Saturday, September 1, 2018

New Blog Site Under Construction

Friends of this blog.

I am in the process of redoing the blog away from Blogger to a dedicated site of my own.  While I like Blogger, over the last year the problems exceeded the value so it's time fo a dedicated site.

Hopefully it will be done in the first two weeks of September and back on line well before Kona.

Look forward to a new an improved experience.

Thanks for your patience.

John Post

Sunday, August 19, 2018

One Millionth Blog View!! Don't Make This Swim Start Mistake

First off, THANK YOU!!

This week I'll have my ONE MILLIONTH BLOG VIEW and without you the athletes, it would never have occurred.  So a big handshake of thanks to each of you.

                  The Proper Way to Weigh a Triathlete

No self respecting triathlete approaches the weekly weigh-in nonchalantly.  No sirree Bob, this is a solemn occasion.  The numbers displayed on the desperate racer's scale can make or break the unsuspecting athlete who, following a partial overdose on Thursday night at Hal's Hot dog Hideaway where it was three-for-the-price-of-one chili cheese dog night.  He's hoping the scale takes little notice of his...uh... indiscretion.

The first step in this complex task is to close the bathroom door so there are no witnesses.  Disrobe completely.  Yes even those tighty-whities.  Head for the toilet evacuating both bowel and bladder, pausing if need be for those last couple of drops to hit the water.  Do not shower.  I heard tell that it sticks in your pores and your weight goes up."  Maybe?

With a sense of purpose in your stride, approach the scale and step aboard.  Exhale (you never know.)  Note reading and step off.  Repeat, getting three quotes.  Accept lowest one.  Did you remember to exhale?

Know that this is all said in jest and each of you does what's right for YOU.  Know that there is a sub set of triathletes who flat refuse to weigh themselves saying their friends go overboard at a "half pound one way or the other."  Sadly, we both have friends like that and maybe lean that way ourselves.  Weight these days is a very private number.  You know your friends ages, alcohol habits, even salaries in some cases but unless they're ultra close buddies, you don't ask their weight.

Some say we should focus more on body fat percentage as it more closely aligns with overall health.  While in the big picture that may be correct, that dividing line is around 25% for men and 35% for women, not the typical range seen in this sport.  It's more descriptive of visceral fat, belly fat, that kind of thing.

That said I side with the people who preach that if you measure something you can affect change in it.  You can choose daily weight, calorie intake, a food diary, something where you are conscious on a daily basis of what goes in your mouth.  This gives you those little hints in daily life of what to put on your plate and lunch, dinner and in between.  Science has shown this to be a more effective to maintain/control our weight.  Select whichever method fits best into your life and do it every day.  Well, almost.  You're more likely to get the results you want of you do. 


Point to La Pointe Swim Lake Superior 2018

I was in an open water 2.1 mile swim last month in Lake Superior, Bayfield, WI to Madeline Island that pretty much parallels the ferry route between the two. (Or as the locals like to point out, "parallels the ice road" since the lake is frozen solid much of the year and they make the journey by car or truck.  They don't call them Great Lakes for nothing.  

The race was billed as having 500 mandatorily wetsuited swimmers, men starting at 7:20, women 7:28.  At 7:15, with 250 men standing ankle deep in 60 degree water, the call “5 minutes” came out.  Two minutes later, “3 minutes,) and at 7:20 a loud airhorn signaled SWIM!

The women then quickly gathered in the same place, same sequence, “5 minutes,” but here’s where things took an odd turn.  A ferry was coincidentally returning to Bayfield at that exact same moment.  Just before the 3 minute call, the ferry blew it’s horn, and guess what – about half the women thought it was the starting airhorn and took off swimming!  The locals and more experienced women who were familiar with the hourly ferry toots stood still.  No one had any idea how to bring the errant swimmers back so they just let them go and sounded the race airhorn at 7:28.  I don't know how they scored the timing for the women, probably just one more unknown in being a race director.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Kinesio Tape - Part of Your Injury Protocol?

"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."      Bruce Springsteen, For You

Kinesiology Tape reportedly:

1)  Supports muscle

2)  Removes congestion to the flow of bodily fluids
3)  Activates the endogenous anesthesia system
4)  Corrects joint problems
5)  Reduces muscle fatigue
6)  Reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness
7)  Enhances healing by reducing edema
8)  Increases blood flow
9)  Aligns fascial tissues

Let's see if these claims hold water.


I've been intrigued by the array of tape colors and applications for a long time. Taping has gotten pretty wide exposure but I'm having trouble understanding the claimed physiology behind these claims. "Lifts the skin," supports muscles and joints," just doesn't seem to add up in my book.  I admit that having so many attributes aligned with a single product can be confusing, at least to me anyway.  But let's check a little further.

The product originated in Japan in the 1970's by Kenso Kaze, an acupuncturist/chiropractor.  The pieces are cotton based and possess a heat-activated adhesive.  Anecdotally, trainers and athletes have seen success although some describe it as, "Hit and miss."  Unfortunately, there's not a great deal in the medical literature to support it's use. Many of the claims seem to be manufacturer-based.  (Where have we heard that before?)  One study from 2008 evaluating the tape's use in athletes with shoulder pain did show immediate improvement with the use of kinesio tape over a sham. But by day 6, "Both the tape group and the sham group had significantly improved in all outcome variables."  The authors concluded, "Utilization of Kinesio tape for decreasing pain intensity or disability for younger patients with suspected shoulder tendinitis/impingement is not supported."  

Quoting AAOS Now senior science writer Terry Stanton, "Other reliable studies find little evidence to support using the tape, although some small investigations reported some positive results......overall, 'the efficacy of Kinesio tape in pain relief was trivial given there were no clinically important results.'"  

Taped athlete on Kona pier

No study has reported negative results. I think that's an important statement. The best explanation is that the mechanism is one of placebo.  That said, some would use it even if it only acts as a placebo.  There's no harm in giving it a try and if the athlete improves so be it.  S. Terry Canale, MD of the American Academy Of Orthopedic Surgeons sums it up this way:

1)  Kinesio taping has some benefit in 40 percent to 60 percent of users: probably works best as a placebo.
2)  It works best in the shoulder, forearm and quadriceps as an adjunct to PT rehabilitation.
3)  More definitive studies need to be done to see if any objective evidence supports it's use.

So, since we've previously established that triathletes are, in marketing terms, early adopters, willing to try the new and different even if it's unproven, we'll continue to see neon taped athletes from time to time. Whether or not it works remains to be seen.  And, other than the out of pocket expense, there doesn't seem to be any harm. It seems there may be a role for KT in the triathlete's injury bag and I wouldn't discount it.

Monday, August 6, 2018

26:20 on the Kona IM Course, The Smiling Walt Stack

Let Me Take You Back to 1981

"Start off slow...and taper back."    Walt Stack

 Triathlon has become such a highly regulated sport these days, eh?.  There are governing organizations, certifications on many levels, with ever changing rules and regulations.  We occasionally need to take a look back to the pioneers of our sport, those adventurous souls who, when presented with the idea of swim long, bike long, then run a marathon thought, “Now that sounds like fun!”  Mostly they did this on faith and faith alone. 

“Cowman” Ken Shirk, one of these early pace setters, was able to complete the entire original Kona course wearing a cow head complete with horns.  Why would he want to do that you ask?  (The answer doesn't come to me immediately either.)  And he's completed many more since. A strong individualist, he fit right in to the then prevalent mindset of people at the far end of the endurance sport bell curve.  Ken’s pedigree includes being the second man to finish the Western States 100 mile race. Or, more accurately, the second human to finish the event not horse bound! 

"Cowman" Ken

His Ironman swim required a modified breast stroke which Ken labeled the “cow stroke.”  Well, of course.  Wouldn’t you?  I don’t know how many times he’s finished the event, both as a legal registrant, and I’m told as a bandit, but it seems the event has gotten too big, gone in another direction, for the Cowmans of life.  Sad.

Many of you were not born in February 1981, the year Walt Stack toed the line in Hawaii. The race was still in February back then and this would the first time for the Big Island course, the race having been run in Honolulu from 1978 - 80. It had just gotten too big to be contested in the populous state capitol.

San Francisco's Walt Stack was part of Ironman before everyone and his brother was labeled hero, a real larger than life guy. He’d done countless races before coming to the Big Island and had established himself as a legendary figure in our young sport.  Not fast, but steady, he could always be counted on to be one of those still standing at race’s end. (Seven years later he would do a very cute Nike commercial.

And, from a piece about Walt in Sports Illustrated: "Stack was out running the hills near his home. It should be called climbing. He was with a group of young women from his running club, the Dolphin South End Runners, when suddenly, one of them recalls, "I heard a sharp crack. I looked back, and Walt was stretched out on the sidewalk, bleeding from a cut on the head. 'Walt, what happened?' I yelled.  " 'That's what comes from being a dirty old man,' he said. I dropped back to look at your legs, and I ran into an overhanging branch.' "  If you'd like to read the whole article - it's particularly good - go to

His first, and only, Ironman in Kona was in 1981 when there was only one Ironman, no WTC and no separation of pro’s and age groupers.  Everybody was an age grouper!  You need to remember that these were the early developing days of the sport and we didn’t know a great deal about aerodynamics on the bike, refueling or nutrition, and if you mentioned compression it was assumed you were speaking about the compression ratio of your car’s engine.  Ironman had no swim or bike times, no cut offs, and only a rudimentary course.  

The swim had no buoys, no course, and according current Swim Director Jan War, “You just swam out to a canoe and back.”  When asked about turn around help for any competitor not from Kailua-Kona, or perhaps the directionally challenged in ocean navigation, to aid even finding the turn around boat, he laughs loudly as one who knows the punch line of a joke before you do.  According to Jan, his predecessor, crusty Mo Matthews, was fond of reporting, “If they can’t find the turn around boat, they shouldn’t be doing the race.” 

 Stack was ready for the event and at 73, the oldest ever competitor to attempt the distances.  After a 3+ hour swim and leisurely bike, history has it that he was pretty tired on the run. So, he just eased off the course, lay down in someone’s yard, and took a nap.  Once refreshed, he set off on his 26 mile jaunt and near it’s conclusion got hungry.  So what do you do when your stomach starts talking, head for the restaurant naturally.  The Kona Ranch House which used to be on Palani Road but is no more.  The way I heard it, he was eating his waffle breakfast, reading the morning paper, with the results of “yesterday’s” Ironman race in it. The race in which he was still competing!

 Once breakfast was finished, he got back out on the course, finished the event in a speedy 26 hours and 20 minutes, and still holds the record for longest race time in Kona.

 It’s a shame that the sterility of present day doesn’t seem to have a place for Cowman, the Amazing Walt Stack and countless other characters who put this event into the national spotlight..  But they are the rocks on which this sport is built.  And if you happen to be walking around Kona one day and spy a guy with cow horns on, don’t simply assume him an asylum escapee but walk over, shake his hand and say thanks.  Maybe he'll share with you some of the finer points of the cow stroke!

Images: Google images

Monday, July 2, 2018

Open Water Ocean Swimming Hazards And The Triathlete

Setting out the buoys for the swim course

"The guy sure looks like plant food to me." Audrey II, Little Shop of Horrors
I can't tell you how many times I've been "nipped" by jellyfish during an open water ocean swim.  More than 20 times I'd bet.  Kona, Boston, Chesapeake Bay, Florida, SC, come to mind quickly.  Many of us have run into a jellyfish or two either training or racing in ocean water. More of an inconvenience than anything usually, some poor souls have a more significant reaction. I received a note from an athlete a couple years ago who stated a jellyfish sting allergy and she wondered about the legality of wetsuits in an important ocean swim she has in her future, I suppose thinking the wetsuit a shield of sorts.  

Triathletes understand the significant differences between events held in a pool or lake and those in sea water.  Currents, waves, sighting,  etc., all are a little different and the triathlete who shows up event morning for their first effort trying to race in an ocean environment is not only stupid but risks both success and physical harm.  It's one of those times where the old adage of practice makes perfect has never been more true

Well, our athlete in question's race is the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii where wetsuits are not permitted. I've been stung in Kailua Bay a number of times, but it's always more like little needles that hurt/itch a little that day and then, like most of us anyway, it's gone. I've never even seen the ones that got me. If you're lucky, and looking ahead while you swim, which I know most of us don't do, and there's a big Portuguese man-o-war ahead, you can try and swim around it. Remember, it's tentacles can be 5-8 feet in length and have 100's of stinging cells on each. It's not uncommon after a stinging that some swimmers experience nausea, headache, muscle pain, etc.  After the initial welts subside a few are left with permanent scars.

In some locations, primarily around Australia, some jellyfish stings are so powerful that those who encounter them may need hospitalization with intravenous antivenom without which they suffer respiratory failure and and die.

So, if this summer you are stung while swimming, first (with gloves) peel off any left over tentacles and apply vinegar, straight from the kitchen. More involved stings may require medical attention and support from a cardiopulmonary perspective. Always be aware of the signs of an allergic reaction - difficulty swallowing/breathing/swelling of hands, face or tongue, etc.

Now how do we advise our lady with jellyfish allergy? First, I told her to contact the race director and race medical team well before the event.  I'm assuming that this condition has already been thoroughly worked up by a board certified Allergy Specialist.  The race medical guys need to know of the possibilities here. Second, there's a high likelihood that she can be "premedicated" before the race such that should a stinging event occur that she's covered. Sadly, in this day and age, I wouldn't be surprised if a special legal document isn't drawn up for her signature noting the risks she faces and accepts. Hey, it's 2018.

But, the take home message for most of those reading here is that most of us, when hit by that odd jelly or two in our morning swim, simply complain about it at breakfast - maybe lunch, a little - and then it's chalked up to triathlon experience.  They might even brag about it one day.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Sesamoid Problems? You Have Lots of Company

2017 Kona racer heading to the changing tent and 26.2 more miles before day's end

"Give me three steps, gimme three steps mister..." Lynyrd Skynyrd

This is a reprint of a 2009 blog which has stimulated 1000s of athletes.

I was asked recently about an athlete with a foot problem and a possible sesamoid fracture. It occurred to me that most folks didn't know they had sesamoid bones, or if they did, where they were. 

The simplest definition of a sesamoid bone is one that's surrounded by tendon or intratendinous. The most obvious example would be the knee cap. This blog will be devoted to the pair of sesamoid bones underneath the ball joint of the big toe. They are about the size of a lima bean, normally glide front and back with each stride and rarely give us much cause for concern. But as with any bone in the foot, they can be broken or subject to a stress fracture. A true fracture takes a pretty significant injury such as a fall from a height where we in the endurance sport world are more likely to see a stress fracture from the usual causes. (See my two 2009 blogs on this injury pattern.) The athlete with a true fracture is going to be immobilized between 4 and 8 weeks, will be made non-weight bearing on crutches, and like likely be doing all of his/her training in the pool for a while. Treating the stress fracture is much less aggressive, but here, too, your running shoes will see no action for longer than you'd like.

Often times, sesamoid problems present as sesamoiditis, an inflammation of the area caused by the usual culprits of too much too fast, especially speed work or hills. One starts with the gradual onset of pain under the big toe, initially present during only the hardest portion of the workout and increasing to any running, even walking. There doesn't seem to be much redness or bruising. They can be slightly swollen but frequently it's not easy to see.

So what do you do? Back off for a while. Maybe do a percentage of your weekly run volume in the pool. (It can be fun.) Then, if you can unload the area of distress by using a metatarsal pad or other device to very slightly overload the non-injured portion of the foot being certain to ice down the area once the run is over. Don't be so aggressive that you risk frostbite but 15-20 minutes ought to do it.

It's not uncommon for an exact diagnosis to be difficult to make. Stress fracture, old fracture, acute fracture, etc. Even then, the treatment can be both prolonged and frustrating. If your doc suggests the possiblity of surgery, this would be one of those instances where, in my opinion, a second opinion is mandatory.  This is your foot you're talking about and you only have one chance to get the right answer the first time.

Lastly, trying to go through your log book examining each week, each run, for clues as to the cause and how to never have it again is always beneficial.  And if you're successful, your "three steps" will be crossing the finsh line without pain!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Who Cares About Sleep When You Can Do It In School?

"Who cares about sleep when you can do it in school?"                                      Corny Collins, Hairspray

Matt Fitzgerald  -  I've steered you to his writing/philosophy before but let me do it again. I've never met him, but I'd like to one day. I'm not related and we're not in any business deals that I'm aware.  But I own at least 3 of his books.  His writing style is relaxed, knowledgeable and rarely intentionally inflammatory.  But it's always well researched and accurate.

I wanted to focus on sleep this time.

Matt's opening quote in the Complete Triathlon Book: "You can do more than you might think to prevent general fatigue - a great epidemic in our society to which triathletes are especially susceptible..."

More in a minute.


Each Thanksgiving The local Turkey Trot goes right by our house.  I think there are about 3,000 runners, walkers and strollers. It's really a fun group with many in costume.  We're almost at the two mile mark of this 5K event and I make it a point to set up my own "aid station" with, well of course, what else would your body cry out for after running this distance on Thanksgiving morning, preparing as it is for the onslaught of food?  That's right, Bloody Mary's.  The competitors reactions have been quite predictable from the, "What, are you kidding me?" to "Alright, you the man!"  Most, however, just wave.  I usually run out.  Life is good - and you can quote me on that.

My in laws live in the Chicago suburbs and we spend Thanksgiving there occasionally.  A couple of years ago, the local Turkey Trot course came very near their home.  It was also a 5K race on the local streets. However, sometime later in the day, someone not connected with the event noted "an unidentified white powdery substance" on the ground!  

The authorities went ape.  The area was cordoned off, 100, not two, not twenty, but one-hundred on/off duty police and fire fighters were mobilized to protect the good citizens from what was eventually determined to be.... soccer field lime from the mornings Trot.  Ha!  What a world.

Triathletes are used to squeezing more into a day than most folks.  When given the choice between lunch with the gang or shoehorning in a 5 mile run, the run almost always gets the nod.  At the end of the day when much needed rest is in order, frequently everything's not checked off the list yet. And sleep gets short changed.  Hey, it always worked in college right?

But we're not in college anymore.  And it's not academics on the plate, it's physical effort placed on a body that oftentimes is still a tad beaten down from yesterday's work outs.  Or beaten down from that half marathon last Saturday. Repeating Fitzgerald's quote, "You can do more than you might think to prevent general fatigue - a great epidemic in our society to which triathletes are especially susceptible..."

It's pretty obvious that many younger athletes can live this way and still perform at a very high level.  We all know someone who can party till 3, get close to no sleep overnight, and still toe the line at 7:30 am for the local 5K expecting to perform at a high level. And do it.  Aging athletes just can't.  And by aging I don't just mean the Medicare crowd.  This means you Ms. Forty old.

Recovery is not a four letter word but one in which adequate rest/sleep is essential.  As one gets deeper in to the training year, and the intensity of training increases, the body simply must have regular sleep to combat the accumulating physical stress.  It's during this sleep that the body releases testosterone.  This hormone has gotten more than it's share of press recently but it's certainly important.

So, particularly as we get older, we need to be careful not to compromise sleep (yes, I know it's easy to say and harder to do. And, yes, I'm as guilty as the next athlete of occasionally cutting this corner.) It's one of the few things in triathlon that doesn't cost more money, right?  So, next time you plan turkey for supper, while contemplating that luscious taste with sleep inducing agents of it's own like L-tryptophan, take just a minute to think how today's sleep recommendation can fit into your lifestyle.  Sweet dreams. You'll be a winner if you do.

3 ways to get to bed on time.

 I hear your coaches saying it. Sleep.  That said, people in this sport get a lot done every day, including training.  But at the end of the day, when the “to do” list remains incomplete, it’s really easy to think “it’ll just take 15 minutes to finish.”  If you’re like most, it turns into 45 minutes and then there’s a recap of the Yankees game on ESPN that you missed, etc.  I know it happens to me.  Best intentions of getting to bed by 10 sharp, and then I start piddling around with little stuff.  So, if you can pick a time and stick to by powering down maybe 15 minutes before, and it gets to be habit, you’ll do it without thinking and reap the benefits at the next race.  The second way would be to simply set the alarm on your phone for perhaps 20 minutes before the desired sack time and start getting ready then.

Lastly, as a triathlete you put out all your clothes and morning workout gear before bed.  Like your own little transition area.  Instead of waiting till 10, do it right after supper and doing the dishes.  That way, at 10 pm approaches, your wind down time doesn’t get extended.

This is the lobby of the King Kamehameha Hotel, the headquarters hotel in Hawaii. No, these people have not been felled by sniper fire. They are families waiting while their athletes are running IM.  Maybe they all had turkey for breakfast.