So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
A little on the humid side, but could have been worse. Temperature - 75*/Humidity - 82%/Wind - 7mph S/Overcast
MB, Suzanne, Deena, Joe
Monday, April 18, 2011
I made a woman cry this weekend.
I told her something she didn't want to hear.
Before you consider me cold and heartless, let me tell you the front half of the story...
I was standing out in a grassy transition area with thousands of bicycles on racks all around me, watching athletes check in their bicycles for the Ochsner Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.
Many questions were asked of me: Where was the exit from the lake? Where would they enter the bike course? How would they return to transition? How would they start the half-marathon run? Most of the questions were not difficult, and it was my job to answer them, in the hope their race day would be less chaotic.
Two hours before transition was scheduled to close, the young lady showed up to check in her bicycle. Unfortunately, she forgot to place the number tag on the bike frame. "Sorry, we can't check in your bike," is the response she received from our crew.
Later in the weekend, as the sun encouraged a state of giddy delirium, the crew began to think unthinkable thoughts: What if a dishonest triathlete (A rhetorical question; I know of no dishonest triathletes...) were to peel the number off their less-expensive bike and place it on another, more-expensive bike? If volunteer workers weren't following instructions to the letter, or closely paying attention, there was the outside chance of a bike upgrade at the cost of a race entry. There was the method to our madness; we HAD to be certain the number on the athlete's wristband matched the number on the bike; no tag number on the bike meant we couldn't tell if the bike truly belonged in transition.
The crew asked her to see me.
She, an experienced triathlete, spent 20 dollars to bring her bike by taxi. Telling her "no" meant she had at least three 20-dollar cab rides on her evening agenda. (If I were a dishonest race volunteer, I would have asked for a kick-back from the cab company.) Was there any way possible for us to tag her bike frame and let her check the bike? She PROMISED she'd bring the tag in the morning.
Mind you, this was the tenth instance of "missing number" I encountered in six hours. If we had blank tags we might have been able to assist in this situation. But we didn't. I told her she had to go get her tag before I could check her bike.
The issue of pre-race preparation isn't strictly related to multisport athletes. Runners, too, can suffer the consequences of "transient brain flatus," "senior moments," or...more crudely put, "CRS." It's just that triathletes have so much more to "un-prepare" for than runners.
Or do they? Large road races like the Classic don't have expos ONLY because out-of-towners like my wife and I want to drink beer while picking up our race swag.
Race expos also exist because we leave our homes 15 minutes later than we originally planned, rushing to get to the race. We don't pack the night before. We don't use checklists. We don't prepare "the bag" with the extra socks, shorts, shirt, pins, number belt, hat, sunglasses, and so forth...much to our peril on race day. All I have to do is remember 2007's Classic, the wind and the cold in Tad Gormley Stadium, and the 20-dollar windbreaker...the picture becomes more clear.
Add to the sartorial preparation the physical, mental and emotional preparations (like previewing course maps, knowing terrain, training accordingly) which can mean the difference between success and failure, and Lord Baden-Powell's advice to the Boy Scouts rings more clearly. Be Prepared. Read the information on the race web site, the paperwork in the race packet, and the participant feedback from previous years, if it's available.
The individual racer can choose to slow down a little bit and prepare for race day (checklists, laying out items on the bed, dressing a stuffed animal, and so forth) so they don't have to pay a 300% "unprepared tax" and raise their blood pressure.
...So how does the story end?
Well, the young lady returned to transition with an hour to spare and her bike was checked in. She was in a much better mood, especially after I offered to give her a ride back to her hotel and we shared some of our "supplies" with her.
The next day, she ran through transition on her way onto the run course, yelling, smiling, and slapping me a high five.
What was that Tennessee Williams had Blanche Dubois say at the end of 'A Streetcar Named Desire?' "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers..."
Don't be forced to depend on the kindness. Be Prepared.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
He sent me a running question the other day:
"I'm starting to experience some pain on the outside of my right knee after I run. For example, I did eight miles this morning and was fine while running. When I got home, the pain really started kicking in just walking around the house. The pain seems to occur at the point when I step forward with my right foot. Any ideas? It has been happening for a few weeks now and seems to come and go. I did six miles on Monday evening and didn't have any trouble. Thanks for any help. I definitely don't want to mess up my knee."
When I sent my response back to Brett, I initially suspected iliotibial band syndrome because of the location and intermittent nature of the pain. The only other overuse injury I can think of would be patellofemoral syndrome, or "runner's knee", which would have the pain at the lower margin of the knee; the IT band would be at the upper or outer margin of the knee.
Either way, Brett has an overuse injury.
He later revealed to me he went from running five to running ten miles at a time over a four-week span, which came from training with a triathlon training group at their local YMCA. "Guess I was trying a little too hard and too quick to hang with the 'A Group'", was his lament.
When an overuse injury such as IT band syndrome, achilles tendinosis, plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral syndrome comes to pass, most of the root causes are these:
1. Old, worn-out, or improper running shoes. If the runner cannot say how long (in time or miles) they have run in a particular pair of shoes they might have run in them too long. Sometimes an old pair of shoes will give fair warning by "smelling dead," or the runner might suffer from some aches and pains in the ankles, feet, knees or lower back. Naturally, the remedy would be to get into a pair of shoes which best fits the foot type. Most experienced runners know what kind of shoes work best for them. Once in a while a particular model of shoe changes construction or materials, so it doesn't hurt (no pun intended) to have a "short list" of acceptable shoe models. The major running magazines do annual shoe reviews which can make the search more simple, or a running speciality store can point the individual runner to the "short list."
2. Significant changes in training volume, terrain, or surface. A short-term (or even a long-term) business trip or a new training group can wreak havoc on a training cycle. Most good training schedules aren't necessarily (and probably shouldn't be) written in stone. I've discussed with my coach/advisor about synchronizing my workouts with my coaching; some times solitary training sessions are necessary to train at the proper (read: easier) intensity. Look closely at the recent changes, then subtract them for about three weeks. Why three weeks? That's how long it takes for the body to benefit completely from a change in training volume or intensity, or the minimum time it takes for a low-level overuse injury to begin healing.
And when adding distance/duration to a workout, the "ten percent every three weeks" rule of thumb is best. When talking ten percent, the addition of time/distance should be spread across the training week as much as possible. For example:
OLD WEEK - 30 miles/week
- Sunday - 6 miles
- Monday - Rest
- Tuesday - 6 miles
- Wednesday - 6 miles
- Thursday - 6 miles
- Friday - Rest
- Saturday - 6 miles
NEW WEEK - 33 miles/week
- Sunday - 7 miles
- Monday - Rest
- Tuesday - 6.5 miles
- Wednesday - 6.5 miles
- Thursday - 6.5 miles
- Friday - Rest
- Saturday - 6.5 miles
I've met runners who tacked the ten percent on the Sunday run, which in the example above would increase the volume of that day by 50 percent and increase the longest run of the week to more than 20 percent of the week's volume. Neither one of those are a good idea. If there's a time crunch during the week the additional miles could be split between Saturday and Sunday, but even then there would be the risk of adding too much stress too soon.
And, regardless, cambered roads and hill running can wreak havoc on the unprepared runner. Stress injuries abound from too much "new" (surface, distance, or intensity), too soon.
3. Muscle weakness, especially in the calves, gluteus medius, and abdomen. When a runner has weak muscles or muscle imbalance it puts undue strain on the rest of the "drivetrain." I sent Brett a link to a YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RC7VH3bEB4) with some exercises to strengthen his glutes and stretch the IT band. Six of ten runners who make these changes can recover from a low-level overuse injury in as little as three weeks, with the remainder recovering in six weeks. There are those cases (this coach included) where recovery can take up to six months; more of a compliance and patience issue than anything else.
Brett sent a reply which ended with:
"I signed up for a ten-miler this coming Sunday. I want to finish it, then my plan is to go back to six miles and see how I do. If I still am having problems, I'll keep backing off until I stop having problems and may look into seeing a physical therapist. Once I figure out where my baseline is, I'll start slowly increasing my distance again, only this time at a reasonable pace."
When it comes to training, and especially when it comes to recovering from an overuse injury: Your ego is not your amigo.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
Several of my running and fitness friends have asked me to try a couple of high-intensity fitness programs, like Crossfit and Insanity. Unfortunately, it would mean casting something less-important to the side...like sleep. Really, I'd love to give it a whirl, but my dog barely recognizes me when I come through the front door as it is right now. Fitness is fleeting in nature, varigated in its forms, and hard-earned, no matter the form. So, as time progresses, and I age, and struggle to maintain the sort of fitness defined by runners and/or multisport athletes, I become less parochial about running. It's a big world, with room for sweat-fiends (friends?) of all sorts, whether they be triathletes, swimmers, cyclists...
...and yes! Even bowlers.
One can eat and enjoy a particular food item - say, pizza - for years, without ever knowing there are varieties of pie. So, when a variation on a theme, or the original article lands in your lap - in keeping with the pizza analogy, genuine Sicilian-style where the toppings are segregated to a single portion of the pie and the cheese and sauce are lightly applied...or Chicago-style deep dish (like Giordano's or Uno), where a single piece can put you down for the count - you get the chance to marvel, stretch your thinking, and even learn something.
A new addition to a training group brings this same thematic variation. One of my newest athletes, Fawn, is no exception to the rule. She comes to my track workouts with a great attitude, an upbeat demeanor, and a history of doing high-intensity gym workouts like Crossfit and Insanity; one of the first evenings she came out she was doing high knee kicks, bending herself into pretzel-like forms, and exerting much energy. After the first set she learned (the hard way, just like I did!) the cardinal rule of running effort-based workouts, especially the way I run them, and my coach ran them, and his coach... Workout durations vary depending on the coach's mood and the athlete's attitude, so pace yourself.
Fawn told me the other day she hadn't run in a week because of a minor injury, having to do with a stand-up paddleboard and an abundance of adult beverages. She felt quite guilty because the time she normally would have filled with Crossfit, Insanity or running she filled with...well, pizza.
Fortunately, she was talking to a compassionate kind of guy, especially when the topics are injuries and pizza.
"I shouldn't have had the pizza. All that stuff is so bad for you," Fawn lamented.
I responded, "Fawn, there are no bad foods, only bad portions. As long as you don't overindulge on any particular food or drink, you are going to be all right." I then described my approach to pizza: white meat, light cheese, lots of good vegetables, and thin crusts. Of course, my challenge is not killing off more than one-quarter of the pizza at a single sitting.
Portion control is difficult in this day in age, when food and drink items at fast food restaurants are "super-sized" three (or more!) times the amount they were when I was a boy. During my business trip to Austin last week, my co-workers and I discussed "snack-food semantics." 'Why is it,' said one of the group, 'that everything which tastes good but considered bad for your health is described in plural? You never hear someone talk about "cookie," or "cupcake," or "donut," or "potato chip," or "french fry..."' We all laughed, as two of our group each devoured a donut the size of a human head. (The laughing stops when the weight numbers, the cholesterol numbers, the blood pressure numbers, etc., go up.)
There's even such a thing as too much exercise, but there aren't that many people indulging in it. There are no bad workouts, only bad trainers. There are no bad activities, only bad approaches.
There are no bad foods, only bad portions: One donut is fine. As long as it's not the size of your head.