Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ironman Race Day in Kona - Best Advice

..............................Bill Bell

"Just once in his life, a man has his time. And my time is now, I'm coming alive!" St. Elmo's Fire

Race Day is October 9, 2010. Batter up!

The above photo of Bill Bell reminds us to learn from those who've walked this path before us. A number of years ago at the Thursday evening carbo dinner, they had on stage the oldest man and woman standing with the youngest man and woman in that years race. MC Mike Reilly asked the two elders if they had any words of wisdom for their two young counterparts in the event 36 hours hence. Never bashful, or at a loss for words, Bell strode to the microphone and uttered words I've never forgotten. "Enjoy your day. You may never come back here or do this race again so I feel strongly that you should just enjoy your day." He was right of course. Don't forget.

In last weeks blog, I tried to sum up many years of mistakes so the first timer and support team - family and friends - could have the best Hawaiian experience possible.

This week I'll focus on race day. Actually, this will begin at noon on Friday. You've packed your blue bike bag and red run bag without distraction. You've had your bike inspected at the base of the pier and racked with a volunteer. Now you hang your two bags - remember, no bag access race morning. Although the volunteer's job is to gently guide you back off the pier, this is the perfect time to see the steps being built into Kailua Bay that you'll use in the morning. Why not pretend you've just exited the water and simulate the swim-to-bike transition by following the same steps you'll do in the morning? Shower hoses, changing tent -No, not that one, it's the ladies changing tent. You'd get on NBC for sure...but in a pretty negative light. Understand the path you'll take out of the water and then again when getting off the bike at the start of T2. Understand it cold.

You already have a pre-race plan including supper, sleep, what to eat and drink race morning before you get in the water. And, you've planned for months what you'll eat and drink during the event. So, the important thing here is to get started earlier than you think. There's always a line at the port-a-potties, you may have an early morning bike need, back ups have occurred at body marking and the like. Get there early. Get everything done and then relax. Again, get in the water early thinking lines may form there as well and you can stand in knee deep water as easily as on the pier.

When the gun sounds, you're relaxed, you're experienced, you're ready. Ready for a challenging day, but a great day none the less. You will remember this day for the rest of your life. Really, you will.

Bill Bell photo WTC

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's World Championship Time in Hawaii

"It's going to be a hard day's night. The Beatles

We're 20 days till the cannon blast signals the start of the 2010 Ford Ironman Triathlon World Championship. The athletes who are racing this year are beginning to struggle with the need to taper opposing that intense internal drive to get every bit of training they can out of every day. It can be as much as 20, 25, even 30 hours per week. Age groupers too! For the first timers there are so many questions involving bike transportation, accommodations, training on the island, heat acclimation, and learning as absolutely much as possible about the race and conditions to ensure they're in the annually expected 93% who finish the event instead of those who don't.

I think the biggest mistake that newcomers make is that in spite of spending 7, 8, 10 or more days on the Big Island, they don't get it. They are so focused on the event that although come race cut off time at midnight on Saturday it's "mission accomplished," they've totally missed the Hawaiian feeling of Ohana (family) or the spirit of Aloha. And, for those who've brought family and friends, they've learned little to nothing about this wonderful place as they become consumed with Ironman.

To be fair, it's this goal oriented behavior that got them here, but with actual pre-race training at a minimum now, there are frequent opportunities to learn and entertain while in Kona. Having been there 20 times, here are ten suggestions to ensure both the best race and the best experience for racer and family alike:

1. Get your bike needs taken care of early. Have it re-inspected after you assemble it by Bikeworks just because this costs less than a malfunction on race day. Drive to Hawi. Learn the route by heart and ride up Kuakini Highway a couple times - just because.

2. Early in the week, take a snorkel boat cruise on board the Fair Wind out of Keauhou (7 miles from the pier). Although spending time at the pier and Lava Java talking Ironman is beneficial, it has an end point. You won't get shot if you leave downtown for a little while to snorkel.

3. Eat at some place different every day. Basil's, Splashers, Kona Inn, Hard Rock, Lulu's, they all have something good to offer.

4. Swim a little many mornings -at 7am so you can the light and shadows - more days than you think you need to. But not a lot. It's fun, it's social, and where else can you swim out to a coffee bar?

5. When thinking about gifts for those back home, particularly kids, both Longs Drugs and the ABC stores have a wide variety for not a lot of money. You will spend more money in the Ironman store than you think. ("Well, I'll never be back here again and I do need 10 more triathlon oriented shirts in the dresser."

6. Run the underpants run on Thursday...and bring a camera. It's less than 2K at about a 10min/mile pace...when you can stop laughing. Bring a special hat or mask. One guy was Elvis a couple years ago and it worked. Have your family also run the PATH safety 5K on 10/3 downtown. It's fun and for a worthy cause.

7. Everyone who comes with you should, no MUST, be a race volunteer - sign up before you go. Do it today. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say it wasn't the highlight of their time on the Big Island.

8. On Saturday, say THANK YOU to every race volunteer you encounter.

9. Be kind and patient to the people of Kona - this is their home we're invading.

10. Say hello to some one you don't know every day. And, if they're having a little trouble since English isn't their first language, take a breath and see if you can work it out. It just takes a little patience to be a good ambassador. And besides, it's fun.

11. I said there'd be 10,but I forgot one. After you finish, and get your medal and something to eat, and you realize you're not going to die...when they take you to the massage tent and ask if they can help you, don't say no. Get a 5 minute foot massage. It's to die for. And besides, you earned it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Frozen Shoulder

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

While donning my running shoes by my Jeeps interior lighting one recent morning I realized we only have 12 hours of daylight this time of year and it's decreasing steadily. Since work takes up 8 of them, some of our training
must be done in the dark. I have a friend who used start his training
day at 0230! Yes, he's a mite intense. He'd get a majority of his training done in the dark.

You need to go the extra mile to absolutely ensure your safety-especially from motor vehicles. While running, attention to a possibly slippery road surface, choice of routes, bright clothing, reflector vests, even a red strobe light on your butt while always paying attention to your surroundings.

When cycling, riding single file is even more important than in summer daylight. Although we've all seen riders with hardly a reflector, I ride with 3 red lights behind: 2 solid on my belt and a strobe under my saddle. My friend has a suit with lights up and down the arms resembling Landing Signal Officer on an aircraft carrier. But, by gosh he's visible. Careful, it's a jungle out there.

Frozen Shoulder
In the office this is known as Adhesive Capsulitis. The patient is usually not aware of trauma (although a percentage of this group has has recent trauma or surgery to this shoulder) but notices an ever increasing loss of motion, a "capsulitis" or shrinking/tightening of the capsule around the shoulder joint. For some reason, it's much more common in women than men, non-dominant shoulder, aged 35-55. Diabetes seems to increase the risk of developing FS. This is not arthritis or infection although its true cause is not known.

Conveniently, the natural history of the disease can be divided in the freezing phase commonly lasting 4-6 months, the frozen phase lasting 4-6 months and finally the thawing phase lasting the same. The initial phase is characterized by gradual loss of motion (can't put hand overhead, fasten bra behind back, get wallet out of pocket and so forth) and pain. Once the "freezing" has slowed, there's also less pain. During the following "frozen period, motion is limited but so is pain. Subsequently, when the process begins to retreat, the pain recurs to a degree.

Treatment is mostly supportive with a small role for Physical Therapy, pain control, and a program to try to maintain motion. Patience is a must. A percentage of these folks don't have a return of motion and may be a candidate for what's known as a manipulation under anesthesia or an arthroscopy to release adhesions inside the joint.

Overall, this is usually a self limited process, hopefully more of an inconvenience than a disability.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Should Triathletes Donate Blood?

"Back off man, I'm a scientist." Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters

I think triathletes should donate blood. All of us. Doesn't matter if it's the Red Cross or your local blood service, just do it. Did you know that only 3% of the population gives blood so that 100% may ultimately benefit?
The first thing, as an athlete, you want to know how long it takes to return to the predonation levels. Back to where you're not actually reverse blood doping. Well the plasma level is back up in 24 hours and the oxygen carrying red cells normalize in about 4-6 weeks. That's why you can donate again in 8 weeks. Think about how frequently you read on Slowtwitch about someone being injured, car hits bike and the like, and then think what if that becomes you? Will there be blood available? The red cells only have a shelf life of 5 or 6 weeks, some of the components even less.

So what happens when the other 97% of us go to the blood bank to donate for the very first time? First you register where they ask a bunch of questions, all very confidentially, to make sure it's right for them and right for you. They even take your pulse, temperature and blood pressure free for nothing. Consider that the swim, and T1 is getting your arm really clean and inserting a sterile, brand new needle for the blood draw. The bike, actually have the collection bag fill takes only a few minutes - faster than some of us do a transition in an iron distance race! Honestly.

T2 is where they finish up and wrap your arm with a colorful (quite noticeable to all colorful - "Why yes I did just give blood, thanks for asking," and thinking me a real stud!) The run is to the snack area where you can have unlimited Oreos, Fig Newtons (an IM sponsor) sodas, etc. and in 10 minutes you're back on the sidewalk ready for action. A PR for sure.

Imagine how good you feel when you do something for others. And it's September so many of us have nearly finished our racing season making it an ideal time to give. And for those of you who say, "But I'm afraid of needles," this is totally out weighed by the "accomplishment they get at the end of the successful donation." Did I mention the Oreos?

So, get out the phone book and find the nearest place to give. You'll be so glad you did. It's a pretty cool thing to be proud of. At least I think so.