Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Transition Speed; Tips From an Age Group Winner


Seriously, do you think we believe this slowed you down in T1? Come on, do we look stupid?


We are entering the heart of racing season.  Even though we discussed transitions recently, I think there's always room for information and discussion that might make you a couple percent better.  A bit faster and definitely safer.

The recent blog was titled Why You Need to be the Best at Transitions which you  could check out.

 Take away points from it were:

1)  Triathlon transitions must be practiced at home to work out the kinks.

2)  Each of us can save minutes, not just seconds, with efficient transitioning.

3)  With planning, practice, and careful preview of the transition area, we can avoid falls on wet surfaces, crashes into fellow competitors or tripping on unfamiliar objects, etc. leading to an unplanned visit to your local medical professional.

4)  We continue to be educated in this discipline as we compare our T1 and T2 times against those in our age group.  And, while staring at race results, race number still affixed to your singlet, recovery drink in hand.   Just like we wonder what we can do to drop our bike times, we must also plan what's needed to drop transition times.  It's really just that easy.


When you watch the people who excel at this, they are exceptionally well prepared, early arrivers, and have only what's needed on the ground next to their bike.  If you arrive at your race site early, you can get a good handle on where the landmarks are, entry into the compound from the swim, exit for the bike and bike mount line, exit for the run, etc.  You can take care of pre-race bathroom needs, body marking, tire pressure check and final examination of goggle and helmet straps... you do have that spare pair of broken-in goggles in your back pack, right? ... and those last minute items without feeling pressed or rushed.  Now that you've figured out the lay out  of the compound, and traffic pattern around you, the best place within given guidelines to rack your bike and set up your stuff become obvious.


When I volunteer for races, I like to see the differences between the veterans and some of those newer to the sport.  Through practice and simply lots of experience, the vets transition areas are spartan by some descriptions.  Only what's absolutely necessary.  Most of us are not that good and still need to be concerned with things like partially drying our feet, perhaps by just standing for a second on a towel while your helmet goes on, etc.  We all race without socks in sprint tris. Yes, like they say here in VA, we all.

Now that you have the bike and gear where you desire, walk back to the entry point from the swim and jog to your row of bikes noting some landmark other than the race sign with the bike #s in that row on it.  I've seen these get knocked to the ground so you need some kind of back up.  A pillar, a permanent sign, corner of something, anything that will note your row.  Some folks will tie a red ribbon on the end of their row.  And while they swim, some race personnel will sometimes remove red ribbons from row ends.  As an aside, the athletes who make it to Kona know all these tricks and will mark their transition bags with any number of ribbons, tags, stuffed toys, you name it.  However, the evening before the race, two very efficient women named Bev and Nancy, kind but rule followers, go through and remove them all.



Hawaii 2010 242

So, still planning the details, you jog from where you'll enter the transition after swimming, to your little bike home and do a sort of mental...wet suit off, heave it into a pre planned area out of the way, helmet....etc.  And jog to the bike exit.  Then do the same for the location of bike entry back into the compound pretending to rack the bike, don running apparel and scoot to the run start.  Many do it more than once.

One last thing.  You have plenty of time, so know/ask where first aid will be located - the first couple people won't know - and ask what to do if your chip should fall off in the swim, on the bike, etc.  Are you supposed to get another one, if so where, or just carry on?

The more you know, the faster you go.



Images 2, 4 Google images

Saturday, May 25, 2013

2nd Place is First Loser; Alcohol and Racing Triathlon

I'm a triathlete, I'm bulletproof.  Couldn't you tell?

 You spend a significant portion of your day, your month, your life really, preparing for the gun in your next  "A" race.  Doesn't matter if you're hunting for a Hawaii slot, or to simply beat the pants off your buddy working in the next cubicle for bragging rights in the office.  But do you unknowingly blow your chances by getting insufficient rest, consuming too much alcohol, or a combination of both?

When you're young, you learn the effects that liquor has on your fun, behavior, judgement, etc. when consumed responsibly. And occasionally irresponsibly.  When consumed in excess, hopefully the level of fall out only rises to turning your date off.  Sadly, all too frequently you see internet pictures like 

 the happy couple above that later turns into something both laughable and forgettable at the same time.  "Where's Fred?" "Fred's passed out downstairs."  Then Fred's friends help out by making his experience unforgetable.  They share his golden moment today, tomorrow, and many tomorrows to come courtesy of Google images and Facebook.  One day this may show up before a job interview.


Fast forward to 2013, where we're all grown up now, although many still try to burn the candle at both ends.  They work hard, work out hard, and perhaps play hard.  Too hard.  For those triathletes looking for top performance, they'd be wise to limit alcohol consumption.  They need to know the potential problems with over consumption in the endurance athlete.

Very quickly there are those who would point toward the protective effect that's been shown in some studies by a daily glass or two of red wine.  Still, the American Heart Association cautions people NOT to start drinking for better heart health until the effects of alcohol are better understood.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, alcohol can have a negative effect on those who are taking antibiotics or antidepressants or cause side effects for those taking other meds.

Alcohol causes disturbed sleep.  And perhaps more than the average person, triathletes need sleep.  The Triathletes Training Bible notes the production of Hgh, human growth hormone, is maximal during sleep.  Among other things, this hormone is a critical part of the repair process of tissue broken down by swimming, biking or running.  WebMD points to a number of studies that while alcohol will allow healthy people to fall asleep more quickly, it reduces deep sleep, so-called REM sleep, where the greatest production of Hgh occurs.  The more you drink at bed time, the more pronounced these effects.  When we think that mid day sleepiness or inability to concentrate is simply secondary to the morning's hard run or swim, in truth it can be the result of too much firewater the previous night.  “Alcohol may seem to be helping you to sleep, as it helps induce sleep, but overall it is more disruptive to sleep, particularly in the second half of the night,” says researcher Irshaad Ebrahim.  The more you consume, the more disruptive the effect.  However, some studies have shown minimal downside to a single "night cap."  The roll of sleep, Hgh production aiding in tissue repair, etc. can be seen in a piece I wrote for this week.

Many of us are already aware of the diuretic effect of alcohol that contributes to dehydration.  In a sport where we expend significant effort and time conjuring up the proper diet, race nutrition plan and race hydration, alcohol only compounds the problem.  In significant amounts, alcohol can inhibit nutrient absorption like zinc, vitamin B12 and thiamine.

So, for your best athletic performance and highest quality sleep, keep the alcohol consumption down and get to bed on time.  The other side benefit may be in not seeing your likeness with a pineapple on your head on the net one day.  Sounds good to me.

 Images - Google images

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tri Swim - Two - Tips From An Age Group Winner

Part Two on Triathlon Race Swimming

    Comfort in the Water

Hawaii 2010 043

 On the Kona pier, a race volunteer describes the specifics of the Ironman 2.4 mile swim course.


Sunday's blog was very well received so I thought it might be the time to go to the next level with advice such that you have a safe and enjoyable race.  I put the first two photos in here to emphasize the age old rule of

 Nothing New on Race Day.

The athlete above wants to understand as much as she can like where the buoys will be placed, where the turn around will be located, what will be at the turn around, etc.  I know this last item sounds silly but I was in a half IM one year where there were buoys at the half way point.  And a sailboat full of observers and family members was moored another 50-70 yards away.  While most racers circled the buoys and headed for home, a number swam another 100 plus yards around the sailboat before returning.  And while those who swam the extra distance complained loudly, it is 2013 after all, (isn't it the American Way?) all the race officials had to do was point at the race map....which our longer distance friends hadn't bothered to check out before getting in the water.  Pretty dumb,huh?


Hawaii 2010 064



"The worse the weather, the rougher the water, the more I like it." This comes from our age group winner, only because he's terribly comfortable in all swim conditions having done it before.  He knows that he has a significant advantage over the less experienced in poor weather conditions.  If I ask him to split a diamond, we'd both be right nervous.  The point here that the more you experience something, the more familiar it becomes.

1) If it's a wet suit swim, be comfy with the suit.  Of course, if you are using the suit for only the second or third time ever, you're not used to the tightness around your chest, something rubbing your neck and arm pit, the slight squeeze of the abdomen, let alone trying to swim in the thing.

2) These recs may sound silly but they work. Wear your wet suit at home, in the evening, 20 or 30 minutes, even in the shower.  Wear it at the pool a few times.  If you're embarrassed, go to a different pool.  Wear a mask.  And don't just swim 100 and take it off.  (I've seen this.)  Honestly, even though it'll be a little warm, our goal is education here folks.  Yours.  But don't overheat in the thing in an 85 degree pool.

3) We've already discussed transitions in previous blogs, and setting up a practice T1 in your driveway at least twice before your race.  A great opportunity to practice suit on, suit off.

4) If you can swim for 10 minutes, yes, in your wet suit if you can, at the race site the day before your event, that would be invaluable!


1) Goggle straps always seem to fail at exactly the wrong time.

2) About a month before the race, break in two new pairs of goggles.  If the possibility of reflected sunlight glare exists, make one of the two tinted.  Take both to the race with you.


Jose is a local swimmer who can kick my butt in the water.  100?  1000? Doesn't matter.  But he doesn't swim outside of a pool.  Particularly the local lake. Especially the local lake!  "There are man-eating catfish there!" he says.  Well there might be fish and maybe something else but they won't concern you...they're more afraid of you than you of them

1) The visibility in most outdoor water is poor so you just can't see much.  And that's OK.  As long as your goggles don't leak (much), what's important to the triathlete is on top of the water anyway.  Like the location of the next buoy for example.

2) If you find yourself in a panic-like situation, you can either back stroke, swim off to the side of the course and let a couple folks swim by, or simply tread water for 30 seconds.  Your goal is comfort and control, not necessarily speed.

3) It's really easy to forget about your stroke and all those things you've practiced lap after lap after lap.  That's ok initially.   But once you realize that this tri swim thing is both doable, and actually fun, put your head down after sighting the next buoy, and just go.  Go like you'd do in the pool.  What's surprising is that you actually pass people.  Who knew?  And nothing succeeds like success.


This was written recently by a member of the British Tri Assn. There are a couple things mentioned that may be of interest: it's a fast read.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Triathlon Plan "B", and Tri Swim Tips From An Age Group Winner

"Superman where are you now? Phil Collins, Land of Confusion


Hawaii 2010 060

At a TrainingBible lecture in January, noted Triathlon Coach Joe Friel compared the running boom of the 80's to the growth of triathlon today. (If you'd been told ten years ago that someone would pay $35,100 (Ebay, 3:00 pm today, to Ironman Foundation - that's right, it's tax deductible) to get a slot at Ironman Hawaii, you'd thought them clearly insane. Yet, we find ourselves at the end of the annual Ironman auction which puts up 6 entries to the race to the highest bidder/donator as the money goes to the Ironman Foundation. This branch of IM donates a significant sum each year to a host of deserving Kona organizations like the rescue squad, various help agencies, YMCA, etc. Check out to follow the progress of the last slot of the auction, especially the last hour next Sunday.)

Joe's story went something like this. In the 80's, folks would have a friend convince them to go jogging, like it, and progress to running.  Then strange things would happen. It might start out with a local 5K race, they'd get "hooked" and after smoking too much Runners World Magazine, they'd be convinced they could begin marathon training.  And some can. Their life becomes consumed with running and a myriad of details until they find themselves running the first 10 miles of a 26.2 mile experience. All goes well until mile 18, when they arrive at the aid station with shot quads, over heated, exhausted, clearly unsure what the next step is literally and figuratively.  Compare this scenario to triathlon where it seems easy to tackle the local sprint tri, maybe even an Olympic distance race...and then you start to dream.  You hear of someone local, friend of a friend, who is doing IM Lake Placid...and, "With just a little more training, I could be an Ironman."

Maybe. Maybe not.  What happens when our heroine gets to mile 95 on the bike, is beat, rethinking how aggressive she might have been over the first 56 miles, would like to call it a day but she's not even off the bike - and  I hear there's some running to do...? As tri coach Emily Sherrill says, "You have to have a plan B; alternatives."
In other words, it's OK to stop at a bike aid station. It's OK sit in a real chair while taking on fluids for a few minutes, the race isn't going anywhere.  Even if that takes 15-30 minutes you can always get back going again. It's OK to ask the medical people for a little help, they're not going to take you out of the race unless you're a danger to yourself or others. It's OK to walk. Well, it's ALWAYS OK TO WALK. Or to sit at a run aid station to collect your wits. Or even every 5th run aid station if that's what it takes.
You have a full 17 hours to finish this thing. If you've thought these potential problems through ahead of time, then during the press of the event when folks don't always make the best of decisions, you'll not decide something in haste that you'll come to regret.
Just think about it.

Fast, Safe Triathlon Swimming

I write frequently on the swim aspect of triathlon.  This is in part connected with my concern about the numbers of deaths in our sport and that they nearly always occur during the swim segment.  These are a few short comments from a local racer who is always 1st or 2nd in his age group out of the water, and considered one of the more cautious racers around.

1) Pre-race preparation is the most important step.  If you can get to the race venue the day before, even have your suit on under your clothes to get in for a few minutes, get a feel for the water, the current, the taste, the direction to the first buoy, maybe even the exit and a walk to T1.  The more you know, the more you are in control during the race.

2) On race morning, be ready for your wave earlier than you need to be.  Get in a warm up swim.  If it's a wetsuit race, it's better to have that warm up done, and have a little more time than you need to get into the right mind set to race.

3) If you are at all concerned about swimming "en masse," when the horn/gun sounds for your wave, simply wait.  One thousand one, one thousand two, etc. until you get to five, then blast off.  You will have your own piece of the water leaving the sharks in the group to bash each other, not you.

4) On the other hand, if you're pretty good in the water and can identify your likely competition, if you have practiced sighting, can swim straight and have enough of a warm up that you don't have the "300 meter shoulder burn," go for it.  You will be an awesome force and difficult to pass.

5) Lastly, I've seen a couple small studies showing that if you don't go all out on the swim, you more than make up for the time differential on the bike.  Might be at least one good reason to maintain control in the water rather trying to do your Ryan Lochte imitation.



Friday, May 17, 2013

Notes on Knees, It's Friday

CH-46D "Crowd killer"


 This is the aircraft I flew in Vietnam, only somewhat joking nicknamed "crowd killer" referring to the occasional crash when bad things would happen to a large group.  Overall, however, it was a pleasure to fly, and to be of service to our country.

Two Comments about Life

"In real life, of course, it is the hare who wins.  Every time.  And in any case it is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market....hares have no time to read.  They are too busy winning the game."  Anita Brookner            [Like Triathlon in some respects]


"Life is measured only superficially by heart beats and brain waves. Life is doing.  It's learning and engaging an thinking."   Mike Hughes

Quick - while you're feeling fully empowered, put your running shoes on and get after it!


A note about ACL Reconstruction 

I was speaking with a pediatrician patient of mine named Jay last week about his operated knee.  He's recently retired from active practice but remains athletically active.  He reminded me that I did an ACL reconstruction on him about 15 years ago and that he once asked me, "Do you know what the record is for marathons following an ACL reconstruction?"  

I didn't then, and don't now actually,  but he's done half a dozen and plans more.  The point I'm making here is that some research studies show only about half of the people who suffer what can be a devastating injury, career ending injury depending on one's career, and return to their previous level of sport.  I suppose Jay was in the lucky half.  Few of us make our livings with our knees so when it comes to skiing, rugby, baseball, etc., any sport where there's a fair amount of knee torquing, just use your head.  Don't sacrifice your knee to beat out a bunt to first base in softball.  T1 can be hard to negotiate on crutches!


 It's important for triathletes to try and maintain some balance in leg strength.  Our sport certainly doesn't do that for us.  You already know that running is a hamstring based exercise and although many of us spend more time on the bike than in our running shoes, it only makes up a little of the potential quad deficit.  The thinking triathlete already finds time to squeeze in weekly weight work and I'd simply suggest that it include both straight leg raises and short arcs.  SLRs are pretty self explanatory but short arcs may be best described by the following: if a leg all the way straight is at zero, when you bend the knee say 15-20 degrees, then straighten it back to zero and hold that contraction for a couple seconds.  I'd be starting them with no ankle weights.  And I'd rather see you with less bend at the knee doing this exercise rather than more so you're not putting a force across the knee cap.  This is one representative video I found on Youtube:

Both of these exercise can be done while sitting at your computer reading this.

Image Google images 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why You Need to be the Best at Transitions.


Transtions should be great fun...and speedy.

October hawaii '07 187

Some call triathlon transitions the fourth discipline and it's easy to see why.  With just a little practice, they can change you from a middle of the pack racer to a star.  Really.  

Since each transition area has it's own geographic specifics, timing mat placement, bike mount line, distance from water exit, etc., it's hard to compare one event with another.  In iron distance races, it's not uncommon for a racer to take 10 minutes in one of the transitions trying to resupply from within.  However, if you compare times within a single age group, you see why you can be significantly better off with transition practice.

In one sprint tri last year, the T1 average for my age group was 4 +45 and T2 1:42 totalling 6min 27 seconds.  My total time for both was 2+29, a saving of 2+16.  That could be almost a mile on the bike!

Each of the three weeks before your next race, set aside 45-60 minutes where you review your technique.  Set up a full transition area next to your house.  It will also remind you of what not to forget - as well as what not to bring -  when you depart your home on race day.  If this is a wet suit race, put on your wetsuit.  Yes, I know you'll look like a dork standing next to the garage in a wetsuit but the neighbors already think your participation in this sport a bit odd, why not show them they've been right all along?  This is in the name of speed, man.  (review this video right before you go outside:

Then, wet suit on, back up 50 yards, charge into that homemade T1, and out on your bike.  Time it.  Do it again.  See what you didn't need and leave it out on race day. Same for T2. Only the essentials.  Then retrace your steps, reposition your gear, change your bike mount, just play around and see what works best for you.  If, like rehearsing a play, you walk through, think through, each step, you get quicker rapidly.  Now do it as a T2 transition.  And again.

Finer points:  A)  You can move too fast and lose efficiency, drop things, trip, etc.  

                                                       Deliberate speed.  Planned speed.  Practiced speed is what wins here.

                            B)  Be one of the first ones to arrive at the race.  Walk through your route from water's edge to T1.  Do it again. Walk the exact route you'll take your bike out and note where best to mount your bike for clear sailing ahead.  Early arrival will also allow you to park close enough that if/when car access is needed, it's a short walk.  You'll also have plenty of time for that pre-race BM so many find essential.

                            C)  Read, watch, learn from videos or volunteering at events what the fastest people do.  If you put your wetsuit on over the outfit you'll wear the rest of the day (and it may sound silly but I have my race belt and number on as well - one less thing to do later) what steps can you eliminate to make you quicker.  This is a learning process.  Once you get good at this, very good at this, when you look at the race results as they get posted on the van by the timing folks, you also look very sharply at the transition numbers. Show yourself that practice really helped.  You may not be the fastest 10K runner in the age group but by gumbo you can get in and out of the transitions in one heck of a hurry!  Smiling!


Unselfish Behavior - Tom Brady

They say that triathlon is a selfish sport and to some to some degree that's correct.  Taking time away from work or family events to train sometimes rubs nerves the wrong way.  I've scanned in a page from Sports Illustrated that I think important.  We hear so much about the negative, the egotistical behavior of our society, when something like this comes up I believe it worthy of a read as well.

Tom Brady 2

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Road Rash, All Torn Up - Home Care

George Patton and I share the same birthday.

 "A man must know his destiny. if he does not recognize it, then he is lost. By this I mean, once, twice, or at the very most, three times, fate will reach out and tap a man on the shoulder. If he has the imagination, he will turn around and fate will point out to him what fork in the road he should take.  If he has the guts, he will take it."   George Patton

 Maybe something to think about right before the gun in your next race.  Put it on a scrap of paper. Make it a quick read at the start line, then get out there and, like Patton, KICK BUTT!


Road Rash

"Ain't no doubt about it we were doubly blessed, 'cause we were barely 17 and barely dressed." Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell

 Possibly without intending, Meat Loaf was describing the amount of protection one gets from cycling clothing when you hit the asphalt. Barely dressed. But, you look good doing it. Right?





This image was sent to me by a follower.  Glad it's not my elbow.  Bet you are too!  This is several days old, dry, quiet looking, but that hole on the right side could still be, as they say on TV, "A heap of trouble!" 

This injury is the result of a bike crash on to asphalt and I'll bet it hurt.   This was not done at the local Urgent Care but the local hospital operating room.  If, for no other reason, than to get the debris vigorously washed out of the wound.  The potential for infection is relatively high.  

Following your bike crash, you visit your friendly local emergency room where cultures are taken from the wound (put in a cotton tip, send it to the lab to see what unexpected bacteria can be found in what should be a sterile environment). Then you're introduced to the orthopedic surgeon on call, told that your next stop is the operating room...NO, you cannot go home to let the cat out or turn off the sprinkler because you're being prepped for immediate I&D, irrigation and debridement. You meet the holding area team, the anesthesiologist, the circulating nurse for the OR as she seats you in the center of the operating table, etc. You're surprised how cold the operating table is against your naked butt! Just the first of many unfamiliar sensations.

This is all a true story. This triathlete suffered a fairly involved injury, without broken bones, to her arm above the elbow and the above sequence occurred. This picture is her arm about a week out.  She's also under the care of an Infectious Disease specialist to help manage the antibiotics as appropriate to the organisms cultured at surgery. So what are the lessons that we take away from this? Well, it's hard for many of us to get through a full season without dumping our bikes at least once - or more.  If we're lucky it's just a skinned knee or lateral ankle that, with a minimum of local care, that heals uneventfully assuming an intact immune system. What about that dog bite? Or that more significant skin embarrassment with depth and significant bleeding?

On the road, as soon as possible following the crash (or animal bite), I'd suggest beginning by lavage (thorough wash out) of the area as best you can with the contents of your water bottle(s). I know a number of athletes who drink very little from their water bottles, particularly in cooler weather, and carry them for just such an emergency. You're prepared for a flat, loose spoke, broken chain, etc., why not be prepared for this is their motto. While you probably wouldn't use water from the creek, tap water from the nearest source, gas station, etc. to irrigate out any debris while still fresh helps a great deal. If there's any doubt, seek medical care. If the wound is over a joint or sizable, if it's at all deep, if you see a tendon, bone or joint, these are all reasons to proceed to the local medical facility right away. The longer you wait, the more time any foreign matter has to set up shop. You can also update your tetanus at that time. In fact, I know one athlete who called his docs office within minutes of an unprovoked dog bite, was told to "come now", which he did...still on his bike of course, and had the wound cleaned, tetanus administered, etc. in about an hour allowing him to finish his ride. Can't leave that calendar space white, even for a trip to the doctor, now can we? (See "Once a Runner,"  John L. Parker, Jr.)

For home care of road rash, shower, and although it may not be pleasant, use mild soap and a wash cloth to get all dirt and debris out of the skin or it will be a permanent tattoo.  Try to avoid any type of strong antiseptic as they frequently do more harm than good.  After you get the wound as dry as possible, apply a very light coating of antibiotic ointment and a sterile dry gauze type dressing.  If you use the non-stick type you will be rewarded for it later.  Keep the area clean and dry until it starts to show good signs of healing and change the dressing every couple of days.  If you have doubts anywhere in the process, get medical attention. Otherwise, happy riding.



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Earn The Right To Win

Riding or Running on the Big Island Any Time Soon?


       The desolate beauty afforded the biker on the NW coast of the Big Island

 When one thinks of the Hawaiian Islands, lush tropical forests come to mind backing up Pat and Vanna on the Wheel of Fortune.  Many may not be familiar with the Ironman course along the Kona Coast.  As you can see, the harshness, almost moonscape appearance, gives one the feeling of being completely alone.  

For a number of us, triathlon training is a similar emotion.  It's also one that subtlety invades all aspects of our lives. Who among you hasn't been in a social situation, out to dinner with a client or halftime at an offspring's soccer game, and when the conversation slows, your brain drifts to how to improve your T1 time in your next sprint tri? Or, maybe you should go ahead and buy that swimming video your lane mate mentioned.

As one who's spent Ironman race week on the Big Island of Hawaii for each of the last 20 years, you get an interesting perspective of the "top of the pyramid" in our sport and what it takes to get there. I volunteer on the pier every year helping out in Transitions and get to be part of a talented, dedicated team lead by capable David Huerta. While some of the athletes seem almost consumed by the sport, many see it as just one aspect of life. But an important aspect! Many have the ability, especially when their race season is complete, to put the lifestyle inclusive of 10, 15, 20 or more hours/week of training behind them, spend time with family, cross train by leaving the bike behind and go hiking with the kids, etc. Sounds like a healthy approach to me.


One note. You mighty be interested to learn just how far WTC goes to ensure a fair race and compliance with the rules. When the pros exit the swim and race to the transition tent, they are "helped" out of their speed suits by volunteers who then label each suit with their race number. Later, when most of the athletes are well out on their bikes, each suit is inspected to make sure that it follows race guidelines - one was not this year! (And the entrant later disqualified.)  They're pretty serious in Hawaii.


Earn The Right to Win

You've seen Tom Coughlin pacing the sidelines of the New York Giants (I almost wrote NY Football Giants despite the fact that the baseball Giants moved from NY to San Francisco over 50 years ago  - must have been a hard day.)

  Coughlin took over the reins of this franchise in 2004 taking the team to Super Bowl wins in 2007 and 2011.  His book, Earn the Right to Win was published in 2013 and according to Amazon, "He led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl vic­tories with his system of relentless preparation and old-school resilience. He teaches his players that you can never guarantee a win, but you can always earn the right to win—with focus, consistency, hard work, and anticipation of obstacles. And if you’ve earned the right to win, you can sleep soundly before a big game and take the field with confidence."

The lessons Coughlin suggest relate to football easily have a place in triathlon, if not life itself.  I think we can all take a page from the coach.

Coughlin teaches preparation, essential in our equipment related sport.   Just as your coach might say to you, this coach teaches players that while you can never guarantee a win, you can earn the right to win "with focus, consistency, hard work and anticipation of obstacles."  In other words, if you done what's required to earn the right to win, you can sleep soundly before your "A" race, or any race for that matter, and toe the line with confidence. 

I have seen so many in our sport give a half effort...and get a half result in return.  Say this isn't you.  I don't think you need to be a triathlon addict but that your best effort in each workout pays huge dividends!

You must plan, schedule, prepare and work.  You know you can do it.  It's just a matter of commitment.  Are you committed?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Heat Acclimation and Blood Testing by Mail

Blood Testing by Mail.  Will it benefit you?

A number of firms now advertise analysis of an athlete's blood by testing a tube of his/her blood that's been drawn at home and mailed to them.  Good idea?  Bad idea?  Actually it's probably both. But before you put yours in the mailbox down the street, you'd need to realize that some lab values can be way out of whack, but there's nothing wrong with you.  Secondly, there are discussions among health care providers of what normal is for a triathete who exercises 15 or more hours per week.  These vary from those who feel that normal is normal, "Serum potassium levels for humans in 2013 are the same as humans in 1963.  We're still humans, regardless how we work out."  At the other end of the spectrum you'd find what some may label as outliers in the field who assume much tighter ranges for blood values, possibly based on personal experience.  The  draw is that enough values are obtained from the sample you submit including iron, white and red blood counts, various vitamin levels, etc. that one's dietary intake of these elements can be fine tuned with food evaluation and potential supplementation to modify the numbers. The theory would then be that by altering the values, performance improvement would follow.

Laura Jones, in the current issue of Swimmer Magazine presents this issue nicely along with quotes from a friend of mine, cardiothoracic surgeon Lawrence Creswell, an outstanding athlete in his own right.  Creswell takes a middle of the road position noting that there can be benefit from this type of testing, perhaps like the value obtained from bench testing on your bicycle at the local Speed Lab with serial blood draws to determine your lactic threshold.  But he's quick to point out that, "Absent a relationship with a health care provider, it's hard to make good choices about what to do with the information."  One easy example might be a Virginia athlete with a significantly elevated bilirubin level in his blood.  Bilirubin is one of the normal breakdown products of hemoglobin.  An elevated level is associated with virtually no symptoms or significant health problems (other than the fancy name of Gilbert's Syndrome) except perhaps mild jaundice when stressed in some fashion.  But some of the readers may receive an e-mail with their lab values, have this same finding, but know nothing regarding Gilbert's, and worry unnecessarily. The number by itself is meaningless without some level of clinical correlation.  The good news for our hyperbilirubin friends, however, would be a noted decrease in cardiovascular disease! Yea!  

At the end of the day, Dr. Creswell isn't adverse to serum testing but feels that it's only one piece of the pie in caring for an athlete, something that may in some cases be best done by someone who sees athletes as a major part of their practice. These docs are few and far between.  Much has been learned by the scientist athletes among us that we have benefited from over the years.  Should we or shouldn't we salt load, take vitamins including iron, have an advantage by consuming one, two or more of the performance supplements so heavily advertised in the tri literature?  According to Dr. Creswell, just like a Pap smear or colonoscopy, periodic examination of one's blood, say every five years checking lipids and cholesterol, white and red blood cell levels, a metabolic panel, and tests specific to your medical state known best by you and your personal physician, make sense.  It's all part of health maintenance, not simply pointing your shotgun into the air, pulling the trigger and seeing if something falls to the ground.   If it's of interest,  I receive my medical care from a staff internist at our local hospital, a gent without a bent towards sports med.  He's a nice guy, and smart as a whip.  And he tests my blood when we think it needs testing.  I'll bet Dr. Creswell does the same.


Heat Acclimatization

It's been shown time and again that heat acclimatization is crucial to an athlete looking for his/her best performance in a warm environment.  A 2010 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology demonstrated a 6-8% increase in performance by preparing for the heat.  One of the authors, Christopher Minson of the University of Oregon said, "We were surprised by how clear our data were" in support of heat acclimation.

Even if one spends only ten days acclimating prior to an intense effort in a warm location, there is great benefit to be reaped.  According to TrainingBible coach David Warden, "The cruel irony is that the age groupers are more likely to race in heat.  They are more likely to be unable to train in a warm environment, they're slower and often get a start later in the day, all of which combines for a very long day."  In short, Warden points out that "Since training should simulate racing conditions as much as possible, heat acclimation should be considered a part of the annual training plan."  An interesting perspective for sure.

There's a certain concentration of electrolytes in sweat.  Thus, if the non-acclimatized athlete sweats more in the warm environment, they lose more electrolytes.  Over a ten day span, it's been shown that the body can adapt to warmer temps by putting out a more dilute sweat, thus preserving electrolytes.

It's also been demonstrated that there's a higher use of glycogen in the heat as well as increased concentration of lactate.  Both of these can be brunted to a degree by allowing the body to accommodate to the changed warmer surroundings.

Lastly, since the athlete with little to no acclimatization measures has to cool his/her blood through the skin, there's a diminished amount of blood left for propulsion.  This actually increases the heart rate, and can alter one's training zones by a significant amount.

So, the take home message here is to do what you can to get your body prepared for the environment in which you'll be racing.  If you can't get your body to the heat, bring the heat to your body.  In other words, the authors of the above study took a small group of well trained cyclists, put them in a hot chamber (100 degrees F) and instructed them to exercise at 50% of their individual VO2 max for 90 minutes.  They'd work up a sweat but not provide a training effect. After 10 days, the cyclists performed an all out time trial 8% faster than one they did at the study's beginning.

To quote author Christopher Minson,"Of course, anyone attempting a hot taper will have to keep all systems in balance. It won't do any good, Minson notes, if the additional heat stress and sweating leads to dehydration. Also, it's generally agreed that a good taper should include several moderate efforts at or around race pace.  Ideally, the athlete would continue high intensity training in the cool of the day, while doing heat sessions mid-day at an intensity that would not impact their speed work." 

The pay off will be the view of the finish line earlier and ahead of one's competition.  Get hot!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hungry? Are You Sure? Racing Weight Maintenance for Triathlon

Iron Distance Athletes take note:

Susan Casey, in Waves, has a quote about our inability, as humans, to control our environment.  This particular one comes from Merlyn Wright, passenger aboard the doomed ship Oceanos:



Who among you, when the water in your swim gave you a little more chop than you thought you could handle, or a sudden gust of wind on the bike caught you by surprise and blew you a couple feet off course for a moment didn't feel exactly the same way?  Right, me too.


Hawaii 2011-STPT 218

                                                             Snack time coming up


 Babies are born with an amazing skill. They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. This basic principle gives them the ability to almost perfectly regulate their weight and growth. Unfortunately, as we get older, this instinct fades and we gradually lose touch with our hunger clues. We begin to eat not just because we are hungry, but because either consciously or subconsciously we believe the food will make us feel good. Researchers are always looking at ways we may be able to keep our appetites in check. 

Set yourself up for success

Starting with a reasonable portion is a great strategy for both meals and snacks. When presented with larger portions, we sometimes finish them out of habit or expectation, not necessarily because of hunger. Serving yourself reasonable portions and taking your time gives you a chance to reconnect with the feeling of satiation that comes when you've had enough and should stop eating.

Separate what you need from what you want

If you find you absolutely must have that delicious brownie despite the fact that you finished lunch, it isn't because you need the calories.  You could choose a lower calorie sweet choice like some fresh fruit, or you could give in, but with just a small taste of the brownie.  Take a bite sized piece and focus your awareness on enjoying the brownie.  Giving yourself a chance to really enjoy it will give your brain the reward it was looking for without throwing your calories completely off balance.  One athlete I know really likes Oreos and knows that, like the old Lay's Potato Chips slogan, "Bet you can't eat one," referring to the inability to stop at one, he can't stop at eating a single Oreo.  He'll eat a whole tube of them, say 10 while watching tv, and at 55 calories per cookie, that's almost a quarter of his daily calorie requirements in 7 or 8 minutes!  Don't we all face the same challenges every day?

Eliminate thirst as a factor 

This is especially true in triathletes who are chronically dehydrated, particularly this time of year as things are heating up. When taking calories from beverages, it can be easy to confuse thirst and hunger.  Thirst, as you already know, is the need for more water in your body, where hunger should mean a need for more calories.  To make sure you are nor confusing the two, stay well hydrated throughout your day.


Thanks to Fellowship Village Dining Services for this information