Which Fin is Faster?

Pretty swirly flower-ish design?


Scary pirate theme with dolphins and Rubber Duck?
Photos of my fins by me.
- Fins are cool, fins are lame, fins are a tool?
- What would you draw on your fins?
- Which is the faster fin?
Stay tuned for new Athlete Profiles coming soon!

Duck Tape Agility Ladder

In the warmer Wisconsin months I lead a group of men and women of all ages through a free weekly bootcamp-style workout. I'm introducing agility ladders this season so earlier this year I made two ladders. See this post with directions for the rope versions.
Today I made another ladder out of Duck Tape and craft dowels ($0.97/16 .1875in x 12 inch-pieces.)

Pros: affordable, with fun colors available. I bought:
- silver Duck Tape (general purpose version) $3.97/55 yards
- Blaze Orange Duck Tape $3.37/16.5 yards

Cons: Duck tape is sticky!! If you want each piece/square/angle perfect, then use small pieces and patience. Mine is not perfect -- but I think it'll work fine.
I made the squares about 18 in x 18 in. The dowels were easy to snap in half, so each rung was 1.5 dowels wide. I'm hoping the dowels help weight down the rungs.
Agility Exercises:
Duck vs. Duct? Learn more here.
Duck Tape Pirate Hat - make your own here.
Check out the Duck Tape Club (tm) for more ideas.
Question for You:
- What have you made out of Duck Tape?
- Do you say Duct or Duck?
- What other exercises/ideas should I consider for this year's bootcamp season?
- Do you think the orange rungs will encourage people to move their feet?
photos by me: I bought a ton of craft dowels! Extra tape too.

A Long Ride: 20,000 Miles Along the Pan-American Highway

Bike Immersion--that's the feel I was hoping for with my first touring experience several years ago. The Bike Northwoods Tour covered nearly 360 miles in six days taking riders from Wautoma (central) Wis., to Washburn (northern), Wis. Along the route riders discovered the peaks and valleys of the state while recharging with 10-cent-popcorn at an Amish popcorn stand, fresh strawberries from Mennonite farms, and ice-cold watermelon at tour rest stops.

I went on my own (hubby & grandparents watched the kids) and the week was hard in many ways. I made daily mistakes and even hitchhiked with my bike! But, I loved the adventure of the tour and meeting people along the way. Since then, hubby & I've talked about touring with our kids and when and how it'd work best. Riders must be 8 or older for the Bike Northwoods Tour.

Recently I connected with another mom on wheels. Nancy Sathre-Vogel @familyonbikes followed me on twitter @ironmakeover and wrote "I just found you here! Good to meet another active mom!"

Sathre-Vogel, her husband John and their twin boys Davy and Daryl are currently cycling 20,000 miles along the Pan-American Highway (Alaska to the southern tip of South America). When the twins complete the ride they'll become the new Guinness World Record holders as the youngest people to cycle the Pan-American Highway. See this week's NBC New York Nightly News interview with Sathre-Vogel here.

photo: After cycling 16,534 km the family recently reached the equator!
See entire slideshow including pictures from Galapagos Island!

4 people, 2 trailers, 3 bikes, 1 family, 30 months, 20,000 miles, 15 countries
- Trip: The family left Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in June 2008 and after pedaling 20,000 miles over 3 years they expect to arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina.
- Bikes: The family's traveling with two single bikes and a tandem.
- Cost: around $20,000 per year or about $50/day .
- Experience: Parents John Vogel and Nancy Sathre-Vogel have pedaled an estimated 200,000 miles through sixteen countries in the past thirty years. Slideshows here.
- School: Davy and Daryl are homeschooled by their parents who are both long-time teachers. See different lesson plans along the map by topic.
- Media: NBC New York Nightly News interviewed Sathre-Vogel this week (clip here), when she flew back for a new bike wheel & warmer gear as they are approaching the Andes. Bicyling Magazine also featured the family on bikes.
- Outreach: The family is using their educational background to bring the world to under-privileged children in New York City through Reach the World (RTW). Reach the World is an educational non-profit organization with the mission of linking students in under-funded schools to online, global expeditions .
- Sponsors: Eddie Bauer & First Ascent are their apparel outfitters. See a complete sponsor list here & a list of individuals who've sponsored the family on a per mile basis.
- FAQ: What do they eat? Where do they sleep? How do they bathe? How many flat tires?
Check out the fascinating FAQ section including the highs and lows of their adventure.

The true value of our journey goes way beyond the school stuff, shared Sathre-Vogel in a past blog post. "It’s the other things they are learning that will serve them best in life. They are learning how to plan and carry out a ‘big’ project and now know that, to succeed in any big undertaking, you just take it baby step by baby step. They’ve learned the value of teamwork and know that you can do a lot by working together.

"Davy and Daryl have figured out exactly what their own personal strengths and weaknesses are – and how to use them to their advantage. They’ve learned to persevere through hardship and know they will come out triumphant on the other side. It’ll be interesting to see how these little guys grow and develop through life!”
photo by John Vogel: Enjoying a mud bath in the El Totumo mud volcano outside Cartagena.

I (Sara) wanted to know more! Sathre-Vogel was happy to answer my questions via e-mail. Thanks for the interview!

SARA: Tell me more about the brutal descents. How do the heavy loads change the feel of the descent? Do you all LOVE downhill speed?
*note while cycling the Columbia Andes the family climbed 7,500 feet in 55 kilometers - very steep.
S-V: Although I love the going down part of the ride, when you have to grip your brakes with all your might, it takes a bit of joy out of it. We have to stop periodically to rest our hands - they tend to cramp up after gripping so tightly for so long. Our rims also heat up due to all the friction and we could actually blow up a tire that way - so we stop to let it all cool down.

The descents are actually one of our biggest challenges as a family. The heavier the bike, the faster it will go - so we can't stay together. We all climb more or less together, but end up terribly separated on the descents. John and Daryl on the tandem are the fastest, so they end up ahead. I'm next. And poor little Davy who weighs next to nothing and isn't carrying much of anything creeps along behind.
Photo by Nancy Sathre-Vogel: Another climb -- Atigun Pass on the Dalton Highway

SARA: Do the boys rotate who rides the tandem/single? Or is Davy always on the single?
That was the original plan but hasn't worked out that way. Davy is a lot bigger than Daryl and is much more capable of riding solo than his brother is. Besides, Daryl has a tendency to daydream a lot - not a good thing when you've got 10-ton trucks blasting past!

SARA: At what age & how did you start teaching your kids how to bike & how to love cycling?
S-V: We were living in Ethiopia when our boys were small, so never did the trailer thing like so many parents. When they were around 3, we bought a trailer bike - they loved it! ... The summer the boys were five, we put a kiddie crank on our old tandem. John hooked up an impossible train with the tandem and a trailer bike and took them for a ride up to Idaho City - about 45 miles from Boise and up a steep hill. It was a tough day, but the boys hung in there very well. From there, our summer journeys got a bit bolder each year. When they were seven, we took off for our first tour with two tandems. When they were eight, we bought a bicycle built for three for John and the boys and headed out for a year on the road.

We never intentionally set out to "teach them to ride" or to "love cycling" - we just did what felt natural for us. A side benefit of that is that the boys love traveling with bicycles as much as we do.
photo: Sathre-Vogel calls Tolu, Columbia and its sloths, hidden gems.

SARA: You camped at times, in the desert, open spaces, along the road. Besides dust/sand did anything else try to sneak in your tent?
On this trip? No. On our first big family adventure in 2006-07, we had a skunk prowling around trying to get in the food we had stashed right outside the tent door. We also had a fox visit us one night.

On this trip, we were deep in the middle of bear country when we heard something outside the tent. We still don't know what it was - bear? Moose? Raccoon?
And then there was the time at Canyon de Chelly where we were getting buried in sand. And the night in Baja when we thought we had the perfect campsite next to a small grove of trees...

SARA: I love reading about the daily life activities.
S-V: That's my favorite part too. It is so wonderful to cycle slowly through small towns watching moms brush their daughter's hair, big sisters doing laundry, dad's slaughtering chickens for dinner, kids dressed up in their uniforms walking to school... I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.
photo: Daryl dives off the platform into a swimming hole in Guatemala. Upstream from the swimming hole women washed clothes while children played.

SARA: Describe bed bugs.
S-V: Ugh. Bed bugs are the most vile, the most horrible bug on earth! Give me mosquitoes any day over bed bugs! If you look at bed bugs through a microscope they look like the very definition of evil. The problem with bed bugs is that you have no idea they are there - until you wake up itching to high heaven. I am very sensitive to nearly all bug bites, so I end up with huge red itchy welts all over my back. John hardly even knows they were there. There have been times when we have taken our plastic tarp and spread it on the bed - the nasties can't get through the plastic.

SARA: Within different newsletter updates you mention rebuilding the bikes, is this normal maintenance, can you tell me more?
S-V: Things wear out. Whenever you have moving parts, you will have things wearing down and will need to be replaced every now and then. You also have to grease bearings every once in a while. It isn't a big deal, but takes a fair bit of time when you have to take apart six wheels and four sets of pedals to repack the bearings! We've had relatively few mechanical problems on our trip.

Questions for You:
- Where would you go?
- Where have you gone?
- What part of this trip interests you most?
Thanks again Nancy & family for allowing me to share your adventure here! Nancy is an amazing artist. Check out her beadwork here. And if you'd like to sponsor the family go here.

Activate the Caboose! Glutes & Clams

As a writer, I love to read. I'm usually in the middle of a few good books, savoring some bit by bit and skimming others. This week I'm rationing one chapter a night of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I'm loving it. I'm going to buy it for my Dad for his birthday. My Dad taught me how to run.

This is a picture of him trying to teach me how to run. It was taken back in our old Minnesotan neighborhood. Most of the time we laughed because I ran like a stick person, with straight arms and clenched fists, no elbow bend at all. Though in this picture I have tons of bend in one arm, but the arm-leg swing matchup is messed up.

I remember those lessons, along with many practice runs searching for balance on my 2-wheeler. *See that huge orange fire hydrant, I hit that while riding my bike. I finally did learn how to ride my bike. It helped that my little sister started riding hers first--before me! Not right!

Later on, I ran a lot as a soccer player, and then as cross-training with the crew team at UW-Madison. Technically I knew one thing about running--I liked doing it. My speed's changed (+/-) over the years, my elbows bend and my hands are more relaxed. But I have a ton of room to grow--what a great spot to be.

Recently I took Jessi Stensland's excellent Swim-Bike-Run MovementU workshop. We did a lot during the eight-hour session (dynamic warmups, movement prep, movement sessions, regeneration and recovery & snack & lunch)!

I loved many things about learning with Jessi:
- She's passionate about her subject and about helping athletes of any level learn more about their bodies and how to move well for life.
- Most of the drills were new to me and I struggled with some. But Jessi had tons of cue points ready when I needed them. Small little points helping me find that mysterious midfoot or relax my back extensors.
- I was shocked when she immediately figured out the real issue I was having with box jumps wasn't the jumping motion itself, but instead I was worrying about the landing... how did she KNOW my secret fears?!

We focused on points of power and where power comes from in the body. First we looked at the pillar and stabilized our spine by:
1- Activating the Transverse Abdominus. This I could do. Last summer, Bob Seebohar had us contract our TVAs during his entire session at the USA Triathlon Coaching Clinic. And I do a lot of vacuums thanks to trainer Dustin Maher and his effective exercises. *See Dustin demo the vacuum.
2- Activating the external obliques to keep ribcage parallel to spine.
3- Extending through the thoracic spine, cue-push the top of the head toward the sky. I love this one, it feels good to lift up and decompress through my crunched neck area.

Jessi led us through many movements. My best test exercise was the clam shell. Like this with a mini band around the knees. I've always loved the clam shell, so I was happy to do it correctly without activating my ITband. Fire the glute!

The glute bridge test was difficult. Jessi worked with each of us on the bridge, making sure we could perform it with neutral spine. I can glute bridge all day but not with neutral spine. Other athletes moved on to glute marching, but I'm going to focus on the glute bridge for awhile.

If I can figure out how to activate and use my glutes, I'll be stronger & faster. Currently I'm working on body awareness on the bike and run, specifically thinking about those glutes. When I'm running I call it "firing up the caboose" and sometimes it makes sense I get it and can feel the difference. So for now, that's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

Basically I need to change from a stick-arm runner to a glute-charged athlete. I know I have LOTS of power in my glutes. When I can activate them & use them efficiently, it'll be a good thing. Thanks Jessi!
photo: the caboose from our train set.

- From active.com Weight-room Workouts for Cyclists Part One. **I love deadlifts! And I'm encouraged to read in this article "deadlifts also strengthen the thoracic erectors, upper-back muscles that keep us more upright and pain-free from shoulder and neck problems due to poor posture." Double-bonus!

- 6x Ford World Ironman Champion Dave Scott talks about getting aero on the bike and how the glutes must be the firing system in this great active.com video.

- Rudy Garcia-Tolson fired his amazing glutes 140.6 miles in 2009 becoming the first double above-knee amputee to finish an Ironman. Read Lee Gruenfeld's profile of Rudy's race experience and turn to p. 58 of the April 2010 Triathlete Magazine for a profile featuring Rudy and his coach Muddy Waters. I'd love to meet Rudy one day, so inspiring!

- This research snippet looks at patterns of leg muscle recruitment in cyclists. There are 91 cycling-related items within the Journal of Electromyography & Kinesiology's site.

photo: What a fun, great group of athletes! I hope to connect with you all again in the future. I'm second from the left, black coat, blue shirt.

Questions for You:
- Can you "fire up" the glutes?
- Do you love the clam shell?
- What's your favorite glute-builder?

Dunedin & Quinoa with Jessi Stensland & MovementU

*A classic family vacation memory with the RV in the background. I'm barefoot & in my pajamas.

Growing up we took many family road trips within our Winnebago, until it burned down on our way to Disney World... another story. My Dad drove that RV all over the country over mountain passes and across NYC bridges, often while we were still sleeping. During a trip to Florida, we stopped at a gas station to ask directions to a beach (pre-GPS era). My dad asked the man how to get to "Dune-din" and the man had no idea what my Dad was looking for. We didn't know the city was pronounced differently, like "du-NEED-in" vs "DUNE-din."

*Me roasting marshmallows, sometimes golden, sometime charred.

In similar word-confusion, I'd been searching for some darn Quinoa & having no luck! Months ago I read a post by Endurance Guy Toby & wanted to try out the recipe. I paced up and down the grocery store aisles (with 3 kids) looking for pasta in tiny little dot shapes. I tried the "special food" section, nothing. Where was this "quin-no-ah?" I didn't know what I was looking for, too bad I didn't google it. To find something it helps to understand what you're looking for.

And then, this mystery grain (wrong aisle!) shows up again, in Jessi Stensland's MovementU lunch!! See the MovementU menu here.

Photo of Jessi taken by me.

I LOVED Jessi's clinic (more on her content soon) and I'm encouraged to apply the concepts and movements I learned from her. And after gobbling up her snack & lunch, I had to find that yummy quin-oh-ah.

So, I went back to Woodmans and paced the aisles again. This time I checked both aisles of the "special section" and did a cheerleader-style "yes!" after finding the mystery grain. It's pronounced like "KEEN-wah". Later on I learned more about Quinoa from Ben Greenfield Fitness's guest Chef Todd in this session.

I picked up red pepper hummus, avo, ww wraps, spinach, oinion, evoo, sea salt, cherry tomatoes and actual red peppers to try and duplicate the MovementU wraps. I stuffed a little too much into my wrap, but yes it was very good. The next day I added Quinoa to the mix, and that worked too.

And while for now I'm content to let Active Toby climb highest mountains, I have run through the fields. And thanks to MovementU ... I have run, I have semi-crawled, and (while looking for Quinoa) I have scaled the grocery store walls. So I end with this--one of the best songs ever.

Watch on official U2 site

Questions for You:
- Did you know it was KEEN-wah?
- What's one of your best-ever songs?
- How do you like your marshmallows?

Downhills, Art, Fashion Shows & a New Bike!

We stayed close to home during Spring Break week, hitting area parks and getting messy in the basement. This hill is beautiful & my oldest flew down it, smiling the whole way. I'm not going to critique his running form but if you'd like help/suggestions on downhill running technique go here at active.com.
For art ideas, inspiration and resources check out this artist/triathlete's blog. You'll find SO many great things! (lizards, art lessons, sewing projects, tri reports, and incredible refashions!) I'm hoping to profile Carrie & her husband soon! If you have kids, check out her "This is Me" A Kid's First Keepsake Journal.

photos: more from a park trip. A Sandhill Crane. T/E easily navigate the rocks.

photos: I took these at a recent Women's night at our local Trek store. We had yummy burritos from Chipoltle and Trek raffled off a free bike at the end ... and a woman named Sara won! but not me, I heard "Sara" & my heart accelerated. Coach Cindi from Madison Multisport spoke. I took one of her free pre-race clinics in the past & liked it.

And with the kids home, I setup the trainer on the deck for Cutter intervals while our youngest napped.
And finally, hubby bought a new commuting bike. The A/C in his van would cost $2,600 to fix so he decided he'd work on commuting more in the summer & recently brought home his new cyclocross baby.

Questions for You:
What's most interesting to you? Park trip, downhill running, painting, art, fashion shows, burritos, Breaking Away, trainer rides, or a new bike?
If you have kids, how do you like to workout with them at home?

Athlete Profile: Meet Brenda Cochran - God, GOTRIbal and Chrissie Wellington

Brenda Cochran's search for inspiration and information brought her to active.com's triathlon community where I volunteer year-round as a community moderator. Thanks Brenda for sharing your tri story with us!

Cochran's gym routine was boring and redundant, especially the running, she says. Though she was NOT looking for triathlon-specific information, her active.com research would quickly take her feet-first down triathlon's alluring path.

After a few clicks she jumped here and read my series on common excuses not to do a triathlon. "I read each one very carefully and really, reading your story was where the shift occurred," says Cochran. "I had triathlon in a box, only for 'certain types of people.' You just seemed like a regular person - genuine and encouraging. I was amazed at how reading your story changed how I view my abilities - even though you are a bit younger than me - changed my beliefs."

"Reading your blog also included somewhat of a moment with God," she says. "It was almost as if He was using your story to communicate a message to me saying, 'You have worked hard, been faithful and I have a gift for you, because I love you.' I felt a nudge, giving me permission to just enjoy life."

"My childhood was very chaotic, traumatic, and violent," she says. "From this experience, I've struggled with allowing myself to be happy and to enjoy life. On the outside, I appeared happy but on the inside I learned to be hyper vigilant and on guard."

Now a completely different person, Cochran says, "the timing was right when I stumbled across an encouraging and transforming story such as yours. I was able to let go ... to experience more joy than I thought possible."

Through triathlon training Cochran's caught glimpses of her childhood, "those glimpses in between the chaos where I was swimming and feeling free in the water. Or when I was riding my bike fast, feeling the wind in my hair. I feel like I am playing when I am really just working out! There's a Bible verse (Joel 2:25) that talks about God restoring the years that the locust has eaten. After all these years, pieces of my childhood are being restored."

She now serves as a Chief in GOTRIbal an organization created to empower women through the journey of endurance sport. "I love GOTRIbal simply because of Tanya’s vision for the organization. I personally believe we need to be taking what we've been given and give it away so others can experience what we've learned," she says.

And you've likely heard of GOTRIbal's Chief Ambassador? It's three-time Ford World Ironman Champion Chrissie Wellington who Cochran met and rode with at a GOTRIbal event last year. Cochran calls that weekend one of the highlights of her life!

"But the weekend was more that just getting to ride with her, it was meeting all of the other women (some as far away as Massachusetts)," she says. "It was also leaving the comfort of my AZ world, venturing to San Diego for my first ever open water swim workout, first ever in a wetsuit, first ever swimming/competing in the ocean–this was very scary for me. I was completely out of my comfort zone. I wanted to face fear dead on which was fear of the unknown… and this experience was everything and more–I really came back a different person."

In her role as Chief Cochran coordinates group training events and is spreading the GOTRIbal message to Arizona athletes. "Probably what I enjoy most is encouraging people to become more than what they imagined," she says.

Women see Cochran in her GOTRIbal gear and ask her what it's about. "When I explain the vision I get a lot of positive feedback," she says. "Women tell me they want to work out in a non-threatening environment where they won’t be embarrassed about their ability."

Triathlon's the perfect fit. "People are very friendly and encouraging," Cochran says. "As I enter into my second half of life, I now have something to do that is a blast and keeps me healthy, vibrant, and yes, feeling young!"
She's an eyeing an Ironman to celebrate her 50th. I volunteered to be her IronSherpa if she chooses Ironman Wisconsin!

Cochran's favorite resources:
GOTRIbalnow.com, Active.com, BeginnerTriathlete.com. Her favorite books are “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Triathlon Training” by Katai & Barr and “The Triathlete’s Guide to Mental Training” by Taylor and Schneider.

Questions for You:
- Please thank Brenda for sharing her tri story!
- What fears have you faced as a triathlete?
- How does triathlon remind you of your youth?

Want more GOTRIbal? Attend GOTRIbal Fest! Oct. 16, 2010, San Diego Hyatt Resort by the Bay.
$135. Make it a girlfriend's weekend and save $40!
Use code gtpackage when you sign up two or more to attend. More info at www.gotribalnow.com/events.
I'd love to make it ... hmmm I have a fall birthday!? Let's see how many airline miles I have... and Brenda, you are amazing! Thanks so much for encouraging ME!