ROW TO RIO: 2016 Rowing Team O’Leary/Tomek

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Rio De Janeiro 2016. It’s on the mind of every Team USA member competing there this August. In particular, this is what’s on the mind of Team USA rowers Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek. For an Olympian, the road to the games in Rio is a long one full of bumps, twists, and turns. Meghan and Ellen were kind enough to spend a few minutes away from their training in Princeton, New Jersey to talk with us on the phone. Between talking about some of the controversy surrounding this year’s games, understanding the struggles of being an elite rower in the US, and learning their backgrounds, there was plenty to talk about. Here are some of the highlights of the conversation:

How did you guys get started in rowing?

Ellen: “I started rowing at the University of Michigan my freshman year as a walk-on athlete. I went to a tryout where they tested our fitness and rowing potential. I made the cut, stuck with it and eventually was put on scholarship.”

Meghan: “Ellen basically came straight here to the Princeton Training Center right after college. I had a little bit of a different path; I played volleyball and softball at the University of Virginia. I graduated and went to work full time with ESPN. It was a couple years later when I had just moved to Connecticut. I wanted to do something new and ended up just Googling rowing. This was about six years ago, the summer of 2010. I literally didn’t know anything about the sport. They have a great rowing program at the University of Virginia and ironically, the head rowing coach had actually approached me while I was still at school and said ‘hey, you should try rowing.’ I think it kind of planted the seed. So I signed up for some learn-to-row sessions, absolutely fell in love with it, and I haven’t looked back since. I threw myself into it and managed to find myself at the National Training Center a little over a year later, in fall 2011.”

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Team O’Leary/Tomek crossing the finish line at trials (Courtesy of USRowing)

When did you know you were good enough?

Ellen: “I made the Beijing Olympic Team in 2008, just two years out of college. The first year that I was training with the squad I made the 2007 National Team. I ended up in the women’s double for the 2008 Olympics and 2009 National Team. After that, I was injured for quite a bit and ended up missing out on the London Games, but decided that I wasn’t done training. Once Meghan and I started rowing together in 2013, we knew we had potential and could be competitive internationally. We made it our goal to develop the boat together over the course of the full quadrennial. Even back when we started rowing together, three and half years ago, we always believed we had the potential to go to Rio and to win a medal.”

How many women were you competing against during trials?

Meghan: “The women’s double is a Trials boat, which means it is an open event and anyone can enter. It’s interesting and unique to the sport of rowing. Over the last few years there have been a variety of competitors and contenders trying to win the double and represent the United States in that boat. We have represented the United States in the women’s double since 2013. We may have been considered the favorites going in, but there were definitely a lot of great athletes there. There were seven other crews that we were competing against us for the right to represent the United States as the Olympic Women’s Double in Rio. It definitely wasn’t a sure thing going into the regatta, so we were nervous and are very proud of what we accomplished.”

Where does the money in the sport of rowing come from domestically and internationally?

Ellen: “We are supported by non-profit organizations, USRowing and the USOC. We earn a modest monthly living stipend that maybe covers rent and groceries. The lack of funding is in part due to rowing not being a mainstream sport, so there’s not as much visibility.”

Meghan: “Rowers are superstars in Great Britain, New Zealand, and many European countries. Several of those athletes make real salaries and have endorsements and sponsorships. They are sort of like the equivalent of the NBA and NFL stars we have here in the U.S. In many countries outside of the U.S., rowers can keep rowing for much longer because of the income potential, whereas here in the States it can be difficult to maintain a long career in the sport due solely to the need to support yourself and your family.”

Are you nervous about going to Rio for the obvious reasons?

Meghan: “You prepare for so long and train so hard that you want to be able to show up to the Olympics and perform at your highest level. You put in all these hours and then be faced with something you can’t control like the water quality or Zika, is frustrating but we can’t dwell on it. It’s scary, but the best thing we’re trying to do is not stress about it and prepare in the best ways we can: lots of bug spray, long sleeves, and minimizing exposure to the water, all that stuff. It’s funny how some people have asked “Well, did you ever consider not going to Rio?” and we of course, answer ‘absolutely not!’ You don’t put your whole life into this only to say ‘no, thanks.’

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Our employees are happy to have something they can wear to show their support for team O’Leary/Tomek!!

Getting to know these Olympians was an awesome experience. Medi-Dyne is proud to have Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary as Athlete Ambassadors. Medi-Dyne wishes team O’Leary/Tomek the best of luck in the Rio games!! Go Team USA!

Be sure to tune your TV to the Olympic Rowing Event on August 6-13 to cheer on Meghan, Ellen and Team USA!

Doing a Tough Mudder or Spartan? Put BlisterShield on your Gear List

Running through mud, climbing up and over obstacles, and crawling through swampy water are par for the course for any obstacle course race. Back in February, I signed up to do the Spartan Sprint, a 5K muddy obstacle race. The race wasn’t until August, so I had plenty of time to prepare myself physically and mentally. Last year I completed the Tough Mudder, a 10-12 mile mud obstacle race. I remembered how wet and uncomfortable my feet were during the Mudder and how many blisters I had once the race was over, that I really needed to find a solution.

If you’re not an avid runner, like me, the gear you choose for these types of races is super important. Since I already did the Tough Mudder, I knew I needed trail running shoes that would drain water and socks that would wick moisture away. Those two things I had.

What I wasn’t prepared for last year, however, was the amount of dirt and debris that found its way into my shoes and rubbed between my toes and under my foot. That problem I did not have a solution for, until BlisterShield.

During my research for blister prevention products, I found 2Toms. I really wanted to know if BlisterShield would help prevent those awful tiny blisters between my toes that I experienced during my last obstacle race, so I contacted them.

Katie at 2Toms was very helpful. She explained that BlisterShield keeps your feet dry and creates a frictionless surface which prevents blisters from forming. She also suggested I put BlisterShield between my toes, since that was where my problem arose during the Mudder.

Katie sent me a bunch of samples of BlisterShield. I used the product during my training and my feet always remained dry and blister free. But, the real test was going to be on race day.

Mud Racing; Spartan; Mudder; Blisters

Getting ready for the Spartan Sprint! [image: self taken]

Before I left the house, I took out my sample of BlisterShield and applied it all over my foot! I applied it to the top of my feet, in between my toes, on the bottom of my feet and even in my socks. My feet were completely covered in BlisterShield – granted, I may have gone a little overboard.

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BlisterShield comes in a convenient powder form. [image: self taken]

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Applying BlisterShield all over my foot. [image: self taken]

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Applied BlisterShield to the soles of my feet and in between my toes. My dog was very curious as to what I was doing. [image: self taken]

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Even put BlisterShield inside my sock! [image: self-taken]

 

We arrive at the race ready to go! There were a lot of people there. And most of them in costume! I kept wondering, ‘Will their costumes help them prevent blisters?’

 

mud races, prevent blisters with BlisterShield

Ready for the race. Bring on the mud! [shown: Patti & Ron Fousek; image: self taken]

And, we’re off! We ran up hills, down hills, in mud, over rocks in mud. We were submersed in mud and even crawled through a rocky, swampy, muddy obstacle to get to the finish.

Oh… I forgot to mention. Katie also gave me a sample of SportShield for chafing. I applied SportShield to my ankles and calves to help prevent rope burn when climbing the rope – it worked!

At the end of the race, my feet actually felt really good! I had mud in my eyes, my shoulder hurt, but my feet were perfectly fine. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos of my blister-free feet – my phone was in my bag and I was in a rush to get all the mud off.

 

That's a lot of mud! We finished! [shown: Patti & Ron Fousek; image: self taken]

That’s a lot of mud! We finished! [shown: Patti & Ron Fousek; image: self taken]

The next time you sign up for a muddy obstacle race, add BlisterShield to your gear list. Your feet with thank you.

Disclaimer: 2Toms did not pay for our race or pay me to write this review. 2Toms did send me samples of their product for free and “sponsored” my husband and me for the Spartan Race by providing the free samples. 

Side Cramps when Running: How to Avoid and Get Rid of Them

Side cramps. Side stitch. Side ache. No matter what you call it, getting a cramp in your side while running is just plain annoying. It hurts, too, and can affect how you run.

What Causes Side Cramps when Running?

In an article on WebMD, Olympic runner and running expert Jeff Galloway says that side cramps when running happen due to shallow breathing, “not breathing deeply from the lower lung.” This would explain why I got a side ache during the first three miles of the Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll half marathon the last two years in a row. There is so much excitement. I’m high-fiving spectators, cheering for bands and not paying attention to my running or breathing. Galloway says the side pain is a “little alarm” letting you know that you aren’t breathing right.

Exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise Pete McCall says in the WebMD article that a side stitch can also be from “an imbalance of blood electrolytes (such as calcium, potassium and sodium) in your body.”

How to Get Rid of a Side Stitch

Here are a few ways to get rid of and avoid side cramps when running from Galloway:Galloway Training Program

Practice breathing deep: “Put your hand on your stomach and breathe deeply. If you’re breathing from your lower lungs, your stomach should rise and fall.”

Don’t start too fast: This is a good rule to follow anyway. Running too fast out of the gates is a good way to get a side stitch. “It’s always better during the first 10 minutes to be more gentle,” Galloway says in the article. He also says that nervousness can cause runners to breathe faster and “revert to shallow breathing.”

Slow down, breathe deep: If you get cramping in your side during your run or race, slow down to a walk, says Galloway. “Do the lower lung breathing while walking, maybe [for 2-4] minutes.”

Eat or drink: If your side ache is from an imbalance of electrolytes, taking an energy gel and some electrolyte-infused fluids, such as Nuun. That worked for me both times.

Do you have any tips that have worked for you? Please share in the comments!

Stop Toe Blisters Before Your Run

 Blister Prevention

Stop Toe Blisters Before Your Run

I’m not sure what I was thinking, but last weekend I went for my long run without applying any blister prevention product between my toes.

I have squished toes. They all overlap slightly, which means I get blisters in between my toes (and sometimes on the bottom of them, too!) during long runs unless I remember to treat them pre-work out. If you also get toe blisters, 2Toms has blister-prevention products you can use to stop them.

BlisterShield

BlisterShield 8oz Shaker BottleBlisterShield is a powder that, when applied to the foot, repels moisture. Shake BlisterShield into your sock before your run and it will help keep your skin dry and prevent those blisters that occur because of that sweaty friction in your sock. (For tips on how to apply BlisterShield, click the link.) BlisterShield doesn’t “soak up” the moisture and lose its effectiveness. It repels moisture so it can continue to work for long periods of time!

BlisterShield will especially help prevent those blisters on the bottom of your feet and toes, the ones that are caused by excess friction and heat buildup in your shoe. You can even use BlisterShield in addition to another 2Toms product, SportShield, for twice the blister prevention–extra important if you are an ultra runner or a long-distance hiker!

Learn more about BlisterShield by clicking the link. For a video and more information on how BlisterShield works, click this link.

SportShield

SportShield is a full-body silicone-based anti-chafe product, and one of my favorites because it doesn’t rub off. (You can wash it off with a baby wipe or soap and water, though, after your workout.) It comes in a roll-on applicator or you can get the single-use towelettes, which would be great in an emergency pack for long-distance runners and hikers. I usually use the roll-on applicator to apply SportShield between my toes before long runs.

SportShield’s non-toxic, non-greasy formula creates a waterproof barrier between my toes. The silkiness of it allows my toes to rub against each other without friction so that I don’t get those darn toe blisters!

You can watch a video on how SportShield works or learn more about SportShield by clicking on the links.

Preventing toe blisters is really as simple as taking a minute to apply either one or both of these products, and it can save you from so much pain later. I definitely will not forget to use my BlisterShield and SportShield on my next long run!

Ragnar Run Relay Takes to the Trails

Ragnar Relays are about to get dirtier. And that’s saying a lot since a bunch of people taking turns running and then piling into a van for a couple of days can get pretty gnarly.

Ragnar Run Trail Relays

Ragnar, the largest overnight running relay series in the United States, announced recently that it will be holding the world’s first overnight trail relay series in partnership with Salomon, a leader in technical design and innovation of athletic outdoor products.

Currently, in the Ragnar Run Relay Series, teams of 12 run a 200-mile relay in the course of two days and one night. Team vans travel with or ahead of their runners as each person takes their turn. It’s a point-to-point race. The Trail Series teams of eight run a 120-mile trail relay over two days and one night. But it won’t be point-to-point because of the nature of…well, nature.

Since you can’t take a van on the trails, here’s how it’ll work:

Over two days, teams of eight (regular) or four (ultra) people will run three loops at national parks and resort venues. The race begins on a Friday at a “Ragnar Village” – a central location. The first runner runs one trail loop before returning to the village so their next teammate can begin his or her trail loop. Teams run throughout the night into Saturday. Most teams will finish in about 20 hours.

While the runners are out, teammates party, I mean set up camp at “Ragnar Village.” According to Ragnar, there will be live music, food, bonfires, s’mores and decorations.

And I’m betting a lot of dirt. Notice they didn’t mention showers. I’m thinking you might want to pack some extra Stink Free.

Ragnar Trail Relay Locations

Here are the locations of the new trail relay series with more locations to be announced in the future:

  • April 26-27, Zion Ponderosa Ranch (Zion National Park, Utah)
  • June 7-8, Big Bear Lake (Morgantown, West Virginia)
  • July 26-27, Sierra at Tahoe (Lake Tahoe, California)
  • October 18-19, McDowell Mountain (Scottsdale, AZ)
  • November 15-16, Vail Lake Resort (Temecula, California)

What do you think? Will you be signing up? Do you enjoy running relay races like these? Do s’mores count as recovery food?

Mountain Biking Tips for Adventure Racers

Of the three main adventure racing disciplines — orienteering, paddling, and mountain biking — it’s the last that can be the biggest barrier for beginners. While orienteering takes practice, a team only needs one navigator (teammates who can share the navigational duties and give input on route selection are a huge help), and pairing up with a more experienced partner can help paddling newbies. On the bike leg, though, it’s all you: no one can ride your bike for you. On my Facebook page I get more emails about learning to mountain bike than about any other part of adventure racing, and because I’m fairly new to it myself I have some tips on mountain biking to help you to get started.

Mountain Biking Tips for Adventure Racers

A mountain bike has been required gear for ever adventure race I’ve done or read about, so the first thing you need is a bike. Don’t run right out and buy one, though; start by doing research. The number of details and different brands and components and variables are mind-boggling. Test ride a lot of bikes. This will give you a chance to see what feels and fits the best for you.

Good to know: You’re not just shopping for a bike but also for a bike shop. You’re going to need them for parts, labor, gear, and advice. Buy from a shop you’re going to be happy returning to.

The best thing you can do is pick the brain of more experienced riders to help narrow down some priorities. With bikes, to a large degree, you get what you pay for. No bike will do the work for you, but better components can certainly make for a better riding experience. That said, you don’t need the Cadillac of bikes to get started. Go with what you can afford and upgrade later. My base model Specialized has done everything I’ve asked it to do, and when I upgrade I’ll appreciate the new bike that much more.

Once you have your bike, it’s time to ride it. I started by riding my bike on the streets around my house, just to get used to the shifting. Then, I went by myself to our local trails, and it was the saddest, most timid ride you ever saw. I didn’t feel ready to ride with other people, but now I can’t recommend strongly enough that new riders mountain bike with someone more experienced. If you don’t have friends who mountain bike, check with local bike shops or mountain bike organizations (the St. Louis area has both the Gateway Off-Road Cyclists and STLBiking.com; Team Revolution is another great resource for female cyclists); many people are willing to pour the MTB kool-aid for new converts. Hitting the trails with a more experienced rider gives you the opportunity to get invaluable advice, and seeing what others are able to do gives you more confidence to try new things. Plus, you’ll have someone there to call the paramedics…you know, just in case. 🙂

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Riding with friends is way more fun than riding alone.

Group rides are another way to have fun, get practice, and gain experience. As a new rider, make sure to seek out no-drop rides. There’s nothing so disheartening as heading out with a big group only to get left in the dust. Don’t feel that you have to go long distances; riding loops of the same trail can help improve your skills and comfort level as you practice different lines and recognize what works best for you.

Good to know: Start with beginner-friendly trails and then branch out to other trails as your confidence and skill level increase.

Once you’ve gained some trail experience, you’ll want to work on discrete skills. Being able to ride over obstacles in the trail, navigate switchbacks, and ride skinny sections are all going to come in handy. Because all race directors are sadists, you’re almost certain to encounter hills; climbing and descending skills are mandatory. Mountain biking books and YouTube videos abound, but there’s nothing like having someone there to give you advice and feedback. Recruit a friend, find a segment of trail where you can practice a designated skill, and ride it over and over again.

over tree

Experience (and company) builds confidence to try new things

Good to know: You can practice in your back yard, too. Throw a small log on the ground and practice riding over it. Lay out a 2x4 and ride on it. Toss out some obstacles and weave around them.

Another way to build skills is to get professional help. In the St. Louis area, Team Revolution hosts a variety of bike clinics throughout the year; their mountain bike clinic is particularly valuable. Another resource for women is the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic in Brown County, IN. A more expensive alternative is offered through BetterRide.net, which hosts mountain bike clinics throughout the country. A quick google search will help you find even more options.

The best thing you can do is to practice, practice, practice. More time on the trails equals greater comfort and confidence. And if you’re still nervous, take heart in these two facts:

1) You’ll often be surprised by how little singletrack you’ll see in many adventure races.

and

2) There’s no law that says you have to ride everything. If you come to something you aren’t comfortable with, walk it.  There’s no shame in knowing your limits…and great joy in watching as they expand.

What helped you when you were learning to mountain bike? Or, if you’re a new or aspiring rider, what questions or concerns do you have?