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