Germ-X + Eye = :-(

There's a suspected case of H1N1 at our son's preschool. With young kids germs are everywhere. So, without going overboard, we're washing our hands more and trying to avoid obvious germ hideouts.

Yesterday I cleaned the boys' bathroom again and then washed my hands with soap afterwards. To be extra germ-resistant I then squirted some Germ-X onto my hands. I felt something hit my face and then my eye was burning and I was yelling. The Germ-X squirted directly into my right eyeball!

I was steps from the bathroom sink and was able to flush my eye within seconds. I ran it in cold water for two five-minute segments and called Ken and my health clinic. The clinic was booked, so I went to urgent care once Ken drove home from work.

Urgent care this time of year is GERM central! When I checked in the wait time was over 2 hours, and the waiting room was packed. Oh no! A freak squirt of Germ-X has forced me to bathe in a waiting room of germs!!

Fortunately if you have "a chemical in your eye" urgent care moves you near the top of the list. And I had effective, yet ouchy, treatments:
- I had my pH taken twice. A nurse sticks a little strip of paper under your lower eyeball for a few seconds. Mine was 7, normal, so I'd done well flushing.
- I had numbing treatment squirted onto my eye. Before it numbs, the medication first stings as it goes in.
- The doctor painted my eye with a yellow dye and then looked at my eye with some sort of black-light goggles. Fortunately no scratches visible on my eye.
- More flushing, irrigating of my eye.

I was almost done. Then Poison Control suggested more flushing of my eye. Up next, the Morgan Lens. Here's how it's used: None of the nurses had used one before, and the doctor said it'd been a few years since she'd put one in... It took a few tries. My eyelids were too slippery from all the irrigating.

I don't wear contacts. And the Morgan Lens is more than a contact. It's thick, like a suction cup you'd hang a suncatcher with. I'd like two healthy eyes, so I did my best. I was terrified the lens would pop out again. I did not want that thing inserted under my eyelids again!

Of course I'm thanking God I have both eyes! And I think it's amazing what tools and procedures medical teams have to help people in accidents. But each time I squirt my hands with Germ-X this winter, I'll do my best not to cringe.

Questions for You:
- What are you doing to stay germ-free this winter?
- What's the strangest injury you've had?

photo credit: An image of H1N1 influenza virus. Taken in the CDC Influenza Laboratory.

Race Report: Devil's Challenge Triathlon

Fourteen years ago my hubby and I got engaged before racing my first triathlon -- The Devil's Challenge, Baraboo, Wis. Ken and I raced together (he waited for my swim wave to catch his.). After crossing my first finish line, I knew I was in love - with Ken (of course) and with triathlon.
photo: Ken & I 14 years ago on our mountain bikes at Devil's Challenge. It was also my birthday.
Devil's Lake State Park provides a challenging but beautiful venue for a late season Wisconsin race! The triathlon is part of the Wisconsin Triathlon Series.

photos: Left- Ken took this while playing with the kids during my race. center- end of the swim. right- starting the bike.

Over the years, we've come back several times and have brought friends and family with us. Last weekend, we drove over for another, but I'd be the only one racing this year. Lucky me! It was a bizarre event this time:
- The water was shallow this year, so I picked up all sorts of weedy trailers during my swim.
- Right before the bike mount line, I saw my visor. It was riding along on my clipless pedal...
- I started my bike at 23+ mph, and slammed right into the long steep hills. Ouch. The hills hurt. One of the race directors told me a CAT 1 cyclist did the bike in ~43 minutes. It's challenging. I hope to improve next year.
- I got pinched twice by cars. Once by a RR track and once coming down a hill into the park.
- I felt best about the run. I've been working on my lean and turnover and felt the run went well.
- For the first time, I won an award. I got third in Athena. And while we were still on site, I missed the awards ceremony because I had no clue I'd placed. The race director let me pick up my award post-race -- yippee!

photos: left: me on the run wearing my SUGOI Velocity tri shorts. I wear these shorts everywhere! I was so fast Ken blurred the photo. center - Dad & I post race. right- my 3rd place award.
It was a great day for racing! Thanks again Wisconsin Triathlon Series!
Question for you:
Have you celebrated a birthday, anniversary or special occasion with a race?

Swimming: Hammer-Free Tools for Speed

If you hammer it on the bike or run, in general you'll go faster. But, the hammer sinks in the pool, unless it's propelled with top-notch technique.
Elite Training Bible coach Jim Vance spoke to 40 Madison, Wis.-area athletes and coaches on the 3 top technical aspects of swimming. Jessica Laufenberg hosted the clinic at her Verona studio SBR Coaching and Training Center. Jerry Landmark from Pinnacle Health & Fitness also helped organize and promote the session.
Throughout the session Coach Vance outlined three concepts from physics that impact our pool experiences. They include:
1- Length: We want to feel higher up on the water like we're moving on top of the water. Length gives us less drag, more lift and more speed, helping us maintain speed longer, says Vance.
2- Pressure: The goal of pressure is to gather water to displace yourself past, says Vance. The longer you are in the water, the more water you can hold.
3- Direction: You want to gather water and scoop it back to you, says Vance. The main direction of the force shouldn't be downward. Instead, gather and scoop the water back to you. Too many athletes swim deep, instead you want to be up on top of the water.
He encouraged athletes to slow down their strokerates and to nail their technique. A lot of you are driving a car with two flat tires, fix the tires first and then go fast, he said.
Coach Vance's favorite tools & techniques include:
- Swim snorkel: my hubby loves using the snorkel.
- Tennis balls: in place of the "fists" drill, swim with tennis balls in your hands. More in this article.
- Swim golf: swim 50. Count the number of strokes it took + time and then try to lower that combined number by either swimming faster or with less strokes or both.
- The rollover drill (video below). I tried this exercise this week and loved it! Vance says you'll know if you have pressure and an anchor point or not because you'll feel yourself vault and semi-fly on top of the water when done correctly.

More with Coach Vance
Follow Coach Vance's blog at

photo credit: Photo by me. My son's toy hammer is cute and may actually float in water.

Finding Length - Swimming with Coach Vance

Like a game of Marco Polo, I went looking for length in my afternoon swim at our local High School pool. Occasionally I found it, most of the time I kept wandering and wondering, "Length, length where are you?"

Fresh from last week's session on swimming with Elite Training Bible Coach Jim Vance, I was armed with images of length, and how length should feel, so I jumped in my lane ready to apply it. Coach Vance spoke to 40 area athletes and several coaches on the 3 top technical aspects of swimming. Jessica Laufenberg hosted the clinic at her Verona studio SBR Coaching and Training Center. Jerry Landmark from Pinnacle Health & Fitness also helped organize and promote the session.

"Just throwing an arm out in front of your body is not length when it comes to swimming," said Coach Vance. "You need to be active in terms of gaining length."

Oh oh, that meant the "recovery" part of my swim stroke wasn't meant for rest... Isn't that the glide phase? Instead I need to lengthen out, grab a bigger hold on the water and then displace myself past that water. Using a long tall posture in the water I needed to reach forward as much as possible and extend my body, gaining length.

My 5'10" body should assume the properties of a speedboat: long, lean and fast. Active length could give me less drag and more speed.

When actively reaching:
- My core should naturally engage.
- I should feel tension up my side to my armpit.
- I'll gain momentum, lift and length, all good things!

I'm content to keep looking for that length and more in the pool. Learning and playing is a lifelong adventure!

Find more from Coach Vance at: 3 Drills for OWS
Follow his blog at
photos: top- My Dad and I. I don't have a swim background, and I failed my last childhood swimming lesson, but I've always loved the water. Now as a triathlon coach I love learning new concepts & teaching methods for the swim, bike & run!
left bottom- Jerry Landmark, me, Coach Vance & Jessica Laufenberg prior to Coach Vance's session at SBR.

Coach Vance's Memo & Jerry Maguire's Mission Statement

Earlier this summer I read a blog post from elite Training Bible Coach Jim Vance. In it he described how he left teaching to go pro as a triathlete & why he now wanted to focus on coaching.

"I saw so many things the sport needed, which I had a desire to chase and make happen. I came to realize triathlon didn't need another pro-triathlete. What triathlon needed was leadership. Leadership in coaching, teaching, journalism, development, and growing the sport," he wrote.

In a touchy-feely Jerry Maguire "It was only a mission statement'-moment, I
read his post & thought "Definitely! This is what I too hope to do as a writer and as a coach." I commented on his blog writing it'd be cool to catch a regional event in the future if he's ever in Wisconsin...

Coach Vance responded, writing that he'd be in Madison for Ironman Wisconsin this year and asked if I'd like to help him setup a talk or clinic.

I reached out to area coaches & athletes and thanks to Jerry Landmark, USAT Level 1 Coach at Pinnacle Health Club & Jessica Laufenberg, MA,CSCS Exercise Physiologist, USAT Level 1 Coach and owner of SBR Coaching & Training Center, LLC in Verona, Coach Vance is holding two events this week in the Madison, Wis. area.

This Thursday Sept. 10 (also my birthday) Coach Vance will discuss key principles to speed in the water. On Friday he'll provide a fee-based underwater swim analysis. Details about Thursday's free (& dry) session & Friday's swim analysis at .

I'm excited to meet Coach Vance as well as Jerry & Jessica! I plan on posting tips from the session later on.

Like Jerry Maguire's new company, I believe triathlon is real, fun & inspiring. If you haven't yet said "yes" to triathlon, I hope you'll "come with me" and give it a shot.

Team Hoyt Inspires John, a Little Person, to Try Triathlon

As a teacher, father and Varsity swim coach John Young has daily opportunities to encourage the lives surrounding him. Now, as a triathlete, John models strength and character to many new faces as he swims, bikes and runs to the finish line.

John & I have similar traits and experiences:
- As kids we were picked last at recess.
- As adults, we're slow runners.
- As parents, we hope to model the joy of fitness & living life fully to our children.
- And friends & strangers have judged our athletic abilities based on our body type. For me, it's been issues with my weight. For John, it's his height. At 4-foot-4 John is a Little Person, defined as any adult smaller than 4-foot-10. He was born with achondroplasia a condition that hinders bone growth.
His wife Sue and his son Owen also have achondroplasia.

I connected with John via's triathlon community where I volunteer as a moderator. His post "Dwarf triathlete encourages others to TRI (try)!!!" caught my eye! I was also drawn by the energy and voice of his writing style. It's been a pleasure learning more about him.

John already had two of the three pieces for triathlon's swim-bike-run format. He's swam his whole life. And last year, John began bike commuting to work.
It was the father-son duo of Dick & Rick Hoyt Team Hoyt who got John thinking about triathlon.

JY: I've always been one to challenge myself and after re-watching a video with the Hoyts doing the IRONMAN I thought I might want to look into it. At first I was only going to do Aquabike (swim-bike) races since I've never done any running. I did my first race in Lowell, Mass., where I completed a sprint Aquabike race. I was going to do the Maine State Aquabike race three weeks later but started talking to the A.D. at my school. He recommended I try a triathlon and if the running did not go well I could always walk it. So I signed up to do the Witch City Tri in Salem, Mass., and the rest is history.

- In the minute/seconds before your wave starts on race day, what goes through your mind?
The first time it was a lot of fear and apprehension. I had not prepared with any open water swimming (big mistake) and had a hard time. It did not help that we were swimming in a river that was moving fast after a lot of early summer rain. In the last two races things have gotten a lot better. I recommend doing 2 or 3 races within weeks of each other. It really helped alleviate the fear. This past race, the start was a lot more fun. I had a plan to stay near the back of the pack, found a comfortable spot and got swimming.

- Describe the emotions/feelings you had crossing the finish line.
Pure joy! Tears the first two times. Happy I accomplished something others are too scared to try. The Timberman was a hard race and a number of doubters thought I might struggle on the hilly bike course. There were 1,100 competitors and I was happy to say I was faster than 46 other cyclists. I passed 3 others walking their bikes up the hills. I am not saying this to down play the others. I am simply saying it because you should NEVER underestimate your ability.

- As a parent, what do you hope to teach your son through sports/triathlon?
The goal at my level is not to be first across the line. Simply getting across the line is winning. Try your best and be happy you were able to complete the race. Realize that the training and racing are helping you lead a healthier lifestyle. A lot of little people (LPs) are reluctant to compete against average sized people knowing they will most likely finish at the bottom.

- While training, what helps you stay motivated?
JY: Good motivational music. Changing what I do so I don't get in a rut. Passing cars stopped in traffic. Passing other cyclists. Having people drop into my wife's work to say they just saw me riding around town. I also get emails from other LPs telling them my racing is helping to motivate them to become more active.

- I read that people with achondroplasia often have joint pain. As a little person what has your experience with running been like? Do you follow a certain running style/technique?
I simply run in what I consider to be the most comfortable manner. I certainly need help with this portion of my training. The back pain can be quite bad. At this point I try and run and walk at a 1 to 2 ratio. 2 min walk for every 1 min of running. I obviously hope to reduce the walking and increase the running.

- Anything can happen on race day, what helps you stay in the moment on the swim, bike and run?
Thinking about my son and wife, especially when pain comes as is so common on the run. I visualize them further down the course waving me to continue on. I also pray quite a bit while competing. Again, not to win, but to simply stay motivated and that fear is nothing more than another hill along the course I have to get over.

- Will your son or wife consider trying triathlon as well?
I don't think my wife is going to but son (who is 6) already says he wants to race like Daddy.

- I read that you met Ironman athletes Dick & Rick Hoyt. Tell me more about that experience.
JY: They were the original reason I considered doing this. We met at Timberman and it was great. Both Rick and I know what it means to have people make assumptions based upon what they SEE. Dick is a terrific man who does great things together with Rick for differently abled people. They passed me on the run portion as they were going in and I was heading out. I got a big thumbs up from Dick and it was a great boost.

- What would you like to tell men and women thinking of signing up for their first triathlons?
Do some preparation and realize there will be some fear. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Do some preparation and in the end try your best to have FUN. Give high fives to people on the race course and make sure to stick around and cheer on others who finish behind you, because you never know when you might be the last one in.


Thanks John for sharing your experiences here! Learn more about John in this Boston Globe article and on his blog. John recently joined Comprehensive Racing, a triathlon and cycling club based in New England.

Photo credit: my tape measurer. Do #'s define us as athletes?