The Origin of Surrogacy and how it started

Surrogacy is an arrangement where a woman agrees to bear a child on behalf of an individual or a couple. Once the child is born by a surrogate mother Las Vegas, the couple or individual with whom the arrangement was made acquires parental rights over the child. There are countless reasons why people get into surrogacy arrangements. These include the following:

  •  Infertility
  •  Serious risks of giving birth
  •  For a male couple

For a long time, the topic of surrogacy has been surrounded by a lot of controversy. However, in recent years, people have become a lot more open to the idea of surrogacy as can be seen from the increase in the number of people resorting to these arrangements. The negativity that was once associated with it is now being shed. Here is how surrogacy the origin of surrogacy and how it started.

The Origin of Surrogacy

One would be forgiven to think that surrogacy only began in the last two centuries. In fact, it is a practice that has been in existence for centuries. Surrogacy can actually be dated as far back as the Biblical times. The story of Abraham and Sarah is the first recorded incidence of surrogacy.

As the story goes, Abraham and his wife Sarah could not have children, so they entered into an agreement with their servant, Hagar, to bear children for

Abraham. The children would then belong to Abraham and Sarah. When Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, the couple claimed ownership of the child. Over the course of time, women in other civilizations turned to surrogacy in an effort to salvage their marriages, which would ultimately end up in divorce due to childlessness.

But it wasn’t until the 1970’s that legal agreements were entered into regarding surrogacy. The hallmark case was the Baby M case, where an agreement was entered into between a couple and a surrogate mother. The surrogate was to be compensated for giving birth to the child, and the would- be father was to donate sperms for the baby.

However, when the child was born, the surrogate was not willing to give her up, and this led to a messy legal battle that lasted for years. Eventually, the court ruled that the agreement between the couple and the surrogate mother was illegal and hence the surrogate retained parental rights over the child.

In more recent times, gestational surrogacy has become widely practiced. This is a bit different than traditional surrogacy in that conception here occurs outside the womb of the surrogate mother. Moreover, it is not uncommon for another’s egg to be used in place of that of the surrogate mother. Once fertilization has occurred, the embryo is implanted in the surrogate’s uterus where they grow until they are born.

Statistics show that surrogacy is gaining more and more popularity. The stigma and negativity that was once associated with the practice has diminished considerably. In fact, between 2004 and 2008, over 5000 children were born in the United States. With improvements in technology, surrogacy rates are expected to soar.

There is no denying that surrogacy will continue to be a highly controversial and emotive topic. Nevertheless, it is still a practice that offers thousands of people across the world a chance at parenthood. Without doubt, this is a practice that will continue to be embraced more and more with time.


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What Are The Rights Of The Surrogate Mothers


The first surrogacy was first carried out in the year 1980. It was a very complicated process then but with passing year, the process is becoming simpler and simpler. However, the legal procedures are still a little complicated to date. All the documents and legislation are passed long before the surrogate mother takes the pregnancy, according to Egg Donor and Surrogacy.

However, there is always the possibility that surprises may occur during pregnancy and after the birth of the baby.

What are the rights of the surrogate mothers?   

In the case of surrogacy, the parents usually have more rights than the surrogate. However, this does not mean that the surrogate does not have any rights whatsoever. There are serious medical procedures that may involve intake of many different drugs. It is for this reason that the surrogate mothers have legal rights. Some of the rights of the surrogate mothers include the following;

  • The surrogate mothers have the right to know about all the medical procedures she will go though. In addition, she also has the right to be informed of all the drugs she will take and their side effects if any.
  • The surrogate mother also has a legal right to demand for a medical insurance cover.
  • She has the right to have a medical examination without incurring any cost.
  • She has the right to seek medical attention and support for free in case she begins to develop any side effects.
  • She has the right to receive the compensation agreed on between her and the parents of the baby. The compensation should be paid to her after successful delivery of the baby.
  • She also has the right to seek for support psychologically during the period of pregnancy for free. The surrogate also has the right to know about the possible health risks incurred when the parents are HIV/AIDS positive. It is also her right to regularly visit the doctor for free during the pregnancy.

Parental rights of the surrogate mothers

Besides the rights listed above, there are no rights that go deeper into the surrogate’s motherhood. However, in many states where surrogacy is legal and recognized by the authorities, the surrogate has no parental rights. It is impossible for the surrogate to claim parental rights over the baby even though her egg was used for the In Vitro Insemination.

According to the law, the surrogate ceases to interact with the baby when it is born. In most cases, all the terms are listed in the agreement made before the surrogate agrees to carry the pregnancy. This is to prevent the bonding between the surrogate and the baby.

This is because it may make the transfer process of the baby from the surrogate to the parents more difficult.

In few cases, the surrogate is required by the parents to have the baby for a little longer and breastfeed the baby. However, the terms of agreement between the parents and the surrogate depends on their relationship. Some parents may even allow the surrogate to visit the baby, and even maintain a close relationship.

However, all these are exceptions because the law clearly stipulates that the surrogate ceases to interact with the baby after birth.

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Surrogacy in California

It is not a secret that there are a lot of couples who have issues in conceiving or having a child; the common cause of which is infertility in either the man or woman. However, infertility is not the only cause to which the need for a surrogate in California has become prevalent. Since 1999, California has accepted domestic partnership between people of the same sex. It has only been since 2015 that the same-sex marriage has become legal in all 50 states of the United States of America, which has now created a formidable sense of demand in surrogacy.

 California is one of the most open-minded states in the US. The California Assembly Bill 1217 that has been put in effect since January 1, 2013, made the foundation of surrogacy in the state as strong as ever with the Uniform Parentage Act that legally defined a parent-child relationship regardless of the biological relations of either parent to the surrogate child. Surrogacy may either be traditional or gestational. You can go to any legal California Surrogacy Agency. 

Traditional surrogacy occurs when the eggs of the surrogate are being used to form a union with one of the intended parents’ sperm, while gestational surrogacy happens when the surrogate has no biological connection with the fertilized egg at all — the surrogate only acts as the carrier of the fetus.  

How to Become a Surrogate in California?  

  1. Surrogate mothers should be non-smokers and should live a healthy lifestyle — no drugs and alcohol abuse;
  2. Surrogate mothers ideally should be between 21-40 years of age;
  3. The surrogate, ideally, should have had a healthy pregnancy 10to 7 years prior to the next proposed pregnancy; 
  4. The surrogate should have no record of miscarriage in the past;
  5. Surrogate mothers should have an average Body Mass Index (BMI); and
  6. Surrogate mothers should be financially stable and live in a healthy and supportive environment.

There are a lot of agencies in California who cater to surrogacy. For women who wish to become surrogate mothers, they can approach any of these agencies and even post an advertisement online.  

The demand for surrogates has reportedly been increasing each year since 2012 in California. Even people from other states would come up to California for the procedure and because there is a reputable number of agencies and even hospitals who caters to the needs of intended parents.  

Gestational Surrogacy Nowadays 

Gestational surrogacy has become a practical choice for couples who wish to become a biological match to their children.  

There are cases wherein the mother of a heterosexual couple have had a number of stillbirths in the past and surrogacy is the prime choice of having a successful offspring. The surrogate mother will then carry the egg of the intended mother that had been fertilized with the sperm of the intended father, which would mean that the surrogate mother will only act as the carrier of the child.  

In the cases of the same-sex coupling or both male parents, they could use their sperms and fertilize an egg of their choice (apart from the surrogate mother’s egg) and have the surrogate mother carry the fertilized egg. This process is called in vitro fertilization (IVF).  

Gestational surrogacy or host surrogacy has become very common as the supply of sperms and eggs had become easily available to couples as well. Family Counselling is profoundly available to all Californians in a variety of Family Planning Centers in California The Department of Health Care Services – Office of Family Planning in California is dedicated to educating, supporting, and providing services to couples relating to family planning.  

This has been quite beneficial especially to families who come from a low-income household or those who do not have access to medical insurance. The state of California enforced a Family PACT (Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment) program providing both men and women a wide range of medical center selection catering to their family planning education and needs. With more than 2,000 private and public networks all over California, this program can cater to any health-concerned issues in terms of contraceptives, family counseling and education, and even test and treatment for STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) screening.  

The Family PACT program was made available to the mass residents of California to reduce the rate of unintended child-birth and the costs that come along with it; increase the access of family planning services to a household who comes at or below the 200% federal poverty level, encourage the use of operative contraceptive methods and promote superlative reproductive health to all the Californians.  

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Because I can

Holding plank position in class, the woman next to me asked me “Gosh, I NEVER hear you complain in this class. Why don’t you ever complain.” I looked at her.

“Because I choose to be here.” I said.

As I walk through the gym I notice all the other people having these roaring laughing conversations with their personal trainers. In all honesty when I am working with Steve I don’t think I could have a roaring laughing conversation if I was paid to. I am totally unable to. I am working too hard. I am focused. If you have ever seen me in the gym you know I have the highest sweat rate of anyone in the damn world. Not only do I fuel as my fueling plan calls for I seriously consider adding extra sodium. Even when I am standing still.

When I am holding myself up on a pullup machine and curling a dumbbell somehow as I am suspended in mid air all I can do is stare at the tennis court where it says Player 23, and listen to him remind me to breathe, remind me to keep my elbow in, and tell me not to fall the hell off the pull up machine! Or I am shuffling side to side grabbing basketballs that he’s rolling just out of my range and throwing them back at him while he yells to throw the ball….. higher higher.

You will never hear me complain. I might roll my eyes and I might give Steve the finger behind his back (I haven’t yet but I have come close), but I am here because I choose to be here. Now Michelle….. no I haven’t flipped her off either. I may have sh*t myself when I saw zone 3 but I didn’t complain. I chose them both. I asked them both. Because they are the best and neither will give me what I can’t handle, and neither is afraid to make me reach for it.

Later on that morning I approached the bottom of the hill. The hill. Yes, the hill. My hill bounding hill. (click here, reference page 11, and welcome to my happy place). This hill is nothing short of a b*tch. Ward Hill Road. I don’t mess around. I have thrown up on this hill and today came 5 sets of bounding. I am sore, I am tired and I am in a rare four week build…… but I do not complain. I do what I am told. Michelle knows what I need. I might lay in the lawn at the bottom of the hill after number five, but I will not complain to her. I won’t complain to her about hill bounding, volume, or anything she throws at me. This is all my choice.

“This is going to be uncomfortable. Possibly even painful.” Steve had said that in class earlier, and it stuck with me. Words like that for some reason speak to me. They are truth.

If I wanted someone to tell me I am pretty and I am good enough I would call my Mom. I wouldn’t go to Michelle and Steve.

So I bounded and I focused and I executed. I had a long day ahead on my feet, Curt is in Vegas, the house is a bio-hazard I had tons of work to do and bedtime was further away than I wanted to admit. It was uncomfortable. It was painful (not in an injury way…. there is a fine line) but at the same time it was exactly the feeling I have craved.

In those moments I don’t think ahead. In fact I don’t think. I focus on what my body is doing. I find the here and now. Whether it’s a backward lunge on a bosu ball or my fifth hill bound….. I am right here and right now. Nowhere else.

What I do is not only my choice, but it’s a privilege. If I didn’t want to be pushed, smashed and challenged I would stay home in bed. Perhaps it is because of what I have been through that’s made me this way. I have gone from the bottom to the top to the bottom again. I have lost the ability to train, I have had it threatened and those experiences will teach you to never….. ever take it for granted. The ability to move. The ability to push. The ability to feel your body from the inside out.

It’s an incredible privilege.

So you won’t hear me complain. Ever. Give me a six hour zone whatever ride and I will do it. At the same time give me recovery and I make it my b*tch. I don’t mess around. I can push and I can recover. I never ever bonk. I am finding my way into an amazing place mentally…. where I have not been for a long time.

I talked with a friend before I left the gym….. an old friend, one that I haven’t seen in a long time.

“You have been through so much.” She acknowledged, “And you always find your way.” I smiled. She was right, as hard as that compliment was to accept, she was right and I was thankful. I have been through a lot. Some of it hard, some of it impossible….. but it all contributes to where I am right now.

And I would not trade that for the world.

Every morning that I wake up the first thing I do is look to the quote I receive in my inbox. I love the words that come to me. The right ones always do. Despite how tired I might be I feel hungry for the day ahead of me. My days are long. I know what it’s like to be up for 76 straight hours and on my feet for 16 at a time. While I am past those days I never took those for granted either. Those days taught me, and they taught me well.

As I said to the woman in class…. I don’t complain because I choose to do this. I get to do this. After everything I have been through I am well aware that I shouldn’t still be doing this but by the grace of God I still am. And trust me my gratitude that I am doing what I do is stronger than anything. I don’t take it for granted and I never will.

It only takes losing it all one time to teach you that.

I am in the best hands. Michelle, Rachel (my RD) and Steve are pushing me and at the same time watching out for me. I have the best possible team in them and in my family to make this comeback, to rise above and to reach for new heights. The road hasn’t been easy. The road will never be easy. The brick walls in life are there to keep the others out.

“This will be uncomfortable. Possibly even painful.” … quote of the week as far as I am concerned. If I wanted easy…. I would stay in bed. If I wanted a hand to hold I would call my mom. Nothing worth overcoming or accomplishing is ever easy. It wouldn’t be worth it if it were.

As I bounded up the hill and the rediculous amount of sweat dripped off of me I tore of my shirt (I was decent)…. I tend to do that when things get to that point. I kept my head clear but at the same time fully engaged on what was happening. And when it was done I smiled. I felt shelled after the consecutive workouts of the morning that began long before 5am.

But I felt accomplished. And awesome. And hungry for more. But not before a recovery day.

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Eggers vs. Armstrong; The Race

It’s not often that I struggle to find the words to say after an event. Today I am struggling. It was so much more amazing than we could have ever imagined. Sit back, grab a good latte, and thank you for allowing me to share this experience with you.

The Race

I don’t have much to say about the details of the race. It’s really well documented as many of you have seen and read.  She captured every single moment of the actual race. Also try googling “Eggers vs. Armstrong”, we seem to be hitting the CNN airwaves!

Mr. Armstrong and I after I touched him out Photo by Steve Morse

First things first….. we need to be honest…. Mr. Armstrong was gracious in this competition. He had very good reason to come here and kick my ass. I have done a lot of trash talking. Now I won’t say he threw the race.  He might have eased up slightly… but he made me work for that win. With all due respect he’s much more talented than I, he is a swimmer as he’s come back to triathlon, and he could have absolutely destroyed me. I am not even a good kicker.

During the actual race he was talking to me…. saying come on Mary! Come on Mary!!! Had I been able to breathe much less shout something to him it would have been  along the lines of shut the hell up Armstrong. Since I was kicking at about 900 times my lactate threshold however, I couldn’t. Let’s give proper credit here, he knew why he was here and it was much more important than a 50 kick. I knew that whatever game he brought, I had to bring my A game. You don’t dare a 7 time Tour de France winner and bring a B game. (My A game might be his D game, but that’s life).

So a big kudos to Mr. Armstrong for having the graciousness to make it fun, and for making me work for it. Believe me I did.

What was it like to Meet Lance Armstrong?

Believe it or not I wasn’t that nervous. We’ve been in contact over the last 5 weeks and even that morning. The amount of people who were there in the lounge we were waiting in made me nervous. As soon as he walked in, he shook my hand… I think he gave me a hug but my memory is not clear…. and I felt at ease.

I have always been mindful to not be that fan who rushes up to him screaming “Oh my gawd I am your biggest fan..” and rattle off his stats. I am sure he knows his stats and if he doesn’t…. well then there is always Google. I was careful to give him space, because everyone wanted his attention, wanted him to do this and that….. so I backed off as much as possible. I did have the opportunity to talk to him and I kept it about the event and I made sure to let him know we have raised $51,000 as of an hour before the event. He was really happy about. THAT was speaking his language.

I found him to be very kind, gracious and  very interested to meet the teens. He shook all of their hands and took this gorgeous photo with them after the race. They were totally over the moon. They had a poolside spot for the whole thing. One of the girls said to me… I just hugged Lance Amstrong. That’s how it should be.

(Photo by Jeff Tracy)

The Money

Mr. Armstrong talked about the obligation of the cured. He told the story of the doctor who on the day of his discharge told him that there were two exits from the hospital. The private one, where no one knows you were here, no one knows you had cancer, and you quietly go on about your life. The other door is the public door. Where there are people waiting for you and you share your story, listen to others and essentially “pay it forward” when it comes to cancer.

He chose the public door. Thank God. Thank God he did.

We have so much power as a human race, especially today…… to help one another.

We raised $51,000 without the help of any local running store, bike store….. no one. To be fair I am sure everyone comes to stores asking for donations. There are budgets and economies and each does their own thing for charity. So I totally understand. I just want to make this point….. we did it on small donations.

Ever hear the story of the optimist and the pessimist? While the optimist and the pessimist were arguing whether the glass is half full or half empty, the opportunist snuck in and drank the water. While people are out there debating on the value of social media…. we snuck in there and used it to stage one of the greatest fundraising coups ever seen. We had one anonymous donor give us $5,000. Our teammates pooled together their money at Qt2 and donated another 5. The Zimmet group matched total donations for a total I believe that was $2500. (More on some of the things that some of our local companies did this week). One woman donated $10 five times over the past 5 weeks. Most donations were $5-250. This money came from your pockets.

To me that demonstrated again, the power of people. Regular people. You and I kind of people.

While I was at the reception last night a woman grabbed me by the arm. She was elegantly dressed to a T. She wanted to know how I managed to raise that kind of money in 5 weeks, what was my strategic plan?

I looked at her. Here I was standing in a 10-year-old black dress, clip in hair (That’s my pool to party secret… shhhhh) and I was half the woman this lady was. I smiled. “We did it by asking.” And that is the God’s honest truth.

I begged, you shared. Teens Living With Cancer raises $51,000 PLUS.

The speech

During his speech Mr. Armstrong stated that the highlight of his trip was the Duel in the Pool. As I said above it was not because of the race. He explained that his and my paths crossed on Twitter and because of that we not only raised all this money, but we are expanding Teens Living With Cancer to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, filling a much-needed hole in what I consider to be the forgotten age group of cancer victims (age 13-19). He, like we were… was astounded at the power of social media. How it has shrunk the world and connected us all.

Photo by Jeff Tracy

He gave me one of the highest compliments I have ever been given. His words have had me in tears most of the day. He said that I was authentic and that I was passionate about Teens Living With Cancer. My initial reaction was to disagree, but I understand that there are times when a thank you is appropriate.

I struggle with being called a hero. I struggle with being called an inspiration. When people say something like that I interpret it to mean WE. The Teens. The teens are the heroes and they are the inspiration. I didn’t do anything inspirational or heroic. They did. They stared down the barrel of the gun we call cancer. They fought the fight, they survived.

When I think of authenticity….. I think you are or you are not. It’s not something I aim to be. I am or am not. When this all began my only worry is that Mr. Armstrong would think I was some crazed fan who was out for personal gain. His saying those words allowed me to finally relax about it. I felt like he got it, he got me. Through however he came to that conclusion, I felt very honored to be given that compliment in that setting. Thank you for that Mr. Armstrong. I will always remember that, and I will always hold myself to that standard.

Mr. Armstrong quoted Muhammad Ali  “Service to others is the rent you  pay for your room here on earth”. He talked about how we need to take care of one another, look out for each other. It doesn’t take a lot of money. Sometimes it takes hitting share on Facebook, sitting down on the couch and listening, sometimes just a smile and a hug. That’s how we can take care of one another, that’s how we can make this world a better place.

A young lady asked him what his greatest accomplishments were. He said Father, Cancer crusader  / Livestrong / and cycling. It was important to him to communicate that while he was grateful for what cycling has done for him and given him…… his priorities have shifted his goals have changed.

A young girl the age of 12 asked him what it was like to not be able to have kids and then be able to. I can’t recreate the scenario but it was possibly the most hilarious scene ever as Mr. Armstrong apologized to her for swearing in his book, as she told him she was reading it. He asked if her parents were there as he delicately walked through the experience of being deemed infertile and then fertile again. Best Q & A ever in my opinion.

The Teens

At the end of the speech they rolled the film of the Duel in the Pool, although Mr. Armstrong had already revealed the winner on twitter .When it came to the part of the video that pictures of Melissa were shown (Lauren and Doug’s daughter, who died at age 19 and inspired Melissa’s Living Legacy) I watched as her father looked down, and her mother put her face in her hands. They were sitting in front of my father and I. In front of 4,500 people her story was told, and how Teens Living With Cancer was born and where it is going was explained.

The teens sitting around us all looked at one another. One turned around and looked at me. This was the defining moment of this journey, at least for me.

We are not a big corporate foundation. Some places have $100K to use to organize a fundraiser. I am a volunteer, this is Lauren and Leah. Melissa’s father and brother made the awards, her brother did all the website design and Duel in the Pool logos. Lauren and Leah worked tirelessly for five weeks for this endeavor. We are grassroots, like real grassroots. This event and Mr. Armstrong helped to shine a spotlight on this foundation and the programs we can offer through Teens Living With Cancer. That was their moment. That was our moment. It was like….. wow…. we have this voice.

Second Place

What’s next

We have no idea. Everything throughout the past 5 weeks has led to this point. We had no idea we would wake up this morning to messages from friends in New Orleans and California and Georgia that we were on CNN, and other news channels. Will it raise more awareness? More money? Will it open doors? We don’t know.

For me….. I will continue my work with these Teens. This is what I am passionate about, this is our crusade and what we have done if nothing else is shown ourselves that anything is possible in this world with a little hard work.

In my dream situation I would love a position where I could continue to develop fitness programs for teens who are post chemotherapy or in treatment. I feel that’s a place I can contribute best. It allows me to combine my experience as a Nurse, Fitness consultant, coach, etc. (I don’t need a 6 figure salary. Just enough to cover my family and a good dental plan mouth reconstruction so stinks).

I will continue of course to do that right here too. But just in case the folks at Livestrong are reading! I have a lot of passion for Teens Living With Cancer, for this age group, and to try to help them through something I know something about.

Thank you

Thank you to so many people for so many things. Thank you to Lauren, Leah, Doug and Matt for all of your hard work. To the families of Teens Living With Cancer for the support. To the University at Buffalo for allowing us to crash the party and helping us make this event a reality, to Roswell Park Cancer institute for expanding TLC.

To our Teens….. for being the true heroes and the true inspiration behind everything. You guys are what this is for, and what you had to go through to be part of this is not fair, not right. Together we fight back and together we raised the middle finger to cancer yesterday.

To my Mom, Dad, Aunt, Husband, Son. For teaching me to dream and keeping my feet on the ground. Curt Eggers…… you said from the beginning that he would say yes, that we would hit 50K and that this would open doors for Teens Living With Cancer. You have that intuition and I thank you for that.

To each and every one of YOU. Who shared, retweeted, donated pennies, helped spread the word.

To Mr. Armstrong…. for answering that tweet. You said in your speech that you were so glad that you did, and trust me so are we.

More thanks are on the way as well as more pictures. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Together we did this. Power of the people.

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Importance of the Kick

1.  We are on track to roll out fundraising on Tuesday.

2. Links: over there on the right you see two images, The top one will take you directly to our fundraising page on Tuesday. The image of Mr. Armstrong is the link to buy tickets. Remember, if you want in on this event you must buy a ticket to his speech. It’s at 8pm at UB. This will be the MOST important piece. You will also need to attend that speech!

3. Fundraising ideas: I am working with some teachers on fabulous ideas on getting our kids involved, if you have any other fund-raising ideas or suggestions please send them to Lauren at Lauren.Spiker “at” Teenslivingwithcancer ”dot” org. (remember, I am just a volunteer. A loud one, but a volunteer!). Any that I receive I will send to her, as this is what she’s the expert at.

4. Mr. Armstrong: Many have asked if I have been in direct contact with Mr. Armstrong. Yes I have. What’s he like? Very nice, straightforward, and clear. I can’t imagine living this man’s life. I thought I was busy. For example the morning of the kick off he will be riding a 70.3 course in a different state, heading to Buffalo and then bam bam bam bam…. his afternoon and evening is packed. It stuns me that he is even making time for the kick off. If it were me in his shoes I’d be like…. sister I just want to take a nap. And trust me he’s not making time to race me per se….. he’s making time to help our cause. That causes me to gain an even deeper respect for what he does and represents. It makes me think….. if he can do this… we can do this. I have had people tell me that the rumor is that he’s kind of an ass…. and I don’t get that impression at all. Like I said I think he’s nice, straightforward and professional. The Lancanity feeling that so many of us get with this man is replaced by a very strong feeling of professionalism and committment from him to the cause of fighting Cancer. And that makes me even prouder to be fighting the same fight.

Now how about that kick?

I swear my college coach is going to have a ninth heart attack. Distance swimmers aren’t particularly known for their stellar kicking abilities. Actually…. many don’t kick at all (deep breath Eggers, of course that doesn’t involve you).

In my opinion all parts of the swim stroke are equally important. The kick too. It might be the least important part but it plays an integral role in the balance of your stroke.

Here at QT2 Systems we utilize a protocol that enables us to use the kick as an assessment of the balance of your stroke. We have athletes swim a 100 free without kicking, then kick a 50 (this is actually where the kick off idea was born). We take those times and determine how we can better balance your stroke. Beyond that here are a few tips that you can add to your regular training that will help strengthen your kick without destroying your legs for the bike and run.

1. Vertical kicking: Adding some vertical kicking to your workouts is probably the number one way to strengthen the back-end. In the deep end engage a flutter kick style kick for 60-90 seconds (a good rest interval is 30 seconds) and kick. No fins. Add difficulty to this by taking hands out of the water, taking arms into a streamline position above your head and even holding a diving brick, which are usually about 10 pounds. A set I like is 4 X 1:30 vertical kick with 30 seconds rest. During that 90 seconds try having hands in the water for 30 seconds, out of the water for 30 and then streamline for 30.

2. Kicking with fins: There are a lot of styles of fins out there. I like just a plain mid length fin, I am a simple girl. Fins can help increase ankle flexibility and strengthen your hip flexors. I tend to use fins for moderate more aerobic sets like 200 or 400 kicks.

3. K repeats: I just made this term up this week, but it’s similar to your T time, or your 100 yard repeat time. Simply kick a 50 hard, and that time is your K time. Nw your 50 kick intervals can be on K time +10,20 etc. It gives you a good baseline.

4. 2 beat, 4 beat, 6 beat what? While it sounds like something you’d hear in music class it’s really how fast you kick. Most distance swimmers employ a two beat kick, meaning they kick twice per arm stroke cycle. An arm stroke cycle is two strokes. This is considered to be a slow kick, while a 6 beat kick is an obviously faster kick. For what triathletes need to accomplish in the water a two beat kick is normally the kick we would like, however everyone is different.

Although we are slower kickers and sometimes we don’t kick at all (guilty) there are a few important things that an effective kick can bring to your swim:

1. The kick can help lift the back-end of your body up, to help you attain a better position in the water.

2. A good kick will avoid being a big drag to the stroke, whereas those of us you who don’t kick tend to have more of a drag factor.

3. A good kick will drive your rotation.

I usually swim with a pull buoy because it gives me the same feeling as when I wear my wetsuit. These days it seems like there are more and more races that are sans wetsuit. One of my professional friends got a new wetsuit sponsor last season and went through an entire professional season not wearing the suit due to warm water temperatures. So wearing the pull buoy only… will hinder you in the long run.

To me every piece of the stroke is important. Juts like on the bike positioning, tires, conditioning…. they all play into the mix.

When people tell em the swim is not important I remind them of this simple fact:

Ironman World Championships 2006. Desiree Ficker lost to Michellie Jones by about 7 minutes. Desire ride faster and ran faster. Jones swam about 7 minutes faster.

It’s all important. Even more so when you are racing against a 7 time Tour de France Camp too!

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USAT Elite Nationals… BUFFALO!

Coming home. It’s always wonderful. I live 60 minutes away from where I grew up yet it’s been years since I have traversed the roads I frequented so as a Buffalonian. As I drove down route 5 from Orchard Park this morning…… it brought back memories.

In 1997  (or 1998, I forget)  a group of us stood at what was then the Pier. Rich, Andre, the Hoad, Curt….. a few others. We decided to form a triathlon club. The Buffalo Triathlon club. Did you know I was one of the club’s founding members? The BTC put on a race at that site called the Buffalo Triathlon. It was where I attained my first triathlon win. Curt and I moved to Rochester in 1999, the BTC continued and flourished. The Pier came and went. The Buffalo Triathlon became known as “A tri in the Buff”, Score-This was born, took ownership of the race and moved it to Evangola State Park.

When we arrived at the race site for the USAT Elite Nationals Race Saturday morning  I stood and looked around. The last time I was here I was holding a giant basket of flowers, with Jim Costello who presented it as a gift for winning that day. Funny how you arrive at this place in your life where memories are of adulthood and not of the teenage years. A place where you see someone and they suddenly have a 15-year-old child.

Then you turn and look at who is your own accomplice today and realize its your ten year old son.

Earlier this week I had told Luc I would be coming down here to check it all out. I knew Laura Bennett and Hunter Kemper were racing. One of our QT2 ITU guys Ethan Brown was coming. We arranged a homestay for Ethan and his friend with Nick Brodnicki, local triathlon stud. Turns out the homestay for the guys couldn’t have been a better fit.

Luc asked me the next day if he could come. “These guys are in the Olympics Mom?” I confirmed. Hunter Kemper was in fact an Olympian and a lot of these athletes would be as well. He begged me to come. I warned him it’d be a long day. He insisted.

Heading to a race with our son was about the best thing on earth. Discussing with him entities of swim, bike run was a thrill. Sure we had talked about it before but now we were talking about how these athletes live, how they travel, the distances they raced (as opposed to Ironman) and what they were all about.

I love this time in live when discussions with your children become about something. Some days it’s about Gettysburg. Today it was about our sport. Anything you can have in common with children and discuss is meaningful in my opinion.

Nonetheless when it’s about sport I am going to cherish it all the more.

Our experience at USAT Elite Nationals was amazing. We arrived early for the age group race to watch Ironman Florida bound Ken do his thing, and do his thing he did. This guy is ready. We got to hang with Ken and Greg and our pal Jeff Henderson, while catching up with some folks I hadn’t seen in years from home.

The elite races were awesome. To see athletes like Laura Bennett, Hunter Kemper and the like, this up close and personal was really special. With the race being where it was…… it was a terrific venue for the athletes. It was a bit sparse on spectators however which meant that we got close. Like real close.

I noticed a common thread from all of these athletes: they possessed an unbelievable professionalism. I wanted to ask them…. did you guys have to attend some sort of class on how to act like a professional? Because I have never seen this kind of behavior before, from every single athlete.

Every single athlete we encountered was kind, had time to stop for a word and a picture. When we realized that the finish line was essentially open Luc stood there hoping to high-five a few of the guys. Every single one stopped and slapped his hand. Most…. just seconds after finishing a balls to the wall effort…….  talked to him. Interviewed HIM. None said a THING about their races, you had to pry it out of them. They asked Luc if he had fun, if he liked triathlon…. how HIS day was.

“Mom, these guys are talking to ME!” He turned and said. “TO ME!”

If I had to capture what it meant to be a professional athlete….. these athletes were it. It was INCREDIBLE.

At the end of the day Luc and I sat in the car for a few minutes, just tired. He looked at me and said “THAT was a cool day Mom.” And I smiled. To be able to share this with him was amazing. To get him this close to the athletes who represent various countries at the Olympics was just plain awesome. That they took the time to stop and really connect with him….. was unbelievable. I was so impressed on so many levels.

Here is a picture of Luc and Hunter Kemper. Mr. Kemper was in the middle of eating a powerbar on the way to the swim warm up and graciously stopped for  a picture and a chat. Luc didn’t know what to say!

And here is a little video, I thought I had gotten some footage at hot corner, but I was so busy tracking EZBreezy that I forgot!

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The Luckiest

There was a moment on Saturday at Tri Dunkirk…. when I sat back and looked around. The race was all set to go. Kelly and I were in the announcer tent, Melissa and her crew were smiling as athletes picked up their packets, Jeff, Rich., Hoad….. everyone was taking care of business. The kind of business that happens race morning.

The Score-This Team is a well oiled machine. We just know how to work together. Kara can talk in one of my ears while I am announcing, Rich can signal me and I know exactly what they need me to say. Jeff so seamlessly takes care of his part, Kevin his……so many that I forget to mention become like pieces in a small puzzle.

“Here comes the voice of Score-This.” A man said to me as I made a run for the port-a-john (race announcers need to take that opportunity when it comes).  Honestly, it brought tears to my eyes, that was one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. “You guys all have an amazing rapport.” Someone else said a moment later. Again, compliment.

We do have an amazing rapport. I can let the crowd in on that because I am the girl on the mic and I will say things to the team they can’t hear the answer to. (One man said it’s like when Rush Limbaugh speaks to Snerdl.

Those compliments mean a lot to not only me, but to our team. The Score-This team … we aren’t the way we are because of today…..  this crew has been friends for ten years. We didn’t meet on Facebook….. goodness I don’t even remember when we met. There is a very beautiful deep history between all of us.

I keep meaning to take pictures of grab some video of the behind the scenes action when announcing, we are either too busy working or laughing….. it’s a whole lot of both. Finger Lakes Triathlon…. I will do that.

Tri Dunkirk is a race you want to have on your schedule. This venue is one of the best I have ever been to. The neighbors who live alongside the lake came out…. and thanked us. Thanked us for coming to their town, no problem that the music and mic were on at 5am, it sounded great (WHAT?). They couldn’t have been more gracious to us. I got to meet the mayor….. he was more than delighted to have us there.

This race is going to absolutely explode.

My favorite finisher of the day…. the last one. Most of the competitors had packed up and gone home but we were there. To us the last finisher is almost more important than the first. They are out there twice as long, they cover the same distance. Often the story they share is more powerful than those who finished hours before.

Triathlon is a celebration of life…. and we celebrate everyone’s.

As he came around the bend to the finisher’s chute Rich and crew began to run him in. We turned up the music as loud as it would go and we brought him home. It was a tear jerker moment. It was beautiful.

We are so lucky that we get to be able to do this. I think Rich and I say that to each other and to this team a few hundred times a race.

As I was announcing I saw a uniform that I see at many races, the Team Ballou Skies uniform. I have known Beth, Chad, and Kim….. gezz I don’t know how we all met but I knew them long before Ballou Skies was formed. This cause is one that’s incredibly near and dear to my heart and I will explain why in the future……

But when I see Ballou Skies I give it proper attention because it’s a cause that deserves it. I realize that with this blog, as a race announcer and as a writer for Xtri I have a platform. That platform allows me to bring attention to wonderful people and wonderful causes such as Ballou Skies. Look for an Xtri interview with this team very soon.

yesterday I met Jeremy and Jocelyn, from Ballou Skies and what struck me about them….. is that they possess the same exact qualities that Beth, Chad, and Kim do. Humility, hard work…… and racing for Ballou skies has helped them I think…… understand that they are working for a larger cause. One much more important than swim bike and run. I believe it’s helped them put their sport into perspective….. it makes them work harder because Ryan…. can’t. They do it for him. They do it because they also have a platform to raise money and awareness for something that he never asked for, and is fighting like hell to do something about.

Thank you guys…. for fighting for him.

During my drive home yesterday I thought about how lucky I am….. that I get to be able to do what I do. Disclaimer: none of was handed to me. I worked incredibly hard and failed many times….. which is why I appreciate it so much. It’s also why I will always do the right thing with the opportunities I have been given. I have many platforms to use for good things, and I will always use those platforms to do what I believe to be honorable things.

There is a reason I interview the athletes I interview. There is a reason I support the causes I support. There is a reason I shed light on the people I shed light on. They are people and causes who strike a chord with me, who touch my heart in some way, who I believe can offer this world something really positive and really beautiful. It’s beyond who is the fastest, it is beyond who is the top dog……

In fact…… if you gave me the choice to interview these three people…. and these are three people who are inspiring, humble, amazing, and who believe the world is bigger than they are…… if you put these three in front of me…… to meet in person and interview……

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Ten Tips for Ironman Nutrition


Ironman Lake Placid is right around the corner and now is the time when athletes are putting the finishing touches on training, bike tune-ups and nutrition plans. One of my athletes, Alexa just finished a gutsy race over in Cour D’Alene, yet nutrition prevented her from reaching what we considered to be her optimal performance. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the plan….. she didn’t execute the nutrition plan (and she does not mind being used as an example, her story is helping many others….. and she’s got another chance at Ironman Wisconsin!)

The thing about nutrition is this; you ca fake it in short distance races. You can’t fake it in Ironman. You miss your nutrition and I don’t care if you are Chrissie Wellington….. you won’t perform to your potential.

Much of what I have learned in the nutrition department I have learned over he past 10 years through trial and error. My work through the past 2 years with QT2 has hit the nail on the head. They’ve written over 500 Ironman nutrition plans, these guys know their stuff.

Here is a great video of Jesse outlining Ironman nutrition, I highly recommend taking the time to watch it.

In addition here are ten tips for Ironman Nutrition that may help you in your next 140.6!

1. Practice makes perfect: I learned with QT2 that nutrition is practiced all the time. In January, on 30 minute recovery runs, all of the time. We never ever skimp on nutrition. This season I have not had any GI issues in races because I practiced EVERY.SINGLE.WORKOUT.

2. Do the sweat test: Click here for a good sweat rate calculator , but perform a sweat test and do it often. I weigh before and after every single workout, there is never harm in doing so. I have an athlete who didn’t truly understand the importance of nutrition / hydration until he lost eight pounds ona  long ride. I asked him how he thought he would run a marathon on that….. he made the changes and he’s now the athlete he’s been training to be. SIMPLE!

3. Understand the difference between I can’t and I won’t. I have had athletes tell me that they can’t take in XX ounces per hour of their drink. 99.9% of the time it translates into they won’t. Ironman is a day long picnic, you spend the entire day feeding yourself. It might mean you drink every 5 minutes, 10 minutes, doesn’t matter. It goes back to #1. Practice this in training and it won’t be an issue on race day.

4. Use the same products daily. Back when i began Ironman there was Gatorade and salt tablets. Now there are a plethora of products that take care of hydration, fueling and sodium needs. Once you find your product, stick with it. It again, goes back to number one. Never change anything, especially products this close to a race.

5. Choose a product with several sugar sources: If you watch the above mentioned video, Jesse walks through why this is important. The cliff notes version is this: you want your body to be able to draw from long acting, medium acting and short acting sources. Products like PowerBar Perform meet this needs, as do several others. Relying on a product made of only one sugar source: maltodextrin… is great for shorter events but in an Ironman it will act as a plug to your GI system.

6. It begins before race day. The two days before an Ironman are just as important as the day itself. On QT2 we joke that this is where everything good for you becomes bad for you. Jesse has taught us that during these two days we want to eliminate anything that might irritate the gut on race day. This means we cut out vegetables, we cut down on fiber, We load up on clean carbohydrates such as pretzels, plain pasta. We eat smaller meals at more frequent intervals to give the body a chance to digest properly and top off our glycogen stores. What most people don’t realize on race day is that GI upset often comes from what you ate in these previous 2 days, not race day.

7. Don’t base your plan on someone else’s. When I worked with Coach T he had a funny saying about IM athletes. To paraphrase him “You have trained almost a year for this event. Then as you are walking into Mirror Lake you change your entire race plan because the guy next to you has qualified for Kona and what works for him must be right.” How many times have I seen this? Alexa does this…. what about me? It’s natural, we get nervous. The past several months you have worked on what works for you. You have practiced it. You know it. You have it written down. Don’t change it because of what someone else does. Know your body.

8. Follow the plan: I have my athletes complete a spreadsheet of their Ironman nutrition. Alexa did it and she did a beautiful job of it. If she had executed it her day on Sunday would have been different. But the thing of it is this: if she does a 12:42 on that nutrition plan……  then if she properly fuels…… what can she do? That’s exciting! That’s a good problem to have! Her fitness is GREAT, all we have to do is EAT????? AMAZING! So…. follow the plan, do what you need to do to follow that plan (and adjust accordingly). 4 bottles of fluid, even with extra gels and blocks is simply not enough for a 6 and 1/2 hour ride. If you need to set your watch to beep every 5 min, then that’s what we need to do. If you didn’t look at her nutrition….. then you’d think something was lacking in her fitness and send her out with more run volume, and get her injured. All she needs to do is follow the plan she created. See how exciting that is???????

9. Learn to troubleshoot. Have problems bloating? What did you eat in the two previous days? Drop your bottles? How can you adjust? Ironman is one big day of figuring out problems. What can you do in the next 5 seconds, by the next light pole…. don’t even allow yourself to think 20 miles ahead. Stomach problems? SLOW DOWN. Sip instead of gulp. Maybe take water for 10 minutes and let things calm down.

10. Have confidence in the work you have done. I make this promise to my athletes the moment we begin working together: I will not put you on the starting line of a race I don’t believe you acre capable of finishing. EVER. They are 110% prepared to show up and execute. So you do the same.

All that’s left are the finishing touches on your day. The bikes are tuned up, the gear is set to go…. just don’t forget to eat!!!!!!

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Heart Rate Super Simplified

Our Musselman webinar is tonight at 8pm, we’d love to have you join Jeff Henderson and I for an hour of timeline, course review and answering your Mussel questions! Click here to join us…. and don’t forget, it’s FREE!

Monday was day one of Lose the Training Wheels Camp! It’s funny because when folks hear you are coming to a camp like this they give out some advice…. take Luc to a parking lot and run with him, have him learn to ride downhill….. to all of that I have one thing to say…… the fact that we are attending this camp means I have run more miles holding onto his bike, in parking lots, downhill, grass downhills, taken the pedals off the bike……been through more pairs and styles of training wheels than you can imagine…. so the fact that we are now here means…. I have literally tried everything.

The philosophy of Lose the Training Wheels is to allow the bike to teach the kid. The kids are paired up with volunteers and they ride and ride and ride. The bike pictured is the bike they begin on. Each kid is fitted to their bike and every now and then the mechanic calls them over for a pit stop. Without the kids realizing what he’s doing he changes gears and switches out the rollers to lighter less stable rollers. This isn’t a place where you are told how to ride the bike.  This is a place where the bike teaches you.

Each day they tweak the bikes more but they have these kids ride a good 75 minutes. If you come and volunteer save some of your running mileage because not only will you run, you will run fast!  Luc was lucky on Monday to have Curt and Sister rosemary… the running nun as his volunteers!So stay tuned for updates on how the week is going!

Now onto today’s question: heart rate training. Heart rate training can be complicated and frustrating, only if you allow it to be. It’s a great window into how your training is going, and how you are reacting to training. In contrast if you ride with a power meter you have an instant reading of what you are doing, whereas heart rate can lag about 8-10 seconds behind.

Just like everything else in life, you have to take heart rate training with a grain of salt. When you initially go through some field tests and set up your zones they may be off a number or two. For example if your aerobic heart rate zone is 140-150 and during a run you are hovering around 138 or 151…. it’s not something to worry about. You have to take all of this with a grain of salt. Understand that not only are there margins of error in heart rate, there is a lot of variability.

Around here its been 95 degrees. Add a good 8-10 beats to your zones, maybe more if you are dehydrated, stressed, anxious.

With my athletes I test HR a few times a year. for the most part your heart rate zones will stay the same. It’s the speed within them that will drop. For example one of my athletes held an 8:30 mile for their endurance zone / zone 2 pace a year ago. Now they are holding a 7:38 pace in that same zone. It’s a great example of how this athlete’s fitness has improved.

I like to keep heart rate testing and training very simple. Not all coaches might agree with y system, but in the six years I have been coaching…. for my athletes it works. I use two tests for determining Lactate Threshold.

Initially to test in the winter we cycle through a 20 minute time trial on the bike. 20 minutes seems to be a good time especially for athletes who are not as fit during that time of the year, and it’s a good chunk of time to handle emotionally. There are arguments on whether you should do the 20 minute trial twice, but I have found that we get the same results. So we take the average and max HR during that 20 minutes and we plug it into a formula which helps us set up our zones.

Another test that I really like is the step test, done on a computrainer. We increase the wattage every 90 seconds and we watch the heart rate. There is a point where the HR stops increasing and in many cases we will see it decrease. we take all of the data from this test, plot it out on a graph and from there determine the Lactate Threshold.

I like to use Joel Friel’s Heart rate zone calculator. If you have Training Peaks it’s right in there.  Here is another good online one that you can plug numbers into and have your zones.

Keep in mind that your heart rate zones for cycling are about 8-10 beats lower then for running. Until my athletes can cycle through a 5K race we guestimate their run zones by adding 8-10 beats to the cycling zones. Now if you are a pool runner you are going to set your pool running zones 8-10 beats below your cycling heart rate zones.

So now we have these zones and these test results. Now what?

These devices ultimately teach you to understand your body. Right now I can take away the HRM from my athletes and they will just know where their zone 2 / endurance zone is. These devices will fail in some fashion whether they read your hr at 220 when you manually have it at 100….. just stop working…. or whatever. If the HRM doesn’t seem to be working correctly….. turn it off.

When you are climbing hills, allow the HR to rise. Don’t walk or slow down, it’s a hill. A good rule of thumb is to allow HR to get to the top of the next zone. When it’s hot add 8-10 beats. When you are wicked dehydrated, know there is even more variability.

If you find you are paying more attention to HR than you are to feeling the ride, turn it off.

Now when we talk about zones, you will find that Friel has about a zillion zones including zone 5a, 5b and so on. I use 3 zones:

Zone 1= recovery

Zone 2= endurance

Zone 3= Tempo

Beyond tempo we are typically working on pace and truthfully if I need you to run a 6 minute mile for 3 miles I don’t give a rats ass what your HR is.  It will be on thing: high.

I have seen HR rule people’s lives, I have seen athletes who could learn a thing or two from it. The most important lesson it teaches you is to make your easy days easy and your hard days hard. I see too many people going too hard all of the time. Your training paces should be slower than your racing paces. HR monitors can help you understand that.

They can help you really dial into specificity in your training, which ultimately helps you to become a faster athlete. But in the end they teach you to read your body. When that device fails my athletes know where they are, they are not gadget dependant.

Life isn’t run by a heart rate monitor. Use it to enhance, not hinder your training!

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