Sunday, September 29, 2013

This Guy has held Kona Age Group Records for 12 Straight Years

"This is a Kona course record holder!  What can you learn from him?"

 Famous tri coach Joe Friel, and Bob Scott (R) on Kona pier

One of these guys is the reigning Kona age group course record holder Bob Scott, and he's held two other Hawaii age group records in the past, the other is Joe Friel, the power behind Training Bible Coaching and a host of triathlon related books.  Be sure to check out his two newest books, Triathlon Science and The Power Meter Handbook available on Amazon now.


I first met Bob in 2000 on the plane to Kona.  We had opposite aisle seats.  Bob was wearing white shorts and a white polo shirt.  He looked like some athlete's dad looking for a tennis match. So, stupidly, I asked him what he was going to do once the plane got to the Big Island.  (At least I didn't ask the even stupider, "Going to Hawaii?" since that was the jet's destination.) We talked for the rest of the flight and I learned a good bit on his philosophies of training.

 Once we landed, I lost track of him until about a month later. There was a full page picture in Triathlete Magazine of Bob, the first and only man in the history of Ironman over 70 to go under 13 hours!  In the 12 years that have passed, Bob has continued to train, race and coach. Records have come and gone though he remains the 75-79 Kona record holder.

 I think if you were summarize Bob's training success, he would agree that it comes from consistency in training, a good measure of racing, and especially watching what goes in your mouth.  A big fruit eater, but not a big eater, his e-mail handle is teamscot.  I've trained with him a number of times and when we return to his home there's always an enormous plate of freshly cut fruit courtesy of his lovely wife Wanda.  One of the major lessons taught on the NBC TV reality show The Biggest Loser is portion control, and Bob epitomizes it.  This is no more true that in Kona when we're at Lava Java where the servings are generous and the food tasty.  He possesses the ability to NOT "clean his plate" as your Mom might have wanted .  I doubt most of us, this author included, can say the same. But it's just one of the things you can pick up from being with this gent.

 As for racing, in prepping for "the big dance" in Hawaii, a typical season will find at least 3 half IM's on his schedule and a smattering of other events.  He used to run Boston every year just because he liked it.  So, a qualifier marathon had to fit in the training schedule some place.  Meticulous care of his health is the norm. Ten years ago, a tad of chest pain led to his riding his bike to his doctors and the diagnosis of a small MI.  Told he'd need a cardiac cath(NOW), Bob was more than a little miffed that he also couldn't ride his bike to the hospital cath lab.

 Before he retired, it was not uncommon for him to get up at 2:30, yep that's 2:30 am, to get one of the longer workouts in before heading to the office.  Again I would point out that I doubt most of us, once again the author included, can say the same.

 In short, it's an unshakable commitment to training and the sport, fierce dietary control, winning the genetic lottery, health maintenance and a bit of luck that gets you to Kona.  I dare say that Bob and the other men and women who make it to the Big Island have a deep inner strength, a level of determination so to speak, in which they demand success from themselves.  And they get it.


Smiling, but always thinking of the task at hand on race day.  Always!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thinking Quit Mid Race? Here's How to Get Past It

In 2005, Michellie Jones made her foray into long distance triathlon by competing in her first race in Kona.  She had previously established herself as a world power in the shorter races and felt confident that she could do the same at the iron distance.  She was almost right.  Coming out of T2 with a 5 minute lead over multiple World Championship winner Natascha Badmann, Jones, respected for her running ability, was able to hold off the charging Badmann...for awhile. Sadly for her, Michellie was passed in the late stages of the marathon to lose by only two minutes over the difficult 140.6 mile Hawaii course.

October hawaii '07 188

 Michellie Jones Heads Out on the Bike


I've watched this race several times and there were a number of really tough spots for her on the run where many of us would have simply dropped out or at the very least walked to the finish line for 10,000th place.  But she didn't.  A year later I asked her why.  She said, "I just have to take it one mile at a time, think right now.  How do I get through right now."?

We all have to have a way, when the race gets tougher than we think we can handle, to be able to fight back.  

This has to be something more than tired slogans on high school gym walls like, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."  Haven't you thought, more than once I'm afraid, "Uh huh, right, I think I'll walk thank you very much!"  And you do.  Or worse, you quit.

Sports Psychologist Dr. Kieth Bell, in his book The Nuts and Bolts of Psychology for Swimmers, tells us "not to put our ego on the line."  He continues saying that our anxiety over not finishing what we started off doing stems "from the prospect of not doing well, equating yourself with your if how well you {compete} somehow determines how good a person you are."  He demands that we focus on the race, the job at hand, not the results.  You can't do anything about the results except control your race.

Sport psychology consultant Cheryl Hart takes this a step further.  When you're suffering, and thoughts of DNF start to enter your mind, 

"Remember why you signed up for this race to begin with?"

In other words, "What do you stand to gain if you accomplish your goal and what do you stand to lose if you don't achieve it?"  This is a very personal thing.  While some race for a cause and some for family, it's personal:


 It's personal

 The answer to the question why must be firmly implanted in your brain well before the gun blast signals the swim start and provides each of us "motivational fuel."  Dr. Hart tells us that this should include a vivid picture of how success will look and feel including the meaning attached.

So, like Michellie Jones when struggling to run, with the World Champion on her heels, we need to stay in the moment, not "fast-forwarding to the finish line (outcome and ego based) but focusing on the process taking one step at a time.  The race seems less daunting if it's broken down into manageable increments."

I wrote a blog on fluid management a while back and mentioned one year in Hawaii, when I was very far behind on fluid management, I knew it was sit down or fall down time for me.  (I sat down at an aid station.  For a right good while, actually.) We all have these low points, all of us, some more dramatic than others.  But, if like Michellie after finishing 2nd in 2005, you learn from it, also like Michellie, who came back in 2006 to win in convincing style despite incredible winds on the bike, you can remember why you're here. You've heard the "Be like Mike" commercials with Michael Jordan.  I'm asking you to "Be like Michellie," having a vivid picture of how success will look and feel!  You, too, can overcome a mind telling you that you can't do this.  You can!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How Do You Pick a Sports Doc?

Bill Vollmar, MD perfect sports doc

"Son can you play me a melody, I'm not really sure how it goes. But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete when I wore a younger man's clothes." Billy Joel

So you didn't used get injured and now you might need to seek medical help? The tri literature seems to have a number ways for you to get medical help. But mostly the articles are written by non-physicians.  Here's my two cents on how best to accomplish this process.

Triathletes are what's known in MBA circles as early adopters. They'll try things (anything? Compression socks...Biestmilch...dimpled aero wheels, deer antler spray?) often with minimal proof/history that the new product/technique is actually beneficial, but it might be. On the Slowtwitch site for example, when one forum poster complains of a musculoskeletal problem, invariably one of the "expert" responders notes the obvious need for ART (Active Release) and all will be well. Hmm, ART is very helpful in the right setting but the nearest practitioner to my house according to the ART website is an hour and a half away! So maybe we have to have more arrows in our quiver.

The photo above is of Bill Vollmar, MD, seemingly "only" a Family Practitioner from Lancaster, PA and some would say might have trouble spelling triathlon. But he is whip-saw smart, takes care of almost exclusively athletes, and since unlike me he's not a surgeon.  So he'd most likely have a non-surgical solution to almost any injury if it's feasible. Only as a last resort would he consider involving someone who might want to cut on you! And, he is so good that I would be happy to have him provide my medical care and that of my entire family. And lord knows I've had my share of musculoskeletal problems - compartment syndrome, plantar faciitis, achilles tendonitis, rotator cuff tear, I could on. The take home point is that, at least for many of us, we don't have to drive hours to the Pro from Dover with the treadmill and the infra red set up for a good portion of our medical needs, we just need to know what's available locally. In fact, like many locations, the go to guy here for most running induced issues is the owner of the running shoe store. With 30 years of seeing runners problems he could take care of the Olympic team! And I'll bet there are examples of this in your community, say the kids swim coach who's been working on swim stroke technique for decades.  Many of the Physical Therapists in our community are incredibly bright and can be of significant assistance as well.

In Joe Friel and Jim Vance's book Triathlon Science, I advance the concept of having an injury resource team.  The "Seasoned triathlete has a stable of resources, much like a golf bag full of clubs.  The appropriate resource is chosen for the appropriate shot."  In addition to the above doc, PT, running shoe store guru, you'd include your family doc and local bike shop when needed.  And, as it points out in the book, if you've at least made an attempt to identify these folks before you need them it can cut down on time lost training due to injury.  If you haven't read the book, it's a nice resource to have on the bookshelf at home when a question arises.

 So, don't be embarrassed to ask around to see what's available or who's available, for your specific problem. Help could be right around the corner...and his name might be Bill Vollmar*.

*203 Commerce Drive, Suite G, Quarryville, PA 17566


Sunday, September 15, 2013

No, Don't Let Air From Bike Tires, Ever


Should You Change Your
Bike’s Tire Pressure?  Flying?  At Races?  Lower The Pressure Before Kona So They Don't Explode?

 The author examines the conundrum surrounding suggestions of tire pressure alteration in the low pressure environment of modern jet travel or at bike check in locales where the “afternoon sun will get the tires so hot they’ll burst.”
Hawaii 2011-STPT 200




“Sir, you’d better take some air out those tires if you rack
your bike early,” is heard frequently at venues like Kona, Hawaii for fear that
one’s expensive tires may spontaneously explode.  Or, more worrisome, that they may blow up and
damage one’s even more expensive race wheels. 
Also heard at bike shops across the country, the time honored advice
that reducing the air in one’s tires will reduce the potential of having them
detonate in the reduced atmospheric pressure of that jet en route to your race


I was first confronted with this issue at Ironman
Hawaii.  My local bike shop had taught me
their philosophy years before and in my experience I had no reason to doubt
them.  Inflate tires at purchase and
“leave ‘em”, except to perhaps add air from time to time to correct for
leakage.  These guys raced a lot, all
over the country, and in a tradition that works well in triathlon, if it works
for them it will work for me.  But here I
am 6,000 miles from home, in what is likely the most important athletic event
of my life, being advised to change my behavior or suffer dire
consequences.  Yep, dire
.  By a volunteer no
less.  And it seems to make sense.   Sort of. 
What, if anything, should I do?


Well does it make sense? 
No, not really.  I sought help from two University of Virginia sources, recent Phd in Chemistry Dr. Scott Donald, and almost finished Phd in Material Science and Engineering Cortney Crane.   They told me to think back
to high school chemistry class.  If I were were paying attention (nope, I
guess not), or that I might remember that there are relationships between the
temperature and pressure of a gas explained by Boyle’s and Charles’s laws.  Basically they’re proportional.  In other words, as temperature rises so does
pressure but it’s the amount of change that concerns us.  How much does the temperature have to go up
before the tire goes kaplooey?  We know
that bike tires like many other aspects of our lives are regulated and have to
meet a standard.  That standard is blow
off pressure, the force required to blow a tire off it’s rim. If the tire is
Japanese made it’s governed by the J.I.S., the Japanese Industrial Standard.  If it’s from Germany, the D.I.N., etc.   This standard is typically double the
recommended maximum inflation pressure. 
It tells you that the manufacturer will test an adequate number tires,
correctly mounted on recommended rims, inflated to double the maximum printed
on the tire itself, and the test tires won’t explode.  If we can figure out the temperature needed
to raise the tire on your bike to that pressure and stay below it, we’re


Here’s where it gets complicated and some of you might want
to skim to the next paragraph.  Beginning
with the equation of the ideal gas law, pV=nRT, where p is the pressure of the
gas, V is the volume occupied by the gas, n is the absolute quantity of gas
present, R is the universal gas constant, and T is the temperature of the gas,
if we constrain the system of interest to have a constant n and V, the ideal
law can be redefined and we are able to compare the impact of a change in
temperature on pressure. I’ll be happy to share the calculations but suffice it
to say that if we assume a 70 degree day when we rack the bike, and tires set
at 110 psi, we calculate the temperature needed to bring the tire to 220 psi,
the blow off rating.  Still awake?


The answer is…..536.993
degrees Fahrenheit
, an unreachable result. That value is, of course, above
the auto-ignition points of both gasoline and paper, and there are greater
issues at hand if it is reached!  Or, as Dr. Donald pointed out,
“based on these values, it is unlikely the required temperature will be reached
under the conditions of ambient sunlight.” 
An understatement if there ever were one.


There might be compelling reasons not to mess with your
tires at the race, however.  The
relationship between a wheel, tube and tire is a complex one.  I’ve been in T1 more than 30 times for Iron
distance races and the biggest thing people fool with is their tires.  Some folks know a lot less about their
equipment than others and when there’s a misstep in this process they’re
lost.  We’ve all seen more than one racer
come unglued in this situation. If the competitor has relatively new tires, has
broken them in at home and is satisfied with their performance, does
deflating/inflating them change their relationship with the wheel?  Does this action allow even the smallest
portion of the tube to get stuck between the tire bead and wheel leading to a
predictable outcome once re-pressurized? 
According to Scott Paisley, owner of Blue Wheel Bike and Virginia
Masters State Champion, regardless of flying or environmental temps, the only
reason to ever reduce tire pressure
is when packing the bike for shipment, “And it won’t fit into the box.”

 So, when you say “Well I got my information from the
Internet, it must be right” or you see the viral Jeff Gordon video on line ( and wonder if it’s real – it’s not
by the way – and the net tells you that you need to be conscious of the late day sun
cooking your tires into an explosion, it doesn’t hold air.

Many thanks to Dr. Donald and (almost) Dr. Crane.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Most Common Fracture in a Fall Off Your Bike?

"I felt so good, like anything was possible."  Tom Petty

Hawaii 2011-STPT 308

 We hear and read a good deal about broken collar bones be it from the Tour de France announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen describing a crash in the peleton to perhaps one of our kids Saturday soccer games.

 The clavicle is the first bone in the body to ossify and among the most commonly fractured, particularly in children. It can be fractured via several mechanisms including the classical fall on an outstretched arm as well as striking the point of the shoulder. It's not uncommon to also suffer rib, scapula and/or simultaneous cervical spine fractures and is seen repeatedly in cyclists.

 Frequently a patient will tell me they actually heard the bone crack when the fracture occurred. This injury can be confused with an AC separation, a rupture of the ligaments at the end of the clavicle. They're treated differently.

 Displaced fractures are pretty easy to diagnose as the whole shoulder seems to fall forward and the patient describes a crunchy sound/feel. Xrays will define the specifics of the break and help guide treatment options. One also checks carefully for any accompanying nerve or vascular damage.

 For non-displaced fractures, immobilization without surgery has been the norm and usually gives good results in a short period of time. The athlete can ride the stationery bike indoor as pain permits (but not outdoors - there's no value in copying Tyler Hamilton - TdF 2003) and should be back astride the bike by 5-6 weeks post injury. When the fracture is displaced, consideration of surgery to achieve the best long term outcome is undertaken.   In the not too distant past, collar bone surgery was considered both unnecessary as well as unwise. The old adage of "if both ends of the fracture are in the same room it will heal."  Well, while a little silly, for the most part it's true.  But definitely not always.  In many displaced fractures of the midshaft of the clavicle, the separation is so great that a non-union (lack of healing) may develop or the fractures heals with a noticeable deformity (malunion.)  While frequently this is not a functional issue, anytime a male athlete is shirtless or female athlete clothed in a shoulder exposing garment like spaghetti straps, the appearance can be strikingly asymmetric.

 According to a study in the 2012 Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery where a systematic search of the literature was performed on operative vs nonoperative care of displaced clavicle fractures, there can be a role for surgery in a higher percentage of patients than previously thought.  Their conclusions were, "Operative treatment provided a significantly lower rate of nonunion...and an earlier functional return when compared with nonoperative treatment.  However, there is little evidence at present to show that the long term functional outcome of operative intervention is significantly superior to nonoperative care."

 What does this mean to you?  Well, that there's still a significant role for not having an operation when you break your clavicle for one.  In fact, three quarters of the time, a completely displaced clavicle fracture treated with out surgery will heal with few, if any, long term consequences . However, "It is clear that there is a specific subset of individuals with a completely displaced midshaft clavicle fracture who will benefit from fixation."  This is especially true in the early period after the injury.  They will likely see  more rapid return to function, a decreased complication rate (particularly with regard to the serious negative out come of nonunion.)

 Lance Armstrong and Frank Schleck are two good examples of success with surgery in this setting.  But simply because a professional bike racer makes a certain choice when given a set of facts, you don't necessarily have to do the same.  Although a very successful ad campaign in the early 90's would have you "Be like Mike" referring to Michael Jordan, you have the wisdom to make up your own mind.  Hey, you're a triathlete!

 So, should you find yourself with a displaced mid shaft clavicle fracture, sitting on a gurney in your ER waiting to talk with the Orthopedic surgeon on call, this may help you make the decision to go for a simple sling or the potential for repair.

 JBJS Vol.94-A No. 8

Sunday, September 1, 2013

You're Going to Kill Someone!

This was first on the net about two months ago from Albert McWilliams and has been reblogged.  Since the topic is important, and it's cleverly written, I'll present it to you.

You’re Going to Kill Someone

If you keep driving like that, you’re going to kill a cyclist. When you do, it’s going to suck as much for you as it does for them. When you drive by my head at 50 mph I can’t have this conversation with you, so I’m going to do you a favor and talk you through all of your arguments as to why you’re driving wrong (you are) and then you won’t end up killing a human. So read on; you’re welcome.

 It’s not if it’s when. You are going to kill or seriously injure someone. You are.Someone’s father, brother, mother, daughter - you are going to end their life, forever, like permanently dead. You’ll be a murderer.

 You can save those lives. You need to do two things:

  1. Slow down.

  2. Move over.

A few facts you might not be aware of:

  • When you pass a cyclist without crossing the yellow line you are breaking the law.

  • When you pass a cyclist while oncoming traffic is present you are breaking the law.

  • When you pass a cyclist in a no-passing zone you are breaking the law (this should be obvious yes? Because it’s called a “no passing zone.”)

This law wasn’t made up because the state hates you, or cars, or getting places quickly. This law was enacted because squeezing by a cyclist in the same lane is incredibly dangerous – to the cyclist. It’s not dangerous to you, unless you don’t like jail, or fines, or being a murderer.


“But, I have places to go and people to do! You’re in my way! Too slow!”

Okay, great, I appreciate your sacrifice. Let’s look at the math. This is math mind you and not subject to opinion. I’ll be generous and assume you’re on a 45mph speed limit road (most cycling takes place on much slower roads, but I’m in a giving mood, because I care about you). When I ride I’m traveling around 20mph. So you’re going 25mph faster than me, or about 55% faster. Again, being generous, you might be stuck behind a cyclist for 8 seconds. Usually much, much less. I know it seems like a long time, but it’s not. It’s 8 seconds. That’s with heavy oncoming traffic. However, you’re not stopped for that time, you’re traveling at 20mph. This means that slowing down, waiting for traffic to clear and passing the cyclist safely costs you about four seconds… max. Do you want to risk my life (permanently) and you being a murderer (forever) for four seconds? Really?

 “But, you ride too far out in the lane, you’re supposed to ride single file, all the way to the right. You’re an asshole!”

Legally, you’re wrong (in Michigan at least). Let’s leave the law out of this though. Go ahead and see above and know that I’d rather you be annoyed than me be dead. You’d rather that too, because this way you don’t have to go home and tell your kids they can’t have a swimming pool because you paralyzed a cyclist from the waist down. Riding further out in the lane forcesyou to slow down and wait for traffic to clear to pass me. You’re less likely to hit me on purpose than because you drive like an inconsiderate fool.

 “But, I pay taxes/registration fees/gas tax.”

This one is really dumb. See, you pay usage fees because your heavy-ass car destroys the road. Guess what, bikes don’t wear out roads like cars do. And guess what else (this is going to blow your mind) nearly everyone you’ve ever passed on a bike also has a car, and registration fees, and gas taxes (crazy huh!). However, I use my car less and cause less than my share of wear on said road than I pay for. You see where I’m going with this? You should take this argument and hope no one ever hears it because it works against you.

 “But, Cyclists disobey laws all the time, they run red lights and stuff, so screw them!”

Yes, I do. I ride my bike safely. The rules say I’m supposed to pretend that I’m a car, but see, that’s dangerous if I’m the only one obeying that rule. I’m pretending I’m a car, and you think I’m a bike, and you run over me and kill me with your car. This is bad for both of us. So, the minute you treat me like a car, I’ll start acting like one. In the meantime the difference between when you break the law and when I do is that you’re endangering my life, and I’m endangering your … wiper blades? Maybe? Probably not even that.

 “But, I live in Ann Arbor and Bike Lanes! Fix our roads first! Uppity Cyclists! I pay for this stuff and I hate you! Bikes slow my commute! Get them off the road!”

Here’s the thing. You’re being shortsighted. Imagine if all those people on bikes that you hate commuted downtown one-per-car. What would that do to your commute? What would that do to your parking availability downtown? What would those additional heavy cars do the pavement condition (remember that my bike doesn’t wear the road at all) ? I’ll give you a hint … you’re a lot better off with the cyclists. They’re doing you a favor. They’re saving you money. They’re paying the same as you for that road, but using it less. You should be thanking them. You should be handing me a cupcake through the window.

 “But you’re wrong!”

Nope. I’m not. Who do you think knows more about cycling, the guy on the bike or the guy in the car?

 So to wrap it up:

Slow down.

Move over.

And stop texting.

This way, I won’t be dead, and you won’t be a murderer.

You’re Welcome.