From the e-mail bag, here’s some of the questions I’ve received lately:

I’ve recently purchased a new bike and I love it! The neck soreness I can deal with – but how do you keep your cooch from hurting so bad?

Actually, this one came to me in the form of an e-mail entitled Can My Unit Hurt Anymore? New bike seats have a nasty way of zapping the hoochie out of your coochie in under 60 miles. Preventing cooch discomfort is key to having a great ride. I prefer using Assos (no pun intended) Chamois Cream, available at most fine cycling stores. It comes in a tub and though it’s costly, it’s worth every cent.

Do you really eat spinach leaves without dressing?

Not unless I had a taste for spinach-flavored sandpaper. My apologies, in my food diary I failed to list that I use Kraft Fat Free Honey Dijon on my salads.

Do you enjoy being married to another triathlete?

About as much as I enjoy those spinach leaves without dressing. All joking aside, I consider myself very lucky to have found another triathlete. He shares and supports my values, goals, and passions. The only drawbacks are that you are doing twice as much laundry, eating twice as much food, and have twice less time for everything else that needs to get done. Also, you are twice as willing to spend exorbitant amounts of money on things like vacations, equipment, and race entries because you share the same obsession and interests. The best part, though, is sharing breakthrough moments with him and seeing him as proud of me as I am of myself.

Do you take any special supplements, or hormones like testosterone?

Some man seriously asked me that in the forest preserve parking lot the other day. Are you kidding – more hormones? No thanks, the hormones raging through my body on a 28-day cycle are more than enough for me. Other than that, I do take a few supplements on a daily basis; a multi-vitamin, 300 mg of calcium at dinner, 1000 mg of Flax Seed Oil (twice daily) and Acidophlius (twice daily). I also drink about 3 cups of coffee every morning.

How can find George Hincapie ‘hot’?

Let’s get one thing straight – George is not ‘hot’, he’s ‘smoking’. I like my men dark and handsome. Tall is negotiable. Women tend to go one of two ways with men – light or dark. I like the dark meat – is that so wrong? The only exception to this rule is that I find Tom Boonen adorably attractive however I think he looks like he’s twelve and like he cries home to mommy often. But I don’t really know Tom so I can’t say for sure.

How much do you train each week?

Depends – which week is it, what did I do the week before, what’s coming up. I was lucky to find a coach that believes, along with me, that less is more. Last week I trained for 3 ½ hours (told you I was on break). This week about 14 hours. Sometimes 20, sometimes 12. Just depends. What does matter is that when I do train, no matter how much, I train with a purpose. Just say no to junk miles!

Do you work?

I work full-time as a coordinator of children’s and family programs. I spend my day coordinating people, supplies, classes, and schedules and writing educational nature programs for children. I also teach people how to teach children. I also write a lot of songs. Today I wrote a song called ‘Crayfish Claws’ soon to be a top-40 hit. Sometimes it’s a struggle to balance work with training. It might mean getting up early to train and then training again after workout. But, I work about 5 minutes from my house which means I can go home at lunchtime to eat and get a few household chores done.

What do you eat during a half-Ironman?

There are some secrets to my success that I just won’t share. Not because I’m afraid you’ll steal them, but because I’m afraid you’ll do something that just won’t work for you. It took me months, years, seasons in triathlon to devise a nutrition and hydration plan that worked for me. But once I found what worked, I went with it and practiced it over and over again. Your nutrition/hydration plan for half-Ironman should feel like clockwork. You should know how many calories, grams of carbohydrate, and milligrams of sodium you need for a certain period of time in order to stay fueled and fresh. Everyone is different, so find what works for you and practice your plan over and over again until it becomes automatic.

What are you afraid of?

Monsters under my bed? I don’t know. I think we all have fears. The point is how you manage your fears rather than letting your fears manage you. There are times when I am in the middle of a very tough week that I give myself permission to let fear swim, bike, or run right behind me but I tell myself that it will never catch-up with me.

Do you train by yourself or with others?

By myself, mostly. I enjoy the quiet time of training – the time to just let the thoughts float through your head and watch the landscapes roll by. Sure, I’ll do an easy workout with my husband or a friend, or swim with the master’s team, but I save a lot of the tough stuff for myself. First off, I believe it’s good practice to learn how to push from inside yourself and not just chase someone else or their goals. Second, you should train like you race and there is no race out there where you can race side by side. Third, it’s important to learn how to listen and talk back to the voice in your head which is difficult if you are always talking or listening to someone else. Above all, have fun, be safe, and enjoy yourself – whether alone or with others. But if you find that you are not racing as well as you are training, it might be time to consider more solo training to work through some of that stuff and push beyond it.

How can you look so focused when you run?

In the run segment of a race, I’ve got two things on my mind – run hard and run fast – in other words don’t give anything up on this run. So few triathletes have a solid run. If you can put together a strong run, you’ll have the edge up on most of the field. Take the time to run quality miles with good, focused workouts. And, most importantly, run by yourself. In my opinion, running hurts more than swimming and cycling. Only you can learn to hurt on the run and only you can teach your head to handle that hurt.

Have you ever thought about being a coach?

Yes – and I’ve been trying it out with Marcus. Marcus is my co-worker’s/good friend’s husband. He came to me last August and wanted to break his PR of 19:57 on the 5K. So I gave him a few workouts and suggestions on how to structure his week with those workouts. By October, he got down to 18:47. Back in May, Marcus approached me again, this time looking for more specific workouts on how to break his PR. So we’ve been working together for about 7 weeks now. Each week, I write out a schedule for him. The experience has challenged me to think about the purpose of workouts and to be creative to think of new ways to challenge him. Someone recently asked why are you doing this for him? And I said “Because he’s Type A and talented and if someone doesn’t point in him the right direction he’s going to hurt himself.” So I told him what to do and what not to do. And I put him on the track and told him how to hurt. The rest – the physical and mental homework – he’s done for himself. I’m not sure if that attitude will make me a good or bad coach, but last week Marcus ran an 18:07. When he told me, I shouted his name and almost cried. I was so proud of him! But don’t worry – I’m not about to give up my day job just yet.

How did you get interested in the sport?

Back in March 1999, I had grown tired of doing stairmaster, treadmill, exercise bike to stay in shape so I decided that I need a “goal”. I noticed that my hometown had a women’s triathlon and thought this would be the perfect goal. I hired a personal trainer (Sue Welker) to teach me how to swim (again) and how to structure my week of workouts. Sue was great – gave me some basic information that set me off right. By July I was ready to race. The only problem was that I had forgotten to sign up for the race. Luckily, I got someone else’s spot and did the race. I didn’t swim freestyle for an inch of that race but once out of the water, I rode like a rocket and ran hard! The rest, as they say, is history!

The e-mailbag is empty now. Keep those questions coming!