Sunday, April 22, 2018

Tri Race Stumbling Blocks? You Can Overcome the Unexpected

The medical tent.  Ever been one of their guests?

"Uh, not yet," the racer said.

Nobody plans to be here, especially you!
Do you think, when this athlete was topping off the air in his/her tires this morning, that he/she thought, "You know, I'm sure glad I'm the the type of racer who never gets sick in a race..." I wonder if he/she was prepared for this.


The Boy Scouts had it right when they chose Be Prepared as their motto

Sunday, somewhere

They carried a man off the race course on a stretcher. I heard that he just collapsed on the run.  Maybe it was the heat – a low of 65 degrees last night. The sun came up well before the first athlete was body marked or the transition area opened to further push the mercury toward inferno status… from a racing point of view anyway. You know, one of those days when the heat simply blasts you when it radiates off the asphalt. It’s a good thing most were wearing hats and could put ice in them at the aid stations. As we watched them load this competitor into the ambulance, we hoped it wasn’t something serious.

 Plan “B.” Everyone needs one. You arrive at the race course and – SURPRISE – no wet suits for the swim (like happened to us at the first race of last season.) Or – SURPRISE – the expected temperature is 15 - 20 degrees higher/lower than where you live and train. 

This happened to us at the Boston Marathon a few years ago where runners were just finishing a winter of snow and bitter cold. In "planning" for the potential weather, we living in Virginia looked at the previous year with a low on race day of 41 degrees and a high of 58.  Not quite ideal temp for a great race but certainly good enough for us age groupers to run well.  But the next year, my year, 365 or so days later?

An unexpected New England heat wave brought temps in to the mid 80’s. 1 degree below the record for that day we we told. Were we ready for this?  Was the field?  Not a chance.  The entrants, some of whom had waited their whole running careers to toe the line in Hopkinton on Patriot's Day, were dropping like flies. There were so many people with heat related problems that the enormous armory-like building they use at the finish line with cots as far as you can see, was simply overflowing with “bodies.”   Some finishers, but an astonishing number brought in from different parts of the course by off-duty school buses.

 All too often, racers just plow ahead “business as usual,” and if they’re lucky, only have a poor performance. They wonder why, despite ample beverage intake at the post-race party and more on the way home, they still don’t pee for hours. There’s a take home lesson here.

 There can be course changes, weather curve balls, rightly or wrongly you get penalized  (been there, done that!), alterations to the order of events, unintentionally getting kicked in the stomach, or face –hard- on the swim just to name a few things that cause us to re-evaluate our original race plan. How about a flat tire? But, if we’re to survive and do our best on that particular day, flexible we must be. 

Despite one’s physical suffering, always try to remind yourself that everyone racing that day has the same course to ride and run on, the same swim course and rough sea. Since you've already worked out your plan "b" ahead of time, and don't lose your cool even though at times it can be incredibly frustrating, perhaps you can do it just a little better than they do. In the immortal words of that famous rock group of the 60’s, Pacific Gas and Electric, “Are You Ready?”

 So fellow triathletes, 

Be flexible, keep calm when others may not be able to do the same.

Know when you’ve reached your limit and it’s time for Plan “B.  Maybe even Plan "C"

And if you encounter something completely new, break it up into it's parts and solve them one at a time.

Oh, the Boy Scouts have a Scout Slogan too.  It's "Do a good turn daily."

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Top 10 Mistakes in Ironman-Distance Racing

Erecting the Ironman finish line arch

Popular Tri coach Gordo Byrn,, co-author of Going Long, Training for Ironman-Distance Triathlons, is one of the great thinkers of our sport.  Before doing or recommending something, he always wants to know why.  Take a quick look at his blog and this will become more clear.

I've found over time that despite the passage of 15 years since the publication of the first edition of this informative text, much of the information presented is just as relevant today as it was then.  For today's blog, I would like to share with you Gordo's Top 10 Mistakes in Ironman Racing, something everyone who plans to cover the distance should read.  And, I would submit, mistakes that everyone who's already "crossed the line" has committed!

I am a big believer in the value of screwing up, making mistakes, even the occasional DNF.  In fact, I was speaking with a local coach yesterday, the day after the running of the 2018 Boston Marathon and Des Linden's great triumph - not to mention the surprise second of Sarah Sellers - about one of my bigger screw ups: a DNF in Boston some years ago.  (Yes, it still hurts just to write it down!  Hard to believe that I also DNF'd the Boston Light Open Water Swim.  My two biggies mere miles from each other.)  But, I feel strongly that you learn a great deal from your failures, and some even from the failures of others.  That's where Gordo's list comes from.  Maybe print it, put it with your gear, and review it before your next event as a reminder.  You can never know too much.

Gordo's List

10 - Did too much in the week leading up to the race.
9   - Ate too much in the week leading up to the race.
8   - Didn't check my race setup until 60 minutes before bike check-in closed             (there were problems).
7   - Drank a bottle of extra-strength sport drink before the swim start.
6   - Forgot that it is normal to feel bad sometimes during the race.
5   - Ate a sport bar in T1 (water or nothing now).
4   - Mixed my sport drink too strong.
3   - Hung on to the feet of a faster swimmer too long.
2   - Went anaerobic in the first 400 meters of the swim.
And Gordo's #1 mistake in ironman-distance racing....rode too hard in the first 90 minutes of the bike.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

We All Get Injured. It's What You do Next That's Important

"My doctor gave me two weeks to live.  I hope they're in August."

                                                                                                   R. Shakes

I'm asked regularly for medical advice by the folks in my swim group, family and friends, even people I don't know all that well: How do I feel about this diet or that one? My shoulder hurts, what do you think? What do I know about a particular medication?  My grandmother in Savannah says her back hurts. Do I think she needs to see the doctor? That kind of thing.
These same people are usually disappointed when I don't share their enthusiasm about the newest way of eating, or fad cleanse in the world of health.  Under the guise of you get what you pay for, it's probably not the wisest - and in some cases safest thing - (see from a couple years ago) to try and do anything other than provide superficial care for your own family or friends.  And don't you know that they quickly see my doubting Thomas approach, even when they consider the current symptoms serious. "Do know what people are most afraid of?" asks Sean Connery in the movie Finding Forester.  "That which they don't understand."  So my experience dealing with matters of sickness and wellness pushes me back into the realm of the complexities of medicine.  "Well, it may not be so simple."

When you have an ache, a pain, or some type of symptom, it may not be easy correlate it to a single system or single easy explanation. "Do you think I have something wrong with my neck?  Or maybe my shoulder?  Or maybe it's infected?  Could it be cancer" Nobody wants to hear the "C" word!  So despite the incredible pace of technological advances, even Science Friday on NPR, being a physician is still about taking what he/she is told and coming up with a hypothesis or theory. An educated guess. 

So for the concerned, educated, goal oriented triathlete interested in performance improvement, health maintenance, and still having time in the schedule to tuck the kids in at night, the answer is prevention.  There's a great deal known, evidence based data, upon which to make several basic tenants on which to balance your prevention strategy but given our chosen sport, laid upon a probable already full life, many don't follow the obvious.  In fact, if you ask them, they often respond, "I know, I know.  I just don't have time."  So at the risk of being boringly repetitious, here is your game plan:

Sleep: even though we've just finished March Madness, pretty important here in ACC land where our local college, please, set the alarm for that morning work out and when it's bed's bed time.  Get the ball score in the morning.  Coach Joe Friel writes that "regardless of age, most of us are capable of achieving a great deal more than we even imagine is possible."  But we need sleep, "for growth and rejuvenation of the human body." 

Eat Well: There are an infinite number of dietary choices from Mediterranean to Paleo to whatever.  Do what's right for you.  But if you incorporate the thoughts of Michael Pollan into it you can't help but succeed. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." But we're triathletes and we need rules.  Pollan has many, like "If it's a plant eat it.  If it was made in a plant, don't." Or, it's not food if it arrived through the window of your car."  He suggests that the "not too much" recommendation is particularly hard for Americans and I'll bet you hear him loud and clear.  Pollan suggests we buy smaller glasses and plates. Your servings will actually seem larger.  We do this at the Post house.  All of our meals are served on the samller 9" plates, not the regular 11" dinner plates.  "Try not to eat alone" as it will make you slow down a bit and really enjoy the meal more.  You can google Pollan for more if you wish.

Flu Shot/Tetanus Booster: Part of the prevention theme.  I know an athlete bitten by a bat on a morning run...and he argued about whether or not he needed to update his tetanus status. Seriously?  As Nike says, Just Do It.

Be thankful: You are lucky to be doing this.  Honestly, just look around at those who won't or can't do what you do on a daily basis.  The simple act of an early morning run through the woods, easy to take for granted, but when you consider the lives of the disabled or elderly who have no possibility of replicating this time of joy in your day, it should make you grateful.

Help your body help you improve: You spend so much mental and physical energy getting faster you can't help but be a successful athlete.  The human body can survive the good, your next race, and the bad as Rolling Stone member Keith Richards has shown us for decades.  I'll leave you with two thoughts on him, the first from NYT writer Timothy Egan - one of my favorites.  If you don't follow him on Twitter you should - and the second from the old reliable Onion.
First Egan.   The cadaverous Keith Richards, at the age of 72, is a living testament to how much self-abuse — heroin, tobacco, alcohol and sleep deprivation — one man can endure. After the apocalypse, goes the old joke, only Richards and cockroaches will remain.
Or, from the Onion 3/15/16

Keith Richards' Housekeeper Has Braced Herself For Finding Dead Body Every Day Since 1976

Twitter image of Dory