Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Yesterday I met TriDamian and Phukér for our first swim of the week. On the schedule it looked relatively hard, the main set consisting of 4 times through a set of a 300 on HIM pace on 4:15, 200 on 1500m pace on 2:15, and a 100 all out on 2:00. After the rest given by the 2:00 100 we were to start back through the intervals. Since my car got broken into (again!) on Monday evening I didn't have any of my swim stuff (if anyone in the Portland area sees someone wearing a new pair of Newtons and lugging a BlueSeventy backpack, someone who doesn't really look like they fit in those accoutrements, please let me know) and faced doing the workout in a dragsuit, sans swim cap. I also felt hugely sluggish in the water. Phukér, warming up next to us, said "Maybe I'll come over and be the caboose for you guys..." Clearly no one felt great, so we turned the main set into a game. Here were the parameters:

1) Each of us would lead one of the first three sets.
2) Each leader would call his shot as to when he would get back to the wall on each interval (ex. I said I'd return on 3:40 for the 300, 2:21 for the 200, and 1:06 for the 100).
3) For each second a leader was off in either direction, he got a point (points are bad in this game, as they are in Hearts).
4) Whomever garnered the fewest points got the privilege to lead the fourth.

I led the first set and got one point (I came back one second under my 200 prediction, on 2:20). TriDamian led the second and got one point each in his 300 and 200 repeats, but made up for the two points but swimming two seconds faster than I did on his 100 (he called and hit, exactly, 1:04), so we decided he and I were tied. Phukér, who wasn't feeling so good, missed both his 300 and 200 repeats by 5 seconds, so he was totally out of the running (kinda like those times that you played Horse when you were younger, and the kid who called a bank shot went on to miss the backboard entirely—we usually gave out multiple letters for that). TriDamian and I decided to share the last set: I led the 300 since I'm the long distance guy, and he led the 200/100. I went for it on my 300 and posted a 3:31 (not bad for no cap and a dragsuit!), and then he just ate the last two intervals alive. I cramped during the 100 and decided to "start my cooldown early."

The result? A hard set no one was looking forward to disappeared quickly. Makes me think that those Swedes (Swedes?) are onto something with their Fartleks.

Play hard.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Achilles Tendonitis

I've got achilles tendonitis at the moment, which was dismaying to hear until I learned that I could have achilles tendonosis, wherein the tendon begins to look "a lot like a long, thin piece of swiss cheese," says my PT guy (and 9:10 Ironman) Chris Ramsay, who's been helping me through this painful and frustrating process.

I'm not at the swiss cheese phase, and probably won't get there, Ramsay says, since I caught the tendonitis early. It manifested as a pain right where the line attached to "Achilles tendon" points, and seemed to get worse when I ran uphill. In addition to the pain the tendon swelled visibly. "Tendon inflammation tends to run its course in 10-14 days," Chris told me. "So if you take care of it you'll be fine in less than two weeks. If you get tendonosis, well, then you'll be dealing with it for months, or maybe forever." He ran some tests on me and discovered that I've got some weakness in my left ankle (and the hip muscles "of a 15 year old girl," but I'll write about that later) that's probably contributing to the injury. The other possible cause is a tale of three shoes, and it goes something like this: I was running in a year-old pair of Newton Distancia Racers which were getting pretty ratty. I began getting some knee pain, thought I probably had some IT Band issues, and promptly switched out of the Newtons to a pair of old, but lightly used, Nike Lunaracers. Soon my new Newtons showed up from Newton and I happily leapt into them. Chris thinks that I wore down the front lugs on my old Newtons so that they behaved more like normal shoes (Newtons have a very small heel to forefront "drop" due to those lugs under the frontfoot, but when you wear those lugs down the drop increases, turning your Newtons into a more traditional shoe where the foot slopes down from the heel). Having that larger heel—forefront drop takes some pressure off your Achilles tendon (although it's bad for a bunch of other reasons); point your toes—see how the Achilles loosens? Then I jumped into the Nikes, which, for all their close-to-the-road feel, still have about 7mm of heel-toe drop. My Achilles didn't notice a difference between the wore down Distancias and the Lunaracers. But when I started running in my new Newton Gravity Trainers (only 3mm of heel-toe drop) my Achilles had to lengthen by about 4 additional mm every time my left foot hit the ground. That began to stretch (and tear, slightly, the cause of any inflammation) the tendon. And here I am.

So now what do I do? Chris is working on my Soleus muscle (it's the less dominating part of your calf's musculature—look for the smaller inverted triangle that sits below and "behind" the gastroc, which is large and bulgy, like a biceps muscle) using active release therapy, which involves attacking adhesions (we call them "knots) in the muscles by applying specific pressure. You've probably heard of active release therapy. It is as painful (and effective) as you've heard, too. Adhesions are basically tiny cramps, little knots of muscles that can't stop contracting. To get them to loosen, Chris presses on them hard enough to cut off their direct blood supply. Cutting off the blood supply cuts off the muscle's oxygen supply (remember your high school A/P class?), and the adhesion needs oxygen to keep contracting/cramping. Eventually, the muscle gives up, kind of the way MMA fighters give up after dealing with choke/submission holds.

Remember, training stimulus damages your body. It's the only way we get faster and fitter: break down the body so it can build back up stronger. Only thing is that stuff (muscles, tendons) can get "crossed up" or "bound up" in the process. If you keep asking a muscle to contract, don't give it enough food or water or salt, and then don't cool it down properly (get in those ice baths, people) or stretch it back out, it's going to complain. What does complaint sound like?


Stay healthy. The only difference between those at the top and those just below the top is the ability to recovery.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Race Rehearsal—Nutrition

I swear I didn't doctor this photo by adding some extra flashes to that apple cinnamon PowerBar (or a fake finger to the bottom right of the frame). This is a rough approximation of the calories I consumed during yesterday's rehearsal of the St. George IM bike ride. No, I'm not in Utah right now, but with some careful route planning (and a helpful headwind) I was able to mimic what I hope to experience in 36 short days.

First of all, the ride will be difficult. Go have a look at Gordo's impressions of the course—his writeup has me rethinking my goals (in a good way). I "rode" this course a few weeks ago using a Computrainer and the St. George Real Course Interactive Video. I rode the "course" (you only get to ride 67.7 miles of the course—the lolipop stick from the reservoir and the first loop of the lolipop) and, riding steadily, only managed 17 mph avg and 200W avg. There is a lot of climbing, and I think the patient rider will be rewarded.

Nutrition. When I raced Canada last year, training partner Guy Nelson asked "What's your nutrition plan?" and I kinda shrugged and said "Double my HIM plan?" Knowing how that worked out I decided, this year, to put a little more effort into my planning.

The first step when planning your nutrition is to figure out how many calories you'll probably burn in an hour of exercise. The fuzzy rule of thumb is 1 g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight per hour. I'm a fairly stout 80 kg with a good amount of muscle mass (former trainer partner Dereck Treadwell once said: "You look like a big guy, I mean a big guy, on the bike."), so I might burn a bit more than the average triathlete at that weight. So that's 80 g of carbohydrate per hour, or 320 calories worth of food. You will want a little protein in that mix (and most energy bars come with some amount of protein), so figure another 10g of protein per hour, and I've got 360 calories to consume per hour.

I set out yesterday to ride six hours (came in about 1/2 an hour short, but that story will get posted with the label "double flat!"), so I aimed for 2160 total calories. My workout involved five separate efforts: 2 @ HIM pace for 20k with 15' recovery, and then 3x45' IM pace efforts with 5' recovery. Those fifteen and five minute windows were my chances to refuel (it's hard to unwrap a powerbar at 40 kph). Here's my menu (disclosure—I'm sponsored by PowerBar and nuun):

6 PowerBars of various flavors (1380 calories—good mix of carbohydrate and protein)
3 PowerGels of various flavors (330 calories—all carbohydrate)
1 BabyRuth bar (I love those things!) (around 250 calories, good mix of carbohydrate, salt, and fat)

Total intake: 1960 calories, about 100 short, but I did double flat at 5:30 and call it a day, so I hit my intake pretty much spot on.

And here was the plan, remember that you should get the calories in at any point during the hour, but don't start trying to play catchup—you can't. Also notice that I was a little low in the first 1.5 hours, that's because your body will still be using the 90 minutes of glycogen stored in your muscles:

2 hours before ride: 750 calorie breakfast consisting of 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup milk, 2 cups Cheerios, 1 banana, 2 T honey, 1 PowerBar.
@30' (2/3 through warmup) 1 PowerBar
@76' (after first 20k TT) 1 PowerBar, 1 PowerGel
@127' (after second 20k TT) 1 PowerBar
@150' (before first 45' IM pace interval) 1 PowerGel
@195' (after first IM interval) 1 PowerBar
@245' (after second IM interval) 1 PowerBar, 1 Baby Ruth bar (note this came at 120 k, right where I'd get my special needs bag)
@300' (after third IM interval) 1 PowerGel

I felt great as I passed the 100-mile mark (right at 310') on this ride, a sign that my nutrition was in a good place. Still, to think that just eating right will have your legs fresh for the run will have you visiting the PortaJohns, trying to unclog your stuffed but not hydrated system. Here's what I did for hydration:

14 tabs of nuun dissolved in 140 oz of water (they recommend 1 tablet per 16 oz of water but A) I'm a big guy who sweats a lot and B) I like the taste of concentrated nuun). Here's the data from the nuun website on what's in one tablet of nuun (and then, in parentheses, how much of each nutrient I received):

Sodium (carbonates) 360.0 mg (5040 mg or 5 g)
Potassium (bicarbonate) 100.0 mg (1400 mg or 1.4 g)
Calcium (carbonate) 12.5 mg (175 mg)
Magnesium (sulfate) 25.0 mg (350 mg)
Vitamin C 37.5 mg (525 mg)
Vitamin B2 500mcg (700 mcg)

I drank about 1-1.5 oz of fluid every five minutes during the entire ride, even during efforts. As a result of this nutritional rehearsal, I feel confident about my plan going into IM St., how will I carry 140 oz of liquid with me without using a CamelBak?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life is Good

I'm back again, after a prolonged absence from this site. Life has turned inside-out over the past few months, the last gasp of normalcy dating from my last post more than three months ago. In that spirit here's a picture from Cross Natz 2009, just after my 29th place finish in the Men's 30-34 race. 'Cross, it seems, is immune to the vagaries of finishing order (at least at my level). No matter where I come in, I'm stoked, in the same way that getting out in the water, no matter the quality of the waves, leaves me stoked.

Perhaps it's a good thing for professional athletes to have another sport in which they compete at a high but amateur level. Cyclocross is brutally hard, incredibly painful. It doesn't leave me refreshed in body, but in spirit. Somehow, over the last ten years, I had lost that ability to find refreshment in most of my life, which is why I look so unbearably happy in this picture. Buoyed by a series of steps I've taken recently, I've rediscovered that joy of spirit in the rest of my life. Writing, of course, is part of that joy, and I'm returning (again) re-dedicated (again) to these pages, hoping to accurately chronicle the ups and downs of a professional triathlete's career.

Thanks, as always, to those that are listening out there.