Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Stop Counting Laps When You Swim Long

Fun at the Pool

We have Tired Friday at the pool. It's pretty silly occasionally but it's fun and well attended. Each person makes up one set. This was this weeks. Following a good warm up, swim 5x150 on t-pace* + 10,10 sec break in the middle. Easy 100. Then 4X150 pull on t-pace + 8. Easy 100. Finish with swim 3X150 on t-pace +10-15, middle 50 drill. Feel free to modify as you please.

Stop Losing Track of Your Lap Count on Long Swims

 When you take the IRONMAN U course, one of their more important principles is workout variation. Each workout, yes that's right, each one has a purpose. Doing the same run at the same pace three days a week is hardly the best strategy for superior performance. IMU preaches that in each discipline in each week has a key high intensity work out and a key endurance workout. If your "A" race of the season has a 10K or 13.1 run, have some of your workouts come close to approximating this?

When pool swimming, keeping an accurate lap count can be challenging. And if you're always watching the clock or doing the math, it takes away from the joy of the sport or appreciating your surroundings. Plus it's so easy to lose count when you get distracted. There are a number of products on the market to help with that. However, a simpler way is just figure it out. Determine your distance swimming pace for starters. Let's say you want to swim 1000 straight. And let's also say you want a little variety. Start with a rough idea of your usual pace is, 1:50/100 for today's example. We'll break this into continuous 200's by stationing our pull buoy at lane's edge. It will be 200 swim, grab the pull buoy as you turn and not stopping for more than a millisecond, and pull the second 200. Then 200S, 200P, and 200S to wrap it up. This way you only need to count to 8 lengths of the pool. Check that total time and divide by 5 for 200 or 10 for hundreds. Your distance pace. Write them down in your log book.

How a Local Athlete Puts This in Action

Saturday is Sally's long distance day and sometimes she just wants to swim straight. Today was 3000. Her distance pace is 1:35/100y. So she just multiplies distance X pace and gets 47.5 or 47:30 as a predicted time for the swim. Her plan is for variety and occasional clock checking if she feels like it, then 300 swim, 300 pull, repeat. There was an Army ROTC group doing interesting things on the pool deck which she was able to observe. Sally paid careful attention to the backstroker two lanes over and hand position, but she didn't count laps! Her time for the swim? 47:38. It's easy once you've figured out your distance pace.


*If you are confused about what pace you should be swimming for your regular work outs, your triathlon pace or t-pace for short, follow the teaching of coach Gale Bernhardt by first deciding what type of racer you are. Sprint, Ironman, etc. Then do one of Coach Gale's swim tests below to determine your t-pace.

Sprint test: Swim 3×100 fast. Recover for 20 seconds between each. Note your time for each 100, aiming for no more than 5 seconds difference between each one. Your T-pace per 100 is the average of all three times.

Olympic, half-Ironman, Ironman test: 
Swim 3×300 fast. Recover for 30 seconds between each. Note your time for each 300, aiming to have less than 15 seconds difference between each. Average the times to determine your average 300 pace. Your T-pace per 100 is that number divided by 3


Drivers, they'll hit you if you let them - distracted driving is all the rage these days. How many times (today actually?) have you been the 2nd or 3rd car in line at a light, it turns green, and you go....nowhere.  The driver closest to the light is wrapped up in some fascinating piece on his/her phone, leaving all behind to wait until the fact that the light has indeed changed is realized.  So if you run on the roads, ensure you run against the traffic, facing oncoming cars. (If you're a runner who says that the crown of the road is high enough that you "have to" run some with the traffic to even out the load your legs see, perhaps you can do so at times of low traffic volume, leaving your tunes at home, but please be careful)

Despite warnings and pleas to the contrary, drivers still text at all speeds and weave in their lanes.  Even out of their lanes sometimes.  Or maybe they've been drinking.  Even in the morning.

 A local athlete was KILLED on the roadway about half a mile from my house less than a year ago as reported here previously.  Foggy morning, just before sunrise, running with the traffic. He didn't have a chance.

Don't be that guy.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

10 Things to do 3 Weeks Before Your Ironman

The IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii is in three weeks.  But you need to know what to do three weeks before any Ironman distance event, not just Kona, right?  This also applies to 70.3 races, races that are important to you!

Not a great bike mechanic?  Me neither. Have your local guys check out your steed.  What is the cost of this compared to the mental cost of a broken chain at mile 20 on the bike course? I've never had a bike related issue in any triathlon, ever, following this. 

Practice your transitions.  This always baffles me when guys in my age group spend double, even triple the amount of time I do in transition and wonder why their times don't go down.

Review the swim, bike and run courses of your event.  If the race site isn't too far away, drive over there and go over the course.  maybe even run a couple miles on the run route and bike a few on the bike course.

Plan your nutrition strategy.  Purchase everything you'll need from the minute you wake up on race day.

Hydration.  Are you a drink to thirst athlete or one who goes on more of a schedule?  How will you keep track of what you consume on the bike.  Have you ever peed on a moving bike?  Is that a skill you need to master?

What about after the race?  What will you eat?  What clothes/flip flops will you change into?  If you do well in your age group, will you wait around for the awards ceremony?  It could be quite some time after you finish.

Do have any idea what would happen if you got injured?

This is just an outline of the things you do today to make race day go as smoothly as possible.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Afib, Atrial Fibrillation. Unpleasant News for Triathletes

Atrial Fibrillation, A Rapid Heart Beat

"Don't call for your surgeon, even he says it's late.  It's not your lungs this time but your heart holds your fate."          Manfred Mann

Although it might be somewhat surprising, the single most popular piece I've written here, and mind you this is a triathlon oriented blog, was on pills.  Antihypertensives to be specific; medication for blood pressure control.  So this issue will expand on an writing that addressed rapid heart rates in general and review a very commonly seen abnormal rhythm called atrial fibrillation also written AF or Afib.

Usually the heart beat is regular, a constant interval between each beat, and labeled normal sinus rhythm, NSR.  But in Afib, the ventricles, or major pumping chambers, receive a rapid, erratic signal and pump at a varying, irregular rate.  Although some can have AF and be symptom free, others can experience chest pain, dizziness, fainting, or be intolerant to exercise,etc. They can be at a 7-8 times increased risk of suffering a stroke.

The diagnosis is made after obtaining a history, physical exam and EKG.  Occasionally an echo cardiogram or blood work are also indicated.  Then, one would search for the underlying cause to choose treatment options.  Interestingly, a common cause is dehydration.  Also found can be an over active thyroid, hypertension, certain types of lung disease, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, etc. although finding no definite cause is quite common.  If the diagnosis is in doubt, the patient can be fit for a monitor which continuously records the EKG for 24 hours or longer. Sometimes as long as 60 days.  Once this diagnosis is made, the goal of treatment is to restore the heart rate back to a normal level and diminish the risk of stroke.

Medically, a number of medications are available for stroke prevention including aspirin, warfarin and a number of much more expensive (and possibly better) drugs.  When addressing the abnormal rhythm, various meds are available and, when ineffective catheter ablation may be offered.  This is catheterizing the heart and attempting to both locate and destroy the tracks along which the abnormal electric signal travels.  As you might imagine, it's a big deal!  I found an on line ad for the Cleveland Clinic where they advertise having performed more than 1200 ablations for AF last year with success.

I've read various posts over the years on various tri forums, readers echoing the disappointment that their medical issues not only limit their ability to train but race as well.   One athlete with significant AF summed it up this way, "I am not letting it take over my life, but it ****ing sucks that I can no longer participate at the level in endurance sports that I had been able to achieve with 20 years involvement in one sport or another (running, cycling and tris).  I even dropped out of IMLP since I knew I couldn't train for the race in my condition."  (I really feel for this guy and I know you do too.)

So, if you've recently been given the news that you have AFib and it requires treatment, research it out, get as much information as you can, and do what you and your physician think is best for you.


"No One Said It Would Be A Piece Of Cake?"
This hand written note was tied to a sign at about the one mile mark of the bike in Kona in October.  A mile later there was one that read, "Cake?  We have an App for that!"  And a mile later...you get the picture.  Isn't it nice that on days when we occasionally feel isolated and exhausted, that we have friends and family to remind us that they're still there, and they care.  Make sure you thank them every day.  


Monday, September 5, 2016

ACL Tears in Young Triathletes/Can You Make it to Kona/Knee Arthritis

Recess at the old triathletes home.


ACL Tears in Young Triathletes

ACL reconstruction is increasing steadily in the pediatric and adolescent population as is participation in Tri Kids and young people's interest in this sport in general.  Although we like to think of this major knee ligamentous injury to the knee resulting from some major football tackle or perhaps motor cycle accident, most commonly the athlete ruptures this structure "all by myself."  They simply twist the knee in an awkward manner.

Take 23 year old Teddy Bridgewater quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings pro football team for example. He suffered this fate last Tuesday just running a non-contact drill during practice.  No one laid a finger on him.  Trail runners slip on roots, others trip inadvertently, or a young person in our sport could merely suffer a twisting injury to the knee in a puddle of water in T1.  In short, reconstruction rates are going up and the operation is not always successful in this population. Kamien et al. reported a 25% failure rate for patients under 25 compared to 6% for those older.  Plus, revision surgery, a second operation on these young knees to fix the ACL again was unsuccessful in a quarter of those knees!  Lastly, of the athletes who did return to their previous sport, only 55.2% returned to their pre-injury level.  It's one of those injuries best avoided if possible. See previous blog http://bit.ly/2ccDFxp .

Making it to Kona 

"And another one's gone, and another one's gone, and another one bites the dust, heh heh." You know who sang these words. But, earlier in his career, singer Farrokh Bulsara (you now know him as Freddie Mercury) was going nowhere in a band called Sour Milk Sea. He took a look at his past, present and unpromising future, and made the changes he felt were required to reach the top. Sadly, in his case it wasn't to be a longer term success.

I guess the question is...are you willing to make the sacrifices Freddie made to get here to Kailua-Kona? Not the ultimate sacrifice of course, but making personal choices.  First, answer these three questions: 1) Do I have a reasonable chance to qualify or do I just impress myself when I tell others "I'm training for Kona?" 2) Will my personal/professional life suffer too greatly if I take on this goal? Does my spouse agree with this obviously biased assessment? 3) Is it worth it in the end and what will have been the cost - how many irretrievable kids soccer games will I have missed? (The 70.3 distance is to some the perfect race. It takes a fair amount of training - but not your life - to finish respectably and you're not walking death the next day...or two. Also, it's easy to keep the family involved without dipping into the college savings account for airfare and more carbon fiber.) Food for thought.

Total Knee Replacement in Triathletes

I took the Ironman U Coaching Certification Course recently.  It's good.  It puts you on a level of base knowledge which can be quite helpful.  One benefit I hadn't expected is that the affiliation with other coaches goes beyond triathlon.  I actually spent a good bit of time on the phone recently with an experienced triathlon coach who is scheduled for knee replacement surgery in November. This is a man who already knows the triathlon game and who's done a great deal of research on artificial joints. The main point I tried to get across to him was that regardless of TV ads or the skill of his surgeon, he will not have the same knee when all is said and done. He may get a terrific result, but he'll notice at least small differences in joint function. He will not be normal, or have a knee the same as it came from the manufacturer.  Differences that in the non-athlete seem to disappear. His choices of athletic activity may have to take this joint into account on some level. Good luck, Coach!

So, this leaves us with conservative care. You don't immediately (if ever) want an operation and would like to take steps to diminish or eliminate pain while maintaining function. There are many volumes devoted to care of the arthritic patient, even an entire medical subspecialty called Rheumatology, so I'll just touch on a few things. As with most medical issues, an accurate diagnosis is an essential starting point. Does your arthritis affect a single joint, multiple joints or perhaps other body parts as well? An educated patient has the best chance to retard progression of the disease while maintaining the highest quality of life. Learn what you can about the problem and be your own best advocate. Some would say this could be true of any illness or injury and I'd tend to agree.

Treatment may be accomplished through a host of options including weight loss, life style modification, changes in activity choices, joint protection, oral medications or injections, etc. Trying to balance the seemingly opposite goals of doing well in one's age group in a race as opposed to getting a damaged joint to last as far into the future as possible can be a challenge. In short, just like the triathlon coach facing knee replacement, do your research, ask your physician the right questions, and take charge of your own body. You are a triathlete after all!

But if the end result of all these options is either total joint replacement or the UKA (unicondylar knee arthroplasty or half total joint discussed in a recent blog) one would need to carefully evaluate the future plans for sport.  Although there are exceptions to every rule, in general, the AAOS, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, does not recommend running after joint replacement.  However, one small Mayo clinic study showed no difference between a "sports" group and those who followed traditional recommendations.  It was only 7 years post op though.  So talk to your doc, take your own age, weight, health history into account, and make the best decision for your circumstances.  And regardless of the outcome, support the sport in any way you can.