2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 240,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

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Running drills to improve your running form

Here are five drills that will improve anyone’s form. Each of them strengthens a particular muscle group and improves the movement of the body through the running motion.

Before you start your next training run, pick a straight stretch of road about 50 meters long, or better still, go to a local track and do these after you’ve had a complete warm-up and stretch.

Plan to do each of these drills two to four times, taking only a short rest of 30 seconds between repeats of each drill.

1. Butt kicks
Just as the name implies, this drill involves trying to kick your own butt with each step. Taking short steps, kick your heel back and up as high as you can. This drill improves heel recovery, which is the part of the running motion where your leg rises up and coils for the next forward stride. This drill also strengthens the hamstrings, a primary muscle group used in running.

2. High steps
This drill involves taking short steps and picking your knees up as high as they can go. Think of the way those Clydesdale horses on the old Budweiser commercials used to prance. This drill strengthens the calves and hip flexors, and emphasizes proper running posture and the lift-off phase of running.

3. High skips
Everyone feels silly doing this at first, but believe me, it works. Swing your arms strongly and skip as high as you can. This drill helps build explosive power in your running stride, and it will help you climb hills and finish strong in your next race.

4. Stiff-legged running
Run keeping your knees as straight as possible. It helps to imagine that you’re a Russian folk dancer. This drill will strengthen the hip flexors, which is the area where the bottom of your abdomen meets your leg — a muscle group that’s crucial to the running motion.

5. Strides
Think of these as slow-motion sprints. Don’t run all-out; just run easily, but with the form you would use in sprinting. This drill gives you an opportunity to see how your body is moving during hard running, and gives you a chance to correct any problem areas you might have in your form. It also prepares you body for the next phase of your workout — your actual distance run — by lengthening the stride.

Do all of these drills at least once a week. They’ll only take a few minutes, but they work for elite runners, and they’ll work for you.

ETU announces Triathlon Junior events for 2013

The ETU is delighted to confirm the race schedule for Junior athletes in 2013.

This remains a provisional list at this stage, but it is anticipated there will be ten ETU Junior European Cups in addition to the ETU Junior European Championships.

Some of the Junior events will be held in conjunction with an ITU European Cup Elite race; in Antalya, Istanbul, Alanya (European Championships) and Tiszaujvaros. The Tiszaujvaros event will be in a semifinal/final format as it was last year.

Amongst old favourites such as Antalya, Brno and Tabor, there are several new and exciting locations for Junior athletes.

Vierzon (FRA) and Eton Dorney (GBR), the 2012 Olympic rowing venue, will host an International race for the first time and the ETU will return to Athlone (IRL) for the first time in three years.

The first confirmed Junior Cup of 2013 will be in Antalya on the weekend of 27/28 April. The inaugural race in Vierzon is scheduled for the weekend of 11/12 May before the calendar returns to Brno for the first time since 2011 on 25th May.

A week after the European Championships in Alanya, Kupiskis in Lithuania will once again host a European Cup in the Baltics on the weekend of 22/23 June. Last year, Estonia’s Kaidi Kivioja and Ivan Menshykov (UKR) were victorious on this course.

Athlone will host its first ETU Junior European Cup on 6th July, the first race here since the 2010 European Championships and it has previously hosted two Elite European Cups in 2008 and 2009.

Tabor (CZE) will host its fourth Junior European Cup in a row on 28th July. Last year, Sarah Wilm (GER) and Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) took gold on this course – Blummenfelt on his way to becoming the No.1 European Junior ranked athlete for 2012.

In a packed August schedule, there will be further Junior European Cups in Istanbul (3/4 August), Tiszaujvaros (10/11 August) and Eton Dorney (31 August)

Eton Dorney was the 2012 Olympic rowing venue and has hosted many domestic Triathlon events in Great Britain. This will be the first time the course will have hosted an International European Cup.

The full list of ETU Junior European Cups are available on the Events page of the ETU website. For more information on each individual event, visit the event page here.

The ETU would like to stress that this remains a provisional list and further confirmation will be issued in due course.

Protein Bars On-the-Go

On-the-Go Protein Bars

2c Almonds
1/4c Ground Flax Seed
1/2c Dried Fruit (Rasins and or Prunes are good)
1/2c Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
1/2c Natural Peanut Butter
1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
1/2c Melted Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1 TB Maple Syrup or Honey
2-3 Tsp Vanilla Extract
Optional:
Coco Powder
Melted Chocolate

Place almonds, flax, fruit, coconut, peanut butter and salt in a food processor. Blend until it is a coarse- however chunky you would like it. Melt coconut oil on the stove, then stir sweetener and vanilla in. Pour into the nut mix and stir well. (Add coco powder if you like, about a 1/3c.) Press into an 8×8 pan and refrigerate for ~1 hour. (Spread melted chocolate on top if you want and refrigerate until hardened.)

After they are hardened cut them into squares and wrap individually with plastic wrap. Freeze or refrigerate.

U.S. Olympian’s Secret Life As Las Vegas Escort

From The smoking Gun

A three-time U.S. Olympian whose illustrious running career has included a Nike TV commercial, a swimsuit calendar, and ongoing promotional work for Disney has spent the last year doubling as a $600-an-hour call girl, an astounding secret life that she now regretfully calls a “huge mistake.”

Beginning last December, Suzy Favor Hamilton, 44, has worked with one of Las Vegas’s premier escort services, booking scores of “dates” in Sin City and other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston.

While Favor Hamilton (seen at right) has used an alias, “Kelly Lundy,” when working as an escort, she inexplicably shared her true identity with several male clients, believing that her secret was somehow safe with strangers who paid for her company by leaving envelopes stuffed with cash on bathroom vanities in swanky hotels.

When approached by a reporter earlier this month in the lobby of a Las Vegas hotel, Favor Hamilton initially denied any connection with the escort service, Haley Heston’s Private Collection. But Favor Hamilton–who is married to her college sweetheart, a lawyer, and is the mother of a seven-year-old girl–eventually acknowledged her work as “Kelly.”

“I take full responsibility for my mistakes. I’m not the victim and I’m not going that route,” Favor Hamilton said. “I’m owning up to what I did. I would not blame anybody except myself.” She added, “Everybody in this world makes mistakes. I made a huge mistake. Huge.”

Favor Hamilton expressed concern that her story would be “sensationalized” by a reporter. It is hard, though, to imagine how that could occur. The actual events of the ex-Olympian’s past year already seem like the fever dreams of a Lifetime producer who decided to adapt Luis Bunuel’s “Belle de Jour” for basic cable.

Favor Hamilton described the escort business as “exciting,” an illicit midlife diversion from her routine existence, one in which she operates a successful Madison, Wisconsin real estate brokerage with her husband, delivers motivational speeches, and does promotional work for various businesses and groups, including Disney’s running series and Wisconsin’s Potato & Vegetable Growers Association.

She said that only her husband Mark, 44, was aware of her escort work, but that, “He tried, he tried to get me to stop. He wasn’t supportive of this at all.” The couple lives in a $600,000 Madison home and appears to be in no financial distress based on a review of court and municipal records.

In a July 2012 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel profile, Favor Hamilton spoke of giving about 60 motivational speeches annually, raising her daughter, running her realty firm, and doing appearances for Disney and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series. “I just know I’m happier than I’ve ever been. My life just keeps getting better,” she said.

But she also spoke of her life’s darker precincts.

Favor Hamilton told of suffering postpartum depression after her child’s 2005 birth and how she had been prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft, which has allowed her to “feel better than I’ve ever felt.” Additionally, she told reporter Gary D’Amato how her brother Dan committed suicide in 1999, a year before she ran for the gold medal in the 1500-meter final at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium. She led that race with 200 meters to go, but when other competitors began to pass her, Favor Hamilton recalled, she intentionally tumbled to the track, ashamed that she could not medal in honor of her late sibling.

Sitting on an outdoor bench off the Las Vegas Strip earlier this month, Favor Hamilton referenced her athletic career when a reporter asked why she thought her identity could remain cloaked–especially since she spoke openly with certain johns about her real name, running career, and business pursuits.

Favor Hamilton answered that as a world-class athlete she was conditioned to believe she was invincible, and that doubts and concerns were counterproductive thoughts. During a subsequent conversation she brought up Tiger Woods’s tumultuous fall, saying that, “I mean, he’s the biggest athlete ever. He obviously thought he could never get caught.”

Favor Hamilton also blamed herself for being “too trusting.” She expected other participants in the insular escort business–where men seeking sex are called “hobbyists” and women selling it are “providers”–to honor a code of silence. Though she seemed entirely sincere, it was nonetheless a credulous notion that client and escort were morally bound by some implicit pledge of omerta.

Why would her secret be safe with guys about whom she knew nothing (except that many were paying for sex while their spouse was back home)?

These johns slept with an attractive former Olympian, an All-American girl with a Wikipedia page and a Nike commercial on YouTube. How could they not boast about their costly Las Vegas escapades? A Google search by any of these “hobbyists” would have quickly established Favor Hamilton’s status as a public figure as well as her athletic bona fides.

As a middle distance runner, Favor Hamilton competed (but did not medal) at the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics. Her collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin was so dominating–she is the most decorated female athlete in NCAA track and field history–that the Big Ten Conference’s female athlete of the year award was named after her (the male equivalent honors Jesse Owens). The winner of multiple national championships, NCAA titles, and All-American awards, Favor Hamilton has appeared in national ads for Nike, Reebok, Clairol, Oakley, and Pert Plus shampoo. A 1997 swimsuit calendar included shots of the lithe athlete modeling a stars-and-stripes bikini and lounging on the sand sans top.

Referring to a client she suspected of contacting a reporter, Favor Hamilton said, “He totally broke all the rules by outing me.” But she stressed that returning fire was not her style. “I don’t want to be like him. Because he is scum. And I will not become scum to make myself feel good,” Favor Hamilton said. “I will not do it. I would suffer rather than go that route of being vindictive.”

When a reporter expressed disbelief that Favor Hamilton–a college graduate who has traveled the world, competed at track and field’s highest levels, struck endorsement deals, and built a successful legitimate business–could be so naïve, she answered, “I can’t expect you to understand, you aren’t in that world.”

She gave a similar reply when asked if she ever feared for her safety since she met clients unaccompanied by security. “Again, you don’t know this world. You’re making judgments on what you see on television or what you perceive,” she said.

Favor Hamilton said that she had been planning to quit the escort business even before learning that TSG was examining her connection to the illegal Haley Heston operation. She acknowledged contacting certain clients to “let them know I’m not doing this anymore and I’m moving on with my life. Because they’re gonna try to contact me.” She also told of recently starting therapy to “figure out myself why I’ve done what I’ve done.”

After being contacted by Favor Hamilton, one of her clients wrote a TSG reporter offering “some money to prevent [a story] from coming out…I would do anything to protect her.” In a July 2012 online review, the client–who recounted two separate encounters with “Kelly”–enthused, “She is worth every penny. I will go bankrupt before I stop seeing her. I hope no one else goes to see her, because I want her all to myself.” He added, “I never thought I would find anyone in this hobby like her.”

Favor Hamilton also claimed to never have considered possible legal complications stemming from her escort work with the Haley Heston firm. Prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas and each of the cities where Favor Hamilton has had “dates” arranged by the escort company, which describes itself as “the premier Boutique Escort Agency of Las Vegas.”

Haley Heston’s Private Collection is a cash-only business operating across state lines, an enterprise whose own web site makes a tacit admission of the firm’s criminal nature. In a blog post earlier this year, the escort service assured clients that it would destroy subpoenaed records in the face of a criminal investigation (all to “ensure the highest standards of discretion”). So add obstruction of justice to a  list of federal crimes like conspiracy, promoting prostitution, and money laundering that Haley Heston’s shadowy operators appear willing to commit.

Favor Hamilton declined to discuss her dealings with the escort service, which earlier this month, at her request, deleted a photo-stocked web page devoted to “Kelly.” Haley Heston, which represents 30 other call girls, also prominently featured “Kelly” on a page with photos of all its “models.” A profile of “Kelly” was also simultaneously deleted from Preferred411.com, which offers listings of escorts nationwide.

Also disappearing were all mentions of Favor Hamilton’s alter ego from The Erotic Review (TER), a web site that serves as the Zagat guide of the escort business. Before it was deleted, the “Kelly” profile page on TER included links to 35 separate reviews from “hobbyists” who recounted in explicit details their sexual encounters with Favor Hamilton.

As of early this month, “Kelly” was TER’s third-ranked “provider” in Las Vegas, a valuable market distinction that was often highlighted on the Haley Heston web site and in messages posted to the escort firm’s Twitter account. TER members grade a “provider” on both appearance and performance and provide “The Juicy Details” in narratives that are brimming with sex act acronyms (DATY, RCG, DFK) and graphic play-by-play recaps.

Favor Hamilton’s year of living dangerously began last December, when, according to the “Kelly” profile she wrote for the Haley Heston web site, “I met Haley with the idea of fulfilling a fantasy and only doing it for the short term.” However, she added, “Well, after my first date, I was hooked, and have been doing my best to visit Las Vegas as often as my schedule allows (I run my own business in my real world life).”

The profile of “Kelly” went on to provide other actual details of Favor Hamilton’s life, noting that she was a “workout fanatic” who skied, ran marathons, and had traveled to over 20 countries. A college graduate, “Kelly” noted that “discretion is  EXTREMELY important to me, hence you will only see blurred photos of my face on this site. I know this is not ideal, but I hope you understand that it is essential for me.”

Photos on the Haley Heston web site often showed “Kelly” posing in lingerie and heels inside different Las Vegas hotel rooms, including a suite at Steve Wynn’s Encore. She is often seen with her back to the camera, though some pictures have been digitally altered to obscure her face. Pointing prospective customers to her glowing online notices, she added, “Hopefully, my TER reviews speak for themselves and you can be confident that you will like what you see when I warmly greet you in person for the first time :).”

The profile also included her rates, from $600 for one hour to $6000 for a 24-hour period. “Kelly,” the site noted, provided “Full GFE,” or “girlfriend experience,” an intimate, less mechanical encounter. Additionally, the rate schedule noted, clients would be charged a $300 supplement for a particular sex act.

Favor Hamilton declined to reveal how she was introduced to Haley Heston’s Private Collection, the operators of which announced her addition to the escort service’s roster with TER posts describing her as a “high profile” former commercial model and “highly successful business woman.” Accompanying a January 2012 post was a photo of Favor Hamilton that she had taken in a mirror (and which showed half of her face).

The Haley Heston staff used subsequent TER posts and Twitter messages to keep clients apprised of their new “under the radar” escort’s 2012 “touring schedule,” listing stops in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Chicago (both downtown and at O’Hare International Airport). A July 2012 post enthused that “Kelly” was “becoming a legend” and congratulated her for her towering TER rankings. An April Twitter post reported that “Kelly” was in Las Vegas for the next three days and had a “FABULOUS suite and wants to try out every piece of furniture in it!”

The escort business’s most valuable marketing tools, however, are the “hobbyist” reviews and rankings on the TER web site. The notices for “Kelly” were uniformly exceptional and gave a clear indication that she provided personal details about herself to clients. Many men referred to her “runner’s body,” while one john noted that “we talked about our respective high school and college athletic careers.” Another man wrote that “Kelly” was “an interesting gal with a real job” who “participates in the hobby for the same reason many of us do – it’s exciting and FUN.” He added, “She’s a midwestern gal with a midwestern upbringing and midwestern values.” In July, a Las Vegas client noted that, “She is not a full time provider (as she runs her own business in another state).”

Some of Favor Hamilton’s clients were first introduced to her at a January 2012 Haley Heston “meet and greet” held in an opulent hotel suite. The “client appreciation party” was an invitation-only affair attended by many of the escort service’s “models.”

Several of Favor Hamilton’s subsequent “tour stops” were scheduled to coincide with her travels for the Disney and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon running series.

For example, in late-August Twitter posts, Haley Heston noted that “Kelly” would be available in Orange County, California on August 30 and 31. Favor Hamilton appeared September 1 at the Disney Exhibit Hall to provide “valuable race and training information” to runners participating in the following day’s Disneyland Half Marathon (which Favor Hamilton ran with her husband).

Haley Heston announced in a mid-October TER post that “Kelly” was making her first trip to St. Louis to see clients between October 18-20. Favor Hamilton was in the Missouri city to appear at that weekend’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon festivities.

Most recently, the escort service posted on its web site that “Kelly” would be in Las Vegas between November 29 and December 5. Favor Hamilton arrived in town November 29 in advance of the December 2 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon race on the Strip. On November 30 and December 1 she appeared on a “panel of experts” (alongside legendary marathoners Frank Shorter and Rod Dixon) at the sprawling Sands convention center.

Favor Hamilton also did one-on-one sessions during which she donned a jog bra and a sparkly miniskirt and politely cajoled attendees at an adjacent health and fitness expo to join her onstage to wildly gyrate to Bruno Mars’s “Locked Out of Heaven.” She punctuated her moves with Rockette-like kicks and appeared to be the only dancer not winded by the vigorous workout (which she reprised at the close of her presentation). Before departing the hall, Favor Hamilton happily chatted with fans and posed for photos.

When a reporter approached Favor Hamilton as she headed back to her room at the Venetian, she appeared momentarily taken aback, later explaining that while she was aware that TSG was working on a story, she had expected to receive a phone call, not a face-to-face visit.

Over the din of the nearby casino floor, Favor Hamilton admitted that she was “Kelly” and spoke of her concerns that she would be attacked as a “homewrecker.”

Appearing resigned that her baffling double life would no longer be a secret, she said, “I want to handle this like an adult.”

Use Your Heart Rate To Measure Overtraining

Even though I prefer not to train and coach by heart rate, I have found that using these numbers can be a great tool when it comes to assessing recovery and how the body is adapting to training. Specifically, runners can measure their resting heart rate over time to assess their gains in fitness during long bouts of training without tune-up races and also to track when they might be overtraining or not properly recovered from their last hard workout.

This neat little trick doesn’t even require the use of a heart rate monitor. All you need is to be able to take your pulse and record the numbers. Over the following pages I’ll explain why this strategy works and show you how to identify one of the major signs of overtraining in just one minute a day.

Using Morning Heart Rate To Measure Fitness & Fatigue
Measuring your morning heart rate is pretty simple. All you need is a digital watch, a small notebook and a pen on your nightstand. As soon as you wake up in the morning, find your pulse on your neck, just under your chin, or on your wrist. Using the watch, count the number of times your heart beats for 20 seconds. Multiply this number by three and you have your resting heart rate (RHR) in beats per minute (bpm). Record this number in your notebook next to the day’s date. Now make sure to repeat this process every morning.

With each passing day, you’re creating an accurate record of your morning heart rate that you can reference after challenging workouts to ensure that you’re recovered. You can also look at this data when you think you might be facing a case of overtraining. Before trying to glean any insight from these numbers, however, be sure to record at least three weeks of data.

How to use this data:
Keep an eye on your resting morning heart rate in the two or three days after a hard workout. If it’s significantly elevated from its normal average (7 or more beats per minute), that’s a sign that you’re not fully recovered from the workout. Remember, there is going to be some variability in your daily heart rate regardless of your recovery level, do don’t be concerned if you’re 3 to 4 bpm over your normal average on a given day. In my experience, it takes a reading that’s 7 bpm higher than normal to signify excessive training fatigue.

You can also use this data to identify long-term trends. If you notice your heart rate steadily increasing over a two- or three-week period, it’s quite possible you’re overtraining or not scheduling enough recovery time between workouts. In this circumstance, consider taking a down week and monitor how your body and heart rate respond to the extra recovery.

On the opposite spectrum, if you see your heart rate is slowly declining, it’s usually a good indication that you’re getting fitter! If you haven’t raced in a while, this can be a great boost to your motivation.

While scientific research has not conclusively proven that long-term resting heart rate equates specifically to overtraining, there is data that seems to indicate there is a high probability that an increasing heart rate is associated with training fatigue. Taking a few extra recovery days after a tough workout or a light week of training never hurt anyone. You need to have the courage to rest!

Why Morning Heart Rate Data Works
From a physiological perspective, measuring heart rate data to determine fatigue works because heart rate modulation is determined by the effect of the muscular contractions and nervous signals of both branches of the autonomic nervous system on the myocardium and the sinus node.

Increased parasympathetic nervous activity slows heart rate, whereas increased sympathetic nervous activity accelerates heart rate. The autonomic nervous system also fulfils a pivotal role in stress tolerance. Consequently, negative adaptation to training stress potentially involves the autonomic nervous system, and may result in an altered heart rate.

My aversion to training strictly by heart rate is that I’ve often found the data to be unreliable. When training, you need to factor in weather, stress, stimulant intake (e.g. caffeine consumption), stress, and of course the variability of the monitor itself. However, measuring heart rate at the same time each morning avoids many of these potential pitfalls. While there is still the potential for some variability (like a bad night’s sleep or daily heart rate variation of 2-4 bpm), it is far less so compared to when used every day in training. In short, tracking morning heart rate can provide more reliable data.

Morning heart rate data, if tracked regularly, can be an easy, effective method for monitoring fatigue levels, how well you’re adapting to workouts, and can help prevent long-term overtraining. Considering it takes less than a minute to perform, there’s no excuse for not adding this simple practice to your daily routine to ensure you’re training optimally and recovering well between workouts.

From Triathlete

Nutrition and endurance athletes

From triathlete

Q: I’m training for an Ironman and I thought I could eat whatever I want, but I’ve gained 5 pounds. What gives?

This is a pretty common scenario for many endurance athletes: Despite many hours training they find they still struggle with excess body fat. Or when they increase their training load, the number on the scale also increases. Here are some possible reasons why—and how you can shed those extra pounds.

You can never out-train a poor diet. Using junk food as a reward for long hours in the saddle or for the hard yards in the pool is pretty common, but you’ll never improve body composition or race splits through good training followed by unhealthful, over-indulgent eating.

Solution: Reconsider the way you think about the reward relationship with food. You will feel and perform better when (re)fueling your workouts with fresh, whole foods, and those cravings for nutritionally void reward-based foods will gradually dissipate, especially when you see the changes to your body from omitting them.

Weight gain and loss are governed by hormones, not just calories. Excessive endurance training without adequate rest and recovery can lead to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Stress—which can come from training hard while still holding down work and family commitments—is a surefire way to make your body hang on to every bit of energy (stored as fat) that it can.

Solution: Take your easy days easy and recover properly. Quality sleep and rest is as important as any workout. Support your body by filling up on anti-inflammatory fruits and veggies rich in antioxidants, and time your recovery meals and snacks appropriately.

Hunger is not representative of energy burned. As soon as you up the intensity and volume of your training, your body assumes it’s the new norm and you had better be fueling it—a lot. Of course what the body and the corresponding hunger signals do not recognize is that soon enough you are going to stop and eat a big breakfast before a mostly sedentary eight hours at your desk.

Solution:Keep the size of your breakfast, lunch and dinner consistent and consume extra calories/food needed for training directly before, during or after workouts.

Sports nutrition is calorie-dense yet nutrient-poor.Training hard, long hours means most triathletes tend to rely heavily on processed sports foods—bars, gels and drinks—to get them through their training. Designed to support a PR in a race by supplying concentrated calories and prevent you dipping too far into your own energy stores (i.e. those stored in fat or muscle), means they are not ideal for actually burning excess calories. The high amount of sugar, untempered by fat or protein to slow down gastric absorption and reduce the insulin response, makes them superb as race fuel and lousy at keeping you satiated. Hence that gnawing hunger at the end of a long training ride despite a steady stream of sugary gels and drinks.

Solution:Stick as much as possible to real whole foods—gels and sports drinks are great for race days and for key workouts, but you need nutrients and sustenance most of the time. Try packing homemade bars, bananas, rice cakes and other real foods as training snacks.