Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Letter 2011

A little narcissistic look into our year...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Things (Winter Running)

It's getting close to Christmas time, and gift-giving time.  Around this time of year I'm thankful for my winter running gear.  It wasn't all that long ago when I wouldn't run outside if the temp was below 50F.  In the past few years, I've come to enjoy the sunny winter days.  But, without the right gear, even the sunny days are miserable.

A few of my favorite winter running gear...

  • If it's above 40F and not too windy, any one of my several race swag hats will do just fine.
  • If the wind is a bit gusty, or it's closer to freezing temps, I like to keep my ears warm, but let out the heat up top.  Ear wraps work perfect, but most interfere with my ponytail.  I found the perfect solution at Athleta, their Base Miles Headband.
  • When the temps drop below freezing, but not cold enough for the full face cover, Athelta's Base Miles Beanie is my go-to item.  I also have a version from luluemon, but can't find it on their website.  Hopefully they still stock them at the stores.
  • There are many winter days in Iowa that require the face to be covered to avoid frostbite.  Most people wear a balaclava under their hat.  Not the most attractive, but will do the job.  However, I was able to blend fashion with function by using a Seirus Quick Draw hat.  Mine are from Dick's Sporting Goods, but I don't see them on their site any longer.  I did find my pink version at Bob Wards' Website


  • It has to be below freezing before I even bother with gloves.  My hands might be a little chilly at first, but once my blood start flowing, they pinken back up.
  • Between 20-30 F, just a little hand covering is needed.  The cheap (3 pair for $5 or so) department store gloves work just fine.  
  • Between 10-20 F I break out my favorite running gloves, the Saucony Ulti Mitt.  They were a christmas gift a few years ago and are the swiss army knife of gloves!  I have the older version, which seems to just have a different lights with it.  A review of my version is here.  My favorite part about the gloves/mittens is that I can start with the mitten covering, and when my hands warm up I just tuck the covering into itself.
  • About the time I get out the Seirus hat, I also keep my hands warmer.  My Kombi mittens that I picked up at Active Endeavors in Iowa City are perfect.  Unfortunately, the style I have, Britney II Mitt, is no longer available.  They are the best of both worlds for mittens vs gloves.  They look like a mitten, but inside there is a compartment for each finger like a glove.  


  • It doesn't take long before I need a little extra covering up top. My go-to running shirt is the Nike Pro Hyperwarm top.  The mock neck keeps my neck and upper chest warm.  With the sleeve holes, I can go to cooler temps without having to wear gloves.  I can tuck my fingers into the sleeves at the beginning of the run, and slowly let them out as I warm up.
  • When it's cold or rainy, my Pearl iZumi jacket, similar to their P.R.O. Barrier Lite Jacket, keeps the cold out and the warmth in.  It's extremely lightweight  at 80 grams, has a pocket, and is packable.


  • In fall and spring, capris running tights will work to near freezing temps.  As long as the rest of my body is warm, my legs can tolerate the cold.
  • When it's hovering around freezing, it's time to break out the running tights.  Any brand will do.  I have two pair that I rotate through.  The Reebok version has elastic at the bottom, and the Nike Tech Tights ones have zippers.  Although the zippers look a little more fashionable, they can sometimes eat into my heels.  The fabric also likes to slip down my legs.
  • On the REALLY cold days, my upper thighs get really cold.  To help alleviate it, I found that Jockey's Men's GO Mesh Midway Brief gives just enough extra covering.  Looks a little odd in the locker room, but worth the odd stares. 


  • I've never had problems running in my standard Zoot Advantage training shoes and Wright CoolMesh socks.  My feet stay warm enough for even the coldest runs.
  • When footing becomes an issues, screw shoes are a must-have item.  They are perfect for the thin layer of morning frost, or ice after a snow thaw.
  • Snow is another issue we have to deal with in Iowa.  Screw shoes can't always provide the traction I need, so I don the Yaktrax Pro's that I purchase from our local outdoor store, Fin & Feather.  They work best on packed snow.
  • If the snow is deep enough and the city trails haven't been cleared yet, I'll just strap on the cross country skis, and head out the door.  Or, if it's a nice weekend day, the Macbride Nature Recreation Area is a quick drive away.


  • The days are shorter, so there's much more running in the dark.  Two years ago on my christmas list were Road ID's Firefly Superova lights.  I clip one on to my Garmin Forerunner 310xt watch strap and another on to the back of my running top, and I barely even know they are there.  Depending on how the battery is installed, they either blink or shine steady.  Since they are LED, the battery lasts a LONG time.
  • Not necessarily a winter item, but my Tifosi sunglasses, similar to the Torrent style, have a nice winter-friendly feature to them.   Their greatness lies in the vent in the lens, which greatly reduces fogging.  They were purchased at Northtowne in Cedar Rapids, but they also are available at World of Bikes in Iowa City.

Each year I find something new.  What will it be this winter?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Evolution of our Patio

The major project of 2010 was the retaining wall for the garden.  For 2011, we added a patio.  The old 'patio' was not functional or worthy of the greatness of our new backyard.  It consisted of a 4x6 slab of concrete and pea gravel.  We also wanted to include a way to get from the deck to the patio without blocking too much light to the basement windows, or obstructing the view from the patio.

I had met Alex of Alex Schmidt Landscape Design while drinking wine at a downtown kitchen store.  We had interviewed him last year for our yard, but decided to wait until we were ready for the patio before hiring him.  The plans he came up with were prefect for our needs!

Being water conscious, we had a 1,000 gallon cistern installed under the patio, and have underlayment  under the patio that will hold another 1-2,000 gallons before running off into the yard or cistern.  To keep the water fresh, it needed to circulate, so a fountain was created with a large rock.  Wes was happy that he got his firepit.  For the staircase, we came up with the idea to purchase a spiral staircase kit.  Wood was added to the risers to tie in with the modified deck railings.  The old deck railings were pretty boring, so we swapped out the wood spindles with metal ones to tie back into the staircase.  A new, fancy greenhouse that we purchased from New Frontiers Home Furnishings sits on top of an addition to the patio that Wes and I built.

The patio was installed in July, but the finishing touches are still being worked on.  Thankfully we had great fall weather and were able to get a lot done over Thanksgiving!  Just a few more last-minute items before the spiral staircase can be inspected by the city.  Keeping our fingers crossed it goes well.

Merry Christmas to Me

On my to Ames this weekend, I swung by Kyle's Bikes in Ankeny, Iowa.  Best triathlon shop in the area by far!  Every time I go in there I fall in love all over again.  Thankfully I have just about everything I need, so I walked out with just a pair of new Zoot Advantage WR's.  Perfect timing, as all shoes were 25% off!  Gotta love the pre-holiday shopping deals!

My old pair, also purchased from Kyle's, was ready to be retired to the Zoot shoe graveyard.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Peregrine - Not my best idea

Earlier this summer I had received a free entry to the Peregrine Triathlon. The race was a mere two weeks after Ironman Wisconsin. Since the race would probably not sell out, I waited until the last minute to sign up, just incase I wasn't race ready after IMWI.

Peregrine pays out to the top 3 elite men and women for the olympic distance race. With one week to go before the race, only 2 elite women were registered. Why not race? My bike has still decked out with IMWI stickers, my running shoes were still packed, and I hadn't put on a swim suit, so I was as rested as I could be :) The day before the race I checked the registration roster, and I was registered with 3 other elites! I was going to have to work for the $ :(

To make it a little more fun of a weekend, we camped the night before the race with another post-IMWI racing friend, Ebe. Both Ebe and Wes had signed up for the sprint distance race.

The weather was cold, the water was cold, and my feet were frozen. Not ideal conditions, but everyone was in the same boat.

The swim wasn't too bad. My wetsuit kept me warm, and there wasn't much fighting with just 4 of us. I was third out of the water and hoped I could pass at least one on the bike and not get passed. I was successful! Unfortunately, this was my only success. Putting on my shoes in T2 was a difficult task, and I could no longer feel my feet as they hit the pavement on the run. My legs weren't feeling much better with leftover fatigue from Wisconsin. It wasn't long before I was passed, and passed again. I was in 4th (aka last) by the turnaround. I wasn't going to move up in the standings, and there was no one left to catch me, so I slowed down my pace and just casually ran to the finish.

Am I glad I went? Yes. Even though it didn't turn out as I would hoped, I had fun. And, Wes won the Clydesdale division along with a little bit of $.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Growth of our Garden

In February 2010 we moved into our new house. It was 4 years old, but had never been lived in. The subdivision is new and our house was the show home. We loved the inside of the house, but the outside was lacking. Neither of us are grass people, so we set out to remove as much as possible and replace with trees, bushes, flowers, and edible plants.

We interviewed a few landscapers and decided on our local nursery, Forever Green. The plans they made for us were exactly what we were looking for.

The first step was to spray paint the sod removal areas. Below would soon become our garden and orchard.

In the spring of 2010, the retaining wall were installed.

With just a few months left before snowfall, we were able to plant a few items and build a temporary greenhouse. We were really looking forward to 2011!

Our time was limited due to training for Ironman Wisconsin, but we made the best of the time we had. We planted a lot of veggies that we had never grown before.

A lot of learning took place this summer, but we were happy with our harvest.
Planning has already started for 2012!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ironman Wisconsin 2011 - First IM is Done!

It was a long, hard summer getting ready for this race. I finally felt like I had figured out the 70.3 distance, and was ready for the full thing. This is my first, and possibly only, full-distance triathlon, so I wanted it to be a good one.

My finish was captured for the Ironman Wisconsin video and can be viewed over and over and over again at timestamp 2:09...

Time Data:
I came up with estimates based on riding the course, swimming MOWS, looking up times for similar athletes that I know, and a hope to be under 11:30. Since this was my first IM, I didn’t want to make ‘goals’, but it was hard not to. I settled on 11:30 because I thought 11:15 would be impossible.

Bike Data
First Half:
Duration:  2:54:15 (2:54:19)
TSS:  124.8 (intensity factor 0.656)
Norm Power: 138
VI:  1.03
Distance:  56.918 mi
Min Max Avg
Power:  0 362 134  watts
Cadence:  46 150 90  rpm
Speed:  4.5 45.3 19.5  mph
Temperature:  66.2 87.8 73.8  Fahrenheit
Second Half:
Duration:  2:54:47 (2:55:09)
TSS:  126 (intensity factor 0.659)
Norm Power: 139
VI:  1.04
Distance:  56.462 mi
Min Max Avg
Power:  0 249 133  watts
Cadence:  38 191 89  rpm
Speed:  0 45.3 19.3  mph
Temperature:  75.2 91.4 83.5  Fahrenheit
Entire workout (134 watts):
Duration:  5:48:37 (5:49:03)
TSS:  250.4 (intensity factor 0.657)
Norm Power: 139
VI:  1.04
Distance:  113.242 mi
Elevation Gain:  4811 ft
Elevation Loss:  4628 ft
Min Max Avg
Power:  0 362 134  watts
Cadence:  38 191 89  rpm
Speed:  0 45.3 19.4  mph
Temperature:  66.2 91.4 78.7  Fahrenheit
Official Split Info


2.4 mi. (1:03:34)

BIKE SPLIT 1: 54 mi
54 mi (2:47:55)
19.30 mi/h

BIKE SPLIT 2: 94 mi
40 mi (2:12:47)
18.07 mi/h

BIKE SPLIT 3: 112 mi
18 mi (48:05)
22.46 mi/h

112 mi (5:48:47)
19.27 mi/h

RUN SPLIT 1: 8.9 mi
8.9 mi (1:21:49)

RUN SPLIT 2: 13.2 mi
4.3 mi (40:49)

RUN SPLIT 3: 21.95 mi
8.75 mi (1:23:46)

RUN SPLIT 4: 26.2 mi
4.25 mi (40:41)

26.2 mi (4:07:05)
On the week leading up to the race, I spent a lot of time reading through the Endurance Nation forums to find out what people were putting in their transition and special needs bags, what their race plans were, and anything else I could learn. I soaked up as much info as I could. This GREATLY reduced my stress, and made for a much smoother race. It helped so much, that after looking at the enhanced results for the non-professional women, I was the fastest in T1, 4th for T2, and fastest combined. I couldn’t have done it without the EN help!
We rented a house southeast of Madison for us and our families. The earliest we could ‘check in’ was 3pm on Friday, so we went to athlete registration first, stood in line for 1hr 45min, then headed to the house. After making a trip to the grocery store, we grilled up some burgers, socialized, and were in bed around 10pm. Unfortunately, we were not able to attend the EN meetups, and skipped the athlete briefing.
Pre-race photo op with the Wes, my aunts, and mom

Saturday morning we had breakfast then went to transition and bike drop off. We really enjoy the farmers market in downtown Madison, so walked around it with our families. Afterwards, we found a place for lunch and to watch the Iowa football game. We invited our friends over for dinner Saturday night, so when we got home, I made some side dishes and got things ready. For dinner I had grilled chicken and a variety of vegetables. The potluck was probably not the brightest idea, as I ate a good amount of food and food that I have never had previously. I was not doing the standard EN 2am breakfast, so I was okay with eating a bit more food. In all throughout the day, I was standing MUCH more then I would have liked.
I took a shower, applied sunscreen, and was in bed by 9:30pm, but I was wide awake from 11pm-12:30am. The alarm was set for 3:45am, so I didn’t get much sleep. For breakfast I had an egg on an English muffin with a slice of soy cheese, strawberries, and 3 cups of coffee with soy milk (~350 calories). I applied more sunscreen to get me through the day. We left for the race a little later than I had hoped, but ended up having just enough time to get ready.
At 5:30am we arrived at the race site, dropped off our special needs gear, got the bike area ready, put a few more things in the transition bags, donned the wetsuit, dropped off my dry clothes bag (praying I would get it back as my car key was in it), had a Hammer gel with some water (~100 calories), and went straight to the line to get in the water. I was warming up about 20min before the race.
Gear: Quintana Roo Superfull wetsuit, Zoot race number and belt, Zoot arm coolers, Speedo Swedish goggles, Garmin 310xt watch band (watch was on bike)
Nutrition: 1 hammer gel 20 min before race & too much lake water
Leading up to the race there seemed to be a chance that the race would not be wetsuit legal. Thankfully some cold nights and thunderstorms cooled down the water enough to allow wetsuits. The water did not feel too warm, and was nice and calm at the swim start. I found a good spot inside the ski ramp, one row back with Matt Ancona and a few other ENers. As soon as the cannon went off, several people swam past/over me, but it wasn’t too long until I was with people my speed. I found feet when I could, but was on my own for a good amount of the swim. It wasn’t uncommon to get squeezed between two people. The fighting didn’t calm down as much as I expected from what I had heard. For most of the second loop, I felt the urge to pee. I’d relax and feel it almost come, but then it’d stop. Finally as I rounded the last buoy, I was able to let it flow. Relief! Also on the second loop, I had some slight cramping in my side, but it went away within a hundred yards or so.

Wes and I are in there...somewhere

I pulled down my wetsuit to my waist as I was running up the ramp, and the wetsuit strippers yank it the rest of the way. When running up the helix my knee felt a little stiff, but not too bad. As I ran in to T1, I could see one of my friends running out towards her bike. Wow! I thought I’d be a little closer to her swim time. Oh, well.
The volunteers quickly found my T1 bag and I ran to the changing room. I’m sure there had to be other women in the changing room, but I don’t remember anyone else being there. I had two volunteers dump my bag, and they took care of packing my wetsuit. I put on my helmet, stuffed my spare bag of mix in my jersey pocket, grabbed my shoes, and was off. When I got to my bike, I put on my shoes as the bike handler was getting my bike off the rack. I like that they place the women near the bike out :) As I was running I put on my sunglasses that were hanging from my bike and turned on my Garmin. When I got to the mount line, it was a little congested with people un-smoothly getting on their bikes.
Heading out for a beautiful bike ride

Gear: EN kit, Specialized Transition bike, 12-27 cassette, compact crank, Giro Advantage 2 Aero Helmet, disc cover on rear wheel w/ powertap, HED Jet 60 front wheel, Tifosi sunglasses, feed bottle on down tube, profile design aero bottle for water, Fuel Belt aero fuel box (contained spare tube, C02, mini tool set, and leavers), a C02 regulator and additional spare tube strapped under rear seat, Garmin 310xt
Nutrition: 6 scoops each of Hammer HEED and Perpetuem and 6 Salt Stick Caps split between 2 bottles (one on my bike and the other in BSN), ~20oz water/hour
Just incase I had an issues getting my bottle from BSN, I had a spare bag of nutrition powder. I grabbed water to fill my aerobottle at almost every aid station. I skipped the Verona aid station on purpose. My garmin was set to go off every 20min to remind me to take in calories.
The bike wasn’t too congested. I leapfrogged with Jon Bergman, a fellow ENer, for about the first hour. There were a few guys that would push up the hill, and then I would pass them on the downhill. One guy even said “I’m not trying to be that guy”. Twice on the climbs people in the crowd said “she’s doing it the right way” as guys pushed their way up and I went up slow and steady. While climbing one of the hills (Old Sauk?) I saw Gwen Jorgensen. That gave me a boost of energy. So cool to see her out there. I also saw her on the second lap running out of Cross Plains with Cindi Bannink.
On the long downhill after the “smile if you peed” sign, I was finally able to pee! This was my first time in a race (I’ve successfully practiced it twice in training). Shortly afterwards, a guy came up to me and said “That was a good idea you had. Unfortunately, the guy behind me was much closer then the guy behind you”. That made me smile. I was also able to let a little out there on the second lap, too.
For about the last 40-60 miles, the balls of my feet hurt as I pushed down on the pedals. I tried to relieve it a bit by pulling up more. I’ve had this happen twice during training, but not sure what caused it. I wonder if all the standing I did on Saturday had something to do with it.
My watts were lower then the ‘goal’ watts based on my FTP, but I wasn’t surprised. I decided it would be best to go on feel instead of my last test data.
My garmin was set up with 2 workouts. One for the bike to go off every 20min, and the other for the run to lap every mile. While going through the Alliant Energy Center lot, I switched the workouts. This was a LOT more difficult then I hoped. The watch froze up, so I had to reset it. Then it wouldn’t turn on at all. I finally got it going after a lot of fumbling.
As I got close to the helix, I took my feet out of my shoes and switched my garmin to my wrist. The bike handler grabbed my bike and away it went.
I took my helmet off as I was running, got my T2 bag, and was in the changing room with just one other woman.  Again, two people helped me with my stuff. Awesome! I gave them my helmet, and they handed me my socks, shoes, hat, and running belt which contained 2 flasks with 2 scoops HEED and 2 Salt Stick Caps each. As I was running in and out of the building, I heard my Garmin beep to indicate it lost satellite reception. Not good.

Gear: Zoot Ultra Tempo 4.0 shoes, WrightSock Double-Layer Cool Mesh socks, Nathan Speed 2 running belt, SweatVac hat, Tifosi sunglasses, Garmin 310xt
Nutrition: ~100 calories HEED, ~300 calories coke
When I exited the transition area, I thought I heard someone say “she’s sixth”. I wondered what they meant. I figured they knew someone in my age group and were checking out calves. I really thought there were SEVERAL women ahead of me. It wasn’t until later that night that I found out I was the 6th age group woman out of T2.
As I started out on the run, my watch was showing 13min/mile pace. I felt like I was going slow, but I really didn’t think it was that slow. I tried to force myself to slow down to get my HR in check until it could find the satellite again. It was about 2 miles before I trusted what it said for pace.
I assumed it was getting warm outside. Instead of waiting for the heat to get to me, I did everything I could get keep my body from feeling the heat suck. I had researched the TIRP/HIPC (EN's supper secret Heat Index Pace Calculator), but the pace seemed much slower then I felt I needed to go. The morning we left for Madison, I took a look at previous long runs, and found my HR for the EP that we usually do at the end. I’ve never trained by HR, but it was to be my backup plan if I needed it.
I switched my watch to display HR and tried to keep it as close to 150 as I could. If it went above, I slowed down.  If it went below, I speed up. At each aid station I grabbed water at the last water stop, then slowed to a walk for 20-30 seconds. At every other one I either had a swig of HEED, or some coke. I also put sponges in my jersey and ice in my bra. While running, I’d reach into my bra to grab some ice. I’d hold on to it, or slip the hole over a finger. It not only kept me cool, but gave me something to do to keep my mind off running.
How most of my run was spent...smiling with sponge shoulder pads :)

On the second loop, I realized that I was taking in more coke then HEED, which meant I wasn’t getting in many electrolytes. I had some pills in my running belt, so took one. It didn’t go down well. During the out and back section on the trail, each time I’d grab for ice in my bra, the muscle that is in the crease between my leg and torso would twinge. I was afraid it would cramp up, so took in another electrolyte in hopes it would help. About a mile later I was back to good.
At mile 20, I was filling good, so picked up the pace a little. About a mile later I wasn’t sure if I could hold the pace to the end, so dropped it back down for the next 2 miles, then increased it through to the finish line. I did not stop at the last two aid stations, but did make sure to throw out the sponges on the last one. I didn’t negative split the marathon, but I was more consistent with my splits then a lot of other women. I never felt "the suck". I do wonder where the fine line is between feeling the suck, and not feeling it.
I only went through 6oz of my HEED mixture, and 4-5 small cups of coke. I did take in water at just about every aid station, but never had to pee. I have peed in every HIM run, so it seemed odd not to do it today. Maybe it was because I was able to pee on the bike.

Just over 11 hours later...the finish line is in sight

After I crossed the finish, I looked up the results and saw I had finished 5th in my age group. My time was MUCH better than I ever expected, and I was getting an award, so I was very happy. It wasn’t until that night that I also found out I was 10th overall non-pro woman. Damn, my age group is fast! The winner of my age group was also the fastest non-pro women. If she was a man with the same age (35) and finish time (10:13), she still would have qualified for Kona! We had 4 slots in our age group, and none rolled down. I was torn on if I would even want to do Hawaii. For as much fun as I had racing IMWI, I have no desire to go through the training again.
35-39 Age Group Award Winners (I'm on the far right)

Final Thoughts
I truly believe if I had not walked every aid station, my run time would have been much slower. I had so many friends tell me to run until I can no longer run. They are all faster runners then me, but had slower run times in their IM’s this summer.
I’m very glad I took the summer off work. I never expected to get so close to Kona, and that was never my goal.  I wanted to do things (work, life, friends, SO) well this summer, and not do everything half-ass as I had been doing. I succeeded. Training took a lot of time and effort, which I do not plan on repeating again.
One thing I would have done differently is not being on my feet so much on Saturday. I wish I would have left my family at the Farmers Market, and gone back to the house to relax. But, they had driven so far to spend time with me that I didn’t want to ditch them.
One other thing I would have done differently….I didn’t enjoy the finish chute as much as I could have. I was too concerned about someone passing me at the last minute.
I couldn’t have done this without the knowledge and support of my friends, family, Wes, and Endurance Nation. And, an extra special thanks to those that read through this entire report