Tuesday, December 30, 2008

11 mile (hilly) run

I did not run at all last week. Somehow it never occurred to me to go running. Between all the cycling and swimming, I simply forgot. So yesterday I took off and as soon as I hit the road I felt like running long.

I ended up on my 10.5 mile loop and added another 0.5 at the end just to make it even (or odd?). In any case, it felt good and I did not have any problems. If anything my other leg (left) was a bit worse off than the previously injured right one.

Today I rode 31 miles with Alistair, who was testing out his new Specialized SL2 frame. We rode up Redwood to the top, relatively fast uphill and slow downhill. Took about 2:00. I burned 1,500 calories. The bike is almost built. It needs a few slight modifications and it will be ready to go.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lake Placid, Ironman USA

It is official, the Brain Aneurysm Foundation has five slots for Ironman USA, Lake Placid, 2009. Here is your chance to enter an event that is sold out, and do something for a good cause at the same time.

The slots will be available to anyone who is willing to raise funding for the foundation. The slots are in honor of Cindy Lynn Sherwin, who died of a brain aneurysm, while training for Ironman Lake Placid. Anyone purchasing a slot will have a chance to compete as part of Cindy's team.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A lot of riding (despite the weather)

Got a lot of riding in this week. That in spite of some pretty dismal weather. I realize it is nothing like Boston, New York or Calgary, but it is quite a bit colder and rainier than what we are used to. I also don't have the kind of clothing one needs to ride in sub 50 weather.

On Wednesday I rode on rollers, burning 1,144 calories in 1:30. The main reason was that someone had to stay home and watch the kids. It pretty was cold in the garage too in case you wonder. On Christmas day, there was a very cold wind and Alistair and I rode 25 miles on our mountain bikes. Good fun and a nice workout. I love days like Christmas when traffic is very light.

Yesterday I just missed Mike and his Specialized team mate, and Alistair on their 40 mile ride. The reason was that Barbara went swimming and she wasn't back yet when the group left. I left about 10 minutes too late and never saw them. I rode 42.5 miles, burning 2,150 calories in the process, and riding for nearly 2:45 due to slow descents (too chilly). I rode the Wildcat- Orinda-Moraga-Redwood loop and added a detour to Bort meadow to make it over 40.

Today was Team Specialized Junior Camp and I drove Alistair to Napa in the morning. The team planned two three hour rides over two days, but I had to get back because Andreas is visiting from Boston. So I did a shorter loop, totaling 28.34 and burning 1,263 calories. My average power was 200W and my normalized output 241W. It drizzled ever so slightly over the Oak Grade but I managed to stay dry the whole way. Overall it was good fun and very scenic. I rode with them for about an hour and then rode back to my car alone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Storm clouds

Yesterday it threatened to rain all day, but it never did. At least not until late in the evening. I rode my Griffen on the road for the first time in a long while. First, I did not feel like a long ride and I was debating whether to take the short loop through Orinda and up Wildcat, when dark clouds gathered over Grizzly. So I decided better go South to Redwood.

It was pretty cold, especially on the Redwood descent. Once again, I thought of going short and returning on Pinehurst, but then at the bottom I went straight. At least to Bort Meadow I kept saying to myself. Then to the first top and finally I ended up on the very top. I turned around and got home well before the rains started. Several times it looked quite ominous and even at the top of Marlborough I thought I was going to get drenched in the short remaining stretch. 30 miles in all.

Today I went to the pool and swam 1.75 miles, all freestyle without a break. It took a little over 1 hour so I was swimming at "race" pace. My race pace that is. There was nobody at the pool, and even though it was overcast, the air was plenty warm. The water too was quite hot. Especially in one spot right down the middle of the pool. This time around I dreaded going through the hot river on every lap.

I am not sure what gets into these people that run the club. At times they keep everything overheated, the exercise room, the pool, everything is way too hot. I had expected the opposite as they will be closed tomorrow and the day after. You'd think they would drop the temperature a bit to save money since it will be sitting out there in the open, but no. Let's turn up the heat.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


The shortest day of the year. Sun up at 7:42, dark by 4:45. Today someone at the club asked me if I was a professional athlete. Go figure ! Here I am, over the hill as some would have it and this woman asks me if I am a pro. She added: "Well you look like a professional." I was flattered. Time to turn pro as John Cobb would say.

Yesterday was a sunny day and I went for a 30 mile mountain bike ride in the afternoon. Alistair rode with the Berkeley group and I built his Specialized Tarmac while he was out. Today we finished it to the 95% level. It can be ridden and I rode it on rollers and he took it out for a spin. We don't have a front derailleur for it so the chain is stuck in the small ring, but you can ride it. It also needs some spacers on the headset, some bar tape and a few other miscellaneous items. But one can ride it.

It is light but also quite big. I find it is big for me, or should I say long. The top tube is 56 and while that is short for my body measurements, I am not really used to lying so flat on a bike. If I did, maybe I'd shave another 20 minutes off my Ironman time. Some people recommend I try a 58 or at least a 57cm top tube. That would be super aero.

Today a 45/30 at the club. Taking it easy. I didn't say that to the woman who thought I was working hard. No need to spoil a good thing.

I just don't understand people. Most come in and leave in under 20 minutes. Half that time they spend talking, adjusting their equipment, or their iPods, their headphones, or the TV or something else. The remaining 10 minutes they move, but barely. Call that a workout? 

The guy next to me was in his 30's. Early 30's for sure. He watched the football game while pedaling on a LifeCycle at "resistance" level 3. He pedaled for a full 10 minutes and then he took a break. He lifted some weights but spent most of his time lying on the floor, stretching while watching the game. Four times he went to get a drink and he stood around for a good 5 minutes catching his breath. He came in 5 minutes later than me, and left 15 minutes before I did. Why did he even bother, I wonder?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mirror Image

Today was a mirror image of yesterday. It started out wet and rainy and it got better as the day went on. By mid-afternoon it was nice and sunny. And warmer too.

Today I went to the pool again and made another attempt at swimming 1.5 miles freestyle non-stop. Today I succeeded although by the end my left shoulder was quite painful. Not sure why and I have never had a problem with that shoulder. My AC separation is on the right, but the right was fine.

It took me slightly less than one hour to swim the distance. Although the pool is rather short, 20 yrds, and short pools result in faster swims, I almost always swim faster in open water than in the pool. I am not sure why that is, but maybe my inefficient turns take too much time. 

Suffice it to say I never conquered the flip turn. Furthermore, in our pool, unlike all other pools I know of, one is supposed to swim in between the black lines. I guess that gives them one more lane, but it also makes calibration for flip turns difficult. One female swimmer -who is better than me- insists she needs to swim on the line, lest she gets a brain injury from missing her flip turn. I can understand why people want to swim on the line, but this "medical justification" is hogwash in my opinion.

Whatever the reason, my swim speed -if this can be called speed- is below par. Long distance swimmers, such as those conquering the English Channel swim a good 24 miles in less than 10 hours. That is 10 consecutive ironman swims, all completed in less than one hour each. As a matter of fact, it is much better than that, because in real life, hardly anyone swims "only" 22 miles. Some have been known to swim over 35 miles to make it across. Not to mention the cold, the wind, and the currents they had to fight. Clearly, swimming is not my cup of tea.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Into the pool

Today started out beautifully, just like yesterday. Unfortunately, I had to spend all of it inside. By the time I came out, daylight was fading and the sky was covered in clouds. Another storm was blowing in. If the forecast can be trusted, this one will be quick and tomorrow -or at the very latest Saturday- should be fine again.

I drove from my meeting (in Marin) to the club, holding my fingers crossed. The pool closure had been extended for 2 days but I wasn't sure if today was in or out. I.e. was it up to and including December 18 or until December 18? I took some comfort in the fact that the temperatures had gone up a lot last night -and excessive cold had been the reason for extended closure. Maybe it would all be fine.

It was open. Open and empty, the best of all worlds. The water temperature was bizarre though. The shallow end was pretty warm, almost too warm, but the deep end was downright frigid. At first I did not notice, but after about 1.2 miles I started dreading going over to the cold side. Ultimately, it did not matter much and I did not suffer any ill effects. No hypothermia or a need for an excessively long hot shower. So maybe the difference was not that much?

I swam 1.5 miles, non-stop. Ok, with a little stop after about 125 laps (I need 132 to complete 1.5 miles) because of a cramp. But it wasn't too bad and I resumed my swim promptly. So (almost) 1.5 miles non-stop, freestyle. Not bad at all.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A glorious day, but very cold

Today is one of those days that make your heart sing. It is sunny and clear and the views are just spectacular. Unfortunately, it was also pretty cold.  Upper 30s this morning. By 10 AM, mid to upper 40s on the hills, brilliant sunshine, but very cold shady spots. By noon it was 48 at our house, and 54 on the flats. Definitely below normal for this time of year.

I went for a (relatively short) mountain bike ride. There is only so much gym stuff I can take before I go bunkers, and the pool is still closed. I layered up today and I really needed it. Wool socks, tights, two layers, long-sleeved, plus a thermal vest, my old helmet (the one with just a few ventilation slots) and two pairs of gloves.

I am really not suited for cold exploits. My sympathetic nervous system is over-reactive leading not only to profuse sweating in almost all weather conditions, but also a Raynaud-like response in my extremities. My hands and feet just freeze even when my core is warm. So much for those movies showing people with warm cores working barehanded in freezer rooms. Not me!

So here I was, all toasty but with frozen fingers and toes, passing a guy wearing no gloves, but booties -so I am not totally crazy. Fortunately it was cold enough and I kept my intensity low enough so that I did not sweat too much.

The trails were mixed. At times the mud was deep and very sticky and I had to stop twice because my front tire picked up so much mud it could not pass under my fork anymore. Even when the bike did not ground to a halt, there was so much mud I got pelted constantly. The mud also turns my tires into slicks and it makes staying upright a challenge.

In any case, due to the cold I was not tempted to go flying down the hills. I noticed other people too were taking it easy. 

Not everything was muddy and many areas were Ok. There were some wet spots but most puddles I saw were covered with thin sheets of ice and some shallow ones were frozen solid. The hills and canyons have areas that stay in the shade for most of the day, and it can get really cold there, especially when there is no wind to even it all out.

I rode about 20 miles and had a great time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cold and colder

The weather has taken a turn for the worse. Now it is getting cold. As in freezing or near freezing. The cold weather has made it so the pool stays closed for a few more days. Apparently it will take longer than expected to bring it up to temperature. The club people also blame a "chemical imbalance" whatever that may be. Emptying and refilling such a huge pool is no trivial matter. Not to mention the enormous waste of water. Those valves better be worth it.

It is also too cold to ride outside. With temperatures near 35-6 and constant rain or drizzle, this is not the time to go for a nice ride. If I did, I would probably return blue and hypothermic. I am keeping Alistair at home too. 

So I am stuck with my 45/30 routine at the club -my treadmill broke so no running in the garage either. 45 minutes on the stationary bike, which reads 1,000 calories by the end-I don't believe it, I have to work a whole lot harder to burn 1,000 on my Griffen and there I am measuring my actual power, hence energy use; 30 minutes on the treadmill, because my right calf is still hurting and tense. I run anywhere from 3 to 3.5 miles in that half hour, nothing to write home about, but usually enough to make me aware of the problem in my leg. Actually I spend the first 3-5 minutes walking just to make sure my muscle is warmed up properly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rain, hail and cold

We had a pretty miserable weekend. Not as bad as some parts of the country but it is cold and rainy. Today it hailed. Not good. I was home alone -with kids- over the weekend so there were limits to what I could do.

On Saturday morning, the weather was still fine and Alistair went for a ride. By the time he came home however, the weather had turned so I went to the club and rode 45 minutes on the stationary bike, followed by a half hour treadmill run (a 45/30 combo).

On Sunday, Alistair went riding with his team mates and I rode my rollers for 1:25 minutes. I rode moderately hard and burned 1,111 calories in the process. 

Today I went to the club again and did the 45/30 as I will call it. 45 minutes cycling and 30 minutes running. The running is so-so and I can hold about 7.5 mph for half an hour. Then my calf starts hurting and I need to stop.

Friday, December 12, 2008

First run

This morning I went for a real run, outside. It is the first run since the Ironman and my subsequent injury on the treadmill. The pain in my calf was more or less gone, the weather was nice and relatively warm, and so I had to try it.

I ran my usual neighborhood loop, around Grandview and Gravatt, then up to Grizzly to Skyline. I normally add some extras but today I opted for a more cautious approach. I also planned to return on Grizzly instead of going down Skyline and Tunnel and then climbing Buckingham. 

All went well for the first 4.75 miles. Then at the turnaround, my leg became moderately painful. It had been building slowly and I could tell, but now I reached some threshold of discomfort. The return trip has a slight incline and I could feel it. Nevertheless I was more or less OK until the next bump and then some more relief until the final one.

Coming home down Marlborough things were becoming distinctly painful. At the last little uphill where Buckingham meets Bristol, I actually started limping a bit, but it wasn't too bad and I kept running until the very end. 

7.5 miles of hills, about 1hr15. Some time in the hot tub this afternoon, but the pain is back anyhow. Maybe more rest is needed?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mountain bike mania

I caught the mountain bike virus. Ever since the ironman I have been reluctant to ride my tribike, preferring the trails instead. I just love the variety and the new challenges. The weather is cooperating too. It is sunny, albeit a bit cold, but overall excellent mountain bike weather. The trails are in great shape, not too dusty and no mud at all. It is heaven.

One thing about Oakland is that it is a true outdoors paradise. With the best weather in the continental US, never too hot or too cold, and some of the nicest parks anywhere, it simply can't be beat. Now if we could just get rid of at least half the cars and the crowds, things would be perfect.

I rode almost 30 miles today. First to Redwood Park, then on the East Bay trail to Pinehurst, then down and up Redwood Rd. to Bort Meadow. Then along the bottom and up the grade to Grass Valley, where I took GoldenRod to the end. A short stretch on Skyline to the park and a return on the West trail to the Redwood gate. Home from there.

I measured the Bort Parking lot to Skyline section on Google Earth and it is about 5.5 miles. All of that is trails. Unfortunately for you hard core guys out there, these are double track or fire-road trails. No single track in the East Bay. We have excellent single track, but none of it is bike-legal except some short stretches in Joaquin Miller Park. Some of my friends don't care but I prefer the fire roads anyways. They are plenty challenging for me as is and they also offer enough variety to go fast and they have some pretty nasty climbs/descents.

I saw very few people today other than some professional dog walkers and the occasional runner. You can always tell the pro-dog folks because they have 6-7 dogs, all different breeds, and they clog up the trail, scrambling their dogs to make room when you call out. 

The funniest thing I saw was this middle-aged guy who was running wearing jeans and a nice white shirt, just a tad short of business casual. He was right there on the trail, away from civilization, and seemed to be enjoying himself. Maybe he never heard of workout clothing?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lost a nice day

Another perfect day, warmer than yesterday. However due to a series of complications and outside events I was unable to go out and ride. Too bad really. I ended up riding about 1:15 on my rollers instead. I rode the first 20 minutes at a 250W average and the total at a 233W average. That is pretty good and it made me wonder why I am not doing better in bike races.

I have often thought about how good I could have been, had I started earlier. I never really exercised until I was 33. I am still improving year over year past age 50, so I clearly have not ever hit my top performance.

This year I set two objective PR's. The first was the Boston marathon, the second IM Arizona. I ran a marathon that was age-equivalent to 3:01. That is not super great but it is not bad either. Especially considering that I am a pretty poor runner. I also think I can run faster, and a 3:10-15 should be do-able. That would be age equivalent to a 2:50 or so.

I rode the Ironman at 215W average for 112 miles. That too is pretty good. It would be even better if I were lighter or more aero. Neither my weight nor my position is optimal. I am pretty heavy compared to an elite cyclist and at least 1o lbs heavier than I was in my 30's. As for aero: I am not even close to being aero when you look at the pictures. I sit straight up, and even in aero position I am high. I have this picture of myself riding with a pro triathlete. It was taken at IM Canada in 2006.  I sit up and he is flat. You can judge for yourself.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another great ride

Today was a day for thermal vests. It was nice and sunny but the temperature was quite low and there was a very harsh cold wind. It was also a great day for mountain biking. The trails were nearly empty and the surface conditions were super. Not too dusty and not muddy at all, just perfect.

I rode out to Redwood Park and then over the East trail to Pinehurst. Then down and up to Bort Meadow and on to the Stone Bridge. There I almost crashed while hitting a nearly invisible ridge along the trail. I had almost crashed there a few days ago too, when the shock caused me to lose contact with the handlebars. Today was a bit different. I was holding on well this time but still "forgot" about the obstacle and went so fast I was airborne instead.

I turned around at the bridge and went back to inspect the obstacle. It is a sharp narrow steep ridge about 4-5 inches tall running across the trail. I have no idea why it suddenly appeared there and I am sure it wasn't there before. Maybe the erosion exposed a rock layer that was previously covered up?

The location adds to the problem. It is at the end of an open and sunny downhill stretch in an area that is narrow and wooded. You go from bright sun to a dark spot so you really can't see very well there -at least for a while- and when you hit it at high speed like I did, you go flying up in the air.

I came back over McDonald to Skyline and then through the park (West Trail) to Skyline again. The climb was in the sun and there was no breeze there so I quickly got quite hot. Near Grizzly however, I was met with a vicious cold wind and in some spots it was hard to move, so strong were the gusts. By then I had been sweating a bit and when the cold wind hit me it was quite chilly. I was very grateful for my thermal vest.

I would guess about 25-27 miles.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Yesterday we rode 22 mile on our mountain bikes. Alistair is getting faster, especially on the down hills. I have never been a good down hill rider but with my shoulder constantly reminding me of the dangers of the trail, I am slower than ever. Now he has to wait around for me. A role reversal in a mere two years.

Today I used the stationary bike in the gym for 45 minutes. That apparently burned 1,000 calories. It seems high. Then I "ran" nearly 3 miles on the treadmill at the whopping speed of 6.4 mph. Afterwards I iced my calf muscle for 10 minutes. At that speed the injury is just bearable although I sense that I am close to the edge. I can also know that 5 miles would be too much. But every time I can add a little extra so things are moving ahead.

Our Lake Placid slots are in limbo. Something is happening that I don't understand but clearly it is affecting everything. We'll just have to wait and see. I hope things get resolved.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mountain bike

Weather was excellent today, albeit a bit cold in the morning, with a sharp crisp wind. We did not make it out the door until noon, but then Alistair and I went on a  30 mile mountain bike ride with a fair amount of climbing in it.

Because of my injuries (toenails that hurt and a sore calf muscle) we stayed mostly on the road. But we rode several long climbs. First Tunnel Rd., then down to Oakland where Alistair's school is (almost at sea level) and then back up Joaquin Miller, down Redwood and up S. Pinehurst. We finished with a 4.5 mile stretch on the East Bay trail in Redwood Park. At the end, we added a climb up Grizzly.

Dressing was difficult and we wore long sleeves and leg warmers. In the sun, it was too hot, but on shady descents it was icy cold. The ambient temperature was 62 or almost 17C. Not so in the deep shady Redwood canyon though.

Friday, December 5, 2008

One mile run

Lot's of good news today. First it appears the Brain Aneurysm Foundation will get slots for Ironman Lake Placid. That is just super. Second, the ergomo problem is resolved. The seller agreed to cancel the sale and I returned the items.

When it comes to my calf muscle, it still hurts and is quite stiff but I was able to run a mile (slowly) on the treadmill today. It is a first step. I also pedaled for about 45 minutes on a stationary bike. While doing all this I got another glimpse at "people in the gym."

Our club has a pretty nice gym that is fairly low key. They do not try to sell stuff and other than a vending machine, they don't have anything for sale. The majority of the members are geriatric and their use of the facilities is largely confined to the hot tub and a brief dip in the pool. But there are some younger adults as well. Even some teens.

The ones that do venture into the gym usually leave within 20 minutes. In that time, they do some "cardio," some weights, and a lot of socializing. They also read books, talk on cell phones, listen to their iPods, and watch TV. Needless to say, their workouts are anything but. A bit of easy walking, some soft pedaling while reading a book, or a bit of dancing around on the ellipticals.

Today I ran a mile at 5.5 mph and I am sure that was the most intense exercise in the whole room. Nobody in that room even breaks a sweat, and that includes many young people in their 20's and 30's. Nobody does any cardio workout at intensity, and nobody sticks to it for longer than 15 minutes. Most spend more time adjusting the settings than actually working out.

Nearly all come in fully dressed, and they leave likewise. There is little need for a shower although I am sure they all spend hours wasting water. I am not sure why these people come to the gym. Maybe it is a religious experience of sorts?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More rollers and bad ergomo

Rode an hour on rollers today. Probably about a 1,000 cals. It seems I can swim and ride easy without too much of a problem. I just can't run or even walk fast. Hopefully this will go away soon. It is just a dull ache and a tight spot high up my calf.

I was testing a new Ergomo I bought on eBay. It did not work. My first bad experience with eBay. The description was just way off. Not good. Turns out the seller, is a pretty well known bike rider from Rochester NY. At least, that is what I found on the web. What I did not notice was that he had received other similar feedback before from another buyer. "Items not as described." Surprisingly enough the reviewer had still given him positive feedback. Maybe the person was afraid of retaliation?

Not as described says it all. It is the worst possible feedback. If the items are not as described, how can you trust the seller?

In any case, now I am stuck with an expensive broken Ergomo. I hope that eBay's conflict resolution center can resolve it as the seller does not want to cancel the sale. I hate it when people can't be fair.

Unfortunately, you need to wait 10 days before filing an items not received/not as described challenge to eBay. 

On other news, it appears we may get some slot(s) for Ironman Lake Placid in honor of Cindy and to support the Brain Aneurysm Foundation. That would be just super. It would totally change my perception of NA Sports !

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Earlier this week I was toying with the idea of running the California International Marathon (CIM) in Sacramento. It is a fun race and I felt like running a marathon again. When I checked the web it was sold out. Looking back at it now that is a good thing.

Today I decided to go for a run. Since I have one seriously black toe-nail and another one that is so-so, I have not run since the Ironman. I thought I'd start out easy on the treadmill just in case. I walked a few steps and my toe did not hurt so I kicked it up to a 7:30 pace and ran. For the first mile all was fine. Then I pushed the elevation to 1% and kept going. About 0.1 of a mile later I suddenly had a tremendous pain in my right calf, right behind and below the knee. I had to stop right then and there.

So here I am after limping home, with an ice-pack on my leg. It is painful and tight but not very swollen. Not much to see really. Why did this happen?

I noticed during the Ironman that my right foot was in a slightly different position. It did not bother me at all but around mile 85, I started getting cramps all around that knee. Still, I  was able to continue and run, although I did lose about 10 minutes in the run.

Ever since, my knee has been slightly "annoying." Not really painful but not really right either. There was a diffuse ache somewhere deep. It bothered me slightly when I rode in the past week, and somewhat on the swims but nothing major. Is this the end result? Although it seems tempting to jump on this, I doubt that it is the real cause.

I have noticed that every time I go fast on the bike (close to or above 21 average for a 112 miles, or close to and above 22.5 for 56) I get some knee trouble somewhere. It isn't always the same knee or the same spot, but there is always something. I do have a minor misalignment in my knees and one leg is a bit shorter than the other, so it is possible that, when I push really hard something gets unduly stressed. 

Years ago, I used to wear out my running shoes very unevenly but somehow that improved dramatically all by itself as time went on. So maybe all is well unless I really push hard and long? Or maybe I need to train a bit harder to move the threshold up somewhat more?

In any case, here I am, in the convalescent chair for a day or two. Ice and NSAIDs again. But before that, I swam 1,400 yds. Gotta do something today !

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More swimming

Since the pool will be closed starting tomorrow for about 12 days, I decided to get another swim in. I swam 3,200 yrds or slightly more than 1.75 miles. The first 1.2 miles I swam freestyle without a break. Then I did half a mile using my flotation buoy to work my upper body muscle. I finished off with some more freestyle.

There was one other guy in the pool and he swam quite a bit faster than me. I could keep up with him when he did breaststroke, but his freestyle was just way better than mine. Ironically enough, he was a pretty big guy with a distinctly protruding belly. He was also not lying flat or near the surface like Alistair does. His legs were hanging down a bit although they appeared streamlined. I also noticed he kicked very little and certainly not continuously but rather in bursts. So I have to infer than his arm stroke exerted a lot more power than mine. Or maybe those bursts propel him along?

Right now I do believe I swim faster than say a year ago, but I have trouble keeping the pace for more than 1,000 yrds. Two things happen: one, my arms get tired as time goes on and they start feeling "empty." The second, perhaps more troubling, is that I get leg cramps, either in my calf or in my foot. I am not quite sure why that happens as I kick very little and I am also a lot more relaxed now. Could this be due to blood circulation issues?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Magic potions and a sour economy

One thing that struck me about Ironman Arizona, is that the sour economy left its mark. I already mentioned that freebies were absent at the welcome dinner. The host hotel Mission Palms also had plenty of rooms available before the event. In years past there was a wait-list, and getting a room was hard. Not so this time around.

Although the race sold out and was oversubscribed as usual, there were many signs of trouble. The Ironman village had far fewer tents and some prominent vendors and sponsors were missing. While Ford seemed unaffected -maybe that is why they are in trouble- others like Timex and Powerbar that always make a strong showing now left a distinct vacuum.

There was no Endless Pool, no Tanita scales, no free Gatorade bike bottles, and there were no booths along the path to the swim start. The only noticeable "growth" was by newcomer shoe salesman Newton, now featuring a big display booth. Newton's claim to fame is a slightly altered shoe that improves performance. Skeptical? You should be.

Because what did not disappear despite the dismal economy, were the many snake-oil vendors. From nitrogen-balanced protein tablets that supposedly eliminate delayed onset soreness, to energized and concentrated water that gets absorbed more quickly, or special sea salt that replenishes electrolytes faster and more completely without being bad for you, the quack offerings keep coming. I wonder when the Vegas favorite, flavored oxygen will show.

I once read that athletes are more susceptible to nutrition and gadget scams than the average population, and if the presence of magic vendors is any indication that certainly seems to be the case. I have to admit that I too, once fell for such scams. Not the more outrageous ones like calorie-free energy drinks, or concentrated water, but scams nonetheless.

Things like recovery drinks, long-acting carbs, protein bars, energy bars, electrolytes, salt for cramps, and drinking as a precaution. Over the years I have learned that a normal diet is better for you. A normal diet that includes a fair amount of fat. It leaves you less hungry, it keeps the body fat off, and it allows you to compete harder. You drink when you get thirsty (no it is not too late then) and in general you don't overeat or over-drink. The end result will be less stomach trouble, less time spent on porta-potties, and faster finishing times.

What you do need is to train hard. There is no substitute for training. No "smart" training (although a lot of dumb training), no free lunches. Training enhances performance, prevents cramps, speeds up fluid and nutrient uptake, allows you to adjust to heat, cold, dehydration, and resets your sense of thirst and hunger appropriately.

You don't need special foods, or special drinks, or supplements, or vitamins. All current research shows that food supplements are ineffective at best and more often than not, harmful. What you need is a normal diet. One that isn't too sugary or salty and contains a variety of food items. And a training regimen that mimics your race conditions. The rest is all hogwash.

1.5 mile swim today. All freestyle.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back in the water

Another splendid day today. Even warmer than yesterday and quite a bit less windy. A great day for a dip in the pool. I just found out the people at the club will close the pool for 12 days starting Wednesday. They need to install some special valve because a new Federal safety law is taking effect soon. Never mind all the wasted water when they drain the pool. 

I decided to take everyone along. Surprisingly enough, we were almost all alone. I guess the other club members were all out shopping and consuming. It is really amazing to me how we live in this wonderful place, with scenic views, ample nature resources, and near perfect weather and yet everyone feels the need to drive to the mall to buy stuff or sit in a dark movie theater watching some boring predictable Hollywood feature.

I swam 1.5 miles today, all of it freestyle, and with only two short breaks. Once to clear my goggles and the other time to talk to the kids. The kids did a fair amount of swimming too. Alistair swam more than a mile and the little ones did half a mile each.

Today went so-so. Not very fast but not too slow either. I felt a little tired and my arm is hurting too (esp. the right elbow and shoulder with the AC separation). It is frustrating to think that swimming is what stands between me and a slot in Kona. There are an extra 20 minutes there that I can't get rid off. My swimming is totally out of whack compared to the other disciplines. Fitness wise I should be around 1:05 instead of 1:25.

I am sure muscle has a lot to do with it. When I compare myself to other triathletes, the lack of shoulder and arm muscle is very clear. Swimming is a power sport and recent research on dolphins has made that quite clear. Those findings have debunked older myths that ascribed dolphin speed to some elusive skin and hydrodynamic properties.

Never mind those books on technique. It is sad to see that nearly all books on sport are wide of the mark and full of errors. Just think of nutrition, hydration, and nearly any other "explanation" of human physiology. It is mostly garbage.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

27.5 miles mountain biking

The weather was great today. Quite windy but a northerly desert wind (similar to Santa Ana's) that brings dry hot weather. Alistair and I rode 27 miles on our mountain bikes. I think I rode pretty hard on those rollers yesterday, or else I have some residual effects from the Ironman, because I suffered a bit on the trail.

We rode out Redwood, then to Bort Meadow and up the grade to Grass Valley. Then we returned over Goldenrod, a short stretch on the road, and Redwood once again.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rollers and post hoc explanations

I decided to ride rollers today. The weather wasn't great and Alistair went to ride with his Team Specialized group in Pleasanton. Barbara went shopping and so I was home alone. I rode for about an hour at a fairly steady pace. I burned a good 1,050 calories, averaging 225W for the duration. It felt pretty good. My right knee hurt a tiny bit in the same spots where it did during the Ironman, but it was quite manageable and I had no trouble spinning.

It looks like I will keep my right toe nail but the one on the left is shot for sure. Everybody is offering explanations and helpful hints for this condition. They are telling me my shoes were too tight, or this and that and the other thing, but the truth is that I had the same shoes for the past five years. I have four pairs of Nike Air Kukini's and they are all the same size. I alternate from one pair to the other so all wear evenly, but I usually keep the white ones for races. I have run many races with these white shoes and most often nothing happens. A few times I have had black toenails.

Sometimes my big toe was black, but on other occasions another toe got hit. Sometimes the left one ate it but other times it happened on the right foot. Most of the time, however, I am fine and nothing happens. And just in case you wonder, the course in Tempe is pretty flat. No real down hills in it and certainly no long down hills. So sorry, my friends, these simple explanations won't cut it. We need better data, not a few spurious coincidences.

The other good news is that all soreness is gone now (it was mostly gone yesterday). I feel fine and I also slept well last night.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Toe surgery and watts

First things first. If you look at yesterday's post you can see I banged my toenails pretty bad in the Ironman. But looks are deceptive. I think my right big toe is fine. I clipped the nail yesterday and some fluid came out but it immediately cleared the nail. I don't think it is separated so it will probably recover. The left one is different. That one is actually black (not so obvious in the shot), and was lifted up by a rather large hematoma. I punctured it yesterday and let out lots of fluid. But the nail did not clear, and the nail bed is still elevated. That one will go I think.

Next, some data. I downloaded the numbers from my Ergomo. I recorded 5:19:20 on the bike. The overall official time was 5:21:04. It took some time to get the device started. During those 5.33 hours I averaged 215W. Compare that to Landis' infamous "testosterone" ride in the Tour, where he averaged 280W for 5.5 hours. The difference between me and Landis is a 65W bulb for 5.5 hours.

However, Landis' 280 were worth quite a bit more. I weighed 172 lbs. and Floyd was probably more than 15 pounds lighter. Looking at the pictures you can see he is also a lot more aero. The picture you see is about the best I can do.

Other numbers: 75 RPM average, 20.7 speed average, 407 W max, and 101 max RPM. Top speed 32.8 mph. Estimated calorie loss 4,428. Altitude gain, 1,549 or about 500 per lap (which compares well to the published data). My normalized power was 225NP. If one thing, it showed I was very steady and did not do crazy stuff. The closer NP is to real average, the more "even" the ride was.

The official data reads: lap 1, 21.34 mph, lap 2, 20.5 mph, and lap 3, 20.97 mph, total 20.93 mph. That too compares well with my recordings. The bike leg moved me up from 1,518 to 533, meaning I passed almost 1,000 people on the bike. In my age group I moved from 85th to 20th or 65 places. I gained another 77 / 6 in the run.

Adding 4,000 calories for the swim and the run, I must have burned somewhere near 8,500 calories. I ate one bagel and some banana bread for breakfast, about 15 gels on the bike, and one powerbar. I estimate another 600 calories in sports drink on the bike, and 600 in Cola on the run. My total intake was close to 3,500 calories for the event. Net loss is somewhere around 5,000. I made up half of that with margaritas and drinks after the event. Cheers!

25 mile mountain bike ride today. Felt great and good fun too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stiff, sore, and black

One thing I have learned is that you can run a marathon with cramps but you will pay for it afterwards. Several times now I have been able to complete Ironman without any day-after pain or soreness. In all cases, I was able to exercise the next day. No, this is not due to some magical pill or potion, just good old training. It is also not due to lack of intensity. Those last Ironman races were new PR's and I made significant gains in both.

However, a few years ago I had very bad cramps on the bike in Wildflower. I ended up walking and jogging the entire half marathon (Wildflower is a half-ironman race). Afterwards I paid for it. I was sore for a whole week. Sore, stiff and almost unable to walk. It is the price you pay for continuing to race when your body tells you to stop.

As for cramps I also learned now that dehydration has little to do with it. I did not grab for salt tablets and did not start drinking excessively. That was good, because the cramps came and went as they always do with little or no difference. The key benefit was that I did not get an upset stomach on top of it as I had many times before when I tried to "cure" my cramps by guzzling water and eating salt.

Apart from the soreness, my blue toenails are the most painful memory. Ironically enough I never knew about the toe condition during the race. I only "discovered" it in the shower. It reminded me of all the shoulder bruises I discovered after I went skydiving a few years ago. There are some magical effects of adrenalin.

Yesterday I swam 1,500 meters. It felt good.

The ironman raised nearly $14,000 for the brain aneurysm foundation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Five minutes

I almost broke 11. Missed it by less than five minutes! Here is what happened. It started out reasonably well although my stomach was a bit upset in the morning. I swam a 1:22:34, which may have been a tiny bit faster than before since I started out about 20 yards behind the line. My trusted goggles also leaked the whole way and I had to stop several times to clear them. I ended up with a bloodshot eye nevertheless.

My first transition was very slow. I was unsure as to whether to wear a jersey or not as I felt pretty cold. I fiddled around for too long with my arm warmers, and I took too long to find a seat in the tent. 

The bike leg was great and I rode my best time ever. The first loop had a headwind and things did not look good. But on the way back I cruised at 25-30 mph and so I was several minutes ahead of schedule at the first turnaround. Then the wind shifted and also died down a bit, and there wasn't such a big difference anymore between the out and back stretches. The second loop was OK too and now I was on track to break 5:15. But on the third leg my right knee started to hurt and I got some pretty bad cramps. I probably did not do enough long rides this time, and I also should have worn my race shoes before. There was a difference between the cleat positions and I am sure it affected how my knee felt.

Even so, I finished with a 5:21:04, a new PR for the course and averaging nearly 21. The run was another matter and it started out quite poorly. I had severe cramping and had to walk several stretches. It got a bit better as time went on but I knew I wasn't on pace for a four hour marathon. I also needed a potty break. On the last lap, I got on the Mill St. bridge, 51 minutes and a 10K to go, if I wanted to break 11. I knew it would be nearly impossible given my crampy legs, but I tried. I needed an extra 4:55. Marathon time, 4:10:10, definitely slow.

Total time: 11:04:55. 14/135, 456 overall.

As for Hawaii,  it took 36:21 minutes too long. I know can get half of that from the marathon and a bit more from the bike, but to get the rest I would have to learn how to swim faster. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Welcome to Tempe

It has always struck me that the organizers never miss an opportunity to make participants feel insignificant or get them to pay more money. They make millions of dollars on their races, merchandise, and sponsorships and yet they are after every penny they can get. You never get a break here. Everything is expensive and their exclusivity arrangements keep out any competitors that would force more reasonable prices.

They also make it plain that you are just a cog in their big machine. A replaceable cog too. They know thousands stand in line to get a shot at their races and the fabled Hawaii slots so they feel no obligation to treat you nicely. Quite to the contrary, you should be grateful that they let you in.

And at last nights welcome dinner that was once again clearly visible. The dinner was held at the Tempe Arts Center, a futuristic looking building along Rio Salado. Except that the dinner was outside on the grass and that non-VIP's were forced to park a quarter mile away in a makeshift dirt lot, and then walk through the center's large empty parking lot, and around the building to get there.

This year's welcome dinner was a spartan affair. No goodies on the table this time. No free anything, no gatorade, no fig newtons, no Erin's breakfast cereal, no powerbars. You get one drink and that's it.

Friday, November 21, 2008


The ugly desert wind is back. This morning there were whitecaps on the lake. There were waves it was hard to see the other people. I swam for half a mile, drinking a fair share of the fabled rio salado water. It did not taste salty.

Then I went on a short bike ride (13 miles). It took well over 250W to ride 20 mph into the wind, at times it took over 300W. That is not a pace I can hold for 5.5 hours. Let's hope the wind dies down. 

Unlike 2006, the wind was coming from the desert and blowing into town at an angle, giving one a headwind going out, and a headwind/tailwind on the way back. I rode out to the freeway underpass on McKellips Rd. but not past it onto beeline where the exposure is much greater. At times I got sandblasted and I wish I had goggles instead of glasses. In any case, I do not expect a 5:30 if this wind keeps up.

I guess I should not complain. If it were easy, everyone would be an ironman.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Weighing in

I swam in Tempe Town Lake today. First open water swim with a wetsuit since Ironman Canada last year in August. It actually felt good although I did not experience the swim nirvana that I attained a while ago. It was slow. The course looked endless, the buoys were too far away and they never really came closer.. Ok, I am exaggerating. But I fear my swim will be very similar, if not worse than last time.

I also registered. It took forever and it was quite disorganized. They started more than 15 minutes late and clearly the volunteers were still confused. I weighed in at 173.5 pounds, shoes and all, and that is pretty good. The woman who handled my application forgot everything she was supposed to do and I nearly walked off without my bags in all the mayhem. Sign of the times: no goodies this year. No free T-shirts, no free socks, no powerbars or anything. Even Gatorade was exceptionally stingy at the swim. But Tyr made up for it by giving me a bottle.

The whole village looks a bit leaner than last time. There are fewer tents and fewer goodies. No big Timex display, no Powerbar, only Ford pulled out all the stops. I guess they have to given how poorly they are doing.

In the afternoon I ran 5.25 miles. From my hotel to the lake and then along the lake to Priest drive (the far end of the course). Then back and at the bridge up Curry to the park (part of the first loop in reverse). Despite the warm weather it did feel a bit chilly at times, especially in the shade.

I also got my race suit with the BAF logos. 2 more days until showtime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I arrived in Tempe around noon today. Turned out it was already 1 PM because of the time difference. Yesterday I left the house at noon and drove to LA. Nice smooth sailing and no problems until I hit Pasadena. Then suddenly I was going with the commute flow and everything slowed to a crawl. That lasted for a hour or more and I called Barbara to see if the Hampton in Colton was available. No luck. Keep driving.

I drove 210 to San Bernadino and got gas in a rather poor neighborhood. Two guys in a pickup were intent on hassling me but some other car pulled up and they left. Lucky me. Then I made a slight detour (210 goes to 10 as one would think, but I was not sure) and made it to 10 by cutting across the city instead. I ended up pulling over in Beaumont when I saw a Hampton Inn by the side of the road. I made a quick 180 and found a bed for the night. I was pretty tired and after dinner I went to bed and slept until my 7 AM wake-up call.

I left Beaumont around 8:30 and had an uneventful trip to the outskirts of Phoenix. There I may have tripped a photo speed trap. That would be a bummer. After that I took it easier and once again I missed the exit and ended up driving through Tempe on city streets to get to my hotel. By then it was 2:30 so I did not have to wait for the room. I ate lunch and slept.

I woke up at 4:15 about one hour before sunset and quickly grabbed my bike and went on a short ride. Tempe is a very bicycle-unfriendly city, especially for a college town. You have to ride on the side-walk in most places and traffic is pretty inconsiderate. Cars try to push you off the road, and the cycle repeats at every traffic light. There are enough of these, spaced closely enough that you can easily keep up with the drivers -although they sprint from one light to the next.

A 30 minute bike ride, about 10 miles, relatively fast. Weather feels good, warm, sunny and the air is pretty clean. Everywhere you look you can see that the lycra has descended on Tempe. What you see the most of are runners looking like triathletes -somehow they look different from other runners?- everywhere.

We passed 100 donors!! Way to go!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ironman week

The home stretch. Next Sunday is the big day. Tomorrow I leave for IM Arizona and hopefully I will get through the LA area without any major glitches. I will take two days to get there so there will be plenty of time to rest and get my brain in the right mood for the race. It has been more than one year since I last did a triathlon (2007 Ironman Canada). My only competitive event this year was the Boston Marathon in April.

Today I swam 1,000 yards or about a 1/4 of the IM distance. It went fine. Not the kind of "hyper" swim I did earlier but I did not feel like I was plodding either. Just an average day in the pool I guess. The weather is very nice but it is definitely getting cooler. 

I do have to take it easy now. I am also running on empty due to my low carb diet. I can't wait for Friday so I can start eating carbs again. Two more short runs and short ride should be enough to wrap it all up.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

8.5 mi run

Ran my double loop, Grandview, Grizzly, Skyline, Elverton today. Nice easy pace with some effort on the hilly parts. Weather was splendid. 72 degrees, sunny, a little breezy, absolutely clear view of the Bay and the City. Just super.

My shoulder hurt last night. Not sure why as I had not done anything in particular. It also hurt "in front," i.e. not over the AC joint but in the anterior part of the joint, right where the short head of the biceps attaches. I iced it, took some Ibuprofen, and supported my arm to sleep and it seems a bit better today.

I am keeping a close eye on the Tempe forecast. It looks pretty reasonable although I am a bit worried about the cooling trend for the weekend. These things can always speed up or slow down a bit. Slowing down would be better as the week forecast is solid 80s.

The current Sunday prediction (still a long range, less dependable forecast) is for cloudy AM with sun PM and a high around 77. Warmer would be better. What is really good is the early morning low to mid 50s. The average for November in Tempe is more like low to mid-40s and that is pretty chilly (esp. when you have to take a dip in the water at 7 AM.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I rode 36 miles today. I rode the HED trispoke real wheel with a new freewheel and a new chain. That was the good part. When it comes to logistics things did not go so well. First, we were going to join the Sproul ride at 8:30, but then Alistair told me Mike was riding at noon instead so that sounded better and we waited. In the end, Mike did not ride -at least not with us, and Freddie, who was going to go at 12:15 did not show. We ended up standing around for about 10-15 minutes before the two of us took off alone.

We rode up Tunnel to Redwood, over S. Pinehurst to Moraga. It was quite windy and we rode a good pace. Then we went to Orinda and over Wildcat. All of it pretty fast. I finished it off with a solid ride to the Centennial intersection. Then it was all agony. By now I was pretty tired, and probably out of glycogen/sugar. Since I am not eating carbs this part can be painful. The climb up Grizzly was no fun but once we got over the top it was only a short distance to home.

In summary: 36 miles, 200W average, 244NP W, 1,790 calories. Total time, including the wait at the bottom of Tunnel: 2:24.

Less than 10 days to the Ironman. That means there is a weather forecast. So far it looks reasonable although clouds are expected sometime around the weekend. Let's hope Sunday is warm and sunny. However, given the inaccuracies of long term forecasting, we will just keep our fingers crossed for now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Great swim

Today I had a great swim. I don't know why but it all seemed to fall or rather float in place. I felt like gliding in the water. I was buoyant and fast. Unbelievable. Instead of plodding, it was as if I was propelled forward by some unseen force. I have had short episodes like this before and I am sure this is what swimming feels like to those who know how to swim, but it rarely happens to me.

The odd thing is that I do not even feel tired. It was such a trip to feel power in my shoulders and arms without tiring. Almost as good as a bike ride.

I swam 1.25 miles, alternating between breast stroke and freestyle but both felt good. Especially the freestyle. No leg issues, no cramps, no tightness there. The only blemish on my masterpiece was that my shoulder did hurt every once in a while. I am afraid that if I try to swim competitively (or what passes for competitively in my book) for 2.4 miles I could be in for a nasty surprise.

Now I am pain free but my arm does feel a bit unstable. It is hard to describe exactly but it somehow feels not as secure as the other one. It is not a muscle issue or a joint issue per se. It is more a holistic feeling of looseness or lack of support. It is not too bad though and if it just stays there I can live with it. Cross your fingers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Carbo loading and ride

I started my carbo-loading cycle. I prefer to carbo-load the old-fashioned way. Although I realize that recent research has shown that one or two bouts of hard exercise followed by carb-rich meals can lead to equivalent loading, I do prefer the old-fashioned way of starving one self of carbs for a week, followed by two days of nothing but carbs.

The old-fashioned way has several advantages in addition to good loading. The most important ones are related to feeling hungry and keeping the weight off. Not surprisingly, after two weeks of very intense exercise and 4,000+ calorie days, I am tempted to eat too much during my taper. Now that I no longer burn 4-5,000 calories that means extra weight gain. In the past I found it was easy to gain as much as 5-10 pounds during those two to three weeks.

Not good before a long race. The other alternative is to restrain oneself and therefore constantly feel hungry, not fun!

The advantage of a low carb diet is that one does not feel hungry at all, and secondly, that one loses weight instead of gaining. Both of these are very helpful. The main disadvantage is a feeling of sluggishness, which may actually help prevent over-training, and a slight nausea from time to time. The latter is a small price to pay. I also tend to develop a craving for carbs but that does not come until the end of the week.

To start off my carb loading cycle and deplete my muscle, I rode a hard 40 miles today without eating or drinking sugary drinks. I rode a hilly course for 2:20, burning an estimated 1,940 calories, and working at an average of 220W or 258 NP W. The NP formula is an Ergomo proprietary algorithm that takes into account bouts of intense power output to give a better estimate of the difficulty of the workout. See previous posts.

I will probably do one more 40-50 mile ride and then a few short 10-20 mi rides once I get to Arizona.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


My calves were a bit sore from yesterday's running so I decided to take it easy today and go for a swim. On Wednesday's the kids are home early from school so I took everybody to the pool. We were pretty much the only people there and we all swam a good distance. We were at the pool for about an hour and a half.

I swam 144 laps or slightly more than 1.5 miles. My right shoulder -the one with the AC joint separation- hurt a bit and it felt a bit unstable but overall I had a good time and swam reasonably fast. When I concentrate I can almost keep up with Alistair who is by now a pretty fast swimmer.

The ironman is  1.5 weeks away. As of last count, I raised $12,000 from 92 donors. I would really like to get to more than a 100 donors and $15K , but time is running out. Next Wednesday I leave for Arizona and fundraising will be essentially over by then. Send in your contributions now. It is for a good cause!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A trip across country

I went to Philadelphia on Sunday. Then I spent all day Monday in business meetings. Two days of forced rest. That was good. I did swim a few laps on Monday night as the people I was staying with went to the Y for a workout. I had not packed any workout clothes so I would not be tempted -and besides I did not expect them to go work out- but I did have a swimsuit so I swam a little. They got me some goggles that did not work so well so I ended up doing only a dozen or so laps.

Today I woke up at 4:15 AM EST (1:15 PST) to catch my double layover trip back. From Philly to Pittsburgh to Las Vegas to Oakland. I arrived at 12:20 PM feeling like I just came back from Europe. So much for cheap travel. With no real food I munched on bagels, peanuts and chips the whole way here.

The only problem with traveling is that one ends up eating way too much. There is nothing to do and my appetite is enormous coming off several weeks of intense workouts. With no further workouts to burn those calories there is a real danger of putting on serious weight. 

Fortunately I can start my carbo-load soon. I carbo-load the old fashioned way, by eating an "Atkins" diet for a week and then nothing but carbs two days before the race. The Atkins is ideal since I always lose weight doing it and I never feel hungry. I also feel I can eat as much as I like and that is just great. The main drawbacks are a slight feeling of nausea, a general lack of energy, and -by the end- a rather intense craving for carbs. Other than that it works fine.

Today I ran a hard 5K on the treadmill and I swam 1/4 mile. A pretty light workout, but it works out fine since I am pretty beat from the travel.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Against my better judgement

Alistair was invited to ride with Marcus and the Junior team in Pleasanton this morning. Although I was determined to take it easy today, I ended up driving him there and then riding with the group. Needless to say, the junior team did not show, only Marcus did and we ended up riding with the Darryl's group and a few other Livermore Valley folks. We started the ride at Darryl's home on Foothill Oaks.

A flat 45 miler that took 2:30 to complete with two "hotspots." I did not intend to sprint and that was a good thing. At the first hotspot, which started at the junction of Greenville and Tesla in Livermore, a determined and anxious-to-win cyclist collided with me near the top of the short climb and almost took me out. I decided to hang back a little as the group was going to wait at the 580 underpass in any case. That went pretty well and I got some hard riding in -without the safety hazard of a nervous pack.

Then we went across Vasco to May School, North Livermore and Highland for another hotspot. Before we even got going on that one, on a straight flat stretch there was a major crash. I narrowly avoided mayhem but it was enough to convince me to sit out the second "sprint" of the day as well. Again some hard chasing at a safe distance. We stopped at the Firehouse on Tassajara and Alistair had a problem with his bottom bracket. Something "sticky" made it hard for him to pedal. It turned out to be temporary.

We rode back to Pleasanton, narrowly avoiding a third incident. The group stopped at the downtown coffee shop but I rode back to the start with Marcus and Alistair. It was 11:45 by then and we packed up the van and went home.

45 miles, 1,700 calories, 231W NP, 18.5 mph average. Tested my front HED trispoke wheel.

Friday, November 7, 2008

disk wheel

I pulled out my Renn disk wheel and rode 44 miles today. Not the best terrain for a disk as most of it is quite hilly, but both I and the wheel held up well. Unfortunately, the wheel is no longer really true and it has a slight wobble. I am not sure if this can be fixed. It isn't too bad and there is no rubbing -no brake adjustment needed. That is good because the Griffen frame is very tight and there is very little room in the back. The chainstays are almost as close as the brake pads.

It took me 2:44 to cover the distance. I rode out Redwood, to Moraga, to Lafayette (lots of traffic lights here) to Orinda over the St. Stephen's bike path, and then over Wildcat and Grizzly back home. I added a little detour on Grizzly to Skyline at the end. According to the Ergomo I burned 2,065 calories. My average power was 195W with a "normalized" average of 244W.

I felt a bit tired and think I will only do a short run tomorrow. Then I will be on travel for the next three days. That should give me plenty of opportunity to recover.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

10.5 mile run

Ran 10.5 miles in the hills today. A nice loop through Montclair and up Shepherd Canyon. A good 1,000 ft of climbing I would think.

Weather was fantastic, upper sixties to low seventies by the end. Sunshine, clear skies, great visibility, a perfect day. 

I believe my conditioning is very good now. I can run pretty hard and feel great afterwards. My only (very minor) complaint is some soreness in my right calf and achilles but it does not seem to be getting worse.

The key issue now is to stay healthy and avoid injury. That is easier said than done. For some mysterious reason, one of my kids always gets sick a week or so before my big races. Last night, my youngest had a mild stomach flu but it seems OK now. I am just keeping my fingers crossed.

The fundraiser is going pretty well too. We have 89 contributors so far and are close to $6.5K raised. I hope we can surpass a 100 and get to $10K before the race, but donations appear to have slowed considerably. Maybe the economy is getting to people? Or maybe everyone is holding of until the very end. Some people who pledged have not yet paid in so there is some more to come -at least in theory.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Went swimming twice today. In the morning I swam 1.5 miles, the first mile continuous and all freestyle. Then some kicking and some alternate breaststroke-freestyle laps. In the afternoon, after I picked up the kids I swam another 1.25 miles, alternating freestyle with breaststroke.

I think that finally -after all those years- my swim is getting (a bit) faster. I am not sure if it will hold for the entire 2.4 miles of the ironman, but I am cautiously optimistic. I do swim easier and faster at least over shorter distances. The big tossup in all this is my right shoulder with its AC separation. I am not sure how that hold out in the race. I have swum 2.4 miles in the pool since the incident but never all freestyle.

The other big unknown this year is that I have done zero open water swimming. I did not do a single triathlon all year and I did not swim the Del Valle or the Catfish competitions either. In short, I never even put on my wetsuit this year.

You may also wonder why I mention freestyle, but up until five years ago the only stroke I knew how to swim was breaststroke. It is not ideal for triathlons, although it is not all bad. The key advantage of breaststroke is that you can see where you are going, but that turns out to be a big win (at least among the slowpokes). I see triathletes zig-zagging all over the course and adding useless distance.

Freestyle does not come naturally to me. I really struggled with it. For some odd reason I always get cramps in my legs when I freestyle for a long time. That never happens when I breaststroke. 

Up until very recently my breaststroke was faster than my freestyle and I was a lot less tired on top of it. I have swum breaststroke in all my races, except for a few Olympic distances, and in some races I swam more than 3/4 of the distance that way. Needless to say, I am one of the last ones to exit the water. Swimming has kept me from qualifying for Hawaii more than once. 

While one can lose five minutes anywhere, my swim is just too slow to qualify. It is not on par with my other events. Not by a longshot.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

35 Mile Ride

No rain today, but rather cold, with a chilly wind and lots of debris on the road. Yesterday's rain storm brought down rocks, dirt, branches and even some trees. There were crews everywhere working on power lines, phone lines, and cleaning roads. There were also a lot of "Sunday" drivers, out to go voting no doubt. Met a lot of people holding up "NO ON 8" signs, even in the suburbs.

I rode 35 miles, out Redwood into Moraga to Orinda and back over Wildcat and Grizzly. I think I saw Freddie but I am not sure. There was a rider wearing a Mapei outfit coming to Pinehurst when I rode out to Moraga. I did some hard climbs and took it easy on the descents and flats. Burned 1,695 calories according to Ergomo and had a normalized power reading over 250W with an average around 210W. So far so good. Took a little over 2 hours to finish.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday Monday

Another very wet day. Started out relatively dry but then it came pouring down. Had to visit a client for lunch so I only had time for a short workout. Ran 6.5 miles on the treadmill at the club. Burned 777 calories in 46 minutes. Nice and smooth. I am tapering now and having other obligations is a good way to keep me from over-training.

You know there is always that temptation right before the race to do a little bit extra. Like studying a bit more before the test. But in racing, it is better to rest. So I need distractions. My visit to Fremont was an ideal distraction as it took up most of my day.

As for other news, a good article in the NY Times today about stretching. You may know I do not believe in stretching and I never stretch. Now there is evidence that stretching may actually harm you. I already told you it doesn't do anything, but this article says it is no good either. They suggest warming up instead.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Easy ride

Went on an easy 51 mile ride today with Alistair, Mike Audley from Team Specialized and Freddie Rodriguez from Rock Racing. I am sure it was easier for them than for me, but overall we took it easy, even on the down hills. 

Although there were plenty of clouds, at times very dark, it did not rain, and apart from some spray -I noticed that both Mike and Freddie had fenders on their bikes- I did not get wet. The temperature was nice too.

We rode out Redwood to Moraga and Lafayette and then back over the bike trail to Wildcat. There Freddie decided to climb while we went back over the flats. It had been a while since I last rode "flats" and Mike took us in a very tortuous path back to Tunnel. Then Alistair and I climbed Alvarado and Grandview.

About 1/2 from home Alistair got a flat going over the curb at Schooner Hill and he walked home. I rode up Sherwick and Bristol. Burned 1,944 calories according to my power meter. 21 days to go.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

On the treadmill

Another very wet day today. It was also time to see where I am at with my running. So I did a session on the treadmill and things look good. I was able to run 8.4 miles in one hour, which is just slightly better than my previous 1 hr "record"  of 8.3 on the machine. The distance includes warmup time. I just get on an run for an hour.

Given how hot I get and how much I sweat, a hour workout is pretty tough. Add to that that my treadmill is broken and I had to go to our club to run. 

The club has a great workout room but given the geriatric nature of its membership, the workout room is way too hot (>75F). A great place to train for Arizona, except that this year's Arizona Ironman is late in the year when temperatures are likely going to be much cooler.

Furthermore, the club people encased the thermostat so there is no way to adjust the setting. They don't have good fans either and the other members, whose workouts are limited to a 10 minute walk and a bit of weight lifting abhor fans or open windows.

After my run, which apparently burned 1,025 calories, I took a dip in the pool. That is just the best way to cool down.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Rest day and rollers

I took a day off yesterday. I think I needed it. It has been a while since I took a real rest day. Usually I do a short (1 mi) swim on my "rest" days, but this time I decided I needed a day off. It helped.

Today I rode my rollers because the weather is cold and wet. I also find it a good intermediate workout that has both cycling and running benefits. It also gives me a chance to gauge my fitness. And the news was good. I rode pretty easily at 220W and my heart rate stayed nicely within the 145-155 range, with no real increase over time.

All in all I rode 1:33 minutes and burned an estimated 1,300 calories in the process. My average power was well above 200W. I had to stop a few times to readjust the roller belt because it kept coming off, but other than that there were no glitches.

My Ergomo "normalized" power (NP) output for the ride was 217W, which -for me- means a medium intensity ride. My average was 215W.  I like the NP readout on the Ergomo. Although I have no idea how they calculate it or how accurate or valid it is, I have found it correlates well with my perceived effort. One thing that is clear is that NP is nearly identical to average power if you ride steady (as happens on rollers).

(the manual says (sic) "NP is calculated using a special formula that both smooths and weights your power output to better reflect physiological (especially metabolic) "costs" of variable-intensity efforts") 

When I ride hard, my NP goes close to or over 250W while my average maybe as low as 200. When I rode with the Specialized Team last weekend my NP was 247 for a 2 hour ride that burned 1,260 calories over 30 miles. The average power was just below 200W for that ride no doubt reflecting the long downhill from Skyline to Menlo Park. When I ride easy NP stays below 200W. 

I find NP is a better indicator than average watts. However since it correlates so well with my perceived effort I can usually guess my NP for a ride to within a few watts. And that tells me that listening to your body is really the best you can do.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


The Ironman is less than one month away. I am almost done with my long workouts and ready for the taper. Today I decided to run some intervals in the neighborhood. There is a nice 0.9 mile loop with a serious climb in it (200 ft over 0.25 miles). It is pretty steep with only a slight let-up in the middle. Then there is a nice smooth descent. After a 1.25 mile warm-up, I ran the loop 7 times, and then finished with a few more hills and a nice jog home. All in all about 8.5 miles.

So far training is going well. Knock-on-wood, no injuries, although my right achilles does ache slightly from time to time and my calf does feel a bit stiff then. But so far it has been steady, neither getting worse nor noticeably better. Occasionally my left knee will act up a bit too, right above the patella, but that too seems contained. The shoulder is much better and I think I will survive the 2.4 mile swim, although I may have to resort to some breaststroke near the end.

I ended today's workout with a nice 1.25 mi swim. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Variety is the spice of life

All too many athletes go through the same routine day in and day out. Then they get bored, they burn out and they never improve. In the end a fair number of them give up. It is tempting to settle into a rut and think that the mere repetition of things will somehow work miracles.

Don't get me wrong. Practice does make perfect and repetition is as important in training as in other aspects of life. But that does not mean you have to do the same thing over and over again until you drop dead. You need to add variety to your workouts. You need to variety at all levels. On the smallest level you add variety by introducing "play."

You also need to alternate intensity with rest and long workouts. If you want to you can call these changes mesocycles, which by the way means nothing more than mid-length cycles. Short is mini, middle is meso, and long or big is macro. In that context, your season is macro, your month to month is meso and your daily is micro.

Enough labels for now. Just don't go overboard into the domain of pseudoscientific expertise. All you really need to remember is to change things often. Don't ride the same rides, don't run the same loops and don't always go hard in the same places or at the same times. Sometimes you need to climb hard and other times you need to attack the flats and the wind. Always focus on what you will need for your next race.

The most important thing to remember is that to get better you need to go hard. And to keep from getting injured you need to ramp up to hard. And to prevent over-training, you need to rest after you go hard. It is as simple as that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fitness throughout the ages

According to U. of Leeds exercise physiologist Dr. Harry Rossiter ( New Scientist, 2/8/2007), average Athenians around 500BC were as fit as today's top elite athletes. Using a reconstruction of an ancient trireme, a warship powered with 170 rowers in three tiers, Dr. Rossiter measured the metabolic requirements to drive the replica at published speeds. We have good records of many trips made by such ships. Distances, departure and arrival dates and times, very dependable data.

Dr. Rossiter found the rowers would have been top elite endurance athletes by today's standards. Given that Ancient Athens had up to 200 triremes at any one time, for a total of at least 34,000 individuals, rowers were not some small elite force. 

They were average young citizens. No heart rate monitors, no power meters, no cardio-zones, mesocycles, microcycles, periodization, or what have you. No Powerbars here either. No protein supplements, Gatorade, no GU, no special vitamins or micro-nutrients, just plain old food, water and exercise. Certainly no amphetamines, steroids, EPO or Cera in this crowd.

Dr. Rossiter leaves open the possibility that ancient athletes were genetically better adapted to endurance exercise. If that is so, then we have lost some pretty good genes. I doubt it however. I think those Ancient Greeks just worked hard and worked hard all the time.

This is one of the best documented cases showing that there were fit people throughout history. And a clear indication that no "special" foods, drinks, measuring instruments, etc. are needed for high performance. 

Unfortunately that view is not what sponsors like to hear. It does not sell books, magazines, training plans, gadgets, drinks, bars, gels, vitamins, computrainers, and what have you.

But I can surely attest to the fact that the less you buy into all those gimmicks the better off you will be. And faster too. 

Eat normal food, avoid sugary sweets, listen to your body, add variety and rest when you are tired. It is too simple, isn't it? Makes you wonder where the catch is.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mesocycles, thresholds, and other hoopla

Just got a newsletter from USA cycling with some impressive graphics and discussions relating to mesocycles and periodization. The article is entitled, "Periodization Part 4, The Mesocycle and Training/Planning Platforms and Periods."

It has such wonderful scientific-sounding phrases as "The mesocycle may be the most important aspect of the periodization process." If that doesn't impress you, then I don't know what will. The mesocycle, it seems has a lot in common with lunar (and related cycles).

Surely, the six bar graphs showing the "Classic 28 Day," or the "14-7 Platform" will convince you. Never mind the 23-5 and the 16-5 platforms, or the 28 day Overload/Block Period. If you are thinking birth control, think again. I just can't shake the image of colored birth control pills in their neat 28 day packages. Must be my background.

Finally, there is the rather timely "Crash Period" graph, showing the 21 day mesocycle and looking somewhat like the Dow these days.

If the science label or the business-like powerpoint doesn't convince you, how about some religion?

The man behind all this turns out to be none other than Joe Friel, writer of many books on training, with such semi-religious titles as "The Cyclist's Training Bible", "Cycling Past 50", "The Triathlete's Training Bible", and the "Mountain Biker's Training Bible." It appears that Joe not only has the science in his pocket, he is big on religion as well, or bibles at least.

Ironically enough, it is not my only "encounter" with Joe's wisdom this week. The Cal Triathlon emailing just happens to have a reference to lactate threshold and Joe's training "zones." If you use this method you will always know if "you are in the right zone" If such talk reminds you of Timothy Leary or another long-ago movements, you are not alone.

I am afraid I am not a believer. I realize that my irreverent talk may incur the wrath of some very important people, but so be it. After having read all this stuff and looked at the graphs, I can only scratch my head. Macro-cycles, meso-cycles, micro-cycles, it is enough to make anyone dizzy. Horoscope anyone? A Copernican revolution is needed lest we drown in epicycles.

It also reminds me of my days in clinical practice when (usually elderly) patients would show up with elaborate pill organizers filled with a myriad of colorful pills, tablets, and capsules. "She takes one of these every other day doctor, with food, and then two of these in-between meals, and then one of these three times a day, except Sunday, and Monday, " etc. etc., the helpful companions would say. 

It was a logistics challenge without equal (except the mesocycles perhaps).

Ironically enough, what we usually found was that if we (carefully and slowly) took away all those pills, the patients enjoyed a remarkable recovery from whatever foggy state was clouding their brains. The other symptoms and lab abnormalities also improved rather dramatically in the process.

I am a minimalist. Things that look complicated do not impress me, quite to the contrary. I like simplicity and elegance. I found it works best.

You eat normal food, you train hard, engage in plenty of variety and play, and when you are tired you rest. It is not very commercially stimulating, but it works wonders.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mind games

Endurance racing requires a certain mindset that many people find hard to comprehend. There is an addictive quality to it that is similar in some ways to that seen in extreme sports or skydiving. As is common in all such events, it is a highly personal and individualistic mindset that drives the competitor.

Whereas the extreme sports-types go for the powerful adrenalin rush, endurance athletes are more into the soothing endorphin-like quality of the runner's high. It is a powerful, yet very peaceful high with a deeply satisfying somatic quality. That sets it apart from the feel-good bouts one gets from successfully controlling a device, as in driving a race-car or flying a plane. The endurance high is felt deeply in one's bones, ligaments, and muscles.

I have found that endurance athletes do not really know, or want to know, or cannot express why they are doing what they do. Some will state bluntly that it never occurred to them to ask. As many would say:"If you have to ask, then you won't understand the answer."

In an interview, former pro triathlete Ken Glah said he started competing in Ironman because he really liked training for it. Most triathletes find routine hard exercise relaxing, soothing and invigorating. They often say it sets their mind free.

If you look at the competitor lists you will see that many also engage in endurance sports as a way to overcome or deal with adverse events in their lives, or the lives of relatives and friends. The World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), owner of Ironman often promotes and highlights these feats. People battling deadly diseases or those with relatives suffering from deadly diseases, often engage in endurance events.

Endurance appeals to older competitors who tend to do better, relatively speaking in long events. The longer the event, the more it relies on strength and endurance versus raw speed and peak performances. That favors more mature individuals over energetic teens.

While many no doubt joined the ranks in pursuit of a health benefit or in the hope of delaying the ravages of aging, it is often not the main reason. Unless people find a way to enjoy the distance, they usually do not last all that long in this sport. Endurance athletes are in for it because they seem to need it for what it is. There is that funny addictive quality again, and there is no denying that it plays a much greater role than anyone is willing to admit.

Although cameraderie is an essential component, endurance racing is largely about the "loneliness of the distance runner." Just you and your mind and the long road ahead. As many have pointed out, the athlete is often his or her's only real opponent, and nowhere is that more clear than in an endurance event.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Science III

If you took the time and read the previous posts, you may wonder why the science bar is set so high. You may also wonder how many "scientists" really practice science as defined here. To wit, I used to joke that any discipline with "science" in its name was not scientific at all. Like political science, social science, computer science, brain science, etc. I stopped telling that joke because I found people tend to react rather violently and fail to see the point. Given the status (and money involved) of science in our society, people do not like to be told their work is not "scientific." Add to that that the majority of the population equates science and truth and you can see why this joke is like saying "I have a bomb" in the airport.

Fine, but what about having the bar set high? Why is that necessary? It is because people are very easily fooled. I say people, because it is a characteristic of all people, regardless of their intelligence, upbringing, social status, etc. All people are easily fooled and they are experts at fooling themselves. Everyone has ideas, things they learned or experienced, prejudices, opinions, fears, that are based on spurious associations, hearsay, peer pressure, personal experience (often misinterpreted) etc. Scientists are no different from any other person in this respect. They are just as likely to be religious, believe in the afterlife, be afraid of ghosts, as anyone else.

Second, many people have an agenda. Some have a very active and explicit agenda, but even those who don't often have to prove something to the world. They are motivated to prove something to themselves and to others. They are driven to make a point or simply to be right about something. Such biases are even more explicit when it comes to behavior, nutrition, health, performance, etc. The more it affects people's daily lives, the stronger the biases are. Most people can be pretty neutral about gravity, but when it comes to what food is good for you, hardly anyone is without a preset opinion.

Third, there is a lot of money at stake, and money has an agenda. Once again this is more applicable to health, medicine, and nutrition than to abstract things in the physical world. Modern science is especially dependent on money and money does not come free. It exerts a noticeable influence at all levels. From the types of research that is "fundable," i.e. a couple of decades ago you could not propose any research that would imply or might find differences between the genders, to the findings of such research, i.e. many people tried to suppress the work on helicobacter and stomach ulcers; to the endless ongoing research into side-effects of birth control pills, circumcision and sexually transmitted disease, etc. that is doubtlessly motivated to prove and support a certain point of view.

Fourth, science is based on and requires open communication and free exchange of information. That does not sit well with those who aim to gain an advantage, as is true from the military all the way down to the sports competitor. One might even argue the lay person looking for health info is trying to get an edge. But conducting science in secrecy is not really possible. I know you will quickly point out all the secret government research, including the Manhattan project. When doing so it is easy to forget that the Manhattan project was mostly about engineering, not science. Once again, many will quickly take issue with this claim, not because they know it to be true or not, but because they view science as more prestigious than engineering. Or because they don't want to be known as engineers (yes folks there is a pecking order here).

Much of what goes under the label science is nothing but engineering, or empirical discovery. Guess what, there is nothing wrong with that. Science is not the only way to discover truths about nature. If anything, science is definitely the slowest (and from a practical perspective) the most inefficient way to discover new things. Many, taking a serious look at the "war on cancer" have come to that conclusion. And they are right. There is not really a scientific way to find a cure for a disease. You can do a lot of science about organisms, diseases, etc. but that is a very round-about and long process. Penicillin for example was not discovered in a scientific experiment. It was confirmed in a scientific experiment, but it was discovered by accident. And that is the way most discoveries are made.

If you want to find something new, better not do science. Better poke around, look around, and do so without any prejudice or forethought. Better think crazy thoughts and do things people wouldn't do. That is how discoveries are made. By pushing the envelope and questioning the obvious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Science II

Let's assume that the observations have been repeated many times and that they can be trusted. Let's further assume that we have formulated a plausible hypothesis that can explain these observations. Is that enough to attach the label of scientific discovery? It is not. To validate we need to do a series of experiments. We cannot rely on after-the-fact, or post-hoc explanations, however plausible they may seem. We need a predictive test. We need to elicit the event and see it unfolds the way we predict. We use the hypothesis to predict what will happen. If we are right our prediction should be very close to reality. How close? Close to within the limits of measurement error of our best possible measurement capability.

You may have heard this situation described another way. You may have heard we should have a null hypothesis. The null hypothesis states nothing will happen. All our observations were due to random chance only. When we set out to do an experiment, we try to disprove the null hypothesis. We show that the probability the events happened by chance alone is very small. Therefore we can accept the alternative hypothesis. This is the way statisticians like to describe the situation.

In any case, if you think we are done now, think again. We have carefully observed some new phenomena. We have hypothesized a cause for these observations that is both parsimonious and plausible. We have done repeated experiments in carefully controlled conditions to show that our predictions are correct to within measurement error. We have documented our findings and written a paper. The paper has been submitted to a scientific journal. There it was reviewed by a panel of peers and published. Surely, we can now claim a scientific discovery has been made?

If you said yes, let me assure you that you are not alone. As a matter of fact you are in good company. Many -way too many- scientists would agree with you. FDA would agree with you. Most universities and grant agencies agree with you. The whole American and Western European value system agrees with you. The whole publish-or-perish culture agrees with you. The money people agree with you.

But you are nonetheless wrong. Nothing has been proven. Not until another independent party is able to repeat the experiments and confirm the results. Many "important" scientific papers, written by eminent scientists, employed at the world's most prestigious institutions, reviewed by panels of equally well-known and eminent peers, and published in journals of the highest professional standing, have later been withdrawn because nobody could replicate the results. In some cases, deliberate fraud was the reason, but that is far from always the case. Scientists do make mistakes. They are also susceptible to wishful thinking as the rest of us are. The issue is more problematic in life sciences.

It is actually extremely likely that many "scientific discoveries," thus announced are false. In most cases, replication by an outside party is never done, either because it is too time-consuming, too costly, or simply because nobody is too interested in doing so. There is little to be gained by repeating other people's work. It is a thankless job. Furthermore, so many discoveries evoke so little outside attention that nobody really bothers to replicate them. Even in cases that were later recalled, it often took years before the withdrawal happened. And it often happened quietly and may have gone unnoticed.

Extensive reviews by mathematicians and statisticians have found significant errors in many peer reviewed publications. This is especially true in medical and health related areas where the errors are often significant enough to invalidate the results. Yet such cases almost never get recalled. Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that medical scholar Dr. John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist documented how thousands of peer-reviewed research papers every year are seriously flawed. His conclusions were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2007. He said: "The hotter the field of research, the more likely its published findings should be viewed skeptically. A new claim about a research finding is more likely to be false than true."

Caveat emptor!