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.