Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What They Changed After Their First Race

Americans Pretty Much Only Stop Eating When They're Sleeping  (see below)

I was cleaning out the basement recently after having a wedding in our home for one of our kids. Everyone had fun but it's pretty hard to overestimate the amount of work that goes into squeezing 86 people into your house.  One very kind neighbor down the street even let guests park in his front yard.

I found the Q&A below in a 2011 USAT Magazine but feel it informative enough that I thought I'd share it.  I think you'll find it refreshing as well.

The Big Question: if you could go back and change one thing about your first multisport race, what would it be?

I would learn how to un-clip from my bike, so I wouldn't fall over and take down the entire transition fence...pre-race.  A. S. Atlanta, GA

I would not wear my mesh running shorts and non moisture-wicking shirt underneath my wet suit.  After all, soaking up water like a sponge while flailing/swimming like an injured seal isn't much fun. Not to mention that my first race was the Chicago Triathlon.  J.S. Chicago, IL

Bring the correct tool to take my back tire off.  Ran 6 miles with my bike.  T.A. San Antonio, TX

Actually go for a swim in the ocean before the day of the race for my first triathlon. Boy, that was a surprise. Salt! Waves! People! Feet! No wall to push off! Pfew, it was rough. A.A. St. Petersburg, FL

Lost my timing chip and did not realize it until a buddy pointed it out 5 minutes before the gun. Ran back to the transition area, rifled through all my meticulously placed items - gone. Would I be allowed to race?  Sprinted back to swim "Start" and dived in. Found the timing chip under my bed at home AFTER the race.  J.E. Portage, MI

I wish I would have practiced running after riding my bike.  Needless to say I quickly learned why they call it a brick - my legs were as heavy as bricks.  I puked 4 times.  I was a mess. N.W. Locust Grove, VA

I would not have worn a Speedo.  It was like Dave.  G. W. Portland, OR

I wouldn't change a thing. The feeling I experienced when I crossed the finish line in my first triathlon is what got me addicted to the sport. Always been a cyclist. Hated running and now love it. Never could swim farther than 25 meters without stopping. now I can swim over a mile. Life-changing!   M.O. Mahomet, IL

USA Triathlon Fall 2011

There's so much information in print or on the web, I wonder if these authors had read some of the basic triathlon literature they wouldn't have made some of these errors.  On the other hand, what better way to learn something than to screw it up?   If a bit of pain or a little inconvenience is part of the lesson.  It will be burned in one's brain forever.  I think if you get out there, race, put it on the line, that each time you toe the start line you're just a little more experienced. Or like these people, a lot more experienced.  Before long you'll be the one writing the blogs!

With 2016 coming up next week, do you already have a plan in mind where appetite control is considered?  I read recently that Americans no longer eat three meals a day. In a piece by Melissa Dahl, Science of Us in NYMagazine,  ,  "Like a bunch of power Instagram users, the volunteers were instructed to snap a smartphone photo of every single thing they consumed throughout the day.   They did this for three weeks.  Each photo came with a time stamp, allowing researchers to figure out when they were eating - which, according to each individual's photos, was practically all the time.

Dahl notes: "When analyzing the eating patterns, the researchers couldn't pick out defined breakfast, lunch and dinner times for most participants.  People started eating about 1.5 hours after waking up and finished a couple hours before bedtime with no discernible breaks in between, the researchers found.  About 25 percent of calories were eaten before noon, and 35 percent consumed after 6 p.m."

 The temptation to graze all day is pretty strong at at our house and likely yours too.  Empty calories from too much alcohol, Aunt Mary pushing a third piece of pecan pie, that plate piled high with homemade chocolate chip cookies (any idea how many calories are in just one?*), plenty of snack food as you watch Green Bay and Detroit or the Fins take on the Cowboys in the late game. Just remind yourself, if Matt Fitzgerald, author of Racing Weight (and How Bad Do You Want It? - terrifically written and great birthday present to anyone who "tri's") was sitting at the table next to you, how hard would he tell you your next work out would have to be to cancel out what's going in your mouth right now?

"A minute on the lips, a lifetime......"

*Calories in one chocolate chip cookie varies widely from as low as 55 to over 200, with 8 grams of fat, for ones that are homemade with real butter.  Yum.  Just one cookie!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ironman Good Samaritan

Ok, Judge Judy's left the room for a short conference (Most likely in the rest room) so there's time for a short blog.

Ironman Legacy Athletes - You might not be aware but Ironman has a program for those athletes who've raced 12 or more branded IM races but never been to Kona.  There are more of these folks out there than you might imagine vying for the 100 available slots.  This is the story of one of those lucky Ironmen who got to the Big Island this year.

One Kona qualifier's brush with a triathlon Good Samaritan.

About 15 years ago, Dr. Dennis Killian, a cardiologist from suburban Chicago, went part-time in medicine. "It was the year 2000 and I decided I needed a new hobby," he says. One such hobby was marathon running, and he would go on to complete one in each of the 50 states. Even all that right, left, right, left, however, couldn’t fill his newfound vacation time and free weekends, so he took swim lessons. Some years later he contacted a coach to refine his technique and took on his first sprint triathlon in 2005.

Not surprisingly, the doctor quickly moved up, choosing the 2006 Ironman 70.3 Steelhead in Benton Harbor, Mich. as the site of his debut at long-course. It definitely did not go as planned. After a 43-minute swim, he was cruising on the bike passing others in his age group until an untimely bike crash led to a displaced clavicle fracture and a trip to the operating room. These were times when many of the 70.3 events had qualifying spots in Kona.

"I was swapping the age group lead with a guy I knew. I’d pass him, he’d pass me," he recalls. "The next thing I remembered was waking up in the back of an ambulance. I’d obviously had a concussion, but didn’t know any of the details of my accident."

Killian reports that he normally doesn’t spend much time on Slowtwitch, but that he did after Steelhead. "I wanted to see if anyone had seen the crash and could help me sort out the details because everything was so foggy." What he found was something out of Hollywood. One forum contributor had seen the crash and reported that the guy who was trying to beat Killian, instead of continuing the race, stopped and helped Killian to safety. Then he stayed with Killian until the ambulance arrived, ruining any chances he might have had at taking the Kona slot.

Also of note, Killian had been signed up for Ironman Wisconsin which would have been his first Ironman race. He would go on to do that race six times, as well as Texas, Louisville, Coeur d'Alene, Lake Placid, Boulder, and Austria—with one more broken clavicle and a broken wrist.

Fast forward a couple years. "The guy" from Steelhead did ultimately qualify for Hawaii. "He even mailed me a coffee cup from the Big Island!" Killian says. Now, with the shoe on the other foot, what do think the first thing Killian planed to purchase at the Ironman Store when he hit the ground in Kona? I wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t a 2015 Ironman coffee cup with a pound or two of locally grown Kona coffee ... just because.

Originally from:

Monday, December 21, 2015

"The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway" - Cold Fingers, Raynauds Syndrome, Winter Biking

"The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway."


One of the things on your off season to do list during might be get a neutral bike fit by a pro who doesn't benefit if you buy a new bike or aero bars.  This is John Cobb*, arguably one of the best fitters ever, shown here helping a masters athlete customize his bike fit.  This racer had very specific requests with regard to arm placement and potential positional back pain. This Cobb fit was most definitely worth his money.


The Navy SEALs say "there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear." Overcoming Cold Fingers and Toes While Winter Riding

I cover this topic each year as new readers sign on.  Here's what you need to know for the upcoming 2016.

Although it’s the end December, and because of somewhat unusual weather patterns, we in Virginia have yet to see our first snow of the year. I think it’s a good time to start this year’s discussion of cold fingers, cold toes, and Raynaud’s Syndrome in some cases.

 Raynaud's is pretty common. Many athletes write to me and without knowing what they're describing, will have Raynaud's as an isolated phenomenon.  In others, it accompanies a more global process. Those affected will have more issues in cold conditions than warm, their fingers will have decreased sensation and often turn white, almost snow white.  As often as not there will also be a numb sensationin the digits as well.  Physiologically, what's going on is a spasming of the small arteries in the fingers, often when cold or even just cool. About 5% of all men, women 8%, have Raynaud's and it can affect ears, toes, and even your nose.

When rewarmed by being placed in modestly warm water for 2 or 3 minutes, or down your pants while running or riding - the closest source of warmth - the digits turn every shade of red and purple you can imagine before simply settling on only mildly red. In a few minutes, as the fingers begin to warm, they can also turn blue then a purple-red with a "pins and needles" feeling before they normalize. This whole process can take from just a few minutes to an hour and can be quickened by immersing ones hands in warm water as noted above.   Women seem to get this more than men, often in the 2nd to 4th decade of life. There are medical answers to this, and medicines to avoid, which might increase the frequency of attacks. Once warm, daily tasks like starting a car or typing become easy.

 If you want to document this, next time it occurs, start taking pictures with your cell phone, and save them for your health care provider. You will be asked about a family history of certain kinds of arthritis, bowel disease and the like. You may find that your complaints are the same (or different) but it's a good starting place.

 My sister and I both have this diagnosis to a greater or lesser degree and I think I'm the biggest local purchaser of chemical hand warmers at our local backpacking store. But, I ride outdoors all year unless there's snow or ice on the road. It was 27 degrees on yesterday's MTB adventure and my Raynaud's just wasn't a factor.  Outdoor swimming in Fall or Spring, however, can present a certain challenge!  Fortunately most triathletes avoid outdoor swimming unless at gun point and the thought of cold water drives them positively - well, indoors!

 That said, I've been symptomatic from this for over 30 years, my Mom longer, so it's easy to follow long term. And mostly we just live with it. As mentioned, I use chemical hand and foot warmers biking in the winter, and when it's below freezing I have some Sidi rechargeable warming inserts for my winter biking boots (they're not cheap and don’t work all that well - read don't waste your money. There may be improved rechargeable warming shoe inserts of which I am not aware.  Let me know!)  Neoprene bike shoe covers, either just the toes to block the wind, or full booties can be useful.  Ultimately, like anything in triathlon training, it's all just a matter of preparation.  So, welcome to the world of winter riding/running and possibly Raynauds Syndrome. It's an inconvenience but not much more.

 A number of readers have had excellent posts about how to solve the cold hands problem that can accompany winter riding. Excellent suggestions have come forth about a variety of different types of gloves/mittens/socks, chemical hand warmers, etc. Some athletes have simply chosen to ride indoors until the bloom of Spring and give those Computrainers a work out. If, however, you want to stay outside all winter, depending upon your climate, some alterations may be in order to remain comfortable.

 All it takes is a little trial and error. Well, maybe a lot of trial and error. I'd suggest you start by putting a thermometer outside your window to get an accurate temperature before you venture out. It's better than the Weather Channel as you may live a real distance from where they get their measurements. Then, get an idea of what gloves, layering of gloves, mittens and layering/lining of mittens you need at 50 - 55 degrees, 40 - 45 degrees, etc. If your mittens are so bulky that you may lose control of the bike, figure out something else. 

A reader from last year noted that the important thing was not to layer each digit as you might do with shirts and coats, but to provide a “den” for the fingers. Mittens, more than a single layer, with touching digits and some type of warmer seemed best for him. One thing that many over look is a product called Bar Mitts (they also have Mountain Mitts for your mountain bike.) These are sleeve-like neoprene that fit right over your handle bars and block cold, rain and snow...not that you'll be riding outdoors on 25 mm tires in the snow. I hope. You don't even need very thick gloves to stay toasty. I'll admit that they may look a little dorky but the bike group conversation will quickly move on to something else and you keep your hands warm. I'll attach a couple pictures from a local riders bike.

Or on your Tri bike:

 One follower offered  "I've found disposable hand warmers to be essential for winter running -- I start using them when the temperature drops below 50. For running races, I wear thin gloves, then hand warmers, and then socks over both. If I heat up too much in the race, I can toss the socks or even the hand warmers."

So don't let the cold alter your training plan, it doesn't stop the SEALs for sure.

                                                                                                                                Mike Krzyzewski


Thursday, December 17, 2015

All That Glitters (On That Bike) is Not Gold

"I met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola.                                         Lola, the Kinks


It's easy to be swayed by colorful magazine ads advertising "cheap speed" or drooling over the sexy bike next to you in transition at last Sunday's race which probably cost double yours.) Even more? 

Nothing in life is free.  But then no one says you need to overpay for what you need.  The operative word being need. I've been in this sport long enough to know that it is falling off a log easy to spend, or should I be using the term overspend, on the toys we use.  And it's a sport, right?  Immediately I can think back on two bike-related episodes where I thought with my heart and completely bypassed my brain.  My wallet turned out to be the victim.  

You need to know that I've never been what you'd call fast in long course racing.  I can podium in sprint tris, even win the age group on occasion.  But that's more a function of both the numbers and who shows up on any given day.  The bike is my weakest leg.  Always has been.  So a few years ago, when I needed a new bike, what I should have done was do my homework, discuss it with the pros at my local bike shop who both race, and buy something appropriate for an athlete of my ability from them.  Perhaps spend the money saved from purchasing something more expensive on a vacation with my wife who puts up with my heading to swim team at 5:15 am 4 days a week.  But that pathway wasn't cool enough. Sexy enough.  Didn't radiate the image that I was some kind of hot dog biker in the tri world.  It wasn't what the athletes at the big kids table were riding.

So I went with the high priced custom bike, lighter than a Spring breeze. It made me feel good every time I walked through bike inspection at a local race or in the Sunday bike group.

But did it help me?  Did it make make me 5% faster to justify the expense?  Nope. Probably helped a little in that the technology was a decade more advanced that the steed it replaced. But not much more than that.  You get the picture.  The new bike had the same "engine" as the old one.

The second ego-driven mistake was wanting a bike fit in Boulder, CO.  But I live in Virginia.  Are you sitting down for this one?  Wanting to minimize time in CO, I shipped my bike to the LBS in Boulder a few days in advance of the appointment and they reassembled it.  On the day of the fit, I got out of the sack at 2:30 am, drove to the Washington-Dulles Airport for the first flight out heading to Denver around 6 am. I left my car in hourly, that's right, hourly parking knowing I'd be back before long.  We took off on time, but unfortunately, about half way to the Centennial state, the  pilot came on the radio to inform us that Denver was fogged in.   We'd have to land temporarily in Boise to wait for the fog to lift.  My first thought was that I would be late for the fit but we were only on the ground in Idaho for an hour so it wasn't too bad. 

We continued to Denver where I picked up my rent-a-car, drove to Boulder, found the bike shop and retrieved my bike.  The site of the fit wasn't far away luckily so I wasn't overly tardy. The fit team was exceptionally nice, did fine work, and even volunteered to ferry my bike back to the shop so I wouldn't miss the return flight to DC.  Now it's everything in reverse. Drive to the Denver airport with a couple minutes to spare.  Time enough get my first food of the day - a terrific burrito actually. Fly back to the east coast, find my Jeep in hourly parking and drive the 2+ hours home.  I was in my own bed before midnight. Whew!  All in one day.

And did it make me faster?  Maybe.  Even though it was a good fit, I probably could have had a similar result in my home state.  Perhaps even in my own home town.  Think of the savings that way.  Duh.

So, even as noted in the classic New Yorker cartoon above, "Lassie get help," help for our triathlon goals can come in many ways, but the most expensive way isn't always the best way.  If they describe owning a boat as "pouring money through a hole in the ocean" perhaps the above tri behavior was pouring money "through a hole in the asphalt."

Maybe there's an even better place for you to spend that money.  Those of you who've read this blog previously know that I'm a fan of having a coach. At least 57% of the athletes who've qualified for Kona have a coach.  Maybe instead of the above two extravaganzas, you could heed the words of pro triathlete Jesse Thomas when he gets asked:

“What’s the best investment you can make to become a better triathlete?” And much to their shocked surprise, my answer isn’t a Dimond superbike, a Pearl Izumi speedsuit or even a Picky Bar, though each of those things is clearly a remarkable investment. The best investment you can make is hiring a coach. A good coach will make a far bigger difference in how fast you finish than any piece of equipment, nutrition or even shaving your legs. (I know—amazing.)


Like the classic book by Lance Armstrong, it may not be about the bike.  Spend your money wisely.  They don't give it way down in Old Soho.

Cartoon: New Yorker, 5/8/89

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rash Decisions, Contact With the Road

"You want to know what it's like to crash on one of these bikes? Get in your car, strip down to your underwear, and jump out at 40 miles per hour!" Jonathan Vaughters

There are two groups of riders: those who have crashed and those who will crash. You look at what used to be your skin, only now red, raw, and painful. Frequently, if you were really lucky, this is just a scrape, a superficial abrasion - a strawberry - like you had falling on the basketball court.  But for some reason we don't seem to be that lucky at the speed we ride.

Now what? First, this is why I carry a water bottle - sometimes to drink from but mostly for hygienic reasons...washing off road rash to try to diminish the chance of infection or leaving a permanent mark on the skin. Once you're back home, a mild soap and water cleansing, likely in the shower, goes a long way.  Cover with a light dressing and bacitracin to keep the skin from drying out, and figure out when your last tetanus shot was (normally given every ten years but if there's been a "dirty" injury, and it's been greater than 5 years, get a booster shot).

I crashed a couple years ago while riding with Carl Frishkorn - father of Tour de France rider Will.  Carl was more prepared than a Boy Scout and ER nurse put together. He helped me cleanse and dress the wounds, even had both Tylenol and Advil for the pain (injured person's choice naturally), and some Benadryl for the unexpected allergic reactions. I now carry all of these items in my fanny pack on every ride - thanks, Carl.

How about when the wound is a puncture, or deeper and possibly in need of sutures? You're taught as an intern that when people think they need to be sewn up, they're usually right. But, if this is the case, you'd want to proceed to your urgent care facility with modest haste as should there be a delay in wound closure, it can increase the potential for delayed infection as bacteria become entrapped. Very infrequently when the wounds occur in the hands or other joints there can be a fracture or joint penetration. (One of the men in my bike group actually broke his acetabulum - hip socket) this way earlier this year riding his mountain bike with his sons on the Colorado ski slopes and now owns a total hip replacement on that side. X-rays and/or lavage of these injuries in an operating room is not uncommon. We use a high pressure "water pic" sometimes utilizing gallons of sterile saline to get as much of the debris and bacteria out of the injury site as we can.

So, the take home lesson here is cleanliness, the sooner the better, and professional evaluation if there's any doubt about what you're dealing with.

Photos from Google images

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My First Triathlon Was At Age 65

In a series of fascinating studies testing the set-point (that our body automatically regulates our our body weight around a set-point) University of Cincinnati researchers surgically removed and added body fat to various animals. Animals with body fat surgically removed then replaced "exactly the fat hat was removed."  Animals with body fat surgically added automatically burned more body fat until their body fat returned to it's set-point.

"My first triathlon was at age 65!"

On Thursday night each year before IMKona, they hold the E Como Mai banquet otherwise known as the carbo loading dinner.  It's a festive affair with a great show of traditional Hawaiian dancers and a blessing of the athletes as Ironman gets to put their best foot forward.  One tradition which has persisted over the years is introduction of the oldest and youngest male and female competitors in the upcoming event.  The dinner crowd of several thousand loves it. To a degree, down inside, all present look at the drive and motvation of the the youngsters silentl wondering "what was I doing when I was their age?"  While all four have great stories, I was most impressed by Lis Heckman of Ft. Myers, FL who, at 76, was the oldest woman in the Ironman.  When interviewed by Mike Reilly, she mentioned she'd done her first Ironman at age 65.  Her first! Sadly, on race day the famed Kona winds, ho 'o Mumuku, would prove too challenging and she failed make the bike cut off.  Better luck next year Lis!

76 year old woman in 2015 race in Kona


If you haven't read Boys in the Boat about the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal winning Washington crew team you've missed an excellent read.  It follows Joe Rantz, an incredibly poor young man but with enough energy and drive for any two of us. During one summer, not only did he need a job, it would be nice to have one that was physical and contributed to his strength needs.

So what does he choose?  Hanging from a rope on the Grand Coulee Dam, under construction at the time, wielding a heavy jackhammer working on smoothing the concrete. His whole body got a work out for 8 hours every day.  12 months later he would have his Gold Medal.  It's an example to remember.

Soon it'll be the off-season.  Sports Doc Jordan Metzl from NYC wrote in Triathlete Magazine, " Almost every injury from plantar fasciitis to hip stress fractures, has been proven to occur less often in the setting of a strong kinetic chain.  You can decrease your chances of injury by building your kinetic chain strength this season."  He recommends that each of us commits to about an hour of full body functional strength training twice weekly.  This means that we strengthen more than just the running muscles or selective cycling physical needs.  Yoga, Pilates also help you with both strength and flexibility.  I think it's good advice.

Hiram Conibear, Crew Coach, University of Washington 

Conibear was, according to those who knew him well, "simple, direct and fearless." He attacked his job with characteristic gusto.  It would later be called "inflammable enthusiasm." Lacking a coaches launch, he ran up and down the shores of lake Washington, yelling at his boys through his megaphone, freely mixing baseball slang with rowing terminology and a wide variety of exuberant profanity.  He cussed so loudly so frequently and so colorfully  that offended lakeside residents soon began complaining to the university.  Convinced that rowing instruction needed to be more scientific, he  poured over anatomy texts and physics books.  Then he appropriated a human skeleton from the biology lab, strapped it in a rowing seat, wired it's hands to a broom handle, and carefully observed it's movements as his student-assistants manipulated it to simulate various strokes. In other words, these were the beginning efforts to make human motion, be it swimming, biking or running, to make human motion scientific.  Train with science on your side.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Smashing Bike Stories

Have you ever had a bike crash that required medical attention?

This is the question we put to to the athletes who passed by our questioner following bike check in October 9, 2015 on the pier in Kailua-Kona, HI. 

Before sun up, a few last minute adjustments

I wondered what I'd find out if I polled the athletes at the top of our sport, mostly age groupers like you and me, about bike crashing.  I've written here before about it as the wider my circle grows the more this topic comes up.  It's hard these days to watch a single stage of a pro bike race or talk up tri at the local pool when somebody doesn't walk in with a swath of road rash running down their leg or shoulder.  Or how about your buddy with the femur fracture following a mountain bike accident?  In my Sunday bike group alone, over the course of several years we've had a hip fracture with surgery, facial fracture with broken jaw during an IM,  and a pelvic fracture mountain biking requiring hip replacement. Oh, and before I joined them, one guy tried to Evil Knievel his way up a ramp.  Bad news though, the bike just stop and my friend broke his neck. Fortunately, no surgery was required and he's back riding.  

Of the 215 athletes in Hawaii who answered the poll, almost half admitted to serious bike crashes.  Of 149 men, 72 said yes.  And of 66 women, 28 had required a visit to the doctor or hospital.  Of these 72 men who were told to seek further medical treatment, not all did. Surprised?  No.  But, all 28 of 28 women in our survey who were advised further treatment did so.  One woman claimed 35 accidents.  That, to me, is long past time to find a new sport.

In short, approximately 48% of responders crashed hard enough that at least one care giver felt medical treatment was in order.  To me, this is pretty concerning. I believe we as a group need to be a little more attentive to the potential for injury when we ride becoming a little more selective about the riding surface, surroundings, fellow bikers bike handling skills, you name it to try and get this number to drop precipitously.

We all know someone seriously injured or killed on a bike. Sadly, some of us more than one! Make your New Years resolution one where you will assume further responsibility for your own personal bike safety.  If you need to stay home or ride indoors because of questionable riding surface conditions or it's just too dark with too many cars then so be it.  Better to alter your training...and still be able to train than the opposite.

Winter Training:  Ground Control

"You have to know the terrain is going to be different and a little slower. Running a little slower doesn't mean you're any less fit or that you're getting less from a workout." Dathan Ritzenhein, SI

Monday, November 30, 2015

Faith in the Process; Ironman Training

Completion of 140.6 miles of racing takes many things.  Among them is faith.  Faith that you’ve put in enough training, the right kind of training, and that Mother Nature won’t have it out for you like at IMAZ a couple weeks ago serving up a cold and rainy day.

Here’s an example.  I was backpacking with our daughter in Sequoia National Park a couple years ago, 15 miles from civilization.  As we were putting the finishing touches on packing up for the hike back out, bidding adieu to the other family that had shared the campsite with us the previous night, their Mom mentioned that somehow she’d lost her wedding ring “like a complete idiot!  I washed my hands in the river 2 miles back and put the ring in my pocket for some stupid reason.”  She was certain that she’d never see it again, “but if perhaps you see it, could you pick it up?”  Are you serious?  Millions of acres of national park land and I’m going to find a dropped wedding ring?  I told I’d give it a try knowing that she was SOL as far as this ring went holding little hope that it would be seen by mankind again.

But if there’s one thing I’m good at, very good at actually, it's finding things. My daughter’s car keys, that misplaced earring belonging to my wife.  I don’t know why, maybe it’s chromosomal.  I enjoy the challenge of doing something others cannot and I’m patient.  Very patient.  Sort of like an iron distance event, right?

Typical of the trails in Sequoia National Park, California

So rather than hike at a break-neck pace like our girls, I took my time as we headed downhill out of Hamilton Lakes.  After about half an hour of absolute concentration staring at the rocks and plants about my feet, under, and around every possible crevice seeing nothing other than more rocks and more plants, I thought I noticed a hint of grey.  But aren’t wedding rings gold?  Most of the ones I know are.  It was just that this was something different.  Maybe it was a tent grommet, or portion of some tarp in the distant past.  As I bent over to retrieve it, I saw that indeed it was a ring.  A ring with initials engraved in it. It was a wedding ring.  THE wedding ring, the object of my search!  Hot dog!!

I’m not sure why but I’d had the forethought to get the woman’s mailing address.  Subconsciously cocky that I’d find it?  Yes, you may be right.  You are right.  But later this year, you will be going to the start line of an Ironman, maybe your first IM, and you have to have more than just a little confidence that you’re going to succeed at your challenge.  

The challenge of doing something that others cannot.  You have to have at least a touch of “attitude.”  I have a friend who was unsuccessful at her first IM attempt.  Depressed, pissed off, you name it.  She easily had the ability, but just needed "a little something," something to boost her over the top, past that psychological failure.  In her case, tires, or so I thought.  Not just any tires mind you, but "good luck" tires. She later signed up for a repeat try at the iron distance. so I did a little research on the upcoming course, talked it over with the pros at my local bike store, and took their recommendation on a pair of skins. When I presented them to her later, I emphasized the good luck nature of these babies.  I don't know if I made any difference or not but the next time I saw her she was an Ironman finisher.  And will be for the rest of her life!

 As for the ring, I mailed it back to the owner at her Michigan address when we got home.  Lucky me.  Lucky her.

So in the hours before your first Ironman, review in your mind the effort expended to get there, the personal and family sacrifice that permitted you a shot at achieving what has probably been a goal for a good long while.  Remind yourself that you have 17 full hours to finish this thing and that the goal, the only goal in your first attempt at this distance mind you, is finishing.  Be nice if the first stop after crossing the finish line isn’t the medical tent too!  Have faith.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How Do You Deal With an Injury Psychologically?


     The personality issues associated with an injury can be quite depressing.  “It’s a stress fracture, I don’t want you to run for 6 weeks,” said b the doc but interpreted as the death sentence by the athlete.  Often times, when hearing this, the athlete’s initial reaction is a flood of tears!  Or patent denial.  The athlete informs the care giver that he/she is terribly close to qualifying for Boston and has the perfect race scheduled shortly.  They can’t possibly put their sport on hold.

    When injured and told to decrease or eliminate that activity which gives them joy and a sense of purpose, the triathlete sees a piece of themselves being taken away.  Some even believe that the restriction will last forever, like an image in facing mirrors at the barber shop, and they are losing personal control.  It can be complicated dealing with the emotional ups and downs that accompany athletic trauma.  Friendships through the sport are temporarily put on hold and the daily enjoyment/refreshment of the work out is lost.  One’s sense of achievement or identity is removed and it can be a bitter pill to swallow.  In many cases, understanding the emotional impact is as crucial as understanding the physical nature of the problem.  When the damaged body part requires a prolonged rehab and recovery, at least a light at the end of the tunnel can be seen.  But occasionally, when surgery is required or a season ending problem is diagnosed, down right depression can be the result.

    If an athlete is part of triathlon long enough, it’s virtually guaranteed that something will be injured at one time or another.  Some, unfortunately, many times as they bring previous medical and physical baggage with them with their desire to achieve.  So, if some type of pre-injury preparedness is undertaken the emotional blow can be lessened.  An effort is made to fill the daily time block allotted for training in some fulfilling way as this will soften the blow.  LifeSport coach Lance Watson compares this grief reaction to that of researcher Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who defines five stages of loss from her pioneering work with the terminally ill.  These are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance as seen in her classic text On Death and Dying.  If you think about this for a minute you’ll see that it’s quite applicable in this instance.  Indeed the injured party has lost the ability to race and train, possibly through no fault of their own.  Watson tells us to “reframe the injury.”  View it as an opportunity to work on our triathlon limiters in other areas.  He states, “Do as much as you can to solve the problem each day even if it’s only stretching and icing.”  Do your part so to speak. We’re told to “stay involved with what you love.”  Can you help out at local races, assist in set up, body marking, be a volunteer? It can also be a time to take care of things you’ve put off like chronic bike discrepancies and maintenance, repairing your rain gear or reading up on nutritional or recovery advances.  Finally, “look for the silver lining.” If you’ve been diagnosed with an issue that prevents you from running, perhaps you can make a short term “single sport block” as taught by Chicago based tri coach Ryan Riell.

View this as an opportunity to ramp up a very select part of your training to accomplish something that’s been holding you back in the past.  This will also force you to take ownership of the injury and increase your knowledge base as to the source of this type of damage.  It follows that it becomes your responsibility to ensure that the potential for recurrence is minimized.  In most all cases, the issue will be resolved and you’ll be back on the street in racing form.  And, you’ll also be a wiser triathlete.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Knee Injections, A Look From the Inside

Hyalgan, Synvisc, Orthovisc, Quaker State, Knee Injections

With accumulated wear and tear, or even after trauma, the bone covering articular cartilage of the knee joint can erode.  You know it as arthritis. In addition to the various types of cortisone which can be injected, a class of agents focused on one of the building blocks of cartilage, hyaluronic acid, is also available for injection.  They are known as hyaluronate preparations and can be effective diminishing both joint pain and swelling.

These agents (Euflexxa, Hyalgan, Synvisc, Orthovisc, etc.) can be costly and are usually not considered until the patient is a failure to other conservative measures like limb strengthening exercises, Tylenol, possibly a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve.)  Frequently, injection of a corticosteroid (cortisone, steroid) would be tried given it's proven success rate and much lower cost.  These can be repeated over time.

Easily done as an office procedure, after sterilely prepping the skin at the intended point of injection, and aspirating any effusion (excess joint fluid) which may be present, the physician takes great care to ensure exact placement into the joint.  Depending on the product, there can be 1-3 injections and, other than the sting of the needle stick, seem to cause very little in the way of pain.  Post injection the patient is asked to refrain  from vigorous exercise (like triathlon!) for 48 hours.

The success rate in lowering pain and swelling while increasing patient activity levels can be impressive. Upwards of 80% patient satisfaction has been reported.  One company advertises “Over 1.8 million knees treated….and still going strong.”  It can be repeated if/when necessary.  And, if it’s included in a overall program to maintain/preserve knee health as well as forestall a larger procedure like joint replacement, it’s role is clear.

So, if you have osteoarthritis of the knee, and a hyaluronate is being considered by your care giver, it may be “just what the doctor ordered.” 

Our first two Ironman Champions 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

33 Year Old Kona Memories Kept Alive/ Two Steve Smiths

33 Later, I Still Send a Kona Race Program

My first trip to Hawaii and my first try at this newly created Ironman thingy was in 1982, its 2nd year on the Big Island only 3 years after the first ever race on Oahu.  I was a hospital resident in Orthopedic Surgery at the time and my training buddy Ed and I were going to give this event a try.  Neither of us had ever done a triathlon but then neither had many of the others in the field. And heck, entry was only $100, so what did we have to lose? 

The headquarters hotel for that years race was the Kona Surf, now known as the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa located in Keauhou near the birthplace of King Kamehameha III.  Never having been to Hawaii, I made my reservations there and met a fellow Virginian named Ben with his family on my second day.  He mentioned they had an unused bed and that I should check out of my solo room and split one with them for the duration saving me a bundle of money.  I only had to be asked once.  We did a number of activities together during race week, finished our first Ironmans, and returned home to the Olde Dominion.  I visited his home 2 hours away once decades ago but otherwise have never seen him again. But I've been back to Kona over twenty times and make a point of mailing Ben Kendrick a race program every single time just to remind him that his act of random kindness has never been forgotten.

One time he contacted me, said we should do the race again.  We talked about what a different kind of beast it is this many years later and agreed that doing one is much better than doing none.

So, Thanks Ben, be sure to look in your mailbox in October for you-know-what. 

Ben Kendrick, Alii Drive 1982
How has the Hawaiian race changed since then?

Well, if you can imagine, in 1982 there were NO
Markers of any kind on the swim course
Energy lab
Time limits for anything; you finished when you finished
No qualification 
You just sent in an application

Second Kona story:

As you may know, I've written a number of pieces for over the years and this year, purely coincidentally I selected Steve Smith of New Hampshire for one of the many athlete profiles I was asked to contribute.  But those of you who been in triathlon for any length of time know that name.  Steve Smith #2 was from Indiana, had a string of triathlon wins, Iron distance victories, Kona age group wins, etc. as long as your arm.  Plus, he was a nice guy.  Sadly, Steve-O as his friends called him, passed away in 2014 following a three battle with cancer. If you'd like to see more check out .

Our Steve Smith points out regularly that he's "the other one" downplaying his athletic virtues.  Pretty hard to do if you're on the podium after the 2015 Kona race.  "The last time I saw Steve-O," he says, "was in Hawaii in 2011 in the Energy Lab. He didn't look good, but then who does after 9-10 hours on the Hawaiian course?" 

This year, Steve was 3rd in the age group as he was leaving the Energy Lab "when my hamstrings struck!"  He'd been prone to hamstring cramps for years and it took 133 miles of racing for them to rear their ugly heads this time.  But, he was still on the stage at the awards ceremony the day following the race!  You just know that Steve-O would be right proud of the effort!

Steve Smith of New Hampshire, Kona awards ceremony, 2015

What do you say we meet at the Kona Post Office next October to mail next years program to Ben?