So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When Things Come To A Head

Feels like the end of the tunnel has been reached, so to speak. In the past I've always managed to survive the stretch from Thanksgiving to right around Christmas without catching whatever nasty cold or flu or creeping crud was circulating. However, this year was a major change in the immunity, or susceptibility to the stuff, I guess. I don't think my training volume changed all that much this year, & it's not like I was over-fatigued from IM FL. But I got something before the holidays, pretty much the same cold/flu bug/crud (more like upper respiratory infection, head cold, low-grade fever kind of stuff) I have visit days after Christmas.
The timing was nearly perfect...and not so perfect; it all hit like a ton of bricks last week when I was scheduled for a general practitioner's appointment. Unfortunately, it stuck around & became more noxious through the weekend's tri club party/meeting - if the photos taken showed I looked like I rolled out of a sickbed to quaff a couple of beers, well, that's because I did. The bad news is I don't feel like doing anything that resembles exercise. The good news is I didn't have any major plans for this month, anyhow.
At least that's what my body is telling me. My mind, on the other hand...wanted to jump in on the weekend's masters' swim meet a couple of days back. Hey, it would have been warmer in the water than on the deck, but I doubted hacking a six-pound loogie at the end of the 800-yard freestyle would have been a pretty sight. Some times you have to be smarter than your desire.
So, other than a couple of brief walks around the park with the wife & the woofer, my exercise regimen has been limited to a single set of 12-ounce elbow bends each evening.
Plan out your holiday period as judiciously as you would plan any other training period. It's a time to spend with family, friends, co-workers, but make certain you don't run yourself directly into the ground. I make a conscious effort to decline invitations...as nicely as possible...if I feel the schedule has become too hectic. All the same, I try not to become too bunged up if I can't get everyone to show up at a single social function.

As for the training, it's a great time to run, bike or swim with people you normally wouldn't train. We've got local runs which occur at the same time as our track workout; I'm not one to give carte blanche & say, 'go ahead and run with that group,' but if the change of pace gives you a new perspective on your training...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ISO A Guy With Initials After His Name

(EDITORIAL COMMENT: MY USE OF THE MASCULINE FORM DOES NOT MEAN I AM A MALE CHAUVINIST - USE OF MALE FORM ONLY MAKES FOR EASIER WRITING.)

Spent a few minutes after getting my weekly Six at Six beat-down talking to Mark. He asked me what I knew about chiropractic, & whether I had ever been treated by a doctor of chiropractic. I had to admit a certain degree of ignorance about the benefits of chiropractic; while I've read much in the running world about athletes being adjusted on a regular basis, I also had to look past some formerly/deeply-held (religion-based) convictions. I'm not in the mood to get into the theological side of this, so I'll stay with the semi-scientific side.
I spent 14 years working in the medical field, as an administrative person (transcribing doctors' orders), a file maintainer/receptionist & a transcriber (history/physical examinations, ER visits, progress notes, discharge orders, treatment notes, and so on). During that time I had close working/personal relationships with most of the relevant medical professions (doctors are willing to engage in some back-scratching to get their work expedited), which gave me the chance on many occasions to ask 'what's the difference between...?'
So, if I were to place the three forms of medicine on a spectrum, I would consider osteopathic medicine (practiced by doctors of osteopathic, or D.O.'s) at the center of the spectrum. Chiropractic, Homeopathic, Chinese and Ayurvedic would be on the left side; allopathic medicine (practiced by doctors of medicine, M.D.'s) would be on the right.
A V.A. friend of mine is a D.O. I would visit him on occasion in the Rehab Medicine department when I had an issue, or just to ask 'what would you do in this situation?' I always found his approach to medical issues to be pragmatic & holistic. He was more likely to try something outside the box than fall back on more traditional methods of treatment. I decided to see what Wikipedia had to say about osteopathic medicine, and whether I had gone far afield with my description to Mark.
Wiki says: "...osteopathy has been considered a form of complementary medicine, emphasizing a holistic approach and the skilled use of a range of manual and physical treatment interventions in the prevention and treatment of disease. In practice, this most commonly relates to musculoskeletal problems such as back and neck pain. Osteopathic principles teach that treatment of the musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles and joints) facilitates the recuperative powers of the body."There's a time & place for pharmaceuticals in the treatment of medical issues, but I'm always amenable to something a little more on the natural side. Mind you, the most important issue is not so much the type of initials after the name as much as whether they are compatible to your needs.
I have spent more time over the past two years in dental offices than doctor's offices, so it wasn't that important to me. However, after my episode in Panama City I knew I did not want to visit the general practitioner near my home. There's nothing worse than being an athlete who has a medical issue; a physician's visit usually leads to the typical 'stop running/cycling/swimming altogether' advice. I also could tell from the first visit the practice would not be compatible; contemporary religious background muzak & copies of Christianity Today are not preferred waiting room material for a recovering fundamentalist.

Fortunately for me, I was able to get the contact information for the physician my friend Steven sees. The guy's a masters' swimmer & does some of our long swim events, so he recognized me right away when he came into the examination room. Right away, I knew this would be a fairly comfortable fit.

And when it comes to your life, your health & your avocation, comfort is darn near everything.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Things Which Make You Go "Hmm..."

Thing 1 (...which has nothing to do with The Cat In The Hat...):
A brief trip to the men's facilities in my office building reminded me of something I observed last week, but didn't have the chance to talk about. So, I'll talk about it here.

It's nothing off-color or bad. Just something to make you scratch your head in wonder, or say to yourself: 'dude, why didn't I think of that?'

I think it was in the men's room of either the Mellow Mushroom or Pineapple Willy's in Panama City Beach. In fact, it was the 'Shroom, because I didn't hit the 'head' anywhere else I can recall...Senator.

Okay. The urinals in the mens' room (I don't think there are urinals in ladies' rooms, but if there are, I don't want to know...) had the rubber/plastic screen to keep cigarette butts & various/sundry debris out...imprinted with the name & phone number of a local urological practitioner.

Whodathunkit?

Thing 2 (...still, nothing to do with TCITH...):
Went to the local running emporium yesterday afternoon to have a chat with the proprietor about stuff, provide a post-mortem of what went awry, talk about the way forward, & assure him I had not fallen off the face of the earth. Darned if Mark wasn't setting up a bike fit, & John Murray, a local swim impressario (who did an open-water swim seminar a month ago at the store) was up taking care of business.

John has an understanding of cardiac issues, so when I told him the tale he shook his head knowingly. Something he said made perfect sense. Actually another one of those things which make you go, 'hmm...'

"No athlete minds having an event named in their memory; the hard part is you have to die to earn it."
Thing 3 (...which has much to do with Thing 2, but nothing to do with the aforementioned Cat...and how many card-carrying, hat-wearing cats have you met?)
While discussing the way forward, event-wise, I started to mention my thoughts about doing a marathon in eight weeks, just down the road in Mobile. However, as the words began to come out of my mouth, I realized the unrealistic expectation I would place on myself. I then said: 'y'know, John...I'm worried that if I set myself up for failure on the marathon; have a bad day, get injured, or whatever...it will be impossible for me to train for the events I know I can accomplish.'
So, today, I'm reading an on-line article from some Ironguides cat (well, a coach!) by the name of Vinnie Santana, who's talking about letting your competition beat themselves rather than you doing the deed. What I borrowed (okay, stole!) from Vinnie was this:
"Training too hard too close to your big race is a mistake. If you really want to perform on that specific day, you should be training “hard” for months and months before it - even years depending on what your goals are (N.B.: Okay, I've told my athletes this in the past...). Doing a six-week training camp will only create a load your body is not used to. And those...tend to get back into training too soon & train too hard....It is extremely difficult for a working age grouper, in many ways, to do...in such a short time bracket....athletes put too much pressure on themselves, which kills their confidence & they just quit the race before they have even started. Athletes might compare their training performance...realize they are going slower which can be a result of deep fatigue instead of a lack of fitness per se or life circumstances that are not 100% optimal & think it is better to just wait for another opportunity."
Waiting for another opportunity. Sounds simple, but very few listen to that simple advice. And as Tom Petty sang, the waiting is the hardest part.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Get Up And Do It Again, Amen...

(PROBABLY SOMEWHERE NEAR FIRST YELLOW MARKER BUOY, UPPER CENTER)
I received an e-mail (one of many from friends and family, wondering what the hell happened and whether I was all right) the day after IM Florida from a friend of mine, Mark Sortino. Mark's an experienced triathlete; he's finished multiple IM events & qualified for his first trip to Kona at IM Louisville last August. He's one of the smarter tri-geeks I've met in the past few years. He has never hesitated to provide advice, counsel, a pat on the back or a dusting off of the bike shorts to less-experienced wanna-be tri-geeks like me. He's a F.I.S.T.-certified fitter who does bike fitting on the weekends at the local running emporium; our initial 90-minute fit session turned into a two-plus-hour discussion on nutrition, technique & the mental side of triathlon.

Mark's blog is always insightful & a lot of fun to read, because he's not talking about the nuts & bolts of training & racing all the time. He likes to look at the lifestyle part of being a tri-geek, too. When I say lifestyle I mean the balance of work, family, training & competition. He's got it fairly down pat from what I can tell, & has no problem putting things into proper perspective. The video clips taken by his wife Andi after he finished Kona said much more than thousands of words of written commentary; the mix of joy in achieving something that very few people do (complete IM Hawaii) & disappointment in not being able to give the performance he really wanted to on the day (because you never know if you'll make it there again) was palpable.

So when Mark's e-mail came into my inbox I took the time to really read through it. Not only did he knock the dust off my bike shorts but provided a little nudge (in the direction of my swim gear, mind you!) to get back on the horse that threw me.

It's hard to think about the existential 'now what?' when you're five or six hours out from sitting on the tailgate of an EMS truck on the beach with a tech worrying over you with a heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter & stethoscope. The perspective doesn't exist there...add a few more hours of hearing Mike Reilly welcome someone else into the IM family as you're going to pick up your crap in transition. That's something which hurts like a punch in the ribs. Even then the perspective is still far down the road.

I stood out on the run course outside the Mellow Mushroom, after my beer & salad, watching the athletes come through on the first - some on their second - loop. I had the privilege to see my friend & (part-time) business/training partner come through the first loop:
Steve - 'What are you doing here? What happened?'

MB - 'Bad day, dude. Now, go finish this thing!'
The perspective usually comes as a result of the same cycle a'la Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' death/dying/grief cycle: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Kubler-Ross' stages don't progress in any particular sequence, which is a good thing...'cause I think I shot right past Bargaining. IM doesn't allow you to bargain after you are on the shore, the side of the road, or in a medical tent/emergency room.

No. There is Bargaining: 'Get me out of this alive & I'll do it right next time.'

Denial: 'I cannot believe I busted my chops for all these months & still got my butt kicked.'

Anger: 'I hate myself for not putting in more open water time. I still can't swim!'

Depression: 'I don't want to be near anyone; I'm ashamed of my failure.'

Acceptance: 'IM is not easy. If it were everyone would do it. This year wasn't your time.'

The beginning of the closure from my bad day came as Steven finished. His family, my wife & I were standing at the beginning of the finish chute & cheered like crazy people. Hey, the company had a fifty-percent success rate on the day.

I had a brief thirty-minute temper tantrum the next morning as I saw all the finisher shirts/hats/acoutrement & thought to myself: 'dude, that should have been you.' But it was balanced with the ER physician's comment: 'you probably made the right decision today.'

Today. It all boils down to today. And today. And today. And today.

So, I feel much better today. I've got a few hundred more of those on the way to the next stop on the journey.

And maybe I'll have a better today in the Gulf of Mexico on a November morning two years from today.

Thanks, Mark. Thanks also to my long-suffering wife, Suzanne...you didn't panic or freak out through the whole ordeal. We'll do it right this next time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

...Months Which End In "R"

Steven and Beverly arrived yesterday afternoon and checked in to their condo...which is way down along the run course. For pre-athlete meeting dinner, we all decided to meet at a local oyster bar. I'm happy to say the oysters were delicious, even though I had only three...maybe four.

Naturally, there was nothing new in the athlete meeting a seasoned triathlete probably doesn't know...drafting rules, penalty tent locations, warnings against littering and public...well, let's just say I won't be trying to make a new meaning out of the old phrase void where prohibited by law. Good stuff to hear, if nothing else, to remind you what you're really here for.

Suzanne and I went for a very easy jog the other morning on the front three miles of the run course, which weaves (now there's an apt description!) through the rows of condos and through the residential neighborhoods along Front Beach. That sense of deja vu, all over again. The IM FL run does the Gulf Coast Half course twice, how nice. Of course, without about 10-to-15 degrees of excess temperature as compared to May.

Roch (Frey) and Heather (Fuhr) sighting on the road which goes northeast (the other side) of Signal Hill Golf Course. I kind of smiled and waved...and they did back...after which I told Suzanne, 'Roch and Heather...' Yeah, like she's going to know who the heck those folks were. Of course she would...she reads my magazines. She knows the guys in the goofy costumes.

But you still have to do the miles, no matter how nice the weather is.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

...Of Course, There Was A Line

Brief observations from yesterday's arrival & check-in:

1. Never, ever trust an elderly gentleman who says he's never been to a particular place in the world. Odds are very good he's pulling your leg. I had the supreme good fortune to have my check-in nerves soothed by a couple of Johns. Really, both of these gentlemen were named John. After signing my life away to WTC and promising I would never even think of the phrase lawsuit at the same time as I participate in IM FL, I sat down with these two gentlemen to receive my numbers, my chip, my cap and all the other good stuff. John asked where I was from, to which I replied: 'Pensacola, just up the way.'

"Never heard of it."

"You're kidding," I said. As I began to mention the relative distance from PCB, Destin, FWB & other locations on Planet Earth, I saw the slightest twinkle come to the eyes of both Johns. At that moment, I laughed and said, 'ah, so THAT'S why I feel that tugging sensation at my ankle...pull my leg, will ya?' We had a great conversation which lasted probably about ten minutes after that, got the necessary business completed, and went on my merry way.
2. Wal-Mart is the same no matter where you go, except for the layout. After a late luncheon at Pineapple Willy's we made the command decision to acquire some light snacks, social beverages and ibuprofen, and quickly. A four-buck Abita Amber will do that to you every time. Fortunately for us, there's a Wal-Mart approximately a stones' throw from the hotel.
Nothing changes from store location to store location. Trust me on this one. Go to the web site People of Wal-Mart.com and you'll understand what I mean. I swear I've seen each of those people in each location I've ever visited. Well, it was a little different for this trip, as you had pre-race triathletes going through the grocery and personal care sections, too.
The dichotomy was pretty funny. There was a lean, hawk-faced, serious-looking gentleman in front of Suzanne and me (was in the 10 items or less line) with six bottles of PowerAde, two packages of lettuce hearts, two packages of tomatoes, a package of frozen chicken filets, two sweet potatoes, and a few other salad makings here and there. There we were with a box of ibuprofen, a box of Clif Bars and a 12-pack of Corona. The Brasilians behind us, I think, were somewhere in between the two extremes, well, at least they were smiling. Suzanne asked if they were here for Ironman...of course, they spoke little English. I held up my wristband and smiled. They held up theirs. Suzanne wished them luck...which they didn't catch. I told them Bom Suerte, pidgin bastardized Spanish/Portuguese for good luck, to which they smiled.
"...every body every where smiles in the same language..." - Wooden Ships (Jefferson Airplane)