a huge difference for you too.

Other than swimming, my bike riding is still probably the most impacted of all of my sports. Because of the way your weight rests on your elbows on aerobars, I can't ride my tri bike yet outside. I can do it on the trainer as long as I have a pillow under my bad arm. In karate, I'm still limited to doing kata (forms) and no contact, but at least I can still practice that regularly. All in all, everything is slowly coming back, and at six weeks after the break, I have a lot more range of motion and strength than I had hoped for.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Paleo Report Card

So I think I've hinted at this somewhere along the line, but for the last month I have "gone Paleo" in my eating habits, (mostly) only consuming things that a paleolithic person would ingest. Of course, a paleolithic person wouldn't be able to eat a fresh mango in February, but I have definitely allowed myself the luxury of not keeping to strictly seasonal eating in the bargain (which in my climate would mean a vegetative diet of kale, and well kale at this time of year). That being said, the environmental wacko side of my personality has definitely tried to keep the out-of-season produce in check, and as always I endeavor to eat as locally as possible with non-local foods in the "treat" category. Fortunately, my corner market is very sustainability-oriented and they mark their meats, eggs, dairy, and produce so that you can tell which is local and which is not. In the local category for me: 85% of meat, 100% of eggs, 100% of milk (raw goat's), and at this time of year probably 30% of produce (closer to 100% in summer as I try to eat from our garden and the farmer's market).

For inspiration and information, I visit and read at:

And I was inspired to start by CrossfitPortland's Paleo Challenge at:

and by reading this article

I am especially trying to adhere to the Paleo Challenge's first couple of "commandments":

First, you must eat meat (fish is fine) at every meal.

This is a Paleo Challenge, which means you are consuming “meat and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit little starch and no sugar.” We will not accept Tofu or any other soy product, beans and rice, or dairy as a protein source for this challenge.

“Eat meat that once had a face and a soul” – Robb Wolf

Second, you must consume vegetables.

You don’t have to like them, but you must eat them, ¼ to ½ pound per meal.

So there's what I've been doing in a nutshell, now how has it worked out so far? It's been one month to the day today. In weeks two and three I felt pretty crappy and I noticed that my harder workouts (anything over Z2 - Z3) left me feeling like I was almost immediately bonking. No carbohydrates stored up, so that wasn't surprising. This is the point at which I've stopped before when I tried to eat paleo. But reading that article convinced me this time around to give it a longer go, especially the parts where they discuss historic occasions on which people have switched from carb-based to more paleolithic diets. For instance, the article quotes Lt. Frederick Schwatka about the 1879–80 arctic expedition sponsored by the New York Herald and the American Geographical Society:

(The expedition) departed from the west coast of Hudson's Bay in April of 1879 with 4 Caucasians, 3 families of Inuits, and 3 heavily laden dog sleds. Totaling 18 people, they started out with a month's supply of food (mostly walrus blubber) and a prodigious supply of ammunition for their hunting rifles. After covering over 3000 miles on foot over ice, snow and tundra, all 18 members of the original party plus their 44 dogs returned to Hudson's Bay in March of 1880. Once their initial provisions were depleted, the expedition's only source of additional food was hunting and fishing, as there were no other sources of supply along their route.

In one notation, Schwatka provides an interesting insight into his weaning from their initial supply of carbohydrate-containing food.

"When first thrown wholly upon a diet of reindeer meat, it seems inadequate to properly nourish the system, and there is an apparent weakness and inability to perform severe exertive fatiguing journeys. But this soon passes away in the course of two or three weeks."

For me, the three week point was the turning point as well, and for the last 10 or so days I've been feeling better and better in my workouts despite the lack of what most triathletes exist on: massive amounts of carbs.

So now down to the nitty gritty: how has it affected my body composition? So far, in the one month of the Paleo challenge, I've lost nine pounds and 2.5 % body fat. That's kind of astonishing to me since at the level of general fitness I'm at I've found it extremely hard to effect any kind of large-scale change on my body. Especially with the complications of only having half a thyroid gland and being on mandatory thyroid medication, metabolism and weight are constant issues for me. So, the report card on Paleo so far is an A+. The weight loss has really leveled off to about a pound a week in the last two weeks, so I don't think I'll be dropping meteorically from here on out, and I always have the option to add in more calorie-dense foods like nuts if I feel like I'm going below where I should be at. I will also have to keep a close eye on how I feel as I begin to enter a more competitive end of my season, and I have to figure out what my racing nutrition strategy should be as well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

An Apple A Day Keeps Fitness Boredom At Bay

There are very few websites out there in the sports world that really resonate with everything I'm aiming for in health and fitness. I want to eat very nutritiously, have a healthy level of body fat (not high, but not anorexically low), and I want my body to be able to do a wide variety of things: have reasonable strength, speed, dexterity, endurance, and the ability to do what I want it to do more or less on the spur of the moment (wanna go climb a mountain this weekend? play a game of sand doubles volleyball? attend a serious martial arts seminar? yes!).

Most triathlon websites are too endurance-focused. There you'll find people worrying about trading off strength and muscle tone for the few extra pounds on their frame. That's great if you're going to be a world champion in your sport, but for the age group athlete, I don't think it's a good trade-off in the long-term health and fitness sense. You'll read about overcoming achilles problems, knee problems, plantar fasciitis, and other endurance-based overtraining injuries. I'd rather not get these injuries to start with. So while I do find a lot of great training info, fun people, and support in the triathlon world, I can't depend on it for a well-rounded approach.

Way over on the other end of the spectrum is the Crossfit camp, along with P90X and other bootcamp-style workouts, and Crossfit Endurance. Stressing high intensity,short duration workouts, practitioners of these systems have no problem crowing about "drinking the koolaid" and to tell the truth often become cultish in their devotion to the system itself. My problem again is the lack of balance. These approaches are lacking in an ability to develop true endurance, as largely lackluster performance in endurance-based events by participants shows. Even at the Crossfit Games, the event that supposedly crowns the "World's Fittest Man and Woman", the events are mostly over in minutes, with about an hour being the maximum. So endurance clearly doesn't enter into their equation for "World's Fittest".

For myself, I like to take a little bit of everything and mix it up. Some Crossfit, some endurance, some martial arts, some play. In eating, I'm largely Paleo-based right now, sticking to foods that are whole in nature with no grains at all.

So where can an athlete go for a balanced look at what it takes to be truly fit without running 30 miles a week or subjecting yourself to five or six days a week of high intensity pain fests? Where can you get good balanced nutritional advice that is not a quick-fix fad, and talks about feeding the body with real healthy food (not bars, gels, and drink mixes?). I'm finding that Mark's Daily Apple is providing me with consistent food for thought in the areas of moving the body in varied and healthy ways, building a strong core set of muscles without endless situps and crunches, and eating in a natural "primal" human manner. Dubbing his approach "Primal Living", he is the most balanced viewpoint I've found, not to mention non-faddish and well-researched. Go check it out, and I think you'll find that Mark's Daily Apple provides plenty of food for thought!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Little Detour

It's not very sports related but... my daughter opened as Annie in the musical this last weekend to sold out audiences. Looks like this weekend will be sold out as well. I am so in awe of the things she can do, things she was born to do. I wrote in her baby journal at 6 months old that she didn't babble, she sang. She did these little "baby arias" up and down the scale. Well, now she sings for real, and beautifully too, and acts. She has worked so hard, memorizing lines, songs, dances, stage action, I am very proud for all she, and the rest of the hard-working cast has accomplished! More than a few Ironmom tears shed in the audience on Saturday night.

Here's a little non-profit plug from me. I try to refrain from doing this sort of thing, but I can't right now. The theatre group that has been putting on Annie is a non-profit, dedicated to bringing arts, dance, theatre to all kids. They are in the running for a Pepsi "Refresh Everything" grant of $25,000. This would be a HUGE amount of money for them, allowing them to purchase microphones, curtains, and revamp the theatre to add a new entrance. They are a terrific organization run by some very dedicated people who spend their lives giving to kids and the community. If you have a minute, click on this link and vote for their project on Pepsi's site. The top 10 get funded , and they've gone from #102 to #58 this week alone.

Click HERE to vote, daily if you can!

And yes, if you've seen pics of my daughter before, we did dye her hair red for this one! Also, I just noticed in that photo that she has the trademarked enormous Ironmom feet. No wonder she's already a swimmer, LOL.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Running As A Woman, Running Solo

I have to admit, I almost always run alone. I often run on trails. I often run in isolated places. As a woman, I know there is always some inherent risk in doing this. I've been assaulted before (though not when running) and I'm not ignorant of the potential dangers. It's just that I refuse to live my life in a locked room, afraid of stepping foot on those trails. And the times I have on the trail are often pure bliss, I'm unwilling to give that up or even at times to sully my alone time with a running partner. Frequently, I enjoy running with friends, but not always. Sometimes I cherish my time in solitude.

So this article about the disappearance of 17 year old Cross-country runner Chelsea King brings the dangers back to the forefront of one's mind. It's important to look those dangers in the eye and think hard about what your response should be. I like the attitude of the author of the article, summed up as:

If a woman goes for a lone run, she must be a warrior, too.

Sometimes in my martial arts training, I'm so focused on the technique, on the moment, on the hand position or keeping my knee over my toe that I forget what I'm really doing. I'm training to be a warrior. And being a warrior is more than just knowing Elbow Techniques 1 - 20 and the kata Kyoku Godan. It's about awareness, about not blunting your senses with iPods or Bluetooth, it's about eyes and ears and a willingness to use your vocal chords, teeth, fingernails, and car keys as weapons. It's about carrying pepper spray in one hand and a cell phone in the other, even as you lose yourself in the bliss of running through an empty forest.

Sometimes I think that the best thing that martial arts does for girls and women is simply to teach them to kiai. The hokey "hi-yah!" in old martial arts films is more than a dubbed-in sound effect. Time after time I see new women and girls in the dojo give their first tentative breathy kiais, barely audible. Why are we women so afraid to make a strong noise? By black belt, they have transformed to warriors, unashamed to offer up a battle cry as they're throwing a punch or kick. When you have your voice, you have your power. If we can't simply yell, how we can we expect ourselves to fight back?

My heart goes out to young runner Chelsea King and her family. If her death accomplishes nothing else, let it remind you not to leave your cell phone in your car (where hers was found) when you go running. Even the day I broke my arm, I had not taken my phone running with me (not wanting to try and juggle both dogs and a hand full of phone), so that I had no way to call anyone to come pick me up and I had to walk home with the dogs in one hand and the other arm broken. Not fun!

Yesterday I went for a beautiful trail run, through the woods, alone. While there are never any guarantees that something terrible can't befall you, you can at least guarantee yourself the ability to sense it coming, and to fight back with all of your power.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Shoe Review: Vibram Five Fingers KSO

It's been a few weeks since my sweetie gave me a pair of these babies for Valentine's Day, so I thought I'd let you know how they've checked out. I've been running in the regular Vibram Five Fingers since 2007, so you know I'm already a fan. About a year before I got my original pair, I found the book Chi Running and started following the techniques in that book for a more natural running style with no heel strike, so the Five Fingers fit right in to how I wanted to be running. Since then, I've really enjoyed using these shoes, but my one complaint with them was that since I do a lot of running on our beautiful bark running trails, I was always getting little bark chips and splinters in the shoes, which would necessitate taking them off, shaking them out, and putting them back on again. The Five Fingers aren't the easiest shoes to get on or off, especially while standing on one foot on a running trail, so this was a more or less constant hassle on my trail runs.

The Five Fingers KSO (which stands for "Keeps Stuff Out") neatly solve this very problem, and I am so happy with my new shoes! Today I ran about 10 miles, including 4 miles on concrete sidewalks, 3.5 miles on bark trail, and the remainder on graveled hiking trails occasionally punctuated by big mud bogs. The shoes performed admirably, and my legs and feet are now so accustomed to running with no cushy padding underfoot and my foot strike is relatively flat, so that I can run 4 - 6 miles on concrete with no foot or leg discomfort.

One of the things I like the most about the Five Fingers is that even when they're wet or muddy, they're not uncomfortable like you would be if you ran through a mud bog in regular running shoes and socks. Even after several miles in my mud-encrusted shoes, I had no hot spots or blisters at all. This makes them terrific for trail running. The only down side to these shoes for me is that on the graveled trails, you have to be constantly vigilant to avoid big chunks of gravel, because the shoes do not have enough thickness or stiffness of sole to prevent a big bruising to the foot from stepping on a rock. This makes trail runs a little less fun for me since I find my attention has to be glued to the ground. The bark trails and dirt trails are a breeze though, so it entirely depends on the surface that you're on.

Bottom line: Da Bomb for natural barefoot-style running, even better than the originals!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Apologies To Those of You Still in Winter

I actually got a little flushed today while running in shorts and a t-shirt. Yeah, the climate change deniers might be having a field day with the Snowpocalypse in the NE, but here in the not-so-chilly PacNW, it's been spring since early February. My forsythia was blooming before Valentine's day, and now all the fruit trees are in full bloom and there's an unmistakeable warmth in the air.

Today when I was running, I was thinking about how when you get outside all year long, you really feel the seasons. Not just in an "OMG, it's so freezing as I dash to my car across this parking lot" kind of way, but in a whole body way. You know the difference between a snappy cold and a wet damp kind of cold, between a slightly warm evening and the kind where the heat coming off of the asphalt is still baking your feet an hour after the sun goes down. You really LIVE in the weather. Today it was warm enough that I could smell the weeds growing by the edge of the river, that particularly watery marshy smell that the weeds don't have anywhere else in town. I think if you picked me up blindfolded and dropped me somewhere in town, I could probably locate myself by the smell alone. All of your senses come alive when you run outside year round, during the mornings, the mid-day, the late evenings, sometimes at night. This is one gift that running has brought into my life.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Sandwich Swim

Here's Saturday's Masters workout:

Skill: Early Catch
Drill: Shoulder-Catch

You can see this drill in action here

Warm Up

2 X (100 Swim, 100 Kick, 100 Pull
100: Cheek-to-shoulder
6 x 25: Shoulder-Catch: Start your pull prior to allowing your shoulder to break contact with your cheek)

4 X 75 Powerup: Keep early catch

Main Set

6 x 150 stroke sandwich (50 free, 50 stroke IM order, 50 free) @ 2:30

8 x 75 Kick Sandwich 25 Swim EZ, 25 Kick Moderate, 25 Swim Fast @ 1:30

4 x 100 Dolphin Sandwich: Underwater Dolphin 12 yards, sprint to end of pool, Moderate 50, Underwater Dolphin 12 yards then sprint to end @ 2:00

3 x 200 Pull Sandwich 50 Swim, 100 Pull, 50 Swim: Hold your lowest Stroke Count throughout

100 EZ

Total Yardage: 4000