Life of Megan

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Colgate 360 review

Back when I was working on slides for Professional Development Day, I wanted a picture of a toothbrush to include as another everyday object made out of plastic. I went to Colgate's website first because, well, I'm a Colgate girl. And there, I saw an entire minisite devoted to their new toothbrush, the Colgate 360. Its features and design intrigued me, and since I figure it's almost always a good time to replace a toothbrush, I started looking for it whenever I was at grocery stores. Yesterday, I finally got one.

Now, I know a lot of you probably think toothbrushes, especially manual ones, are already complicated enough. They have different types of bristles, an angled head, an uneven bristle distribution, etc. Won't an ordinary rectangular brush work? I would say no, but then, I'm picky. What excited me most about this toothbrush is that it seems to be a new outlook on an old and familiar device. Though Colgate, Crest, and Oral-B are all constantly making minor adjustments to their toothbrushes, the basic design has remained the same for the last five years or so. The 360 seems to have incorporated a lot of features that really give the mouth a cleaner feel. This toothbrush has a new bristle design with tight-packed bristles in some locations and the standard arrangement in others. In the middle of the brush part are three soft rubber polishing cups. On the opposite side of the bristles is a soft rubber nubby pad that you can use to clean your tongue. As you brush with the toothbrush, this tongue cleaner massages your inner cheeks, which feels good and makes everything seem cleaner. There are soft, spongy rubber pads for your thumb and forefinger, and the length of the brush has soft rubber ribs. Overall, these comfort features make it very easy and comfortable to control the brush for the three minutes you are brushing and reading your comics/blogs (at least that's how I make myself brush long enough).

I have to say that I couldn't be much happier with this new toothbrush. I felt almost like I was leaving the dentist after brushing my teeth last night and this morning. My only complaint is that the tight-packed bristle color is not the same as the color of the grip (hey, what can I say--I'm a girl!)

Way to go, engineers and human-factors people!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Music on the run

Ever since I got a Shuffle for Christmas, I've been listening to music on most of my runs. I was a little hesitant at first because of concerns about hearing traffic, other people, etc and of not listening to my body if my knee/hip injuries flared up, but I seem to have figured out the right volume setting to hear both the music and my surroundings, and I am not so motivated that I would run through unusual pain. Now the big question is what to listen to. I still haven't finished loading all of my music onto iTunes, so I have a rather strange collection on my Shuffle that includes wedding music, Debussy, Dvorak, Bartok, Brian Setzer, swing, some rock, Explosions in the Sky, and a few of my brother's radio shows.

Out of all of this, my favorite is the swing. I also like running to Elvis's "A Little Less Conversation" (the remix used in the show Las Vegas), Setzer (which is a little more rockabilly than swing, for the most part), my brother's radio shows (he has nice transitions, and it keeps me from buying music by the Go! Team and by Boomish), and Dvorak's Symphony #9 (the New World symphony).

I have not tried but think I would enjoy music by the Grateful Dead and some indie rap/hip-hop. (I haven't tried it, but I'm sure Blackalicious's "Powers" would make an awesome running song).

So that's me for now. What do you like to work-out/run to? Give it up!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dragon Day

Around this time in 1901, as Cornell's engineering students innocently sat in their classrooms with their slide rules and their pocket protectors, a young architecture student named Willard Straight hatched a plan to celebrate the College of Architecture, parade around a giant dragon, and flare up the engineering-architecture rivalry.

Now, 105 years later, the Dragon Day tradition lives on. We engineers have found it necessary to protect ourselves against the dragon's onslaught, and have thus formed a club called the Phoenix Society that generally gets ignored by everyone but engineering students. The phoenix (which is sometimes a penguin, a cobra, or basically anything else that sounds like a good idea and can be constructed primarily using mesh and papier-mache) itself is usually pathetic, but we never claimed to be good at art anyhow.

The dragons really are incredible, though. It's a strange tradition, but it's one of our best. You can read more about the history of dragon day here and see some pictures here.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sneaking back into running

For a while now, I've been incorporating more running into my schedule. It's been difficult to get over this hip injury, and my ITBS often flares up as well, but I'm working on it. First, it was a 20-minute run, on the treadmill, once per week. As much as I hate to admit it, that was really pushing it for me. I worked my way up to two 20-min runs. Then I tried the great outdoors. Now, I am running for about 40 minutes, outside, twice per week. Soon, I plan to add an extra day. And I'll probably hold there for a while, building a longer run on one of those days, until that long run is as long as my mileage for the rest of the week. Then, and only then, will I consider adding a fourth day. I think that for injury-maintenance reasons, I will avoid five-day per week runs for a long, long time. I'd want to be injury-free for at least a year before even considering a fifth day. It's been an interesting journey. Without running, no matter what I do for exercise, I feel off. Nothing relieves my stress, provides a challenge, and makes me sleep well at night like running does. Without running, I'm less happy in general and far less motivated to work.

And despite knowing all this, half my battle to resume running has been a mental one. The fear of reinjury plagues me. I am essentially unwilling to commit to any races because the pessimist in me is sure that once again, everything will be going smoothly until nearly the end of the cycle, when, for one reason or another, I will be forced to stop running for a bit. My brain is reacting to the fear of never being able to run again by amplifying normal soreness into cause for concern. For the first time ever, what I find challenging about running is getting out the door. Fortunately, every run I have gone on, good or bad, has been helping me cope with this. I'm sure this confession will help. I know I'm getting there. I have a plan now. I'll be good.

Yesterday, I went for a 4-mile run. My inhaler must not have fired properly, and I was struggling for air the entire way. I had an omelette for breakfast that wasn't agreeing with me. My Shuffle kept choosing music from my one Debussy CD instead of the many swing and rock pieces I've included (swing--the best running music). My legs felt absolutely dead.

But I finished my run.

And it (and I) felt fabulous.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Becky, don't go nuts yet! (Tips for your first big race)

In the interest of sparing Becky's blog from yet another one of my insanely long comments, I figured I'd post my race-week advice here.

"Sparing" doesn't look like it's spelled properly. But I guess that the -ing form of "spar" would be "sparring."

Anyhow, the week before a big race is always tough, and it's even worse when it's your first big race (of a particular distance). So here are all the answers to things Becky would probably be asking us if we were around.
  • Yes, that's normal
  • Also normal
  • Aw, come on! You'll do great!
  • Yes, you are a real runner. Now stop acting like that.
  • You have no idea how fast that person will be! You're only here for you!
  • No, I don't think you should eat that pain au chocolat. The race is only half an hour away.
  • Relax! That's normal too!
  • Just take all your favorite running clothes because you won't know for certain what the conditions will be until race morning.
So now that we've covered that, it's on to the last few days before the race. I'm pretty sure that the Penguin covered this well, but I think it's always good to have a little advice from actual friends.

If Paris is normal, it will have a huge race expo that you can tour when you complete the race registration/sign-in. Expos are a lot of fun, and they're a great opportunity to see new products, but they can also trick you into wearing yourself out and spending too much money. The best tactic for the expo is to decide ahead of time how long you want to spend there. Here are some other things you might want to know:
  • Do not, under any but the most extreme circumstances, buy any apparel or accessories at the expo to wear at the race.
  • Gels taste much better when you've been exercising. Most taste gross no matter how tired you are. Keep this in mind (and look for the beer/energy drink/juice stand) if you want to try gel samples.
  • If you admit to people selling preventative blister strips that you get blisters, you may have to take off your shoes and socks in front of an onlooking crowd.
  • Most souvenirs are silly and pointless. Good souvenirs that you will definitely appreciate later include mugs, hoodies, and baseball hats.
  • If you flirt with the sock guy, you might get a good deal.
  • Saying you're fat and that you're not a "real" runner might also work (but I think it helps if you aren't tiny).
  • Everyone will try to hard-sell their wares. Just pretend you're me and wander away.
  • Go to the bathroom before getting in the line to pay.
So with the expo covered, we really just have the race left. Remember the important night to get a lot of sleep is the night before the race eve. Don't eat anything new or different. Don't wear anything new or different (exceptions: trashbags, cheap gloves, cheap hats). Arrive too early--it's much better than rushing to get to the race. Attach your chip to your shoes the night before the race, if possible, or find some other way of securely attaching it to something you are guaranteed to have with you.

Now we have race day. The Penguin's advice that you get into the porta-potty line immediately upon arrival at the race is spot on. Cycling through the line is a good way to pass time, and it'll probably be necessary since we have to pee when we're nervous. There are only two other things you need to worry about: the check-in for all your extra stuff, and the starting corral. So that covers the basics; here are some more tips (Tips, Dad!).
  • Bring toilet paper. Trust me.
  • Don't wear the race shirt during the race. Not only is it uncool, but it's breaking a running taboo (you can't wear a shirt until you've earned it by finishing the race), but it will immediately identify you as a "noob"
  • Bring an extra hair band.
  • Trashbags are a multi-purpose tool for racing. They'll keep you warm and dry. Consider bringing one with you.
  • Vaseline, body glide, and deodorant work wonders against chaffing.
  • If you are feeling nervous, look for your bib buddies. These are the people whose race number falls next to yours.
  • Resist the temptation to start quickly.
  • Smile and wave whenever you see a photographer.
  • High-fiving kids will make your arms tired.
  • Make sure you have a cup of water before throwing it on your head (I know it's winter, but you never know.)
  • If you do have a chaffing problem, tell medical staff. They often have tongue-depressors loaded with Vaseline for just such an occasion.
  • No matter how much you like powdered doughnuts, don't eat them before the race (that's from my aunt).
  • One way to set a good pace at the beginning of the race is to talk to people.
  • Don't try to talk to people who seem aloof, and don't be mad at them for being rude.
  • Half-marathons are not cross-country races. Elbowing people is definitely frowned upon.
  • Looks before you spit, slow down considerably, throw away your cheap gloves, or do anything else that could disrupt people behind you.
  • Keep moving through the water stops.
  • Be aware that you may get elbowed and spit on. Know that you may plow into someone who just randomly stopped in front of you.
  • Find out where the porta-potties will be ahead of time.
  • Never give up on finding your bib buddy. Try to introduce others to the bib-buddy tradition.
  • When you get to the finish, maintain your victory pose until you are definitely out of the range of cameras. The extra seconds your watch records won't hurt you.
  • Keep moving through the finishing shoot to the best of your abilities. If you need to throw up or keel over, try to get to the side and to alert one of the volunteers that you need help.
  • Move around and stretch for what seems like forever after the race. Your muscles will appreciate it.
  • Don't take a hot shower.
  • Don't go clubbing that night.
  • I don't know why, but McDonalds is delicious immediately following a long race. I think it's the extra sugar and salt they put in all their food.
  • Be careful with alcohol. You'll get buzzed really quickly, and you really need to work on hydration of if you are going to drink.
  • Wear that medal all day!
Okay, that's all I know. This thing has taken me entirely too long to write. I hope that if it wasn't all that useful, it was at least entertaining (or vice-versa).