Monday, March 19, 2018

"Those Who Fail to Learn From History Are Doomed to Repeat it." Know Your Tri History?

The title quote, from Sir Winston Churchill, is as true in our sport as anywhere.


M*A*S*H - a movie before the TV show? Triathlon history.


"Through early morning fog I see, visions of the things to be, 
the pains that are withheld for me, I realize and I can see..."
                Suicide is Painless, Johnny Mandel  (Theme to MASH)
                         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVBATYWFKp8

Did any of this well known cast come from the original movie?
It's important to understand our triathlon history.  By history, I'm not only referring to the contributions of John Collins, Scott Tinley, Dan Empfield, Bob Babbitt and Joe Friel, but of the more recent experiences of everyday Joe Athlete who's walked the road you're on before you.  USAT thinks that this is important enough that it's the very first thing taught in the Coaching Certification Course for would-be coaches. In the words of George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
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I met a young woman recently who had no clue that the TV show M*A*S*H had come from a very successful movie by the same name, and the movie from a book by Richard Hooker (actually a pseudonym for a surgeon named H. Richard Hornberger.) 

One of the reasons this truth hits home in the triathlon world is the very common tri forum post, "I just was looking at buying some of those new xyz carbon wheels and wondered if anyone had any experience with them?"  Or you noticed that in your last sprint tri, the athlete next you in the transition area finished the swim well behind you but managed to exit T1 well before you!  Now you figure that cutting time off your transitioning is needed.  All you have to do is go to You Tube for videos like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brHcsqKM_mo  (not new, just accurate) and after a few practice sessions in the driveway - yes, the neighbors will stare at a woman in her wet suit standing next to her garbage can in suburbia but this is one of the small costs of excellence in triathlon - you'll be the queen/king of T1 and T2.

A terrific place to learn new things is the transition area before the race. Triathletes are proud folks and many like to talk.  I do pretty well in my age group, especially the swim, and I can't tell you how many times a complete stranger will approach me and ask something like, "How come you have so few items in your transition set up?"  I then talk about experience and the particulars of this specific race and we have a good give and take.  How I learned most of what works for me in sport by those who came before me. Just as often, I'll learn something from them like, "Well if you were to place your bike over there for this particular race you'll avoid much of the foot traffic."  This is also very true at race's end before the finishers party when everyone is full of themselves, their accomplishments, and relaxed.

In short, take the time to read, to talk, to quiz others, understand the "history" of your sport and it's intricacies and you'll be faster,  For sure.  You might even stand on that podium next time.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

For Sure You're a Masters Triathlete!


For Sure You're a Masters Triathlete/Ironman

Ready
"There's something happening here.  What it is ain't exactly clear." Buffalo Springfield.

Masters Athlete...older than his baby face would appear.

Some of us, er, some of you have been around this sport for a long time.  As such you've seen fads (skid lids, long sleeved tri suits) come and go but now approach the sport with a little more casual eye.  If there's something you learn that can save you a few seconds in transition, but maybe it itches, you think "perhaps tomorrow."  Here are a few other ways you know you're a masters triathlete.
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Aging up - being the youngest in your age group used to be a bad thing, but competition in the older age groups at 50, 55, 60, etc. can often be more fierce - and in some cases way faster than you'd expect.

Masters prerogative - at swim team or in your Sunday bike group, you may at times employ MP in changing the work out or negotiating sets with the coach or fellow athletes, something you could never do as a youngster.

It's a Fine Line - you no longer have 14 or more workouts/week.  Hell, you're lucky if you get 7!  So when it's time to race, you're not sure if tapering will get you out of shape or the warm up gets you in shape.  It's a fine line!

Bodies - Many have taken their ailing shoulders, backs and knees to that place the doctors inhabit and the cutting is done.  In other words, butterfly is no longer an option, and hill repeats?  Forget 'em.  At least your Ortho doc says so.  As does the PT, the chiropractor......  And so do you when you want to try the second one.

Adult beverages - relaxing with a glass of wine, or two, the night before a race was never an option.  But it is now!  In fact, it wouldn't be  uncommon to find a bottle of that great cabernet from the recent wine tasting mixed in with your race number and helmet in your suitcase.

Laughing out loud - everybody shows up at bike group, not because their parents or coach are making them, just because it's what you do. What you want to do.  I don't remember smiling or laughing this much during training as a younger age grouper. 

Doesn't Matter - Some have extended masters credentials.  Some can't see, can't pee, can't hear but it just doesn't matter.  "Consider the alternative" is often heard finding it remarkable that you're still out here doing and your HS or college peers would have trouble spelling triathlon let alone doing one.

Morning math -  Having to think twice, maybe three times while swimming a complex set as you try to compute the interval (I screw this up all the time.)

Remembering when morning stiffness was a good thing.  And more than one of you says that you arrive just a couple minutes early to "warm up before the warm up."

Many thanks to Kirsten Read

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Stop! Don't Stay Up That Extra Hour, It's Not Worth It

"But it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows, no one owns a piece of my time."                                              The Vogues
This is Janine. She wants you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to get the most from your 6 am workout

Random Acts of Kindness

I live in Charlottesville, VA.  Home to the University of Virginia, which, if you've been following NCAA basketball has a pretty good team this year.  My son Ben and I went to the final home game of the year yesterday where the UVA Cavaliers beat Notre Dame.  I had about 20 minutes to kill waiting for Ben to arrive so I just sat out front of the arena and people watched.  There were the usual array of folks clad in VA colors, funny hats, scalpers looking for tickets, big groups of kids, all that you'd expect.

And one thing you wouldn't.  Every couple minutes, a fan would mill around in front of the building with a finger or two in the air.  I learned this meant they needed a ticket or two.  In almost no time at all, some party would walk by, see the individual, pull a spare ticket or two from an inside pocket, and hand them over.  Free for nothing as they say.  It would be followed by "Thank you, thank you!" a profound hand shake or maybe even a hug, and the ticket supplier and receiver would go their separate ways.  What a nice thing to do.  And I saw it 4 or 5 times before Ben arrived.  People being nice to other people expecting nothing in return.  I guess the Boy Scouts were right. Do a good deed daily.


Here's why sleep is so important

When you think "I'll stay up an extra hour tonight to watch the game, maybe make it up tomorrow," does that work?  No is the short answer.  We as a nation do that experiment twice a year.  It's called Daylight Savings Time.  In the Spring, when we "spring ahead" and lose an hour's sleep, the heart attack rate the next next day is 21% higher than expected. Then in the fall when we "fall back" gaining that extra - well deserved I might add - hour of sleep, the heart attack rate goes down 24%.  Yes, it surprised me too.

 Want to throw the treadmill in the garbage can?  Thinking about going for a run after work?  Me too.  Many of the posts on this blog are pointed toward safety.  Visible clothing and possibly a strobe or reflective vest in these still-shortened daylight hours.  On 12/31/17 I did a piece on working out outdoors and winter running that is the basis for this blog.  I know that officially it's almost Spring and the days are longer.  But please, still exercise caution.

Make sure you can be seen in the dark and areas of poor visibility.  I live in a college town and remark on an almost weekly basis that the students ride bikes in low light or no light conditions with no lights, no reflectors and dark clothing making it an incredible challenge to just see them.


Prior to your run, current thought is that dynamic, not static stretching techniques like light skips, bounding, high knees, butt kicks and back pedals are the way to go.  Save the static stretch for after you've completed your run/bike/swim.  This time of year, when for many of us it's still at or near freezing in the morning, this is particularly important.



Note importance of core exercises (and sledding) in the snow.

This will likely be a review for most, but it never hurts to have a reminder.


  1. Dress properly....not too much and not too little.  Your body will warm up 10 - 15 degrees above the air temperature.  Embrace, don't fight whatever weather conditions you face. It was 20 degrees, in the dark, when we started our work out this morning with 44 folks, and shedding clothing became the rule of the day.

  2. Deliberately start with a very slow jog or fast walk for your first half mile and always make your first mile the slowest of your run.  Your last half mile should also be run at a slower pace as this helps with your post run recovery.

  3. Keep your stride length short and remember the suggested pacing of 30 Rt. foot strikes per 20 seconds (or 22/15 secs.)

  4. Maintain a "conversational pace," aerobic heart rate.  If you can hear yourself breathing, you're probably running too fast.

  5. Follow your RPE, rate of perceived exertion, by maintaining the same effort, not the same pace, through out the varying terrain of your work out.  Obviously this is particularly important running up hill.

  6. You longest run of the week should not be greater than the sum of the other runs.  

  7. Take it easy on the down hills, shorter stride length is the key.

  8. Say out of the "gutter" (side of the road) by trying to maintain balanced stride lengths.

  9. Try to get something nutritional into your system within 20-30 minutes of completing your run as recommended by Triathlete Magazine author Matt Fitzgerald in his book Racing Weight.  It could be a banana, Clif-bar type product and a sports energy drink or chocolate milk.  

  10. Make sure you record the stats of the run in your journal including what works and what's not working clothing-wise.

  11. Drink at least 60 ounces of hydrating fluids/ day....sodas don't count.

  12. Make sit ups and push ups, which work on core strength, a part of your daily routine and use Pilates and Yoga as your "cross training."

  13. Again, get adequate sleep - I know this is hard for most! The more you exercise the more rest you will need.

  14. Listen to your body's communication signals. Feeling fatigued?  Then back off.  Have a new ache or pain (knee, shin, hip, ankle, Achilles?) Then talk it out with your coach ASAP. 
  15. Pray for summer.  It's not that far away.

But when you're heading out for that five o'clock run (am or pm) remember that upon hearing Joe Jacobi of the Washington Redskins say: "I'd run over my own mother to win the Super Bowl," Matt Millen of the Raiders said, "To win the Super Bowl, I'd run over Joe's mom, too."  Ha!

Some say that Spring running is the best there is.  If you follow these simple rules, I'm sure you'll agree.

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 Thanks to Mark Lorenzoni, author of the above, and his desire to "spread the word." Thanks to NIkki of SEAL Team PT for photo #2.