Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Napalm - Infinit Nutrition - ONGOING REVIEW

Recently I was given the incredible opportunity to review Infinit's new Napalm - their answer to gels.  They asked several specific questions, and asked that reviewers give ratings from 1-5 when answering those questions.

Hooray! It's here!
So, on to my review.
First the unboxing:

The Napalm
I got quite a few responses on the appearance of this bag.

Getting ready for mixing.  I was testing with a one hour run, and Infinit has me at about 156 calories per hour.  Soooo, at 50 calories per ounce, and four fluid ounces of Napalm, I made a 200 calorie bottle (a little extra for the pre-test taste-test!)  The directions are to fill it to the top, and add water.  I wasn't really impressed with these directions - they left a little to interpretation.  So, for a 1:1 ratio of Napalm to water, it makes a little more sense to add Napalm (in fluid ounces) to how many calories you think you'll need, then add water. I've since tested with a whole bunch of longer runs, same deal every time.

Just add water and run!  In this case, adding water actually caused the level of the Napalm to drop, so be careful to make sure you add all the water you're directed to.  You don't want to mess with osmolality.  Drink plenty of water when you're using this - it's ideal for supported races and training with easy access to drinkable water (whether that's water you're carrying or can access along your route).

On other things.....

Packaging - I'd give the packaging about a 3.  The handle hole needs to be lower on the side to make for easier pouring.  I got quite a few comments telling me that the bag resembled a giant frozen breast milk bag.  I'd have to agree with that assessment, too  I'm not sure if there is a fix for that - other than a transparent orange bag (it is Napalm, after all).  But, overall, it isn't something that would keep me from purchasing the product and living with it without complaining.

Name - not bad at all.  Infinit is considering Napalm and Plasma.  I like Napalm better than Plasma, personally.   So, overall, I'd give it a 5.  Had some cheezy slogans in my head that I thought of while running "Napalm - Do you have the fire inside"  Or "Napalm - Do you have the fire in you"  Like I said, cheesy.

I do want to address a comment that was posted before this review is completed.  "You like the name!! You have to be kidding. The name is associated with a chemical agent that has caused the maiming and death of thousands of people. Only a marketing moron would think such a name as catchy. Napalm causes horrid disfigurement and an unbelievably painful death. You might have some trouble selling this stuff in Vietnam."  I spent quite a bit of time considering this very thing.  Yet the human race has a tendency to name things after powerful, destructive tools.  Americans remember "Kamikazes" all to well.  But they make a popular drink on Austin's 6th street.  It's currently a compliment to call someone "the bomb." But we too often hear of bombs causing "horrid disfigurement and an unbelievably painful death."  The list of items named like this goes on and on.  So when considering the name of the product, yes, this was a concern.  Considering the tendency from all manufacturers to name workout products in a powerful manner (i.e. Monster, Burn, Amp, Venom), I didn't see this as a major problem.

Taste - Cold - 5, room temp - 5, warm - 4.  Nothing that's going to stop me from ordering it.  The real test comes when Texas hits 110 this summer, and the Napalm is hot before I get to it.  It tasted weird if you just tasted it before running, but once you got going, it was good.  I almost hated to wash it down with some fresh water. (Ever had a grape jolly rancher?)

How was the sweetness level - 5.  Hands down perfect.

How was the salt - 5.  Good.  I really didn't notice it until mentioned.

Overall performance in comparison to Gels - 4.  Gels are easier to portion out in their packets, but I was happier with being able to carry this in a flask for my long runs.  Much happier.  Squeezing out tubes of gel into a flask, then watering it down until it didn't gel up for the 50 degree runs seems kind of ridiculous to me.  This is faster, easier, and way.  less.  sticky.

Was it convenient to carry - 5  So easy a caveman could do it.

It seems that when Infinit releases the Napalm, the cost is going to be significantly less than gels.  I don't know about you guys, but the most expensive part of being an athlete for me is the nutrition for training and racing (not race fees).  Infinit has made headway in making nutrition affordable.  (Okay, we all know that we'd buy the nutrition anyway, you just don't cringe when you open your wallet for the Napalm.)

One other thing that I want to mention.  I've been getting a small bit of heartburn.  I wasn't sure what it was, but as soon as I said something, Infinit's response was to change the formula.  They said that a part of the new flavor gives a small portion of athletes heartburn, and they were going to adjust it.  I suspect this is because they're going to implement this flavor across the spectrum of products (YAY!!!), but I've never had gel companies reformulate something for me because I had a problem.

This review is ongoing, and I will complete it as I get to test in a variety of conditions.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Austin Marathon Race Report (Yes, the one in firefighting gear!)

By the time I hit 12 miles, each step hurt.

About two weeks before the race, the woman who was going to pace me had a stress fracture in her foot and had to start taking it easy, but it left me without a pacer for the race.  So I posted on and (both are really great triathlon websites) that I was looking for a person who could throw down a marathon in two weeks.  Dave answered that he could - he had just finished Rocky Racoon (the 50 miler!).

Ten days before the marathon, I stepped off a curb during a training run and sprained my ankle, there was also question of a stress fracture, but I wasn't going to be the woman who almost ran a marathon in firefighting gear.  There had been too much press by that time.  So I went on with training, limped for a few days (almost got busted a few times, lol!) and focused on being hydrated and ready for race day.  By the time race day came, my blisters still hadn't healed from the Bandera race!

The nice thing about wearing firefighting gear during the race was that while everyone else was cold at the starting line, I was pretty comfortable.  Erica (my training buddy) and I went to the north steps of the capitol building to put stuff down and wait to meet Dave.

Erica went to find water, Dave found me, and we got ready to go.  By the time we got set, it was almost time to go.  My husband, Gabe, found us just in time to wish us well before we sang the National Anthem and the race started.

It took almost twenty minutes to get to the starting line.  I spent quite a bit of that time explaining why I was wearing gear to people around me.  I had lined up near the back so I wouldn't trip anyone passing me, and it seemed to have been a good idea.

10 miles down, not hurting yet
The first several miles weren't too bad.  Good pace, still cool enough outside to be comfortable, muscles still fairly fresh.  Euphoric would be a good word for it.  It still hadn't set in that I was actually doing this.  During training, I purposely hadn't thought about the race.  I hadn't gotten on the scale to find out how much the gear actually weighs, and I avoided looking at a course map on purpose.  I focused on one training day at a time.  If you've been following my blog, you know that I went out and did a 50k trail race in early January.  Even that was training in preparation for what I expected in Austin.  I did that race to raise my pain tolerance.  And it did.  Recently, one of my favorite triathletes, Chrissie Wellington, said in an interview: "Remember that training is about learning to hurt."  Truthfully, the whole interview is goosebump raising in how it applies to Sunday for me.  One thing I know for sure.  There is usually a point where any race hurts so much that I think "I don't want to do this anymore."  Sunday, I never hit that point.  I must have trained past it.

I never knew when I was going to see family or friends.  The first few times it happened, it came as a complete surprise.  Gabe, his mom, and one of our friends would suddenly show up, cheer, and move on to the next spot after I passed him.  Gabe ran along side me a few times asking how I was doing, and at one point, I had to tell him to stop asking me questions!  Next it was Megan. She's become a fast friend since we meet a few weeks ago.  She'd show up, cheer, and bike to the next spot.  I don't think Gabe or Megan ever wound up at the same spot.  Megan took most of the pictures.

24 miles.  Smile?  Or teeth gritted...
About two hours in is where it started getting rough.  We had to stop to refill my nutrition bottle, and during that few minutes, muscles stiffened up.  Joints got sore.  Running slower than my usual pace almost always hurts more, and it certainly was then.  It was hurting Dave, too.  Dave ran a 3:38 In his last marathon, and now we're on pace for two hours longer.  By the time we hit 12 miles, it hurt.

My back was stiff, my feet were sore, my ankle was killing me where I'd sprained it, the muscles that pull my legs forward from the pelvic area were sore.  Halfway through, I think I started seeing spots, and I got a little bit nauseated.  I upped the water intake, got some more calories in, and dumped some water over my head to cool off.  Some of the worst came later from stabbing pains in my knee, and then it started hurting just to breath from supporting the air tank. 

But anytime I saw a spectator or volunteer, I put a smile on my face.  This race wasn't about me, it was about raising money for a scholarship.  And there are people that deal with more than I, for longer than I.   There were several runners wearing "in honor of" or "in memory of" signs during the race.  I think my burden was much less to bear.  And as I said in a recent blog post, my journey on Sunday was not the hardest.

Some of the other racers had some pretty funny comments.  I heard "You should have put helium in that tank!" Quite a few people actually suggested that.  Several suggested water.  My favorite, though, was the suggestion that I should have filled it with beer.  Another continuing theme was that I did have to tell several people that I wasn't a  fire man,  but a fire woman.  That usually elicited a few laughs from spectators and runners around me. People asked if I'd lost a bet, or if I was in training and hoped to be a firefighter someday.  When I told them that I was in my 13th year being a career firefighter, they usually were surprised.  I spent a lot of time high-fiving kids (of ALL ages-even the 50 and 60 year old ones!).  Lots of people took pictures.  If I saw them, I'd wave and smile for them.  At one point, I saw someone hold up traffic with his phone out the window taking video or a picture.  At that point, I turned to Dave and told him that I just became a traffic hazard!

The whole race, I'd been counting down miles.  "25 to go, 24 to go..."  When we got the last mile, I was waiting for that last hill. Everyone dreads it.
Dave looked over and asked, "You like Star Wars?"
"Yeah," I said.
"This isn't the hill you're looking at," He said, waving his hand.

I cracked up.  But by then, the finisher's chute was in sight.  Dave looked over again and asked if I'd sped up or if he did.  I told him it was me.  By then, I was ready to be done!  Pain forgotten, I crossed the finish line.  My favorite part was when my kids put the finisher's medal over my head.

Despite everything, I've hurt worse after other races.  The only difference is my back muscles hurt more after this than after others.  A trip to the doctor two days ago shows my sprain is actually still healing even though I haven't given it much of a chance, and there's no fracture, just a metatarsal head that isn't where it's supposed to be.

In retrospect, I'm pretty happy with the race.  I accomplished what I set out to do.  In less time than I set out to do it in.  It still seems like a dream-not really real.  But there are the pictures and the videos, and the memory that I still haven't reached my limits.

Race Day Gear:
Coat, with liner
Pants, with liner
A pair of old leather out of service firefighting gloves
Traditional helmet (my current issued helmet for firefighting)
Tank and pack, MSA, out of service and used for training
Sneakers - Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 in pink of course!
Nathan Elite 1 hydration pack with custom Infinit Marathon Mix
Garmin 910xt with HRM, Foot Pod   Garmin Data Available HERE
Out of a twisted sense of humor, my shirt said "If you see me collapse, pause my Garmin"

By the numbers:
Gear weight: No idea, I still refuse to get on a scale
Total distance: 26.42 miles
Average pace: 12:55 minutes/mile
Total time 5:41:16

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My race day safety net...

So, the weather didn't really give us the cold day we were hoping for...  No biggie.  We had some good people on the problem.

My pacer, Dave, is an amazing guy.  In most of the pictures, you'll see a guy with tape on one knee running with me.  He kept me going when the going got tough (and believe me, it got pretty tough).   Let me tell you a little about Dave.  He's ex-Air Force, husband (thank you, Angie!), dad, and a type 2 diabetic.  From looking at him you'd never know he was diabetic.  He's a member of Team Type 2, a bunch of athletes that are kickin' butt and taking names.  And they all have type 2 diabetes.  Check these guys (and gals) out.  They're amazing.  Their mission is to instill hope and inspiration for people around the world who have diabetes and show that with diet, exercise and proper medication, diabetes can be controlled. In 2009 and 2010, TT2 completed the 3,000 mile Race Across America (RAAM), and continues to race in many events around the country including most local Tour de Cure events.  TT2 is part of TT1, a larger organization of type 1 diabetic racers, including a pro cycling team (who hope to debut in the 2012 Tour de France), a running team, a women's cycling team and a triathlon team.

But back to Dave.  If anyone is diabetic and reading this, Dave sets a great example of what diabetes can't do.  It can't limit you or make you weak.  Without him, my race might have been a whole lot different.

I'd been watching the weather for weeks.  When I saw that the weather wasn't going to be as cool as I needed to be, I called a doctor friend to ask his advice on how to keep cool for the race.  He referred me to a sports doctor, who gave me some really good advice, which I used.  I went to the medical tent before going home - to be on the safe side.  Blood pressure, heart rate and body temp were all normal.  As if I took a nice stroll outside kind of normal.  Kudos to the doctors who gave me the great advice.  I followed it to the letter and finished strong and healthy.

In addition, some really great people from EMS kept an eye on me and where I was during the race to make sure that I was safe.  I can't really say enough about these guys - without them on the course, who knows what could have happened.  Now don't get me wrong, they were also out there for the other amazing runners that were out there with me.  EMS really doesn't get a day off; night and day, they're always EMS.  But they were aware that I was out there, doing something crazy, and might need help.

The safety net that existed was truly amazing.  You guys deserve a round of applause.  Thank you.

But Austin, WOW.  The volunteers, spectators and runners.  You cheered everyone on.  It didn't matter whether or not you knew them.  You stood out there for hours and cheered.  And to the people who worked the water stops - you were really awesome!  26.2 miles of fans for every single runner out there, and a support crew for each one.  And you made everyone feel like it was their race, their day to succeed.  To the runners - it was a great race.  I saw a lot of you that were out there having fun!  And a lot of you encouraging the ones who weren't.  And the ones that weren't, you didn't quit.  You guys are amazing.

My race report is coming - I've got it drafted and need to put the finishing touches on it.  I wanted to make sure and highlight that this was a team effort before the race report, though.  A lot of people stepped up to help make this happen.

Thank you to everyone.  And don't forget that the point of this was to fund the scholarship.  You can donate here:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

This seemed like a great idea at the time...

In less than 24 hours, I'll be finishing the Austin Marathon. This has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride; good training days, bad training days, and days where training may have defined the tenth circle of hell. I've gotten more familiar with so many more aspects of being athlete than I ever thought possible, and I've been in touch with people from all over the world and from all walks of life. I've heard many inspiring stories about people who have survived amazing things and come out stronger than imaginable.  And I've been fortunate to meet some of them.  I've pushed myself further than I thought possible.  So, tomorrow, when I'm running, I know that my journey will not be the hardest.

It's amazing how many people have come together to make this happen.  There are so many people to thank
(in no particular order):

My husband, Gabe.  He inspires me and encourages me to realize that I haven't met my limits yet.  He supports me.

Erica, my friend and training buddy. She's great company on the long training miles and helped raise a lot of the money. She also helps me not take things so seriously.

Jessica and Nathan. These two are the coolest young adults I've met. They've watched my kids when I couldn't and encouraged me to get more involved with the generation between mine and my kids. You guys do your generation proud, guys.

Chastidy. She's handled much of the social networking for me, and encouraged me to get the information out there. She also handled most of the interaction between me and Support Behind The Badge.

Bonnie. She started the ball rolling on the support during the marathon itself and got Inspire and the Gems involved. This is such an important part for safety. She also taught me a lot about social networking.

Laurie and Infinit Nutrition. These guys took the time to help me get my nutrition right, then took a chance on a crazy idea.  The one thing that I haven't had to worry about at all is whether or not my stomach was going to rebel on me.  It's probably one of the largest concerns in any race - and not something that I even have to stress about. 

Jeff Hayes.  He designed a logo for us on very short notice, that we really haven't been able to take advantage of as much as I would like to have.  And he didn't get much credit for it.

Dave and Angie.  Dave is running with me for safety, and Angie is his wonderful wife that's making time so Dave can run the Marathon.  Dave and I have been in a few races at the same time (Longhorn 70.3, Bandera 50k) but I don't think I've ever actually met him!

Johnny, Megan and Sara with the media. Thanks for the really tasteful articles, and for making sure they kept the focus on the charity.

There are many, many people that have supported me throughout this journey in countless ways that I haven't mentioned in my post.  I haven't forgotten you.  You meant something to me on a personal level that I don't think needs to be shared with the world.  But you were there for me, and it was important. Tomorrow, when the going gets tough, your voices will be there with me, keeping me going.

But most important, to my kids. Your endless imagination and spirit keeps me on endlessly on my toes and ready for anything. I love you both, and remember, you are only limited by your ability to dream. Dream big, kiddos.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Marathon risks

A friend of mine just posted a blog entry linked to a news article about how endurance sporting events can be risky.  What most people don't realize is that if you run marathons, you have two disciplines to manage, or if you do triathlon, you have four disciplines to manage.  That extra discipline is called nutrition by many; I just call it health.

Most sane people don't just go out and decide "I'm going to run a marathon today."  For many, it takes years to get that point, with a marathon being the culmination of years of hard work.  But gone are the days where only the elite men ran marathons.  Gone are the times where only the best runners of both genders were the only ones who attempted 26.2 miles.  With the emergence of "bucket listers" in the endurance sports arena, the time from beginning runner to marathon finisher has shortened.  And anyone can find a good training plan to tell them how many miles to run evey day and when to rest for the eighteen weeks leading up to a marathon.  You could conceivably go from couch potato to marathon finisher in less than a year with little more than a pair of running shoes and internet access. Let me just say that this is a bad idea.  You wouldn't have a chance to learn running in a healthy way.

The most crucial discipline often goes ignored.  Health.  And while the discipline of marathon or triathlon may not be a team sport, entire families and communities are affected by the health discipline when a race goes wrong.

Sick or hurt
How many runners ignore pain because they want to make that race next Saturday, or make sure they get in enough miles for their training?  How many of us push through when we know without a doubt that we should take a break for some other reason that truly isn't worth sacrificing all the hard work, just to get in that last mile?  So we aren't taking care of ourselves when we're sick or hurt.

What percentage of people in the sport truly know how handle nutrition in training and racing?   I ran my first marathon in 2009, but my nutrition for endurance really didn't get dialed in until 2011.  There were several endurance events that my stomach reminded me that I needed to figure out a better plan before I finally figured it out.  I will say this, though:  if not for my transition to triathlon, I may not have figured it out.

General Health
How many people get a full physical, including a full cardio checkup?  Before they start running, and every year thereafter?  I remember watching the news last year and hearing about so many deaths in running and triathlon.  Many of those deaths were later attributed to underlying heart disease.

It can be heart breaking when an athlete doesn't take care of themself.  But the risks can be managed.  Athletes, take care of yourselves! Don't push yourself to keep going when you are sick or injured, learn proper race nutrition and practice it in training, and go get a complete physical!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Honoring a Fallen Friend

In a couple of days, a news interview is going to air about me running the marathon in bunker gear.  Before that happens, I want to highlight the person whose memory is the catalyst to so much that is going on.

The scholarship that I'm helping to fund is in the name of a dear friend. His name was Leonard A. Reed. He was a police officer with the city of Cedar Park, Texas for several years before he was lost in an unfortunate training accident. His life positively impacted countless others, and a visit to his facebook pages will show you that he was and still is a much loved man. The family he left behind is a testament to the kind of person he was. His wife, Cynthia, was the rock that everyone else leaned on to get through the hard times after his death. His sons are cut from the same cloth. I was lucky enough to run with Cynthia when she was training for her first half marathon. She gives endurance its definition in many forms.

As for the man that gives the scholarship its name, he was smart, patient, good natured, good humored and good hearted.  Someone once became upset with Leonard and snidely asked if he was having a bad day.  He simply smiled and said, "I don't have bad days."

Everyone has a story about Leonard. This is mine:
I'd been having a bad Friday during my first pregnancy, was stuck at home, and was grumping around the house. I'd seen the movie "Friday" the night before, so in my grumpiness, repeated the line: "It's Friday. I ain't got no job, I ain't got sh*t to do!" I heard my husband laughing in the other room. He'd overheard me, and when he went to work that day, repeated the story to Leonard. When the guys came by the house later, Leonard said "Hey Smokey!" and proceeded to try and cheer me up. From then on, it was Craig and Smokey when we ran into each other.

I'm not saying Leonard was perfect. He was human. But he made it his life to make others feel better about themselves. He left a legacy behind of more than public service. He left a legacy of human service.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My weapons of war (Part 1)

What do you use to train?

This is another part of my life as an athlete that undergoes constant revision.  During the ramp up to my first marathon, I had so much gear, that I remember non runner friends teasing me about the amount of technology and other crap that I carried.  And had to prepare - just to get out the door.

Now, even though I'm not a running purist by any means, I've streamlined my gear.  I'm going to break this up into three blog posts, for ease of reading (and writing), and frankly, so you don' get bored.  I don't want to turn this into a gear review.  You can head over to DCRainmaker's blog if that's what you're looking for - he has some great reviews.

Running outside:  Hat, sunglasses during the day, heart rate monitor and gps watch, non cotton low rise socks, and running shoes, foot pod attached to my shoe

Running inside: Heart rate monitor and gps watch (gps off), foot pod attached to my shoe

Whether I'm running inside or outside, I dress to be comfortable, and if I'm running for more than an hour, I use nutrition.  When that happens, I wear a running belt.
That pretty much covers my running gear, now for the pictures!

I use a headsweats supervisor right now.  Great hat.  Keeps sweat and sun out of my eyes.  Does its job pretty well.  I like this better than a regular hat because it lets me get rid of heat without letting me sunburn.  The downside?  Slightly too big and it can't be made smaller.

My sunglasses are the tifosi slip variety.  I just got these, so I'm still checking them out.  They came with three lenses, a hard case, and a softcase/lens cleaner.  Give me another month or two, and I'll be able to tell you more.  So far, I really like them.

I currently use the garmin 310xt with the premium heart rate monitor and the foot pod.  I calibrated the foot pod using gps (treadmills can be inaccurate).  I will be switching to the garmin 910xt in the future, just no rush to do so.  Garmin's best quality has been their customer service.  I've had a few problems with the gps watches, but nothing that would make me consider switching to another brand.

When I run more than an hour, I use the nathan elite 1 running belt.  I load up enough nutrition for two hours in the bottle, and if I'm going further than that, I make sure to have a stop on the way to refuel/rewater.

And last, I wear the brooks adrenaline when I run.  I really love their shoes.  After a brief and unpleasant affair with another shoe, I'm back in my beloved adrenalines.  I may consider getting into the habit of wearing a racing flat when I race 5 or 10 k races, but otherwise, I'll stick with the shoe that has taken the best care of my feet.

I do want to stress that just because I or any other athlete has had good luck with a certain product, it doesn't mean that you should go out and immediately change what you're doing if it works for you.

Tell me in the comments what works for you when running.