Unfortunately, I now have that David Bowie song in my head. And you probably do, too.

Sorry to break it to you like this but, "It's not you, it's me." No, I don't want to lose you, but I'm afraid some of you might feel this is a bit harsh and unwarranted. Trust me, it's not. It's nothing personal. I love each and every one of you. I want you to join with me in my fun adventures wherever I go. But I must move on...

To Wordpress, that is. It seems as though the Blogger world doesn't allow me to have as much freedom with my blog as I would like. I want multiple columns, I want menus, I want I want I want. And I got.

So, please- don't stop following me. Just change that blog feed under my name to the WP icon instead. - and I'm getting a domain, too [that will come before the end of the week]. Going big, not going home. Ok, just kidding... I'm already home. Going to bed.

UPDATE! My new website has launched!!

Making sugar cookies from scratch. Gluten free. without a recipe.

I should say, recipe for disaster.

Let me preface this post with "I am not Suzy Homemaker"- I'm not even her distant cousin. I love to bake, and I am usually decent at it, when I am marginally following a recipe.

Today, I decided to throw all caution into the wind and replicate the sugar cookies from a box that we had a few weeks ago. The cookies were goooood... but they were $6 a box for about a dozen and a half cookies, so I just couldn't bring myself to buy another box. I tried to remember the appropriate ratio of wet-to-dry ingredients, and may have sneaked a peak at the back of the box last time I was at Econo Foods.

So I started with a stick of Jilbert's butter (that's half a cup), a quarter-cup of Jilbert's skim milk, and two eggs. Beat this with my Kitchenaid and streamed in ~1c cane sugar. I then mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl- 1/2c Bob's brown rice flour, 1/2c tapioca flour, and 1/2c cornstarch, with ~1tbsp potato starch. I flaked off the insides of one vanilla bean, and added another 3/4c or so of cane sugar to the mix. Mixed the dry into the wet ingredients, and the soupy-mix was scooped into spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Baked at 375F.

Try #1- Cookie Smudged.
The cookies completely converged. The cookie sheet was just a smear of cookie mess. Tasted good though.

Try #2- added about a 1/2c rice flour to the mix. Re-scooped on the cookie sheet. The cookies still smeared a lot, but looked ok... until I tried to take them off the cookie sheet. That's the way the cookies crumbled.

Try #3- Chillin' the dough. I threw the dough in the fridge for a good half hour. Didn't change a damn thing.

So, anyone got any ideas? What did I do wrong?!
It's worth noting that I love cookie dough and cookie crumbs, so it wasn't a total waste!

Ahh, snow.

The weather this week was interesting. Apparently, the UP received the "storm of the century"- but I don't remember it being all THAT bad. Sure, there was snow. Lots of snow. And wind, can't forget that. It was cold, it was icy, and most importantly- it was snowy! I love snow.

It was nice to get dumped on. We went from having no snow, to having blankets of the white fluffy stuff. YAY! That to me means cross-country skiing, trail shoes, and snowshoeing.

It wasn't all smiles and laughs, though. Seriously, it snowed for six days straight. It really never stopped. If it did stop, you couldn't tell, because the wind was whirring up the snow that had fallen earier. It was definitely winter parka weather.

It was miserable walking home from campus, but it was better than having to scrape off seven inches of snow after being parked for a few hours.

It was totally worth getting out and doing stuff! Yesterday, I went for an early-morning jog around Houghotn, and it was nice to get the glow of street lights reflecting off the snow. Holiday decorations were out and people were up and at'em, shoveling and snowblowing their driveways. The coolest thing was probably the army of snowplows on Montezuma I saw as I headed up Bridge Street. One after the other charging through the snow, lining up piles of snow in the middle of the busiest street in the Keweenaw. So cool. I definitely had to head out prepared, though. I wore my headlamp and several layers! Get ready to get cold, girlfriend!

Today was absolutely beautiful. The Michigan Tech Huskies had their season opener for Nordic. Sure, it was a little squeaky and sticky for skate, but my kick today was awesome (I classical skied... ).

Adam and I tried out our new headgear that we bought from Sauce (formerly SOS headgear), which was started by a friend of mine and current professional skier, Shayla Swanson (Canada National Team). I met Shayla when I lived in Bozeman [she was roommies with my girl, Karin C.]. Both girls are kick-ass skiers. I love that Shayla sells these hats as a way to represent the ski community and support herself financially. Seriously, it's really hard to find a perfect hat for xc-skiing (or running, for that matter). Some are way too warm for aerobic activities, some are not wind resistant at all, and some just sorta inch their way off your melon as you move around. The Sauce hats (like the Swift Toque)  and headbands are sweet, because they are tight around the ears but not too tight, cover more surface area (ie. skin!) and they don't leave you exposed to the elements. Plus, they hats are supa-styling. Mocha polka pattern looks soooo sweet [that's the pattern I've got, pictured below]! I really like how easy these are to take care of, too. The tassel is removable, so I just pull a string and the top of the hat opens up and the tassel comes off. Way convenient for washing it, so I don't have to worry about the tassel getting all gnarly in the washnig machine at the laundromat. Extra bonus.

So today, Adam and I just skied around on the trails after watching the men's race finish. The trails were awesome, 24Km all packed and groomed.  I pulled something in my inner thigh while out on Portage loop, hopefully its nothing and I can get back out there tomorrow and get some more skiing in. I love to classic ski! Here's a video of me out on core loop:

After I pulled my adductor or whatever I did, I dinked around behind Adam a bit and did some videography. Sorry if its a little bumpy, but you gotta see how awesome the trails look :-D I loooove the UP.

That's all I got for now! Get outside, folks! It'll make you feel better :-D

Secondary arthritis: How does it start?

I've been posting a lot lately about all my athletic endeavors, and realized that I have been not incorporating updates about my academic life. Truth be told, the last month has left me feeling as if my research was just kind of hanging out on the back burner and my athleticism was taking over.

Luckily, I'm back in the lab, doing histology, acquiring samples, and even attempting to engineer some new drug delivery methods. Even though my research is in the field of engineering, it's definitely driven by biology and fundamental molecular pathways of inflammation. I won't get too far into that. What I will get into is the impact that my research will (hopefully) have on the general public. What am I referring to? Osteoarthritis, of course.

Recently, a fellow blogger friend of mine, a principle scientist at the University of Washington, posted this treat on his blog. I felt like he posted it just for me! Now, maybe he did, maybe he didn't, but holy cripes, was I excited. It just piles on the motivation for me to get my publications wrapped up and shipped out! And then I was slightly disappointed (why wasn't my collabo's work featured in NYTs!? Are our university marketing departments slacking?!), but I'm still excited.

The NYT's article is referring to a manuscript by Dr Chu's group that was just published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in December of this year. In the study, the authors look at chondrocyte death in cartilage after blunt impaction to the bovine articular cartilage explants. The translational research from in vitro cow studies to real-life human injuries still needs to be made, by my collaborators and I have published several papers related to impaction-induced arthritis in a closed-joint traumatic model in the last year and a half [1,2,3]. We've even identified potential treatments! That's exciting news.

So what's the story? Basically, impaction-induced arthritis is fairly common, and can develop after a car accident (where the knee hits the dashboard) or a sports injury. Although the incident of injury is a specific time point that can be linked to joint degradation, the exact mechanism by which arthritis accelerates is what stimulates curiosity. You see, secondary osteoarthritis (OA) develops much faster than primary (age related) OA. Along with trauma, it can also be caused by obesity, genetic disorders, or joint malalignment. Instead of taking a lifetime to develop, it can be seen radiologically (ie. x-ray) within the first few years, especially following traumatic injury such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture. In fact, histological changes to the cartilage* have been found within a year following injury [4]. How does trauma accelerate cartilage degradation so much? What factors are involved, and how can we slow it down and prevent it? There are so many factors that are not well understood. Take for example ACL repair. If a soccer player tears their ACL, they will probably have it fixed because it is well understood that abnormal loading in the knee will lead to arthritic changes to the cartilage. Why, then, ten years later, does that soccer player still get OA? The answers are not yet known.

*Before I get too far in, though, I should probably explain the anatomy of the knee a bit. The long bones of the leg are covered at the ends with something called cartilage (I'm sure most of you have heard of this, yeah?). The picture to the right is a pig's knee, the tibial plateau to be exact. Imagine looking at your shank from the top-down. That's what it would look like if your femur and ligaments (ACL, pcl, mcl, lcl) were no longer intact and your shank was removed from your body (and my hands, with the blue gloves, were holding it). Cartilage, outlined in the red hash line to the right, actually covers the entire tibial plateau, even under those yellow-outlined rubbery looking tissues (which are the menisci).  The meniscus attaches to the tibial plateau and is super important, because it helps protect the cartilage underneath, and distributes loads during walking, running and jumping. It's like a shock absorber for the knee.

Another key player in knee joint health is the ACL (the nub of which is outlined in blue). The ACL prevents the tibia from moving forward during walking, running and jumping. If it gets torn, then the knee joint stability goes all out of wack. Patients with torn ACLs can end up with meniscal tears, accelerated cartilage damage, and OA. That's why so many people have their ACLs repaired.

In impaction-induced ACL rupture, the cartilage receives a single, high-energy impact during compression. The cartilage isn't used to this type of behavior, because it typically doesn't see such high energy levels, thanks in part to the meniscus (and avoidance of these types of injuries). But when the cartilage does see the high, fast compression, it doesn't really know what to do. Because the cartilage is made up of a bunch of cells called chondrocytes (surrounded by matrix called collagen), the cells may go into something called apoptosis, or programmed cell death, or necrosis (premature death, or suicide). In necrosis, cells release a bunch of signals that say "HELP! DANGER" and then they die, and obviously can no longer perform their roles as chondrocytes. [There's another word, called chondroptosis, but that may be too far for this blog.] Anyway, necrotic triggers can be inflammatory markers, which can trigger a whole plethora of events, or macrophage recruiters, which eat up stuff (like dead cells!). In apoptosis, the cells just casually die, no signals, they just kinda fade into black, like a Metallica song.

So what does this mean? In impaction induced arthritis, it may mean that - regardless of whether or not the ACL rupture is fixed - the joint may be predisposed to OA no matter what. The cells initial signaling (if they are indeed going through necrosis) may open the whole can of worms. Not good news at all.  What can we do about it? We need to understand the whole system more. Maybe impaction isn't the end-all and be-all that is traumatic OA. If I am out riding my snowmobile and bash my knee, I don't want to be cursed with the impending OA [unfortunately, this story is something that happened to my boyfriend in 2008].

We need to understand the system better. We don't know yet how chondrocytes really die after traumatic impaction, and we don't know if they will be replaced by healthy, viable cells. So many questions are still out there. Does it really matter if the cells of the cartilage die? What's the "threshold" for cartilage impaction magnitudes, before which chondrocytes stay alive? Are other tissues influenced by chondrocyte cell death, or the event of impaction for that matter?

We're getting there, and researchers at Michigan State University have recently shown that certain molecules, called surfactants, can actually protect the chondrocytes before they are impacted and may even "cushion" them for the impending impact [1]. It's almost like the surfactant wraps the cells in plastic bubble wrap. But is this a suitable treatment? What implications does it have on the rest of the joint (or does it go systemic and cause problems elsewhere?). Although cartilage is the main indicator for OA development and progression, my doctoral research is focusing on other soft tissues of the knee, namely the meniscus, to see how impaction influences the viability and health of the other major players of knee joint health.

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, we really don't know why some people get secondary OA after traumatic impaction and some don't. Right now, there are just so many confounding variables. And its important to remember that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Will my boyfriend get OA by the time he's 35 because he did an Ironman a year out from tearing his PCL after hitting a tree? I don't know. I hope not, but it's possible. It's possible that the injury did him in, or that the surgery itself to fix the PCL did more damage. Or, the opposite is true; maybe he's better off because he started training for Ironman, because he ramped up his cycling training (cyclic shear-type loading on his knee), strengthened his quads, and worked on his stabilizing muscles. In truth, he's stronger now than before he was injured. Anecdotal? Of course. Interesting? You bet.

That's all I got for now!

--I should clarify that the work discussed in the NYT's article was all in vitro work. The researchers took explants (biopsy punches) from cow knees (the cows were already dead, don't worry) and then impacted them with a weight from different heights (which translated into different impaction energies). The impaction was directly applied to the surface of the explant. In the research I'm involved with (cited in this post), our impactions were applied to the closed-joint of the rabbit knee either immediately after the rabbit was killed or while it was anesthetized.. Other structures were influenced by impaction (muscle, bone, meniscus). It's important to know the difference, because in Chu's study, the impaction energy was much lower (1.07J) than the impaction energy we used (13J).

1. Isaac DI, Golenberg N, Haut RC. Acute repair of chondrocytes in the rabbit tibiofemoral joint following blunt impact using P188 surfactant and a preliminary investigation of its long-term efficacy. J Orth Res, 2009 Oct 29. [Epub ahead of print]

2. Killian ML, Isaac DI, Haut RC, Dejardin LM, Leetun D, Haut Donahue TL.Traumatic Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear and its Implications on Meniscal Degradation: A Preliminary Novel Lapine Osteoarthritis Model. J Surg Res, 2009 Apr 5. [Epub ahead of print]
3. Isaac DI, Meyer EG, Haut RC. Chondrocyte damage and contact pressures following impact on the rabbit tibiofemoral joint. J Biomech Eng, 2008 Aug;130(4):041018.
4. Nelson F, Billinghurst RC, Pidoux I, Reiner A, Langworthy M, McDermott M, Malogne T, Sitler DF, Kilambi NR, Lenczner E, Poole AR. Early post-traumatic osteoarthritis-like changes in human articular cartilage following rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament. OA &C. 2006 Feb;14(2):114-9. Epub 2005 Oct 20.

Mic check, one, two, THREE!

Checkin' the mic.

Next summer, Rev3 is hosting not one, not two, but THREE triathlons east of the Mississippi. That's pretty sweet. What's even more sweet is that I can get you $10 off your registration at any of these events (and more than one, as well, I might add).So, you could save $30. That's a new race top, or about 6 pairs of Yanx. Or like three pounds of good coffee!!! For me, it's gas money to get to a race (ok, not really. I currently reside in a pretty podunk location...).

What else? All Rev3 races are super family friendly. As a kid growing up, I'd go with my family every time a new ride came out at Cedar Point. We'd wait in line for hours to ride the Demon Drop, my feet trembling and my heart pumping because I was so scared. My high school had field trips to Cedar Point in the summer, and I even got to go with my high school physics class [seriously, Cedar Point is probably where my love for engineering began].

So now that I've convinced you that you should race a Rev3, get your $10 discount! You can use it on any or all of these triathlons. The code is trakkers118

Live near Knoxville? Never been to World's Fair Park? Do the Knoxville Rev3! There will be an Olympic and Half Rev on May 9th!
These pros will be there:
Matty Reed, Amanda and Michael Lovato*, Joanna Zieger, John Kelly, Florence Chretien, Dave Thompson [Midwest represent, wootwoot!], Rebecca Wasner, Leon Griffin, Kelly Williamson, Jordan Rapp(star), and Dede Griesbeier.

Middlebury, CT, will hold down the fort with the Quassy Rev3 in its second year. Trakkers-GPS will be there, offering real-time GPS tracking of athletes so family members can track them online (and watch them in on the big screen). There will be an Olympic and Half Rev on June 5th and 6th!
Look for these pros:
Mirinda Carfrae, Tim O'Donnell, Kirk Nelson, Leon Griffin, Tyler Lord, plus Reed, Lovatos, Zieger, Kelly, Chretien, Thompson, Wasner, Griffin, Williamson, and Rapp.

My "A" Race for 2010 will be in Sandusky, Ohio, for the full iron distance at Cedar Point Rev3. Only 90miles from where I grew up! Not going to ride the Magnum before I race, though (pictured at the right)... Cedar Point will have a Half and a Full Rev on Sept 12!
Registration includes: Admission to the race, two passes to the amusement park, race shirt, finisher shirt, finisher medal, embroidered visor, water bottle, towel and sponsor Product.
Pros scheduled to appear: Chretien, Thompson, Griffin, and Rapp.

I've got some ol' friends in Knoxville (my pseudo-grandparents that lived next door), and it will be so cool to see them for the first time in several years! Maybe I could even convince them to make me some fudge to fuel my race? Hmm... maybe that's not a good idea. Hopefully they'll join me for a day at World's Fair Park though! Quassy will be a hike for me, but I've never been to Connecticut. What better time than 2010? And, of course, my entire crew (that crew being my fam) can come hang out at their favorite park for a day! So, who's with me? :-D

[Bold denotes the major race -where the pros are racing- of the weekend, italicized is the minor race, green is the race I'm doin'!]

Ready for 2010?

Whether you are ready for it or not, Two-thousand-and-ten is just 25 days away. I don't really buy into the whole New-Year's-Resolution thing, but I do believe in setting goals and have already vowed to make a few changes in my training and racing strategies for next season.

Instead of thinking about the New Year as the time to "start over" though, I end up thinking about it as just another day. Perhaps I am on some different calendar. To me, the refresh button is hit when the season ends. That was on October 18th, the day after the Columbus Marathon. I took some time off from serious training, slept in for about a week straight (ok, maybe two), and just generally enjoyed the fact that I wasn't responsible for accomplishing any athletic feats for the next six months. My next race, the Salt Lake City Marathon, isn't until April, exactly half a year after Columbus. Oddly enough, I didn't even plan it like that!

Anyway, I digress. When Columbus was over, I hit reset, cleared out all the junk in my legs, reformatted my digital training log (seen to the right), and outlined my goals for 2010. I wrote them down. I decided that my plans for the 2010 race season(s) will include:
  • Keeping track of weekly swim/bike/run mileage
  • More racing
  • Less whining
Keeping track: I've always done a piss-poor job of keeping track of my mileage. I do a good job at first, but then I just stop adding up the hours/mileage and end up making guesses about a month in. For my next training block, I have my Excel file set up to automatically add the mileage for me. I just have to enter each workout. I should be doing that anyway, right? I even color-coded my training blocks and periodization, which makes for an easy-to-follow training plan. For example, lime green means "build" period, low intensity, long stuff.

Racing: I raced a lot last year, but they were mostly shorter running events. I also want to do more triathlons in 2010, because right now I only have three under my belt. With Triple T and Rev3 Cedar Point on deck, I will have a longer race season than 2009, so hopefully that opens up more opportunities.

Stop yer whining: I just gotta buck up and do it. No excuses.

For the next racing season, I'm also going to focus more on nutrition and general health. I have to pack my lunch more, and get enough of the right calories. Luckily, the MUB now has salads for people that are actually pretty delicious (and gluten free). I need to stay hydrated, get 8hrs of sleep a night. Not that I didn't already have a good grasp on my training and health in 2009. I was strict about my gluten free diet. But there were definitely times when, on Fridays, I'd come home from work starving, cranky, and unable to do anything until I ate something substantial. It took me a while to figure out how to fuel for Ironman training on a sans-gluten diet. But I never had any gastrointenstinal (GI) problems when triathlon racing. It was a magical race-day experience for me after my first triathlon when I didn't succumb to the rumors that I'd feel like absolute butt (forgive my French). I am a firm believer that this can be - at least partially - attributed to my gluten free diet.

So, I guess instead of saying I have a New Year's Resolution, I should clarify. I have a New Race Resolution. Every race I compete in is new compared to the last. It's not necessarily a second chance, it's just a new opportunity to see what I can do. It's a way to learn from mistakes, implement new ideas and strategies, get to the next level. What's your next Race Resolution?

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful...

This is my first post in The Winter Training for Triathlon Series 

I live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Da U.P. Where the north shoreline gets real buddy-buddy with Lake Superior, the largest frickin' lake in the world, or something like that*. Sometimes Superior freezes over enough that the snow stops falling in the winter, but this is a rare occasion (we're talking once every 25 years, at least). So, every year, we get 200-300inches of white, fluffy, crisp snow. Sometimes it pummels us, with nothing to see outside except a sheet of white from the massive amounts of frozen white precipitation that isn't so much falling from the sky but rather making opaque window blinds.

Sometimes, it floats nicely and carefree from the sky, drifting side to side until it finally makes contact with the ground. Watching it will put you into a trance. It calms the soul.

Then there's days like today, which offered a mix of both. The sideways snow always makes me laugh. I look out the window from the ninth floor of the UP's tallest building (I don't know if that's true, but I like to believe it), and the snow is making mini-tornadoes at the bottom of campus.

I can't help but smile on days when I walk into school, the gray clouds hovering over and the day feeling all dreary, and then looking outside before lunchtime to see the big white snowflakes falling from the heavens. Love it! I was especially excited on a day like today, because the snow was coming down hard, and I knew my evening run with Margot would include some white-frosted trees and some pretty cool sights.

We donned our reflective gear (well, at least Margot did... I ended up leaving mine in my locker by accident) and rolled out of West Houghton. The first site we saw was the ski hill. Mont Ripley was beautiful. The snow covered hill made me ansy for some skiing. And I haven't been ansy for skiing in a long time (hey, I can say it! I've thoroughly enjoyed this summer's triathlon training).

It wasn't long before I started to feel my feet sliding around on the ground. Ugh. I hate that feeling. Especially in the last year with my knees acting all funny, I was especially cautious, as was Margot. This was when I realized my beloved Trances were probably not the best shoe for winter road running.

Because it has been so warm, the roads were a bit wet this week, and the snow today meant that the temperatures (obviously) dipped below freezing. This meant that the roads were covered in a sheet of ice. Not too bad if you can run on the non-roadways (eg. snowmobile paths), but since we started at 430 and it gets dark by 5, well... you can imagine. We were slipping and sliding (to the tune of Little Richard) and were extra cautious on the downward slopes. There are a lot of downward slopes in Houghton. The snowmobile trail was a beacon, and the ground crunched under our feet. I guess its time to buy new trail running shoes...

We made it safely back to Margot's house after an hour and a half of crisp, wintery air. Finally, dear Winter, I welcome you with open arms.

Here are some rules I live by when going out for a winter run:
  • Dress warm. but not too warm. I'm out there to get a my sweat on, so if I am too warm at the start, I will do nothing but sweat more, get cold, and then be miserable. If the temps are between 20-30degrees Fahrenheit, I usually don a lightweight hat (Icebreaker Pocket 200 is awesome), wool socks (back to the Icebreakers... you really can't get any better when it comes to socks, toasty and perfect for winter running), lightweight gloves (ya know those cheap'o nylon ones that cost 99cents? yeah, those), tights, and two lightweight dry-wicking shirts (Craft poly over my Brooks HVAC long sleeve is what I chose today. When it's colder than that, I like to wear some thicker gloves, another shirt or a vest, and some heavier-duty pants (Swix Nordic ski pants or Mountain Hardwear Transition pants are great on WINDY U.P. days).
  • Dress in layers. Wearing the two shirts gave me the option to remove one if I got too warm. When in doubt about the temps outside, I typically bring along a lightweight jacket or cycling jersey, and if I get too warm I take it off. No harm in that! If it's between rainy and snowy, wear something water resistant so you don't get soggy and wet.
  • Wear shoes with traction! Trail shoes seem to be perfect for winter running. Last year, I bought a pair of La Sportiva Imogenes from Downwind Sports in Houghton. They are comfy and have a great, grippy sole made out of "sticky rubber" that they call Frixion. The tread is deeper than normal trainers, so it can grab onto the snow. In 2003, I bought a pair of Montrail Hardrocks, and although they had mega-tread, they didn't quite fit my foot right. I'm going to give the newest rendition of the shoe a shot this year, though. I'm not a superfan of YakTraks up here, mainly because my runs take me on a varying terrain of snow, ice, rocks, pavement, and cobblestone. The YT Pros are not recommended for anything but snow-cover and ice, and they get pretty slick on concrete and it sounds like I'm tap-dancing. Regardless, they probably work better than my summer trainers alone; those Brooks Trances just didn't do it for me last night.
    • Some other good trail-running shoe options include:
      • Brooks Adrenaline ASR- These shoes have a medial posting, which helps direct the foot for people with pronation issues. The ASR stands for All-Season Running, and the shoe upper is weather resistant. Not soggy shoes at the end of the run with these!
      • Saucony ProGrid Xodus- These shoes look sweet. Plus they have a Vibram sole, which means that the rubber is a little more stiff and tractiony (is that a word?). I have a pair of Keens with a Vibram sole and its amazing how sticky they can be on slick, leave-covered rocks out in the woods.
      • Salomon XA PRO 3D Ultra GTW- That's a mouthful. These shoes have Contragrip and are pretty cool lookin' too, plus they have a really awesome lacing system that won't lead to sloppy, slappy laces that are wet and soggy at the end of the run. Great traction, too!
  • Keep it covered. "It" being your skin. On some sunny days, Running Chick uses sunscreen to keep her skin moist and prevent sun burn. Another trick is to use Vasoline on exposed skin and/or wear a balaclava. The last thing you want is a frost-bit nose (sadly, it happens more often than you think). Don't forget the shades; if its sunny, they're good for obvious reasons, but sunglasses can also keep your eyes protected by sideways snowfall (and keep your contacts from getting irritated on windy days).
  • Bring water. Just because it's cold, doesn't mean you aren't sweating. You're wearing more clothes, and your working harder to keep your body temperature up. Plus, breathing in cold weather is an easy way to lose fluids (that steam you see is water leaving your body!). I love my Nathan Quickdraw Elite, and luckily my camera fits perfectly in the zip-up pocket! I suppose if I ran with my cell phone, this would also be a good spot to put it.
  • Wear bright, reflective stuff! It's not always bright and sunny out there. It's not always clear, either. It might be when you start running, but that doesn't mean it'll stay that way by the time your done (especially if you live in da yoop). If it's snowing, cars will have a hard time seeing you. And, if you live in an area like me, being aware of hunters is important to consider. Even if its daytime, being visible is incredibly important. Plus, how many people actually have time to run before work when its light out? The sun doesn't come up until 8am here, and its gone by 5:30pm. Wearing a headlamp will make those dark roads easier to traverse, too. LL Bean sells a high visibility vest made by Brooks Running Company for $10! Serious. Team Mega Tough swears by these vests, too...
  • When in doubt, get low! If you aren't sure if the road ahead (or underneath you) is icy, bend your knees more and anticipate a slip or a slide. Lowering your center of mass can help reduce your chances of falling, too. Plus, taking shorter steps, finding drier or more rough surfaces, and keeping your weight centered can help prevent a fall.
  • Don't try and stop yourself from falling ... with your hands. Sometimes falling is inevitable. But falling on ice and bracing yourself with your hands could lead to some serious wrist injuries. Your butt has way more cushion. That isn't to say that you won't get bruised, beaten up, or brought on some other painful problems, but there's more surface area on your rump than on your wrists (more surface area = lower stress, because everyone knows that stress = force/area, right? hehe...). It's hard to focus on where you are putting your hands when you fall, but if you can- try to remember to put them behind (or in front) of your head. If you fall backwards, having your hands behind your noggin' might protect your head moreso than hitting your head on the icy road below. The key to falling is to stay limber. Let the fall happen. Don't try to stop it. Get loose and relaxed and let more of your body absorb the impact.
What other tips do you have for winter running?

*Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world when measured by surface area.

Thanksgiving GUESTS!

I will post photos once I get them from my mom, but I am so excited about this year's Thanksgiving weekend.

My parents and Adam's both came up for the holiday to spend some time in the UP and with us. They brought their dogs (Sam and Snoop) and we had a great dinner on Thanksgiving at my advisor's house. We did some shopping (and the boys went for a hike) and catching up and eating (and more eating) and it was a great time. I really hope they enjoyed themselves. It was so awesome to be able to share the Keweenaw with them on my favorite holiday!

Both our parents left this morning. I had breakfast with mine at the hotel before they took off at 730am and then I went back to sleep! I am relieved that I don't have to go back to work already (well, really I do, but technically its Saturday). It's nice to take a day off here and there to do stuff not academia-related, for sure.

The Thanksgiving Run

There's something so magical about the first snowfall. Margot, Karl and I went out for a great 2hour run on Thanksgiving morning. Granted, it wasn't the first snowfall of the season, but it was the first that really stuck around for more than just a few hours.

We started in Houghton and plodded along Trail 3 toward South Range. It was an overcast morning and impending drizzle but I didn't really notice anything falling. As we climbed up the trail toward Atlantic Mine, the trees started glimmering. Small snowflakes started shimmering around us. As we continued along the trail, the ground began to turn white and the snow squeaked under our shoes. The trees were then completely coated in a white shimmery dust that glistened. By the time we turned around, there was already an inch or two coating the trail.

I love running this time of year. Taking in the sights is just awesome. We saw a few deer pop onto the trail in front of us. We saw the snow forming, falling, accumulating... and yet the ground wasn't icy and slick. Plus, it's not blistery cold so I don't have to wear a balaclava, but its not so in-between that I put on too many or too little layers. Thursday, I wore two long sleeve shirts and a pair of tights and I was good to go.

Granted, I sometimes wish it started to snow more so I could get out on my stick and do some classic skiing. But, I really enjoy my runs. With next season looming not-too-far off in the distance (hey, we all know how time flies) I know I need to build my base and become a stronger endurance athlete. It's days like Thursday and friends like Margot and Karl that make that task a little more easy.

I am Thankful For...

In the spirit of the holiday, I thought I'd write a special post about what I'm most thankful for.

I'm thankful for my amazing parents, and Adam's, who drove up to visit us on my favorite holiday! We get to eat, drink, and be merry all weekend.

I am thankful for a caring (and good looking) boyfriend who loves me, teases me, and comforts me day-in and day-out!

I am thankful for an incredible advisor, Tammy Donahue, who does countless things to make my grad-schooling less of a sufferfest. She seriously rocks.

I am thankful for the education I've been afforded and the challenges that others have battled in order for me to be where I am today.

I am thankful for a healthy body, a healthy mind, and a healthy cat.

I am thankful for my 2009 sponsors: Honey Stinger, Nuun, Brooks Running Company, and TriggerPoint Therapy, which- without them- I'd have been stomach-achy-and-sore and would probably not have raced as well as I did.

I am thankful for my newest sponsor, Team Trakkers, for bringing me on and giving me a real shot at the world of triathlon. I look forward to meeting new teammates, racing east of the Mississippi, and for seeing what 2010 will bring.

What are you thankful for?

What's the Word?

Thanks for waiting ever-so-patiently, folks.

Here's the good news that goes with that symbol I put up two-posts-ago:
I am on Team Trakkers for 2010!

What is Team Trakkers?
Team Trakkers is a triathlon racing team sponsored by Trakkers GPS and Rev3, as well as First Endurance,
and Tri Swim. Team Trakkers is made up of about 40 athletes including pros and amateurs. Members of Team Trakkers are superstars in triathlon. They might not all be first-place finishers but their outreach is outstanding. I found out about Team Trakkers through Sonja's blog and Slowtwitch. So, in September, I applied for the 2010 team. I try not to get my hopes up too much when it comes to sweet gigs like this, so when I got the email that said I was accepted, I jumped for joy!

What is Trakkers GPS?
My mom and pops would love to pack up the truck with their yellow lab and book it to every race I do. Practical?
Hardly! Trakkers GPS is designing something different. Trakkers GPS will soon launch their real-time tracking device that athletes wear while they race. So, when I am racing and I have my Trakkers device in my pocket, it will upload, in real-time, where I am on the course to the internet! My parents can then log into the Trakkers GPS website and see where I am and how I'm doing. So, if you were ever wondering of a way for your family and friends to get more involved in your racing, this is it! Most of my family, although they are excited about my racing, would rather not get out there and do it themselves. So, they can race vicariously through me!

What is Rev3?
Again with the whole family-oriented goodness... Rev3 are triathlons that are held at amusement parks! I am super-stoked about doing Rev3 Cedar Point. It will be my fall Iron-distance triathlon, and by registering I get two tickets to Cedar Point! I haven't been there since I was a sophomore in college. Even better: Cedar Point is only a few hours from my family! We should have a competition in Team Trakkers for who can get the biggest support crew to a race... I think I'd win! Rev3 also has events in Knoxville at the World's Fair Park and in Connecticut at Quassy Amusement Park (in Middlebury). I hope to make it to all three in 2010!

Why Megan?
That is a very good question. I'd like to think it is because I am super-mega-awesomeness in the form of an endurance geek, but I'm not sure that is entirely the case. Team Trakkers strives to find athletes that are mega-awesome in a lot of ways. They were looking for people who are excited and motivated to promote triathlon, people that love to blog, get involved with triathlon outreach, have a true dedication to the sport... These are all characteristics of the members of Team Trakkers, plus many, many more.

Check out some more Team Trakkers folks*:
Go Sonja
Ironboy Thor
Curly Su
Ironman Sherry
Ann's Iron Dream
Tri Girl Pink
Bree Wee
Coach Kati
Iron AddictChrissy
Kelly at Tri Mommy Life
Carol at Triathlon Training Blog
Jameson at SwimBikeRunLive
Joel Strickland
Scott Skalny
and of course, Our fearless leader, Carole

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot 'em my way.

*If you're on Team Trakkers, make sure I add you to the list (post a comment below).

My new favorite movies

I'm going to let you anticipate the answer to the last post I made... with this totally unrelated post about movies.

I've never thought of myself as a Sci-Fi girl. Sure, I loved The Twilight Zone as a kid, and X-Files was one of my favorite shows growing up. But I never really liked Star Wars, and I thought Star Trek was a pile of crap for entertainment.

Recently, though, my favorite flicks have all been from the sci-fi genre. A few weeks ago, Adam and I got The Fountain on Netflix a few weeks ago, and I was not quite ready to watch it as soon as it arrived. It was one of those movies that you need to sit down, focus, pay attention to. We watched it in the afternoon on a weekend, and it was absolutely stunning.

For those that haven't seen it, I won't ruin it. I will tell you that it is three stories that are told separately, all of which tie together as the movie progresses (of course!). The cinematography is absolutely amazing, and Hugh Jackman does an incredible job playing the role of a scientist trying to cure brain cancer, and his wife (played by Rachel Weiss) has ... you guessed it- brain cancer. Even though the plot line is predictable at times, the stories are amazing. The visual stimuli is incredible. and the movie just rocks.

So we didn't hesitate to download another movie on Netflix that came up on Adam's Reddit feed. The movie, Ink, is a low-budget film, but you wouldn't necessarily guess that by watching it. The writers did a great job with an imaginative, unique storyline. The movie has storytellers, who provide sleeping folk with good dreams, as well as incubi- who are responsible for nightmares. A young child is abducted in her sleep by a being in the night and it is up to the storytellers to save her. The film's budget was $250,000, yet it really gave me the feeling that I was in the dream (or nightmare). The creativity of this film has rarely been matched. I was so excited to watch it. At first, I thought it was a terror film, because I was jumpy and restless. I hate movies that make me jump. But as the film unraveled and the story line fell into place, it just all came together like pieces of a puzzle. So good!

We have the film, Moon, on the way, which stars Sam Rockwell (also in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, another good SciFi flick). I'm excited to see this.

Do you know of any other movies that fall in the same "genre" as The Fountain and Ink? If so, let me know! I'd be more than excited to check them out.

Guess what?

This week, I found out some really awesome news. It has a lot to do with this little symbol here:

Any guesses?

Oh, and I need to do work on my stash of Larabars. You'd think that stuffing a bar in my backpack every day would dwindle my reserves, but nope! It's like I keep finding my hidden supply. Yesterday, I found a container chock full of them that my mom gave me last month. Holy cripes. Good thing these bars taste so darn good. They got me through an Ironman, what can't they do?

Mental Toughness

This year's training for the Wisconsin Ironman was really ... enlightening. Not only was IMWI the first triathlon I ever signed up for*, but it was my first real just-get-over-it-already experience. Let me explain.

I spent the winter training for a spring marathon with Ironman's approach hanging like a banner across the finish line for every day. I'd spend my Tuesday nights at Trainer Tuesdays (TT), where four or five of us sweaty, half naked athletes whirred our wheels on magnetic and wind resistance until communal dinner was ready for consumption or we were too bored to continue. We had a strong contingent of devoted TT riders: Myself, Ian, Adam, and Margot. Every week, Ian or Adam would bring to the room a sort of hour-long sufferfest that we'd hammer through. Adam compiled a variety of music designed specifically around our workouts; it would start slower and mellow, with Kanye West's "Love Lockdown" and ramp up to remixed Rhianna. I learned quickly that if the music wasn't right, the workout wouldn't be either. But, I was lucky and perhaps I took for granted the great group I have to train with in the build season.

At first, I complained at the beginning of practically every workout and eeked through them, bitching about this or suffering about that. I'd do it, but I wouldn't be happy. Something would happen and I'd get annoyed or upset. My cleat would loosen on my shoe or I couldn't clip in with my new pedals or I'd say something to Adam and he's not respond with much. I'd get grumpy and annoyed at the most useless things. I can't explain it. I kept riding once or twice a week, 1.5hr sessions, and crossed my fingers that we'd be listening to Prodigy in hopes of lifting my mood for that day. Sometimes, after the workout, I'd sit and pout about whatever or whoever and ... it was just ridiculous.

About a month before my spring marathon came around, we were able to ride outside a few times and even squeezed in a century ride. I got a little cold a few weeks out, which I thought had wrapped up by race time. I don't know if it was still lingering, or if I just had a bad day, but my spring marathon was not what I had hoped it would be. It just wasn't my day. Looking back, I think that my attitude played a role in my performance that day.

I continued to play the give-up card, especially during cycling training, after my spring marathon. I'd get annoyed in runs because I'd feel the "why-are-we-racing" aggravation. I'd go for rides and get frustrated that the other people would be so much faster and more agile than me. I'd pout and express my annoyance that they wouldn't just ride with me, but in reality it was me being upset that I couldn't ride with them. I'd ask myself questions like: Why can't I just keep up? Why won't they hang back? How are they so much faster than me?

It took me racing my first triathlon (a half iron distance in Minnesota) to realize that it doesn't matter if anyone else is faster than me in training. It's how I approach my training and learn to use my training partners to my advantage. Seven or so of us traveled to Minneapolis to do the race, and I was somewhere in the middle of the group getting out of the water. I saw all of the folks I traveled with in transition, and I hustled along so I could make it out of T1 before most of them. The guys that were behind me breezed past me in the first few miles of the bike. In that race, though, I wasn't worried about what they were doing. I was focusing on myself.

"Race your own race," I'd tell myself. I'd see other racers hammering past me and I kept myself collected. My head was down, I was focused. I'd sip my nuun, eat a chew, sip some more. As I neared the end of bike course, I started to see people I recognized... folks that had passed me miles ago. As I moved off the bike and out of transition, I started picking off people one by one. And I felt good. Comfortable. Relaxed. And that's when I saw Adam.

He was walking and he didn't look comfortable. At all. I was carrying my flask, and I stopped next to him. We didn't talk much, except to exchange our present feelings about our physical well-being and to offer encouragement to each other. We walked together for a few hundred yards before I handed him my flask. I gave him a kiss and took off running again. I soon caught up with the rest of the gang that had made it to the race together. I kept motoring along, feeling some strange race euphoria, or adrenaline, or something- I don't know what. After I crossed the finish, I went in search for Adam, and kept watch about 200yds from the finish (after heading to the med tent to clean up the blisters I had developed of course). It was so exhilarating watching him run down the wood-chip path to the finish straightaway. He looked strong and (most of all) excited to finish. I felt excited, as well, to watch him sprint to the finish, and the adrenaline started pumping all over again.

In that first triathlon, I learned the most important thing that just kept being reiterated throughout the rest of my training this summer: What matters in training is how I react to training (and racing) with other people. It's not always a competition - and even if it is, that doesn't have to be a negative! I had been getting so wrapped up in gauging how I was doing compared to someone else, that I wasn't paying attention to what I should be doing for myself. I was using a comparative metric to determine my skill and my strengths (or in this case, my weaknesses), which may have limited me in my ability to challenge myself. Instead of using my training partners to push myself harder and make myself better, I'd give up or get frustrated or let my head get in the way. Now, I've accepted that Adam is a much better cyclist than me, and that's a great thing. I have the best training partner for triathlon, someone that will push me to the next level and encourage me along the way.

*Although IMWI was the first tri I signed up for, it wasn't the first tri I competed in. I wanted to be prepared, of course! So I did two half ironman triathlons before competing in IMWI.

Mocha Poundcake with Coffee Cream "Frosting"

I really like Bette Hagman's gluten free cookbooks, and frequently open up her "Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Food" book. The flour mixes she lists in the front of the book are my standard when I'm being creative (Featherlight is my favorite) but I am really bad at following any recipe to the letter. My featherlight mix doesn't include potato flour, and it's only "approximately" thirds of tapioca and rice flours and cornstarch. But, nonetheless, her recipes spark my creative cooking side and I often make some absolutely delicious treats from items in her books.

Tonight is Caleb's suprise birthday party, so I wanted to make something to take with us. His wife, Heather, if making a carrot cake, but since there are quite a few of us that can't partake in that gluten-laden treat, I decided to make something delicious and different.

We had some Sumatra Peace Coffee left over from breakfast this morning, so I whipped up some whole whipping cream, a few tablespoons of sugar, and a healthy serving of cold coffee to make a delicious frosting of sorts. I then modified Bette's Three Ginger Pound Cake recipe for a coffee chocolate cake.

Like I said, I am not an engineer when it comes to the kitchen. I hate measuring things exactly, and I eyeball just about everything. It's not surprising that anything I make can't be duplicated in the future. But, this recipe is easy and quick. Here goes:

Mix the dry stuff:
1 cup Featherlight mix (I used 1/3 c.'s each rice flour, tapioca flour, and cornstarch)
1/2 Teff flour (I used dark, recipe calls for light... but with the "coffee infusion" I figured having a darker color was well suited)
1 tspn xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/4tsp salt

Cream the wet stuff in the stand mixer on high for 5 min:
2/3 c butter (I bought a 1lb block of butter, and used ~1/4 slice of it. Not sure how much that was, but it was good enough)
1 1/3c sugar
Healthy splash of Madagascar vanilla
2tbsp cold coffee
3 eggs

Add the dry mix to the wet mix in the stand mixer alternatively with 1/2 c whole cream. In a bread pan that has been coated with melted butter (or cooking spray), dust with Teff flour and sugar. Pour in batter, bake in oven at 350F for ~1hr. Then, sprinkle the cake with milk chocolate chips and bake for another 15mins. Do not overcook. The chips should be added when the cake is almost done (stick a knife in, should come out *almost* clean).

Then, let the cake cool at room temp. Flip over onto serving platter so chocolate chips are underneath cake.

In a stand mixer, whip the whipping cream (1/2 pint) and add sugar (I probably used 1/4c). Add 1/2c cold coffee. Whip until soft peaks form, keep refrigerated! Serve the cake with dollops of whipped cream on top.

Where've I been?

Good question!

Having spent the last week working on my review paper, making nanoparticles, justifying our research to the Department of Defense, and dabbling in web design, I am now back. Well, almost. I want to finish my review paper this week, but I also want to submit my IL-1ra (anakinra) paper to some journal that will be excited to accept it.

I launched the Team Mega Tough website, and I'm excited for the ladies. We're all laying low and recovering from an awesome season of racing, but now's the time to plan our 2010 relay. Where should we go? There's talk about doing the North Country Trail Relay in western Michigan. That's the same weekend as a conference of mine in Florida (I think?), so I might not be able to do it, but I know the Mega Tough ladies will hold down the fort without me.

I'm also about to launch my own personal site. I just need to wrap up a few pages and I should have it ready to go. Good thing about GoDaddy deluxe is that I can have more than one domain name, on the same hosting plan, and not pay extra. Score! So I added TMT to it, and bought my own domain. I'll still have this blog, but I'll now have a site to direct potential employers, friends, and others to find out more about me. Pretty sweet, I think. I'll be posting my CV (curriculum vita) and photos, too. Double bonus.

That's about it. Adam has his qualifying exam tomorrow, so wish him luck!

What's your favorite junkfood?

With Halloween having came and went, it really got me thinking about the refined sugar I sometimes indulge in. Being gluten free, I often get a craving that a salad just won't satisfy. I get a hankering for something crispy and salty, washed down with something fizzy and sugary, and followed up with something chewy and gooey and nougaty.

Take today, for example. I had a noon-o'clock meeting with a faculty member in the chemistry department, and afterward, I sat at my desk and fixed up a document to send to my advisor. Before I knew it, my computer clock down in the lower right hand corner said "2:14pm." Shoot. I missed the salad bar at the MUB. I didn't pack a lunch. That doesn't leave me many options. So I ordered a large fry. Loaded it up with salt. Lots'a ketchup. Sometimes you just need it. Of course, I needed something to wash it down, so I grabbed a 20ounce Coke. Perfect lunch? No way. But what are you gonna do?

With a gluten free diet, it's sometimes hard to get the right things in my diet. It takes a lot of planning. If I don't pack a lunch, it's kind of like playing Russian roulette on whether I will get a decent meal, or whether that meal will really be gluten free. I get questioned when I turn down the breadstick at the salad bar, and I've been yelled at for asking for "a sandwich without the bread." As if I were ripping them off...

So being gluten free and eating healthy requires time. Effort. I've picked up a good habit of packing last night's leftovers for lunch. My favorite lunch isn't peanut butter and jelly on bread; it's peanut butter and jelly in rice. Trust me, it's good.

So here is my tribute to the french fry. It's my favorite junk food. Snickers takes a close second. What's yours?

Good news all around

How excited am I?
Pretty damn excited.

I just found out that I made the teamnuun elite squad for 2010. Woowoo! I got bumped up from the grassroots level I received in 2009, and I am so pumped. Nuun has been such an awesome company, and their product is amazing; it is a standby in my training and racing. Plus, it just tastes good. I share it with M (my Little Sister) and for a 6-yr-old, she certainly approves. I got my local bike shop to carry the stuff, too. If you haven't tried it yet, you should...

The Kuparisaari Triathlon registration is underway. The website should be up soon. I made a facebook page for it and got them going on twitter, too (copperislandtri, if you aren't already following!). Man, this is going to be a fun event to plan. One last little hill to climb, and then it should be fairly smooth sailing. If you are interested in doing the half ironman, registration is extra-reduced until Nov 31st if you use a mail-in form. It's only $70! Stay tuned for more info about the website launch, discounts on entry fees, and other cool stuff about the first and ONLY half iron distance triathlon in Michigan's Upper Peninsula :-D

Busy, busy

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic.

Research: I have been working on two manuscripts (one was rejected! ouch.. and the other hasn't yet been submitted) and I started yesterday on a review paper. I am going to approach the review paper differently than the previous five papers I've put together: I am going to use an outline! Should take the stress away and help me target my topic sentences, anyway.

Opportunities are opening up for me, though. I turned down a job in Royal Oak recently because I want to focus on finishing my degree sooner than later, and Tammy is convinced that by Sept 2010, I will be graduated. I don't know about that though. Anyway, we are going to be designing a unique drug-delivery device, and I start working on that on Wednesday. Pretty sweet, I say.

Race team
: I applied last month to be a member of Team Trakkers, a GPS-based company who are in their pre-release stages of product development. They haven't released their product to the open market yet, so as an athlete I'd be able to use state-of-the-art devices that track where I am in realtime along the course, no matter what race. I am one of fifty finalists in the running for their team, which is really exciting. They will only be selecting 10 or so athletes, though, so my chances are still pretty tough. Regardless, I think it would be really cool to share the real-time data-logging experience with my family, especially when they can't travel with me to all my races. I would likely have one already if the product was on the market. I have a wristwatch GPS but no one can see my data until after I upload it, and sometimes that can take a while... So, here's to hoping that I make the team! To be able to have a tracking tool on my first ultra marathon would be really interesting... my teammates could share in the experience!

Team Mega Tough: Speaking of teammates... I've also been tackling the feat of approaching potential sponsors for support during the 2010 season for Team Mega Tough. It was fun to see how everyone did in the last year or racing by compiling it all in one single document! And, it was really motivating to see what each of our goals are for 2010. I hope that we will be able to do some really fun events together. Right now, we're really hoping to get sponsors to help us with having uniforms and gear, like headlamps, water-bottle carriers, and nutrition. I also had an idea of forming an "ultra-relay" event up here in the Keweenaw as a type of reunion for previous Michigan Tech runners, and people could do the relay in teams of 12 or less. I approached Ragnar about it but haven't heard back, so we might just try it without advertising too much, get some local teams involved, and see what happens. How cool would that be? I have a few routes in mind.

Organizing a Triathlon: I'm also really getting the ball rolling on the Kuparisaari Triathlon. The registration site is up, but our website isn't yet. I meet today with our logo/web designer. We are hopefully going to have some big sponsors. We already have Hammer Nutrition on board... I need to talk to the local community more to figure out course logistics (there will be some major construction going on where we wanted to have the swim start, so now we have to find a different place...). It'll work out, though.

So that's that.

Be Safe Out There

While training this summer for triathlon, I was out on the road a lot by myself. I couldn't always keep up with the guys, and I wouldn't always call a friend to go for ride right after work. When I'd have Women's Cycling Nights in Lake Linden, I'd ride the ten miles or so up to the Rehab center on the crazy-scary-sketchy highway with gravel shoulders and angry drivers.

Anyway, it really got me thinking about my own safety. So Adam and I forked over 30 bucks each and got a RoadID.

What is it?
Road ID is a band you wear around your wrist or ankle. Road ID also make tags you can put on your shoe.

Why do I need this?
So if something happens to you out on the road, you'll be identifiable.

I always run/bike/ski with my phone. Why would I get one of these?
Because it's strapped to your body. When I bike, I put my phone in my jersey pocket. If I get hit by a car, my phone can easily get knocked out. Plus, if I were to crash on my bike and land on my phone, it might break- and then what? Even if you always bike with your driver's license, that can fall out of your pocket, too. Also, your RoadID can display any information on it you deem as important. Got asthma? Have it typed on there. Have an allergy to bee stings? That can be on there, too. You get to type on there whatever you want!

What if I get one of these and then move? The info isn't valid anymore.
Replacement IDs are nearly half the cost of getting an entirely new ID.

Adam and I have the Elite bands, which have a metal clasp and a rubbery band. Super comfy, and I barely notice it when I am out running and riding. I almost got the ankle ID because it has reflective banding on it, but since I wear pants all winter (and winter is 6+ months of the year...), I thought the wrist ID would be a better go.

Now that the season is changing, the snow will soon fly (well, I guess it already has), and the days are getting shorter and shorter, the importance of this little tool has really been underlined.

So, I just ordered a few gift cards and hats for giveaways at this year's New Year's Eve Fun Run and Walk in Hancock. With my order, I got a coupon for $1 off orders. It can be used up to 20 times in the next 30 days, so if you were thinking about getting one of these, now is the time.

You can also use the code: PCLEVI for an additional discount and 100% of the sale's profit go to Levi Leipheimer's charities. I don't know how long this discount will last! Click here to order!

My code for $1 off is: ThanksMegan558805

Who's Your Favorite Female Athlete?

Here's the results of my "poll"- more like survey, since no two people had the same favorite female athlete!!

Kerryn McCann (Australia)-Dual Gold Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist, 11th place in 2000 Olympics, a Marathoner, a Mum, a wife, an inspiration who sadly lost her battle with cancer in 2008." -blogger from WTS

Paula Radcliffe - less than 10 months after giving birth to her first child, she won the New York Marathon. This was controversial for some, but very empowering for many others. She is a World Champ in half marathon and full marathon, and has won NYC marathon 3 times.

Kathrine Switzer - A pioneer to women's marathon running, she was the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon.

Grete Waitz- Won 9 NYC marathons, more than any other woman in history. World champ, Olympic medalist. She also does charity work for Special Olympics and CARE. Thanks for telling me about her, Tom!

Chrissie Wellington
- making the boys out in the triathlon world look over their shoulders... or straight ahead, because she's passed most of them.

Beckie Scott- not a runner, but one helluva good XC skier! And she's super-involved as a humanitarian as well as keeping dopers out of the sport.

Dara Torres- Incredible swimmer who has competed in 5 Olympics, got silver in three events at the age of 41.

Nancy Lieberman - "simply due to her dedication to her sport and its athletes long after she's done playing. What a role model." - Megan from WTS

Michelle Timms - elected to Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 and won gold at 1996 Olympics!

Tanisha Wright - This girl is younger than me! She's a professional WNBA player in Seattle.

Michelle Akers - Michelle was a member of the famous 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup team after being a 4-time All American in college.

Who is my favorite female athlete? Perhaps I have too many to name. I really look up to my friend Karin, who is shooting for a spot in the 2010 Winter Olympics for Nordic skiing. I've met some really awesome women who do outstanding things, like Devon Crosby-Helms (ultrarunner) and Linsey Corbin (Ironman). Additionally, Chrissie Wellington is a role model for any young girl that is interested in endurance sports, and she's always got a smile on her face! I also look up to all the women that follow their dream to do big things.

Poll: Who is your favorite female athlete?

Quick Poll, while I hammer away at an MSGC fellowship for 2010...

Who is your favorite female athlete, and why? They can be from any sport, so don't forget to include that in your reply. Post a comment or send me a direct email [mlkillia (at) gmail (dot) com]!

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Five States Down: 45 To Go

I've now completed a marathon in five states since I started running marathons two years ago.

Since Columbus was so much fun, I thought it might be worthwhile to have a rundown of the races I've done. What marathon has been my favorite so far? Which was the most beautiful? I hope that this will help me keep track later on, so I will make an update after every 5 marathons.

Napa Valley Marathon- March 2007 (3:22); my first marathon couldn't have been much better than this one in California. The course was mostly on a downhill grade, and was mostly on a single road that weaved through wine country. Gorgeous!! Post race food was a little different than others and included vegetable and chicken soups, and there were free massages. Great medals and swag; long sleeved dry-wicking t-shirts and a really cool duffle bag! Winner (Devon Crosby-Helms) took home her weight in wine. Now THAT is a sweet prize. The trip to Napa was nice, but long, because my friend Marc and I did it on the cheap. Stayed in a crappy motel (pretty sure there was blood on the walls...), broke his fan belt about 40miles from the expo (and almost missed packet pickup), and then had to drive 15hours back to SLC the next day... but it was totally worth it!Whidbey Island Marathon: My second marathon (3:31 was in scenic northwest Washington. I originally planned to run this marathon with one of my best friends and former roommate, Katie, but she got injured during training. I rode up to the island with some of her med school friends that were doing the race and met up with Marc again for a running reunion. I was disappointed in the expo- we arrived around 530pm (the expo went from noon-7pm or something like that...) and they were out of my size shirt. I stayed at a hotel about three miles from the bus pickup and waited for someone in the hotel to come down for breakfast, and I just asked for a ride then (my pseudo-hitchhiking talents). The island of Whidbey was beautiful, but we didn't get to run over Deception Pass (luckily, one of my MegaTough teammates did at the 2008 Ragnar Relay). It was great weather, and the course was challenging. Lots of steep hills in the first half, and the second had a downhill that I wasn't prepared for. I had stripped my layers throughout the race, but when I crossed the line, it had started to rain and was ~40degrees. Yet, I didn't get an emergency blanket. I was bummed about the post-race food (bags of uncooked pasta, hemp-flavored oatmeal, and hot chocolate- but you had to buy the hot chocolate). We didn't stick around for the awards. Also had to pay for massages.

Lincoln National Guard Marathon- My third marathon (3:38) in Nebraska was the largest marathon I had done at that point. It was a blast! I stayed with my friend Sarah in Omaha and some other midwest friends came too, and we got a hotel the night before in Lincoln. Although I felt like crap during the race (having got sick about three weeks prior) and didn't run the time I was shooting for, I still had a blast. The first half was gorgeous and wound through some beautiful neighborhoods. The second half was a little more lonely but had a turn-around in a park. It was a little hillier of a course than I expected, but it wasn't bad... I just wasn't on my game that day. Post race was outstanding; Great massages with practically no line, nice short-sleeve shirts, cool medals, incredibly helpful volunteers.

IM Wisconsin, Marathon leg- My "fourth" marathon (4:11) was at the end of the Ironman Wisconsin, but I am counting it until I get a chance to do another marathon in Wisconsin. Of course, it was a blast and a lot of fun. Something regular marathon races should consider having at aid stations: Coca-Cola!!! I love it. I stopped and walked through every aid station besides the last two. The crowds were, of course, phenomenal. And post race swag, considering the $550 entry fee, was worth it. I got a hat, a shirt, a medal, and the glory because I am now an Ironman.

Columbus Marathon- My fifth marathon (3:19) in Ohio was the latest and greatest. I stayed with my friend Kendra in Columbus the night before the race, after driving down to Monroe on Friday. The expo was the largest I'd seen yet, and it had a lot of really cool stuff. I didn't dilly-dally too much, though. Nice shirts, and the use of D-Tags made crossing the finish line a lot less crowded. Even though we started with 15000 people, it cleared out pretty fast. Great aid stations, and very frequent (every mile). Awesome race entertainment (bands every half mile it seemed). Great post-race swag (hats, medals) and free massages and food (although the massager I had was a little less aggressive than I wanted). TweetMyTime was awesome! They were trying something brand new, and it totally worked.

Here is my ranking thus far:
#5: Whidbey Island- not as organized as I would have liked.
#4: Lincoln National Guard- The top four are pretty close together, but I think this one takes the bottom because I wasn't happy with how I performed
#3: IM Wisconsin- a two-loop course made spectating easy
#2: Napa Valley
#1: Columbus

The top 2 are really close, and the tie breaker was the entry fee and technology. Columbus was cheaper ($70 opposed to $90). Swag was a little better at Napa, but... I think the fact that I got a free entry and CBus had TweetMyTime really pushed them over the top.

Columbus Marathon: Complete Race Report

I decided to do the Columbus Marathon before I competed at IMoo, because I was lucky enough to win a free entry through Racevine. Even if I hadn't won an entry, I can honestly say that it would have been well beyond worth the entry fee. I'll get to that later.

I drove down from Houghton to Monroe on Friday and had dinner with my mom, sister, their kids, my grandparents, and my uncle. My mom made mostaciolli and had some rice pasta and sauce left for me. Delicious! I slept in... not too late... and went shopping for interview clothes in the morning with my cousin after playing with my nephew, Seth. I headed to Columbus around 1230pm, and missed my exit off I75. That tacked on about an hour to my drive, but I made it down to Kendra and Tom's by 430pm and we went to the expo.

The expo was much bigger than any other expo I'd been to before. I thought Lincoln National Guard's was big, but I guess this is what I get when I race against 15,000 competitors! We picked up our packets, bibs, D-tags, and race shirts, and bought a couple packs of orange burst Gu from a running shop (I had left my Honey packets at home). Then, we stopped at Whole Foods to grab some dinner and headed back to their house. I took my frozen pizza from Whole Foods with me over to my cousin's (Jenny) place and met her 3-month old baby, Sophia, for the first time! So cute. After eating, I went back to Kendra's, went for a quick run, and got ready for the morning. I was in bed by 930, and slept like a baby. A happy baby.

I woke up before my alarm, which was nice. Halfway through the night, the vial of concentrated Nuun that I had made for race day exploded. I used an old tube of Nuun filled with water and put one tablet of Kona Kola in it. I let it sit out for about an hour before putting the cap on it when I went to bed, but apparently that wasn't long enough. I woke up to a loud "POP!" at 2am and then had a dream that the Nuun spilled all over Kendra's dresser. Luckily, that didn't really happen, but the top did explosively pop off and hit the ceiling. No damage was seen.

After I woke up, I ate a bowl of cereal, drank some nuun, and packed my race food. My race food was a bulging wad of fruit snack that was a little cumbersome in my shorts pocket. I would remedy this later... I took in some caffeine so I didn't get a headache, especially since I hadn't weened myself off caffeine whatsoever. [I don't think I will ever do the "weening" thing again, after having a terrible race in Lincoln in May]

We got in the car and headed to the race around 630, and it was about four blocks to the race start. We stopped by the Convention Center for a bathroom pitstop before heading to the race start, and then hit the portapotties one last time when we arrived. I threw my bag in the big truck (that was really convenient) and Kendra and I headed to find a spot between the 3:20 and 3:30 pace groups.

The race started on time, and I crossed the starting line about a minute after the race clock started. The first mile was relaxed, slow, weaving around people, 7:57. Slower than I wanted, but I tried to stay relaxed. Kendra made a comment that there were something like 40-50 bands along the course, and we started to see and hear them rather quickly. Every major intersection had someone playing an instrument. It was distracting, which was a good thing.

The start was the most crowded start I've experienced yet, with 15,000 runners (half marathoners and marathoners started at the same time). Eventually, the crowd cleared a little and I could see the 3:20 pace group ahead and we stuck behind it at a constant distance for the a few miles. Kendra and I hung at 7:31 for mile 2. Where I wanted to be, but I also knew that I had to pick off 20seconds from the slow first mile. I paid attention to my breathing, and mile 3 had some downhill, so we rolled out our third mile at 7:21. I tried to keep the next three miles right at 7:30s, but the speed varied depending on turns and crowds. We eventually caught up to and got around the 3:20 pace group and I felt good being ahead of the crowd because I could see the road and the race in front of me. However, the pace group did a great job of blocking the wind. Win some, lose some, I suppose! I took some chews exactly at 30minutes and stuffed my food in my sports bra (my shorts pocket kept spilling its contents, and having chews in my underwear was not the most comfortable feeling).

Eventually, Kendra and I split up (around the 10K) and I comfortably sat at 7:20-25s until the half. I felt good and ate some more of my chews. I tried to not let my 12th mile get too fast because of all the half marathoners passing me, so I ate the rest of my chews and was smiling as I ran through the spectator-lined main street. Once the half marathoners split off, the road cleared even more, and it just got quiet. The music bands were a great distraction again. I caught up with a guy exiting the portapotty and we secured the 7:30s for a few miles. There were a few gradual uphills between miles 15-18. I decided to turn it up a notch to see what I could do, and I increased my turnover. My mile 17 was a little fast (7:06), but I didn't know it at the time because I missed my split. I knew it was faster, but I thought that it wasmaybe a 7:15. Then, I started to feel a mini bonk coming over me, and I quickly reached for my rescue Gu in my shirt pocket. I felt the bonk mostly as a factor for my legs and head, aerobically I still felt great. The bonk disappeared and I was on track for a 3:15. Mile 18 was back on to 730s, but I then started to feel a twinge in my hamstring as I started mile 19. I tried to focus on running upright, forward, using my arms. The pain would subside, but then I think I would lose my form again, and the pain would return. I started to develop a limp, and it hurt to push off with my left foot. My stride shortened substantially, and I started to fall apart.
I struggled to keep my pace at 8s. When I would recuperate my form, and look at my GPS, I was around 740min/miles. But, thirty seconds later when I started to slouch, the pain would return and I was running 8:15s. At mile 20, I thought to myself that I could still run a 50min 10K and PR. I am not sure if this thought spoiled my race, but while I was running, I was in pain. I knew that I needed to keep moving forward and that the 6.2miles would be over before I knew it. And they were.

Rolling into the finish felt good because the last 1/4 mile was all downhill. I felt my adductor muscles tighten as soon as I crossed the line, but it felt good to be done. My time was 3:19:51, which is 2 minutes, 20seconds faster than my previous best (my first marathon; Napa Valley).

Mentally, I think I have work to do on my last 10K. Also, I wore my ST3s, and although they made me feel fast for the first 20miles, I wonder if they just weren't enough support for the 26.2. That thought crossed my mind too, and I probably started to make excuses for myself during the race without realizing it. I thought: "Had I worn my Trances, I might not have biomechanically fallen apart." I was really happy with how I did, though, and I felt good even though I didn't quite make my ultimate goal of 3:15. My clothing was perfect. The temperature was ~35F when we started, and with all the people, I avoided the cool breeze and kept warm. I wore gloves until around mile 19, and kept my longsleeve on the whole time. I was comfortable temperature wise the whole time.

The race was phenomenal. The music was a great part of the race atmosphere. The spectators were awesome, and the other people racing were very encouraging. Not too many people wearing iPods, which I found to be a relief. When I crossed the finish line, I was immediately given a space blanket and medal (really cool "spinner" medal with color paint on it). I then got a finisher's hat (fleece) and was corralled to the massage room. Although the massages were disappointing, it was nice to be able to sit around. I went to get my pre-race clothes bag and it was really easy to find. I put on a few layers, found Kendra and Tom, and then we left to get lunch from PF Changs.

What I wore:
Brooks ST3s
Brooks Podium shorts
Brooks PR T
Brooks Equilibrium long sleeve top
Brooks runner PED socks
Brooks Run Happy hat
Cheap (99cent) cotton gloves

What I ate:
Pre race: Envirokids Panda Puffs (a bowl-full, plus a handful, so probably 2-3 cups), 2tablets of Kona Kola Nuun (caffeine) in 1liter water
Race: 2 packets of Honey Stinger chews, Pomegranate and Mixed Fruit (I emptied two packets in saran wrap), 1 Orange burst Gu (with caffeine), Gatorade Endurance on course after mile 17, water at every other station

New things about the race I hadn't experienced before:
-I had never used D-Tags before. Very easy to use. Just don't crease them!!
-TweetMyTime was really nice because it synced with both my Twitter and Facebook. My friends could see how I was doing at the 10K, half, 20mile, and finish!
-Lots of race photos; I didn't see many cameras out on the course, but I had six or seven photos from the race.