Sunday, June 23, 2013

Death-Defying Training Day

Thursday was just an ordinary day and I was preparing for the morning or training ahead and then it was time to pack for my weekend getaway to Williamsburg VA with Rev3. I did not think that I would escape the clutches of death many times on a normal Thursday.

The day's brick session would include a 2.5h bike with some bouts of intensity and then run action off the bike--some time at race pace and then a cool down. I have been super focused on improving my run the last several weeks and have been seeing great strides in my bike AND run fitness...YAY! I was certainly looking forward to the training session ahead.

I normally don't take shower BEFORE a training session like this but I was pretty knarly from teaching several Group Ex classes and my own training the day and night before.

While preparing to get out of the shower, the industrial sized container of hair conditioner fell off the shower shelf and directly onto my left foot, creating a nice 1/2" slice along my pinky toe and another slice along the side of my foot...accompanied by a some nice bruising and swelling. Sweet! Who knew this would be an indication of the excitement to come!

A couple band-aids and a little HTFU later and we were ready to rock.

The weather was perfect, mid 70's and low humidity. Riding was nice and once I hit up the area along the beach the winds picked up. GOOD...Cedar Point can get quite windy so I embrace these conditions.

The bike was going well and I eased into my many 25 minute sets of mixed intensity and cadence, feeling strong and ready to go. Last weekend in Maine, there was a tragic accident at the start of The Trek Across Maine and a cyclist was killed when struck by the rear portion of an 18-wheeler. I had noticed that in the days following this accident, motorists were very conscious of the “3 foot rule” and had been quite courteous, at least more so than usual. When I ride alone, I wear a small mirror that attaches to my glasses so I can see behind me and I was grateful for that small tool on this ride. I heard it coming up behind me—like the sound of a freight train—a big green dump truck, and this truck was NOT giving me any berth! There were no oncoming cars, we were on a quiet county road and this truck just wanted to play chicken and see how close he could get to me without actually hitting me. I was prepared and ready to hit the ditch if need be…out of aero and into an upright position. The WHOOOOSH of the wind as he passed almost knocked me over! Death #1 of the day averted...

The rest of the ride was uneventful (Thank God) and I parked my beloved QR in her spot and I was ready to run! Coach’s directions for the run were pretty simple; if you feel good off the bike go right into race pace. If you feel like garbage, take it easy and figure out WHY you feel like garbage.

I felt great and I just ran by feel, "race pace" feel…the first mile ticked off at a sub-8 pace (woo hoo) and the following two miles were right at 8-flat. YES! YES! YES! I am still nursing some disappointment after the mess that was the Quassy run so I was pretty happy to be hitting some solid paces off the bike. Hello Fitness!! I’m happy to see you show up on the run today! While it was not HOT hot (low 80's by this point), I was certainly feeling the heat of the sun while running and just had some nice mental mojo going “yeah, you’re hot but you are not going to die” “hey, feel that breeze!” “keep running legs” "ooh, a 3 foot section of tree shade!"

Along one stretch of this road, there is a section of woods and it is notorious for having black flies and deer flies. I don't know why but biting bugs love me! There can be 1200 people around and the mosquitoes are biting only me...same goes with deer flies! They actually follow me on the run. Well, I could see from the noon time shadow that there was a pretty good sized deer fly buzzing around my head. I'd feel it buzz by, I'd swat at it and it would continue to circle my head. 

A typical Maine deer fly


then there were two.

run-swat-swat-run. Dang it flies! So I picked up the pace hoping to lose them. 
No such luck. They stuck with me. buzz buzz swat.

then there were three shadows circling around my head, then my legs.
and I got a good look.

These were NOT deer flies. Or black flies.

There were some dang wasps!!


oh yeah. Time to really pick up the pace. Now I am in danger-panic-mode and start getting scared. I don't have an epi pen with me AND I am a ways from home. I am running like a mad woman and these flying killers are keeping pace with me.

I see a home down the road a bit with the front door open, toys in the yard and I hope for the best. If I had to I would run into their house and ask for help. I book it across the street and I am FLYING! I get into their driveway and I can barely breath. I stop and see that they are no longer with me. I bend over, hands on my knees and try to catch my breath. I walked for a few mins just to calm down. My HR was sky high and my hands were shaking. Death #2 averted...

back to running.

My parents were watching Lola during the workout and they are not far from me so after death aversion #2 and the “race pace” section of my run was done, I decided to run to their house and hang out for a bit…and get a ride home. About halfway to their house was incident #3 of the day. This little old lady in a gold Toyota Camry literally came within inches of running me over…in the SHOULDER of the road, over the white line. This one section has a nice W I D E shoulder and there was no reason that she should have been so close. Lucky for me I was paying attention. Nice "RETIRED" license plate lady...keep your eyes on the road next time please!
She was driving right me!
Keep running! Ahh, yes Jen…this plan would time out perfect…sure enough, arrived right at their door at the :50 minute mark. I was a hot, sweaty mess! *ding dong*….no answer. Hmm, I checked the garage…no car. Whoops. No one is home…I just had to laugh. Of course this is how the day was playing out. Well, let’s keep on running! So I ran around to the back of the house, drank some water from the spigot, splashed myself a bit and hit the road to go back home.

So I averted death several times, executed a great workout and had a run the made me happy. All in all it was a great day and I am happy to be alive. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hand Bacon

Tuesday night we had BLT's and veggie soup for dinner. Once again Lola had me laughing...

Pic from another Bacon Episode-she declared herself a Bacon Theif

We wanted a quick dinner and Lola helped me for a bit. 

When I placed Lola's dinner in front of her, a plate with her sandwich and a bowl of soup, she exclaimed "I thought we were having bacon for dinner??" and scowled. I explained to her that the bacon was in the sandwich -- she did not like this. Obviously irritated, then stated "Mom, I need hand bacon" so I asked her what that was (laughing) and she told me "it's bacon you eat with your hands. You know, HAND BACON" ... like I was stupid.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Just Beet It: How Beet Juice Can Help Endurance

I have always loved beets (especially pickled beets) and even as a child I would request beets with dinner. This love of beets carries on and now even Lola loves 'em too!

This winter at the Rev3 Team Summit in Colorado, we had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Biotta Naturals and learn more about their line. We got to sample the beet juice and it was just like biting into a very fresh beet.



I now have a little joke how I bleed Rev3 Blue and pee Biotta Beet pink now...yes, if you do drink a lot of beet juice like I do, it will turn colors. FUN STUFF!!

A little about Biotta:

In 1951, Biotta committed itself to organic farming — harvesting its fruits and vegetables from healthy, living soil and organic production, both according to European Organic Standards — many years before the enthusiasm for organic food really took hold. At Biotta, top quality means organic products grown and left as nature intended. First-class raw products and painstakingly careful processing are the key to the natural flavor of Biotta juices, which are all rich with natural minerals and vitamins, to promote good health. We guarantee that no artificial additives are used. Biotta juices are 100% pure, natural original juices that are not made from concentrate or diluted with water.

Why Beet Juice?
Drinking just two cups of beet juice a day may reduce blood pressure (WebMD, Feb. 8, 2008)
Drinking beet juice can increase your stamina by 16% (Jrnl of Applied Physiology, Aug. 2009)
Drinking beet juice could fight the progression of Dementia (WebMD Health News, Nov. 3, 2010)

My totally awesome team mate, Laura (that is DOCTOR Laura...not THAT Dr. Laura) at wrote up this article about beet juice and how it's been helping her training and I really wanted to share it with all of you 

The hottest trend right now in running and triathlon isn’t some piece of sexy new gear, an innovative electronics gadget, or an unconventional training paradigm.  It’s been in use since 2000 B.C.1, is typically covered in dirt, and has been spurned by many a 5 year old. Yes folks, we’re talking about the common beet. But despite its humble origins, this ruby root is really shaking things up in the endurance world and has incredible abilities to increase your athletic performance.

One of the biggest limitations to us as athletes is our bodies’ ability to utilize oxygen during exercise. This is typically measured in VO2 max, which is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can harness during exercise2. Generally, the better your oxygen uptake, the better you will be at endurance exercise. Conversely, if you can reduce the oxygen cost of exercise, or lower the rate at which your body uses oxygen during exercise, you can perform better.
Recent studies have indicated that beets may have the ability to reduce the cost of oxygen during exercise. Beets are loaded with nitrates, which have been shown to be associated with increases in endurance activity performance3-5. Although the exact mechanism behind this increase is unknown, it is thought nitrates might work in two ways to help during exercise. First, your body takes in nitrate in the form of NO3− from the beets and quickly converts it to nitrite (NO2)due to bacteria on your tongue6. From there it travels to your stomach where it is converted again to nitric oxide (NO)7. NO is a vasodilator, and it is thought that it might help evenly distribute oxygen to muscles during exercise3. The second way that nitrates (technically nitrite and nitric oxide) might help is within metabolic pathways in the mitochondria, specifically in increasing the efficiency of oxidative phosphorylation, which would help replace the role of oxygen in this process, thereby requiring less oxygen8,9.

So, how does this translate to an increase in performance? Let’s look to three example studies. The first study4 investigated the impact of whole beetroot consumption on running performance. Five men and six women between the ages of 18 and 55 at moderate activity level (5 days of an hour of vigorous exercise) consumed either a beetroot relish or a placebo (cranberry relish) an hour before a 5k treadmill test.   After a one week “washout” period, they returned to repeat the test taking the alternative to what they ingested in the previous trial. Average 5k times ranged from 19 to 35 minutes among group members for the placebo, but running speeds increased 3% after ingesting beetroot (this translates to roughly 41s improvement in speed). More importantly, the perceived exertion level was lower for the beetroot trial.

The second study3 investigated the impact of beetroot juice on cycling performance. Eight men who were “recreationally active” performed a cycling test, then consumed 500 ml/day of either beetroot juice or placebo for six days, then returned for another cycling test. The beetroot juice group had a significantly slower oxygen uptake rate than the placebo group and a significantly longer time to exhaustion than the placebo group (16% longer for beet root group than placebo group).

The third study10 was another cycling study, but unlike the previous study investigated the effects of drinking beet root juice one time only a few hours before a time trial. These participants were 9 competitive male cyclists who consumed either 500ml of beetroot juice or 500 ml placebo 2 ½ hours before performing a 4 and 16k time trial (all participants performed time trials of both the beet and placebo treatment). The beet time trials had significantly higher power output levels for the same VO2 levels (5% higher power output for the 4km TT, 6% higher output for 16km TT), which resulted in faster finish times and increased performance.

So the general consensus is that beetroot juice supplementation is good. Taking one dose 1-3 hours before an event will give you a 3-6% improvement in performance, but “loading” a week before your event will give you even greater performance benefits.

biottaSince Biotta Naturals, a beetroot juice company, teamed up with the Rev3 Age Group team this year, I have been experimenting with beet juice before races. Before both Rev3 Knoxville and Rev3 Quassy I “loaded” by consuming 500 ml/day starting one week out from the race. The results? Running this season has felt effortless. Yes, I’ve been putting a lot of effort into my run training, but I keep commenting how it feels easier and easier to run at higher heart rates. The run portion is the leg I have always struggled with in triathlon, but this season it’s been feeling easier than ever. I’ve talked to several other athletes who have experimented with beet juice, and they all echo my same words: running just feels easier.

Yes, beetroot juice can be a bit pricey (around $6-8 a bottle) but if you’re drinking one bottle a day a week out from your race that only totals $50– a small price to pay for a potential big payoff on race day. Besides, the joy you get from a fuchsia experience in the bathroom is well worth it! So what are you waiting for? It’s time for you to jump on the beetwagon! (You can get Biotta online here or search forstores in your area)

  1. Texas A&M Agrilife Extension (n.d.) First Beets Yielded Only Greens. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from publications/ vegetabletravelers/beets.html.
  2. McArdle W.D., Katch F.I. and Katch V.L. (2000). Essentials of Exercise Physiology: 2nd Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  3. Bailey S.J., Winyard P., Vanhatalo A., Blackwell J.R., DiMenna F.J., Wilkerson D.P., Tarr J., Benjamin N., and Jones A.M. (2009). Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 107: 1144-1155.
  4. Murphy M., Eliot K., Heuertz R.M., and Weiss, E. (2012). Whole beetroot consumption acutely improves running performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112: 548-552.
  5. Lomangino K. (2012). Moving with the beet: can it enhance athletic performance? Clinical Nutrition Insight, 38: 6-7.
  6. Duncan C., Dougall H., Johnston P., Green S., Brogan R., Leifert C., Smith L., Golden M., and Benajmin N. (1995). Chemical generation of nitric oxide in the mouth from the enterosalivary circulation of dietary nitrate. National Medicine, 1: 546-551.
  7. Benjamin N., O’Driscoll F., Dougall H., Duncan C., Smith L., Golden M., and McKenzie H. (1994). Stomach NO synthesis. Nature, 368: 502-503.
  8. Clerc P., Rigoulet M., Leverve X., Fontaine E. (2007). Nitric oxide increases oxidative phosphorylation efficiency. Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes, 39: 158-166.
  9. Basu S., Azarova N.A., Font M.D., King S.B., Hogg N., Gladwin M.T., Shiva S., and Kim-Shapiro D.B. (2008). Nitrite reductase activity of cytochrome c. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 283: 32590-32597.
  10. Lansley K.E., Winyard P.G., Bailey S.J., Vanhatalo A., Wilkerson D.P., Blackwell J.R., Gilchrist M., Benjamin N., and Jones, A.M. (2011). Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43: 1125-1131.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Quassy: Race Report

Quassy. Oh, what a weekend.

Last year I suffered pretty bad on the run and I went into this race with a plan to have a much better run.
All my training and planning with Coach has been about nailing this run.

I woke on race day feeling a quiet confidence and feeling very well prepared. I am a lot leaner and stronger this year and I was ready to show that run course a little revenge.

In the days leading up to the race, the weather was predicting HOT temps and I knew this would not be good for me. The weather here in Maine has basically been 40* and rain for the last two months. Knowing how the heat effects me and how much I sweat, Coach and I had a pretty solid nutrition plan in place. Early on we chatted about using salt tabs this year (I'd never used them before).

On Friday, the weather was predicting mid 90's for Sunday and I was getting a little nervous. We got into CT on Friday and it was HOT HOT HOT.

Saturday was HOT HOT HOT but the weather reports were changing to 80's and winds for Sunday, race day for the half.

Ok, I can deal with wind and I was pretty happy to see the temps drop to the 80's, even though that is a 40* variance from what I have had...

Race morning I was a quiet calm with a dose of good nervous and knew that the only thing I could control was me and my reaction to whatever the day handed me. I was ready to swim bike and run. I was excited for my first tri of the season and psyched to be hanging with my Rev3 peeps. My team mates wife, Ashley, said a nice little prayer with me before heading to the swim start. I really needed that at the moment and it helped to bring me a feeling of calm peace.

Happy: Photo Credit Charlie Abrahams

I spent a lot of time race morning with my team mate Kelly (whom I adore) and her presence really kept me calm and focused. We reviewed our plans for the day and swam a bit. It was go time.

The Calm before the Swim 
Photo Credit Charlie Abrahams

The swim was pretty uneventful this year. I was in a pack right away and it was just bodies over bodies, kicking, chaos. I swam hard to get away from the mess and the first turn buoy came pretty quick (but dang! it looked so far off from the shore!). Once you turn, you are swimming into the sun and you cannot even see the buoys so I just found some feet and followed. Steady effort...then it was another group of us all together. I really can't stand all the melee so I got away from this pack and found clean water...put my head down and just went. Steady effort...
Next turn buoy and it was homeward bound. It was an OK swim and certainly did not think it was my fastest swim ever...the effort was comfortable and I know I went longer because of my quest for clean water but the plan was steady effort and I gave steady effort. Out of the water in 36:04 and a lot faster than I thought (I did not see any time results until Monday).

and time for some fun on the bike. Let's go have some fun.

Ahh, the bike. I've ridden this course three times and I know exactly what to expect out there. The plan was to pull back a bit on the riding and set myself up for a great run. Keep the hydration and nutrition plan on point. Keep cool...I had nothing to prove to myself here. I know I can ride this course and it was a matter of checking my ego at the door and riding smart....
and I Nailed it.
Dare I say that this bike was EASY? Because it was. I floated up the hills and hammered the flats. My heart rate was controlled and I felt amazing. I am so much stronger this year and enjoyed this course so much. I really had a blast out there and I just LOVE this bike course!!

What goes up must come down, right?

I was thinking to myself out there how I love climbing and hills don't scare me and I love it but I'm kind of conservative on the descents. It also felt like there was waaay more downhill this year (even though it was the same exact course). I hit 45 mph on one descent and slowed it down, I know there are some sharp turns and you cannot really hammer on some of them.
I was thinking to myself that I would get more comfortable with a fast descents.
Then I saw my team mate on the side of the road with an ambulance and my heart broke for her. I had no idea what her condition was or what happened. Right then and there, reality hit me. It's dangerous and a couple seconds gained on the downhill is not worth the risk to me.
Sure enough, another descent with huge CAUTION signs and volunteers shouting "SHARP TURN! SLOW DOWN" on the side of the road and two guys had crashed.
It was heating up and I could tell I was getting HOT> kept the fluids flowing and kept myself cool with water over my head and down my back.

The bike was done and it was time to run!

happy and heading out to run-high fives from Lola! 

Right out of transition I saw Lola and got my obligatory HIGH FIVE from my girl.

And another high five from Dutch

Running felt good. I was hot already but the legs were moving. I was ticking off the first few miles at 8:30's --the HR was a little high but I kept going.
After several miles, the wheels started to wobble. It would be several miles before they came off.
I broke out in goosebumps. Chills. It was weird. I was HOT but cold.
Then I noticed that my hands were really puffy. My fingers were swollen. Really swollen.
I slowed the pace a bit and then I saw my team mate, Ryan, sitting at the aid station. He has just been shut down by the heat--literally. Passed out and blacked out. NOT GOOD.
Ryan said that I was likely suffering from the heat and told me to take it easy.
I dumped some water on me and walked for a bit. The HR was not coming down and I was starting to feel strange. Dizzy. Kept walking. Arms started to tingle a bit...hands felt weird.

About five miles in I seriously considered calling it a day. I was feeling really strange. I bargained with myself to go to the next aid station and evaluate how I felt. I tried to keep to the shaded parts of the course when I could and would jog the downhills when able. I walked with a very nice RWB gentelman named Eric for a few of the miles and he was very kind, concerned.
I would try to cool my head and body with water and hold ice in my hands. Walk, jog when I could.
I then saw my friend Eric (yes, another Eric) who was walking as well. He was having a nutrition/fatigue failure and was struggling.

About 7 miles in was the worst of it. I had been in the sun for a while and I was feeling pretty dizzy and light headed. I stopped on the side of the road, felt like I was spinning a bit and just grabbed the guard rail. Puked a bit and moved along. I saw Kelly out there and she shouted to me to hang tough. I was trying my best to just keep moving forward.

Next thing I knew, I was at mile 10 and ran into Julia. She had been vomiting and having issues so we teamed up and got ourselves through the next few miles as a team. The final bit of this run course is this nasty bugger of a hill and then it's only 1/2 a mile till the finish. We were almost there...

When I came through the shoot, I was looking for Lola and my husband. I wanted to finish with Lola...but I knew that my projected time and my actual time were way off and I was not sure where they would be. I did not see Lola and Julia and I finished together.

There at the finish was Lola and Casey. They had both been very worried about me and knew something was up since I was more than 40 minutes past my projected time.

I said goodbye to my team mates and made my way back to the car for the long drive home. Severe thunder storms were on the way to our route home. After the car was packed and we were on the road, it was time for me to reflect on the day.

I would be lying if I said there were no tears.
I was very disappointed.
This was not the race I trained for...everything about the day was setting me up for the run I wanted. The run I planned for, the run I needed. But the day had other plans for me.

I had a long talk with Coach on the way home and I had a chance to digest the day. I cried. I so, so wanted this today. We went over what we learned and what we are going to do moving forward.

I am stubborn. I realized that I would have likely crawled to the finish line if need be... but I'm not stupid. Had my condition deteriorated, I would have called it a day.

I have never encountered this issue before and I am glad that I did not beat myself up mentally over what did not go as planned. I cannot control the weather, I cannot control my body's response to the heat, but I can control my reaction to it. I kept positive and at the end of the day it was a learning experience.

Monday morning I woke up to rain and 60's. I wanted to drive back to Quassy and do the entire race over again. My team mate Ron even said he'd join me :)

I know if I can get through Sunday, I can battle on another day. And I will...

QUASSY! I will be back in 2014 seeking revenge, yet again!! 

speaking of battles!

I finally got to meet my cyber-buddy, Leslie!!

Congrats to Leslie for the division win!! And more congrats to my run-comrade, Julia who nabbed third!!

Leslie (left) and Julia (right). Not sure who is in the middle.


I woke today and felt the burn. My neck and shoulders are pretty fried even though I doused in sunscreen. I'm pretty sure this added to the overheating yesterday. There is a small part on my head where my hair parted and my scalp is nuclear level fried! At least I had a bit of a base tan on my arms but my scalp? No way...

There are more Rev3 Weekend adventures to share which I will in another post! 

A big, giant, enormous THANK YOU to Rev3, Powerbar, Pearl iZUMi, Quintana Roo, Reynolds, Blueseventy, SBR Sports, Biotta Juices, Compex and Normatec for their support. I am lucky to be able to represent such amazing products!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Pee Mile

Another Rev3 Quassy HalfRev race is in the books and it was a day for sure! Look for the full race report this week.

I know what your really want to know! You want to know who won the contest!!

When did I pee? 

There were lots of great guesses and y'all were SO CLOSE!! I was very well hydrated going into this race and kept the fluids rolling on the bike. It was a HOT day and this Maine girl was not ready for the heat. I've had 40's and rain to train in all season and the high 80's did not do well for me.

I actually pee'd twice on the bike though but the first one is the one that matters.


29.14 to be exact.

then again at mile 42. 

The correct guesses were Louise and Kristyn.

I stated in the event of a tie, I would randomly pic a winner from the correct answers.

and the winner is...


I could not link to your profile so I hope you read this. Shoot me an email at jsmall14(at) and I will get your goodies out to you.

Obviously, after a few pees and lots of sweaty footed miles, my shoes smell fantastic!!
Pretty sure Lola's face says it all....

ps: To IRONBOB if you had guessed that I would continually pee from the time I put my wetsuit on until I got in the water, you would be my big winner today.