Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hooray for local running/bike/tri shops

Today I did something I've never done before. I returned running shoes that I have worn about 10 times. It was a great moral dilemma for me to return something used. I have another pair of Sauconys in this size that fit fine, but for some reason in this model they are definitely a half-size too small and over-crowding my little piggies. The store has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. I had no box, no receipt, but thought I would ask about it.  Cheerfully they took the shoes and put in an order for the next size up. Wow.

My shoes - Saucony ProGrid Mirage in GREEN!

I get my running shoes at the local running store - Runabout Sports. Between the kids and I, we've probably gotten 40 pairs of shoes there, plus apparel, hats, arm sleeves, socks, nutrition, compression socks, hydration belts, water bottles, swim goggles, massage sticks, gloves....  (Lordy, I hope my husband doesn't read this.)

Like many local running/bike/tri shops, Runabout is more than a store. It's a community hub for runners and a source of much knowledge. I think about the time that I went for shoes this spring and mentioned my tendonitis. I ended up leaving with a whole lower-leg strengthening plan and a quick exam and suggestions from a physical therapist-in-training! They put on many of the local races (with fabulous door prizes) and run a summer youth track league. The shop owner, James DeMarco, is a talented and self-sacrificing runner who has coached our very successful high school track team with some amazing national standouts.

Yeah, maybe I could save $10 on a pair of shoes by ordering online, but I wouldn't even consider it. I am loyal to this shop and the employees, and want to support all they do to promote health and fitness in the community.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Heart Rate Art, Family

How weird is it that I find such beauty in the heart rate chart resulting from this morning's interval work??  It appeals to both my engineering and creative sides I guess.

Now that the fun is over, it's on to the real work of the day.  My mom and dad are visiting later next week (yay!!) from Pittsburgh so I have some weeding (bleh) and cleaning (more bleh) I want to have to get done.

Evan and I at last year's Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh
Related to family, my nephew Evan, a recent college grad, threw out the idea of he and I doing a half-IM together next year. He's from Ohio and I don't get to see him very often but we share a cool connection through triathlon. Unlike me who started with sprints and olys and am working my way up, he launched into Ironman (finishing IM Louisville last year) and then moved into other distances. I'm really proud of Evan for having the guts to do an IM especially with no formal coaching and I'm sure lots of naysayers. He's finding his own way through the sport and through life, and no doubt the lessons he is learning through triathlon will serve him well as he moves forward with his academic and professional career.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Training Update: Redline Edition

While June was a busy month for racing, July and early August are reserved for a solid training block to get ready for the second half of race season. I'm averaging about 12 workout sessions a week for swim, bike, run, and strength training. That translates to roughly two-a-day workouts six days a week and one day off. Sessions of course vary in intensity, duration, and purpose. Coach Jim and Kurt keep things fun and interesting (busy brain = happy me) and it is very rare that I don't look forward to a workout. I try to knock out both workouts one after the other early in the morning to push my endurance and to keep the day clear.

I know I'm gaining strength and confidence and ideally that will translate to upcoming races August 13, 14, and 20. The tendonitis is all but gone thanks to a mix of ice, acupuncture, massage, and strengthening, and so is the bit of pre-run anxiety I had been experiencing because of it. It feels great!

I wrote about tackling some daunting (for me) swim intervals recently. This week were two notable challenges on the bike and the run. On Tuesday Coach Jim made had me do a time trial through our valley and up the big hill into town. The only time I could fit this in was mid-day when the boys were at camp and it was 91 degrees out. I often laugh thinking to myself that one of the advantages of having a coach is that it gives me a person to mentally direct my misery toward, even if just in my mind. I'm usually thinking "I'm not liking you too much right now, Coach Jim. Did you not know how much it would hurt?!!!" Kurt has been pushing things in the gym too and there have been a few times that he has momentarily been demoted on my favorite person list. Then once the pain is over, I'm thankful they are able to push me in ways I could not push myself. (I'm glad my Garmin does not record my thoughts or my audible groans.)

Today's challenge was tough too. It was a 7-mile tempo run but with two consecutive miles done "around a 6:50 pace." My best ever 5K was a 21:15, so a 6:51 pace a year and a half ago, when I was rested, and the course was flat. Today I ran on the rolling road in our valley. After a two mile warmup I got to work and ground out the next two miles at 6:51 and a 6:48. My average heart rate was 174. REDLINE Those two miles came with a great deal of groaning and the same audio tape rolling in my head, "I'm not liking you too much right now, Coach Jim. Did you not know how much it would hurt?!!!"

There are a lot of walkers on this road, and if any of them had considered taking up running, one look at me probably convinced them running was a bad idea!

As hard as some of this stuff is, I just eat it up. I don't know why. I mean, I am just giddy thinking about it. Yeah, things hurt but it's temporary. I love the mental challenge of pushing aside negative thoughts and overriding my body trying to tell me to stop. This is the attitude I'll take with me into the Luray Double (Oly + Sprint) and Nationals.

One more thing -- today was the first time in ages that I thought back to January and February's cast, crutches, and boot, and how far I have come from that injury thanks to the help of many and the grace of God. It's nice to be to the point where I have mostly forgotten about it.

Enjoy the weekend folks and tear it up on those workouts!! Remember to be grateful that you can swim/bike/run/lift/etc. It's truly a gift.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Name change

This blog started over four years ago when I was 25 pounds heavier, out of shape, and identifying most strongly with a shapeless blob. I had two small kids and had just finished a PhD which meant wayyy too much sitting-around computer time. So the blog was was appropriately named Unblobbing and it was begun the very day I stepped into the gym.

The title morphed to Unblobbed when I had reached some some weight loss and running goals and when I was confident this lifestyle change had stuck for good.  One day that title didn't feel right anymore.

Unblobbed was when I was on the defensive, battling the demons of bad food choices and TV time.  That's all in the past. Now I'm firmly on the offensive, looking for ways to push the capabilities of this mind and this body.

So I've changed the name to Cort the Sport.

Growing up, my dad called me Cort the Sport. I was sporty, well sort of, settling into competitive riding as my sport of choice - hunters, equitation, and eventing. Except I never really felt like a sport. But just as I can now confidently lay claim to "athlete" I finally feel like I have become "Cort the Sport". (Incidentally, my bike, Teddy Roo, is also named for my dad!)

The web address remains unchanged to preserve old links and ties. Cort the Sport will continue on looking for crazy new adventures in triathlon, running, lifting. My goal remains the same -- to challenge others to find that athlete in themselves - no matter what your age, current fitness level, or past experience. Find what you love to do, set a goal, and TRAIN!  You are almost certainly guaranteed a rewarding journey that can only come from personal challenge and doing things you never believed possible. Four years ago I could not have imagined I would be a competitive triathlete heading to a world championship race as a Team USA member. 

What's waiting for you? And what are you waiting for?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Newton's Law of Triathlon Expenditures

For every triathlon-related expense, there will be an equal (or larger) unexpected home-related expense. 

Almost immediately after purchasing the beloved Teddy Roo (used, mind you) the twelve-year-old van proceeded to fall apart, suffering multiple-organ failure, and requiring a cash infusion greater than the cost of the bike. (Yes, dad, this is the last time, I promise I will consider getting another vehicle...) The car is back in the shop as I write this.

Almost immediately after registering for a slew of summer races that would all conveniently appear on a single credit card statement, the outside air handler on our home AC unit went.

I'd better not even consider anything really extravagant like race wheels....then we'd probably need a new roof!

Incidentally, in support of the reference I made to "toilets" as part of our landscape in SW Virginia in a previous post, I give you this picture.  It is just around the bend from my neighborhood!

Toilet positioned conveniently adjacent to porch!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Crash and burn day

Most of the time I'm in HIGH-gear from the time I get up (5 am) until the time I go to bed (10-ish). I'm a list-making, multi-tasking, never-stops-moving girl. Today started the same way. I had gotten up and hit the trails with friends from about 7 till 9 am. 

Then I came home, ate, showered, and....crashed and burned. The bod told me loud and clear that I needed to shut it down. I went back to bed for a late morning nap till noon.  Since then, this is what I have accomplished:
  • blog
  • write a shopping list (hubs did the shopping)
  • snap ends off green beans for dinner (hubs made)
  • eat
  • read
It was all done sitting on my butt. After such an "exhausting" afternoon, I'm ready for bed again.

I don't mind an occasional crash-and-burn day and the family doesn't seem to either. I'm too tired to nag or bug them!

Back to high-gear tomorrow....

Tri Training in the Mountains of Blacksburg

Ellett Valley, where I often ride
Where we live - the terrain, weather, population density - is a significant factor in our training. On my bike ride yesterday, my thoughts turned to what it would be like to train in other locations. Sometimes I think it might be nice to be closer to a lake or ocean, or maybe have a more temperate climate, or have at least a few flatter places to run, but I'd never give up my mountains!

Yesterday's bike ride came at the end of a tough week in terms of training, car issues, family logistics, and some stressful work issues for my husband. I couldn't get out for Saturday's ride at my normal early hour because we had our season-ending championship swim meet all morning. Despite being worn out and facing some hot weather conditions, I could hardly wait to get out and hit the shady back-roads of our mountains and valleys. The valley roads curve gently as they follow along streams and creek beds. The mountain roads can twist sharply to follow the contours of the land, often concealing steeper grades that suddenly appear to challenge the legs and the heart. Then you are treated to the sweet reward of the descent on the other side! Deer are abundant and I get within feet before they dash off into the woods. There are old homesteads, farmlands, and country cottages. It's simply....beautiful. (Disclaimer: there are also rusted-out cars, couches on porches, and planters made from bathtubs and toilets...all part of the SW VA charm!!)

About 24 miles into yesterday's ride a downpour hit and stayed with me for about 6 miles. I love riding in the rain. All you can do is surrender to it. At this point the road was moderate rollers and because of the storm, I passed through shifting air masses with striking differences in temperature, some quite cool and others steaming!  Where else, but on a bike, could you experience weather up-front and personal like this? The storm passed as quickly as it came and it was back to sunny and hot.

I was somehow just profoundly grateful throughout that ride and that feeling kept me strong from start to finish. I am so glad I live here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

New River in McCoy - I can bike to this spot
We live in the small-ish college town of Blacksburg, Virginia, home of Virginia Tech.  It's a tight-knit community that is great for families and nearly ideal for triathletes. For open-water swims, we have the New River (about 15 miles away) or Claytor Lake (about 30 miles away). There are three pools within 12 miles, one of which is a state-of-the-art 50m competition pool and diving well. I can hop on my bike at the house and ride for hours in many directions without encountering a traffic light.  Running options include cross-country courses, rails-to-trails paths, and trail systems in the very nearby Jefferson National Forest (where I ran this morning with friends Tanya, Becky, and Jennifer.)
Our swim meet was at the newest pool - the Christiansburg Aquatic Center
The downsides of living here would be the lack of nearby open water and the challenging winters which can bring significant snow and ice....and trying to dodge the tailgaters if you run through town during a home football game! 

We make do, and it's all worth it for the beautiful mountains.

candid swim meet picture courtesy of my husband -
Boys and I warming up in the sun between events!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Yowsa...the long overdue massage work

I met with Mario today for some pain-threshold intervals....I mean deep tissue massage.  When I realized it hurt to just lay my quads on the roller the other day, I knew I was long overdue to pull out the big guns. Mario is the big gun.  He is one solid, low-bodyfat, muscular guy who despite his very sweet and calm demeanor shows no mercy to adhesions, knots, and obstinate muscles and fascia.

Lordy, that is just one unique kind of pain.  There's nothing quite like the elbow to the piriformis, thumbs in the traps, or a forearm squeezing out a quad.

I went in with my laundry list of areas to address, but he pretty much hit things head to toe.  Even the parts that I didn't think had issues, apparently did. He'd say things like "this doesn't hurt when you run?".  Uh, no? "Hmmm..."

Eventually I felt the knots start to give way.  Now I'm just left feeling a bit battered.  But I know the drill. Lots of water, take it easy today. I will probably feel like crap for the day as my system is overloaded with all the garbage flushed out by the massage. Then tomorrow I will feel like a million bucks. (An aside: this is my public proclamation...I am VOWING to roll and stretch regularly starting NOW. I mean it this time!!!)

I'm definitely a proponent of deep tissue massage but I think it takes finding the right person and working with them over time as they get to know you and your issues.  Despite the fact that he brings me to the brink of tears, Mario is definitely the right person. 

What are your thoughts on and experiences with deep tissue massage?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I set a new P.R. this morning...for the sheer volume of sweat that I produced during a run that included some nice threshold intervals.  The humidity was near 100%. The sweat-fest didn't stop there.

The minivan's air conditioning is once again not functioning despite my huge cash bleed to fix it last week.  I drove to the gym cursing the red lights where I would sit and slowly bake.

I worked legs with Kurt which means...massive sweat dripping.  My towel was soaked. I welcomed the minimal breeze of a fellow gym-goer passing by. I showered (which was nearly pointless) and returned to bake in the car, which I drove straight to the shop. I proceeded to walk about a mile and a half to my office with my loaded backpack and lunch bag, and arrived...dripping.

I spent the first five minutes of my meeting explaining/defending my sweaty state of being.

I don't live where cacti are native, yet our forecast, courtesy of WeatherBug, includes a cactus.  That should tell you something. It's hot across much of the US and I realize it's far worse in other places.

Still, good thing I am not afraid to sweat.

Now to hike back to the car to drive it A/C-less until yet another (and hopefully final) part arrives on Monday.

Stay cool everyone....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day OFF from training means day ON for adventure!

Today was a day OFF of training with instructions for "Sunday summer rest and relaxation." I love being told to rest and relax! So of course I packed the kids up and headed out for some adventure....

Surely zip-lining counts as relaxation....

....and canoeing no doubt is rest!

Funny how tiring that rest and relaxation was. Phew!
More on the adventure here.

I think I have a budding open-water swimmer in the making :-)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Function over Fashion

I was sporting this snazzy look today.  In public. From the looks I got I had the distinct impression that knee-high compression socks are not exactly mainstream.

I felt a bit self-conscious about it, but after a tough trail run that went longer than expected, I wanted to take care of these puppies.

I've run these trails many times before, but not since last fall, and there is this one place where I always seem to miss the turn. It's not for lack of a (LARGE) sign.  It's for the lack of paying attention. I just get tunnel vision and get absorbed in the moment, the effort, the rhythm, the flow. (See Epic Trail Run when I missed the same turn and ended up on the other side of the mountain. It got a little scary.) So today I missed it again, backtracked, then had to unbacktrack. But at least I remained on the correct side of the mountain.

This trail runs the gamut from level even footing to steep and rocky with switchbacks. The variety is a real treat. (Garmin Data)

It's worth sacrificing a little fashion sense to take care of the legs that carry me to such enjoyable places!

Today's elevation profile

Friday, July 15, 2011


Yesterday's swim included a 10 x 50y set on 50 second intervals. I had never been asked to do that and I knew it would be tough. I was nervous and thinking maybe my coach had confused me with someone else. But I realized he wouldn't have included it if he didn't believe I could do it. He believed I COULD do it.

And I did it!  On the last few I barely had time to press "lap" on the watch and head off again, but I kept coming back to the fact that he believed I could do it.

Maybe it's seen as a shortcoming that I don't have all that "belief" in myself. Or maybe it shows courage to use someone else's belief in me to bolster my own.

This morning I worked out with Kurt and hit chest and arms and it's the same thing with him.  He challenges me with things I sometimes shake my head at. Today's 40 lb incline dumbbell press might fall in that category, but I figured if he thought I could do it, I must be able to, and I did :-)

It's important to believe in others too as I've witnessed how that tiny seed can grow into tremendous things! It may only take a few words.

I look for opportunities to tell others I believe in them. Sometimes it just takes suggesting a 5K race (or marathon) to light a fire in a person! So many people sell themselves short and some words of encouragement can make a big difference.  As a parent, I show my kids I believe in them. I don't encourage totally unrealistic expectations, but I tell them when I know they can do something hard or scary!

I will add the belief I derive from others to the belief I have in myself as the volume and intensity of my training continues to build. I'll need it, next week's training plan already looks pretty scary!!

who's gun? click me!

I had no pictures for this post so took this one as a tribute to Nia Shank's great series on "How to be a beautiful bada$$".  Come on, ladies, believe that you can be strong and build muscle and go after it!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tackling the Power Clean and Push Press

Kurt introduced me to the power clean and push press a few weeks ago. It requires explosive strength and coordination...not my strongest suits. It's a useful compound movement involving lots of muscle groups and core strength.

Explosive power is useful for a triathlete - think climbs and surges. My first attempts at the power clean and push press were pretty sketchy. I do like a challenge though (translation: I don't like being bad at something!) so today I took some video to try to figure this out.

There's still not enough trap involvement and it's coming too far in front of my face on the press part. I remember being told to tuck my chin. I could drop lower too. It will take practice-practice-practice and not overthinking it. (I remind myself of Gumby in this)

I believe this is what it's supposed to look like (I'm not sure why the guy is in khaki shorts with a belt....but anyway)

It was a solid back/shoulder workout. I left the gym a sweaty mess, which is a pretty good indicator :-)
  • Kettlebell Swings (3 x 30 x 35 lbs)
  • Barbell power clean and push press (45 - 65 lbs)
  • Wide grip pullups (8, 7, 6)
  • Hammer Strength shoulder press (20 - 35 lb/side)
  • Seated T-bar row (45-55 lbs/side)
  • Seated cable rear delts (60 lbs)
  • Supinated grip pulldown (90 - 120 lbs)
  • Triset of Dumbbell Lateral raise / Front Raise / Row 

JUST RELEASED: Kurt has a series of nutrition and meal planning videos on the Muscle and Strength website -- check it out  Very cool!!

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Bike Week

    The last six days I've set a new personal record for bike mileage....166 miles.  I feel pretty good because that is close to the 170 miles that fellow blogger Randy did on his "rest week"!!  Randy is my reminder that I'm capable of more. I know for a serious cyclist that mileage is nothing but for me it's still a nice milestone.

    The two beach rides with John set me up for a record week (thanks, John!). Unfortunately, the other mileage contributor is that my car was in the shop and the bike was my primary means of transport for  a day.  That gave me about 20 extra miles. Below is my typical commute into town.  That's what I get for living in a valley.

    My ride into Blacksburg from the house

    Today's ride was a 46-miler with a companion who does both road and mountain biking. Take heed when a mountain biker says there is a "short section of gravel".  I imagined maybe 100 yards. It was more like four miles of white-knuckle twisty, hilly, turny going.  It didn't help that the night before we'd had a downpour. I nearly wiped out in one section of particularly rough going. I worried about my beautiful new Teddy Roo and my tubeless tires, but we got through it and I added that to my experience bank. I thought I was through the worst of it, but a few miles from home, a buzzard nearly flew into me!  My husband surmised that "I must have looked tired!" Rides around here are never dull and the scenery and wildlife remind me how lucky I am to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Until I have to commute into town that is :-)

    Ride happy!!

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Product Review: Xtenex Laces

    Xtenex laces are THE most comfortable, easy-entry, no-nonsense system out there for running and triathlon. I have used them exclusively for two years in all my training and racing shoes.

    Their innovative design features an elastic core and series of stretchable "knots" that allows you to put as much or as little lace between pairs of eyelets to achieve a customized fit.  You can read what the company says about "lace migration" and eliminating "dual-compression impact" but I can just tell you they work and are super comfortable.

    Xtenex laces are even in my kids' shoes, which has cut minutes off our home-to-school transition time.  I love them so much I gave them out as gifts last Christmas.
    Want a quicker T2? Xtenex.
    What laces that comfortably adjust on-the-go for swollen marathon-running feet?  Xtenex.
    Want laces that avoid the dangly plastic piece at the top that you have to tuck in somewhere? Xtenex.
    Want laces that can help get your kids to school on time? Xtenex.
    I became an instant fan when Coach Jim introduced them to me.  You can see from the picture below, we use lots of these laces.  I have mostly the 300 series, but I have some of the narrower 200 series for my Kinvaras that have smaller eyelets. I haven't gotten too bold with my color choices (and they offer many colors and patterns), but I've been tempted!

    My shoes and the kids' shoes all with Xtenex.
    There's a definite technique to threading the stretched lace (which temporarily flattens the knot) but it's quick to master. Any remaining lace at the top can then be tied in a knot, tucked in, or left to flap.  (The kids prefer them sticking out as you can see) The laces last seemingly forever and don't seem to discolor. I have yet to toss a pair, we just keep moving them along from old shoes to new shoes.

    Many top triathletes have switched to Xtenex and I find myself looking for these laces in photos. Last month I saw Rinny Carfrae in a mag sporting bright blue Xtenex in her green K Swiss shoes! You go with those bold combos, girl!

    Prior to discovering Xtenex, I tried several other types of laces that are advertised in the back of tri magazines.  But I can tell you the Xtenex are kid-tested, triathlete-approved. Don't waste your T2 time with others.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Triathlete on a Beach Trip

    This past week we were invited by friends to join them and another family at their beach house south of Virginia Beach in Sandbridge. It was my first beach trip as a triathlete-in-training and it definitely played out differently than say....those pre-kid beach weeks. (Yeah, you know that kind of beach trip!). In addition to the family fun, I was excited to get in some swim/bike/runs in a different locale and flat venue.

    When the third family arrived (who we did not know previously), so did a well-maintained Trek roadbike belonging to the family dad, John. I was so excited because I'd brought Ace (the Jamis roadbike). It turned out John is also a triathlete! As soon as we were all unloaded, out came his computer to plot a ride.  We were on for a ride the following morning.

    Heading out for our first ride!
    We did a nice 40 mile ride and were surprised at the large number of cyclists out there.  We saw two big pelotons and tried mightily to catch them. John was clearly the stronger cyclist and I rode harder than I would have alone. It was a different kind of workout than I am used to in my Blue Ridge Mountains, with no letup on the flat terrain.  I repeated the loop with him again two days later.

    Recovery is an important part of training too :-) 
    Here's where some of that happened!
    I did a progression run and an aerobic run. One was at 6:00 am and the other was at 5:30 pm.  One I enjoyed, the other I did not.  One I had wings, the other I had concrete shoes. I am not accustomed to high heat and humidity.  One really cool thing is I saw a fox crossing the road!

    Coach Jim suggested I try an ocean swim, parallel to the shore, which I had never done before. My ocean experience is limited to bobbing in the waves, so to swim out beyond the breakers was a bit scary. (No one thinks they will really be eaten by a shark but it does happen....sure didn't want it to be me) My first attempt was on Monday. It was a short 15-minute continuous swim but I couldn't shake thoughts of sea creatures and the alone-ness of it all. I felt very small! I hadn't been able to convince anyone to go with me so I swam just behind a line of surfers and Robert tracked me from the shore. I enjoyed the actual swimming part but I would have been much more relaxed with another swimmer or kayaker.

    I went back out Tuesday morning after my run for swim #2. The ocean was warm and calm and there wasn't a person in the water that I could see, north or south. Robert again was the lifeguard and photographer. This time I almost relished the solitude.  Yes, I know swimming alone is not the wisest thing but oh well, I survived, and WHAT a treat, what a memory.

    Me and my lifeguard

    Heading out!

    It looks further out than it really is. I could almost touch the bottom.
    Yay, I survived!
    I got a day pass to an area gym called Inlet Fitness and knocked out a back and shoulder workout. It was a very very nice gym but pretty fancy with the signs that say "No Grunting" and "No Dropping Weights."  Unlike my gym, the Weight Club, there were no deadlift platforms, tractor tires, and chains. (It's kind of like all the uniform, safe, plastic playgrounds in the world now, what fun is that?)

    I have to say it was nice to recover in the hot tub. That is, when the kids would let me in.

    We were only there for 72 hours, but most of the workout stuff was done in the early hours before the kids were fully awake. That left the rest of the day for fun with family and friends. For more on that, see the family blog.

    I'm back home, with no travel expected until the August races.