Sunday, July 31, 2011

Last Long Ride

Yesterday marked my last long bike ride leading up to Ironman. With just 4 weeks to go, my workouts will now be more of the high-intensity, low-volume nature. Wheels started turning at sunrise and I rode longer and further than I ever have. I completed the exact 112 mile course that I will ride in 28 days. I did my best to ride as I plan to on race day, keeping my heart rate in aerobic zone as much as possible and not letting my legs suffer too much on the climbs.

While my legs felt good the whole time, my backside was definitely tired of sitting in the saddle after almost six hours! Here are my stats for the ride:

Distance - 112.21 miles
Total Time - 5:55:20
Elevation gain - 4755'
Average HR - 132 bpm
Average Speed - 18.9 mpg
Top Speed - 43.0 mph
Calories burned - 7,580

I also made it a point to practice my fueling exactly as I plan to during the race. I drank from my Hammer Perpetuem mix every 15 minutes, I took two electrolyte capsules at 20 and 40 past every hour, I took a gel at 50 past every hour. I also constantly drank clear water from my aero bottle. I stopped four times during the ride to buy more water. I added it up and I drank a total of 208 ounces of water, which equals around 34 ounces per hour. I peed three times during the first 4 hours of the ride, but didn't have the urge at ll during the last two hours, which meant that I was dehydrated. Bottom line - I'll have to drink more on race day!

My IT band didn't bother me at all on this long ride, but I've made the decision to take this next week off of running and cycling in order to try and let it heal. Just swimming, aqua jogging and strength training for the next 6 days...and of course all my rehab and therapy!!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Second Worst Time To Have An Injury

I have an injury. A pretty serious one. One that will keep me from running between now and Ironman (which is in just 33 days)! I say that this is the second worst time to have an injury because the only time that I can think of that would be worse would be the day before the actual race. That would leave no time for rehab or rest.

If you are friends with me or follow me on facebook, you already know all about my "situation". If not, I'll fill you in.

When it happened
I was out on a long run a week ago this past Thursday (7/14/11). It was to be the second to last long run before IMLOU. I was scheduled to go 16 miles. I felt a little twinge in the outside of my left knee about 4 miles in. It went away. I felt it again around 5 miles. This time it lingered. It wasn't enough to make me stop running and it wasn't hampering my form, so I continued to run at a nice easy pace. By the time I got to mile 6, it was starting to hurt. I know not try and push through injuries, so I stopped. I walked a little bit, did some stretching and then attempted to run again. No dice. The brief stoppage made it worse and it actually hurt when running now. I turned around and started to head back. I walked some more. Tried running again. Very painful, so much so that my running gate was altered. I made a few phone calls and was fortunate enough to have someone come get me and drive me the 5+ miles back to my car.

What is the injury?
Although I've never had this specific injury, I know all about it. There are articles written online and in every running magazine about it. It's very common among long distance runners. It's called IT band Syndrome (ITBS). IT is short for Illiotibial. The IT band begins in the hip attached to the glute muscles. The fibrous band of tissue goes down the thigh, crosses the knee joint along the outside of the patella (knee cap), and then attaches to the tibia (shin bone). The IT band functions as a primary stabilizer during running, keeping your legs straight as it absorbs the impact from hitting the ground with every stride. The injury typically starts out as tightness and progresses to the point where the pain is debilitating. I'm sure my IT band was tight, but I didn't have any warning signs that the pain was coming until it was there. The tightness/pain comes from the IT band losing it's strength (usually from overuse). The band becomes inflamed and often rubs on the knee bone, causing the pain.

More on what it does
In order to understand why I have ITBS, I need to explain a little more about what it does. The main functions of the IT band are to assist the hip muscles in abduction (outward movement) of the thigh and to stabilize the lateral side of the knee. The band itself is not a strong structure, and if the surrounding muscles (basically all leg muscles) have any weakness, it can lead to ITBS. I have weak hip muscles, specifically my abductors. You would think that all the years of lateral movement from basketball, baseball/softball and ice hockey would have strengthened these muscles, but I guess they've weakened over the years. Odd thing is, I've been specifically targeting my abductors in my strength training for the last few months. I guess the damage was already done.

Based on all the knowledge I had prior to my injury, I knew that ITBS is not something that you can recover from quickly. Depending on it's severity, the syndrome can last anywhere from weeks to years before you can expect to run long distances pain-free. This is not ideal for someone (me) planning to run a full marathon in less than 5 weeks! The day of my injury (actually while I was waiting on a ride), I began to search the internet on my phone for recovery advice. There are lots of techniques and suggestions out there, and since I have only a few weeks to try and recover, I'm trying them all! Here's what I've been doing, along with no running:
  • Foam Roller Therapy every evening
  • Icing every evening
  • Stretching 2-3 times a day
  • Strengthing exercises focused on my glutes and abductors (2-3 times a week)
  • Deep Tissue Massage (once a week)
  • Graston Technique therapy
  • Taping for stabilization - with Rock Tape
  • Aqua Jogging (started today - will do this 3 times a week)
  • Taking Hammer Nutrition Tissue Rejuvenator capsules (4 capsules 2x a day)
  • Rubbing Hammer Balm on my IT band every night before bed ("You put balm on? Who told you to put the balm on?" - Jackie Chiles, Seinfeld)

After doing all of this (with the expection of the aqua jogging) for a week, I decided to go for a test run last Thursday (7/21). I only made it about 5 minutes (3/4 of a mile) before I felt some pain. I immediately stopped. It was very discouraging to spend a week doing rehab and have no results. All I can do now is continue to do all of the above and hope that I'm healed enough come August 28th to run, or at least jog the marathon!

The good news is that I can bike and swim without any pain. I've heard that ITBS can sometimes show up during cycling, so I'm thankful that this isn't the case with me. I've done rides of 80 and 70 miles without any sign of pain since the injury. 

I'm trying to remain positive. It's not easy. My confidence was very high after the Cardinal Half-Ironman on July 9th. I felt strong during the race and recovered very quickly. I had no doubts that I could complete Ironman and knew that I was peaking at the right time. It was only 5 days later that I suffered this injury. Now my emotions are all over the place. I'm going to lose running fitness between now and race two ways about it. I will not be at my best. But does this mean that having a successful Ironman is out of the question? No. 

The most read post on this blog is one titled Mental Training: Emotions. It's been viewed 1,152 times as of the date that I'm writing this post...that's more than twice as many times as any other post I've made. So why is this one so popular? I think it's because dealing with your emotions can be tough. I'm very disciplined when it comes to my training. I never miss a workout, I never hit the snooze button on the alarm clock. I don't cut the workout short because I'm tired or out of energy. However, I'm not as disciplined when it comes to keeping my emotions in check. I try to have only positive thoughts, but I find negativity constantly creeping in. I have a feeling most athletes are like this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Everything You Need To Know About Hydration

It's summertime. It's sunny. It's hot. It's humid. None of this is a news flash, but how your body reacts while exercising in these conditions may surprise you.

I download triathlon and running related podcasts from iTunes all the time. I listen to these while on my indoor trainer or driving in the car. I recently came across one that featured an interview with Brendon McDermott. Brendon has a PhD in Exercise Science with a research focus on thermal physiology, hydration, and exertional heat stroke. So needless to say, this dude knows what he's talking about when it comes to hydration! The interview was conducted by Jay Martin, who runs a website called "Triathlon Mind Training", where he also sells a DVD by the same name.

Staying hydrated is very key to any athlete this time of year, but especially those that have endurance events (such as IMLOU) planned that take place in the heat!  The information that I learned listening to this interview seemed important enough to share with my fellow here goes.

First of all, let's define dehydration. It's the excessive loss of bodily fluids. For most people, they think that this just means sweat. While it's true that the majority of fluid loss comes from sweat when we are exercising, we can also lose fluids through urine and respiration. That's right, every time you exhale, you are losing fluids. This fluid loss through breathing can actually become pretty substantial during endurance events.

So the first step that many people take is trying to determine how much bodily fluids they lose during exercise. The simple way to do this is to weigh yourself naked before a long ride or run, keep track of all fluids that you take in, then weigh yourself naked again when you are done, adding a pound for every 16 ounces of fluid you consumed during the workout. It's important to weigh yourself naked because your clothes will hold sweat. Just don't use the scale that's out in the middle of the gym! One pound of weight loss equals 16 ounces of water loss. For example, let's say you weigh 1 pound less after a one hour run and you drank 16 ounces during the run. You lost a total of 32 ounces (16 x 2). So you should try and drink 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes while running.

Since this fluid loss rate is very individualized, don't assume that you are the same as someone else your same size and age. It also varies depending on exercise intensity, fitness level, environment, heat acclimatization and how much sodium you have in your body at the time. So do this fluid loss test several times and get an average.

I'm sure that we've all exercised in a state of dehydration. It's nearly impossible not to. Most people cannot physically take in the same about of fluids that they are losing per hour. But trying to stay as hydrated as possible is important. Even just a 2% loss in body weight due to dehydration can have some very negative effects on your performance and your brain. To find what your baseline body weight is, weigh yourself naked (yes, there's lots of nudity in this post) first thing in the morning. As with the fluid loss calculation, do this weigh-in several days in a row and take the average. Once you get this weight, multiply it by 0.98 to get your weight at 2% dehydration. The goal should be to not weigh any less than this after your workouts. Also note that your body's thirst mechanism kicks in when you get to 2% dehydrated. So don't let yourself get thirsty!

I'll use myself as an example. Although my weight fluctuates depending on what period of my training I'm in, I usually check in around 175.

175 x 0.98 = 171.5

This means that I shouldn't weigh any less than 171.5 after my runs or rides.

So what exactly happens when you are more than 2% dehydrated? Bad things man, bad things. According to a study done last year by the Journal of Athletic Training, runners who started a 12K race dehydrated on an 80° F day, finished about two and half minutes slower compared to when they ran it hydrated. Why does this happen? Research shows that for every percent of dehydration (body weight) you are down, there is a direct correlation to increase in your core body temperature. During exercise, what is compromised to keep the body temperature down? Performance. Measuring your body temperature after a workout or race doesn't tell you much. You may finish the race with a lower body temperature, but your performance suffered.

Exercising in a dehydrated state also causes your mind to play tricks on you. As if endurance events weren't mentally taxing enough, before you even get to the magic 2% number, your cognitive reasoning decreases. As you continue to lose hydration, reasoning decreases even more. So your judgment, perception, awareness and intuition all suffer. Ever tried to figure out what your finish time will be based on your current pace? Ever tried to estimate how much energy you have left? Ever tried to figure out what mile your are on based on landmarks? All of these things become more difficult when you are dehydrated.

So other than drinking water while exercising, what else can be done to slow down dehydration?

  • Take in electrolytes. I use a product called Athlytes by Millennium Sports. They are little capsules that contain a full spectrum of electrolytes without the sugar and artificial junk found in sports drinks (which my stomach doesn't do well with). If you don't like taking pills, try dissolving some electrolyte tablets in your water. Both Hammer Nutrition and NUUN make good products.
  • Carb load before an endurance event. I've followed a carb-loading protocol in the week leading up to my last two half-Ironman races and I've never once felt thristy or extremely dehydrated during the race. Carb-loading alone will not keep you hydrated, but it can help you retain water. You may feel bloated standing on the start line, but your body will use this fluid retention during the race.
  • Monitor hydration in the 2-3 days prior to your event. Try and consume between 70 and 90 ounces of water daily prior to your event. Your urine should be almost clear. However, if you find yourself heading to the bathroom more than once every two hours or so, you should cut the water consumption back - you are well hydrated.
One last thing that was mentioned was what to do after a long workout or race. Multiple studies have shown that ingesting oral fluids after a race rather than an IV is better for you. While this method obviously takes longer, you will recover more quickly. So don't go straight to the IV after your marahon or Ironman race. Try and slowly drink some fluids first. If you can't keep them down, then try and find a vein!

Dehydration is a big concern for me heading into Ironman Louisville next month. There's a reason why this race has the highest dropout rate of any Ironman on the's hot and humid here...people do not keep up with their hydration and they reach a point where their body can no longer move. They go into survival mode. When your body is starting to shut down from extreme dehydration, running walking is not an option! I learned a lot from listening to this podcast that I plan on using on race day, I hope that some of this information is beneficial to you, whether you are doing IMLOU or not.

7/6/11: Swim - Train Smart workout - solo (3400yd on 1:05:03)  
7/8/11: Brick - Bike (9.46 miles in 28:53), Run (1.92 miles in 13:45) 
7/9/11: Race - Cardinal Triathlon (70.3 miles in 5:50:22) 
7/11/11: Bike - Recovery Spin (18.0 miles in 1:00:00) 
7/11/11: Weights - Extreme Core II - 4 sets
7/12/11 Run - Speed Work at track (10.42 miles in 1:42:46)
7/13/11 Run - Recovery Run (3.82 miles in 33:00)  
7/13/11: Swim - Train Smart Group Swim (2450m in 55:23) 
7/14/11 Run - Long Run* (Planned for 16 miles, only ran 6.52 miles in 56:44 due to IT Band issue) 
7/15/11: Bike - Intervals (14.50 miles in 45:01) 
7/15/11: Swim - 100-75-25 intervals (1400yd in 29:09)
7/16/11: Bike - Long Ride (80.53 miles in 4:05:56)
7/18/11: Bike - Long Intervals (19.00 miles in 1:00:00)  
7/18/11: Swim - Endurance mile (1776yd in 29:48)
7/19/11: Bike - Hill repeats (23.00 miles in 1:15:01)  
7/19/11: Weights - Extreme Core I - 3 sets 
7/20/11: Swim - Train Smart Group Swim (3300m in 1:14:56)

* - I suffered an IT band injury about 6 miles into this run. I've been doing everything I can  since then to try and get to the point where I can run on it. I've been using lots of ice, my foam roller, had a deep tissue massage and I'm going to see my Physical Therapist today. I'm really bummed about not being able to run right now, especially when I only have about 4 more weeks of good training before Ironman!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cardinal Triathlon Report

The day before a race I typically look over the bike and run courses, print out my check list, pick up my race packet and load up on carbs. The day before this race was a little different. I started out the day sitting on the pavement with Flash laying in the road beside me...and no, this was not planned. I spent the rest of the day crossing my fingers that my bike would be repaired in time for the race the next morning. Thanks to the guys over at VO2 Multisport, Flash was as good as new by the end of the day and ready to roll on race morning.

I arrived at the race around 6:45am. Despite running a little later than I like to, I was able to grab a good spot in transition...right near the bike exit. I set up my transition area and then headed down to the water to see what the swim course looked like. The swim was in the Ohio River and it was two loops of a 0.6 mile course. The first 0.3 miles were against the current, then your turned around and swam 0.3 miles with the current...then did a second loop. See that 4th buoy in picture below? That was the turn-around point.

I did a quick swim to see how the water felt and it was pretty comfortable. We started in three waves. First was all males under 40 (yes, that's me). Then the 40 and over males, followed by the women and aquabike participants. After wading in the water for a few minutes and fighting the current, we were under way. The mass of arms and legs was pretty typical for an open water race. I was kicked a few times, but nothing that messed up my rhythm too much. Once I got out away from the shore, I noticed the current fighting me. I tried to increase my stroke rate, but still felt like I was going nowhere. Once I got to the turnaround, I could tell an immediate difference. I looked at my watch at the halfway point and it was 22 minutes and some change...not good! I began to swim harder than I had planned. I could tell my breathing rate was increasing and could even feel my lungs burning, but I needed to make up some time. Unfortunately, it was to no avail. After pushing it harder on the second loop, I still ended up getting out of the water in just over 45 minutes. I was very disappointed in my swim, but knew that I had time to make it up on the bike and run. The swim exit was interesting. There were three extension ladders tied to the dock extending down into the water - you can see a guy climbing out behind me in the picture below.

Official Swim time - 45:36.70
15th out of 28in my age group and 90th fastest swim out of 170 total 

After having issues getting my feet into my bike shoes during the last two races, I decided to leave my shoes unclipped this time. I put them on in T1 and clipped in as I started to ride. I can't imagine that it cost me too much time doing it this way. Since this was a long course race, I took my time in T1...putting on my HR monitor, tri top, socks and shoes. I try not to worry about speedy transitions in long races, it's more about not forgetting anything. I also got to see the family as I was in T1. It's always good to have a personal cheering section! My wife is extremely understanding when it comes to my triathlon training and racing; I'm very lucky to have her!

Official T1 time - 2:31.9
6th out of 28 in my age group and 73rd fastest T1 out of 170 total 

I'm very comfortable on Flash these days. Spending 4-5 hours at a time in the saddle will tend to help you get this way. I know the bike inside and out...and something didn't feel quite right as I started the 56 mile ride. It felt like something was holding me back - I honestly thought that maybe the back brakes were rubbing the wheel. I looked back and everything was spinning freely. I even noticed that going down one of the big hills I only got up to 40 mph. I've been clocking 43-44 mph on this hill during my training rides. I know that in addition to replacing the base bar, VO2 had to do some work on my rear derailleur and replace some cables. Were one of these adjustments slowing things down? I had no way of knowing or doing anything about it, so I just kept riding. I was taking in my fuel and keeping a close eye on my water consumption. I picked up a bottle at both aid stations and when I got back to transition I was completely out of everything, which is perfect. Somewhere around mile 40 things started to feel right again and I hammered it home, passing lots of people in the process.

I was the 58th person out of the water (including a few of the older guys and even a woman or two that made up the time difference on me). Coming back into T2, I was in 37th...meaning I passed 21 people on the bike course - this is a nice benefit to having a bad swim! My bike time was 2:54:53. The course was a little long, measuring 57.75 miles on my bike computer, giving me a average pace of 19.8 mph. Avg HR on the bike was 141 bpm.

Official Bike time - 2:54:53.20
8th out of 28 in my age group and 37th fastest bike out of 170 total

I had a pretty quick T2 since I didn't see the need in changing my socks. I slipped my feet out of my bike shoes as I coasted in, took off my helmet, put on my running shoes and fuel belt, grabbed my hat and Garmin watch and was on my way to conquering the 13.1 miles of hills and scorching asphalt.

Official T2 time - 0:53.60
3rd out of 28 in my age group and 12th fastest T2 out of 170 total 

I felt good coming out of T2, but as soon as I hit the first hill...let's just say I knew I was in for a miserable run! There was a guy about 10 feet in front of me that had a "30" on his calf. This meant that he was 30 years old and in my age group. I told myself to just hang with him for the first few miles and see how I felt. I ran right behind him for about 2 miles and then I passed as he slowed down going up one of the endless hills. I drank two cups of water at every aid station and was sipping on my fuel mix when I felt the need. The hills were relentless. I only walked for a few seconds at each aid station just to get the water down, then I immediately start running again, not giving myself the opportunity to think about how good continuing to walk would feel. 

I could go on and on about how difficult this run was, but I just kept my feet moving and passed lots of people walking along the way - especially on the second loop. Believe it or not, I actually found a second wind around mile 9. My last 4 miles were all under 9 minutes. I'm not sure how or why I felt this good, but it was a big boost to my confidence as Ironman grows closer. The run course actually measured a little long too, at 13.85 miles. My time of 2:06:26 works out to be an average pace of 9:07 min/mile. Avg HR on the run was 157 bpm.

Official Run time - 2:06:26.70
7th out of 28 in my age group and 43rd fastest run out of 170 total 

I cruised to the finish line with a total time of 5:50:22.10, good enough for 8th in my Age Group and 35th overall. After talking with other competitors, it seemed like most people were about 30-40 minutes above their average Half-Ironman times. Chalk this up to the very difficult run course and the heat. My time was 31 minutes longer than the Half I did back in May. All in all, I'm pleased with my race. I learned a lot about how to trying to stay cool during a race in hot weather (90° F during the run)- priceless information come August 28th!

Official Time - 5:50:22.1
8th out of 28 in my age group and 35th out of 170 total 

Thanks for the continued support Mom and Dad!

Gear used:
Aqua Sphere Kayenne goggles
Pearl Izumi Elite Tri Top and Shorts
Tifosi Dolomite sunglasses
Argon 18 E-112 Triathlon bike
Mizuno Wave Alchemy running shoes

Nutrition used:
  • Hammer Nutrition Fizz tablet (1 in a 24oz water bottle) - sipped for the hour leading up to race start
  • PowerBar Energy Blasts - ate about 30 minutes before race start

  • Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem (6 scoops in one 24oz. bottle of water) - took two sips every 15 minutes
  • Two 24oz. bottles of clear water to start and then replaced at both aid stations
  • Hammer Nutrition Gel (3 gels in one 4oz. flask) - one big gulp every hour on the 45's
  • Millennium Sports Athlytes capsules (4 per hour - 12 total) - two every 20 minutes

  • Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem (2.5 scoops in each of the two 8oz. bottles on my fuel belt - mixed with water at first aid station) - two sips every 20-25 minutes
  • Two cups of clear water at every aid station
  • Millennium Sports Athlytes capsules (4 per hour - 8 total) - taken two at a time at aid stations  every 30 minutes so that I could take them with water
  • Filled my hat up with ice twice to help keep cool
  • Took an ice-cold rag at mile 6 and alternated hands holding it until it was warm (keeping hands cool helps cool your core!)

Nutrition plan worked well again. I pretty much have it dialed in now. I didn't feel sluggish on the run and had the urge to pee during just about the entire bike and run, so I was well hydrated. My stomach started to cramp during the last few miles on the run, but I think this was due to the heat, not inadequate nutrition.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cardinal Triathlon Results

Here's the official results of the 2011 Cardinal Half-Ironman Triathlon:

Swim (1.2 miles)
45:36.80 (38:00 min/mile pace) - 15th out of 28 in age group (90th out of 169 overall)

2:31.9 -6/28 (73/169)

Bike (56 miles)
2:54.53.2 (19.2 mph) – 8/28 (37/169)

0:53.60 – 3/28 (12/169)

Run (13.1 miles)
2:06:26.7 (9:39 min/mile) – 7/28 (43/169)

5:50:22.15 (8/28) (35/169)

Full race report coming in the next few was an extremely hard race!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cardinal Triathlon Preview

Tomorrow will be my second half-Ironman on the 2011 season. Given the challenging course and the added heat component, topping my race at Taylorsville Lake is going to be tough.

While this race has been in existence for several years, this year marks a change in the venue. The race has moved from Cardinal Harbour (a community located on the Ohio River) to Captain's Quarters, a restaurant and marina a little further downstream on the river. While Cardinal Harbour offered a flat run course, the 1/4 mile or so walk from the spot where we had to park, to the transition area was not ideal. The new race location offers it's own challenges (described below), but it will be a much more spectator and participant friendly atmosphere both before and after the race.

As much as I would like to forget about it, I did participate in this race last year. It was a horrible day. If you like to read about other people's miserable race experiences, click here for my race report.

The 1.2 mile swim will take place in the mighty Ohio River. Will the water be warm? Yes. Somewhere around 80° no wetsuits required (or allowed). Will it be dirty? Yes. It always is...especially the day after it rains...which it did is today.

The swim course will be two loops of 0.6 miles (approximately) each. So we will swim 0.3 miles with the current, turn around, swim 0.3 miles against the current...and then do it all over again. I did last year's swim in 51:35.9, which is slow. Improving on that should not be a problem.

After pulling myself out of the muddy river, I'll set out on a 56 mile bike ride full of hills. The route takes place on some of the same roads that IMKY will follow, so I know the course fairly well. It's going to be challenging, but I've yet to do a training ride without hills, so I'm ready. Here's the elevation profile of the bike:

So yeah, there are some big hills. But as much as it sucks going up them, it's fun to come back down! I did the bike last year in 2:49:44 (unofficial). I would be very happy with a similar time tomorrow.

After the bike is where this race will get very interesting. By this time, the temperatures should be in the upper 80's and the sun will be beating down. The 13.1 mile run course for this race has been pretty much flat in the past. Now that the race location has changed, it's no longer fact, it's pretty friggin' hilly! The first mile and a half is straight up a hill. I'm sure that my legs will be loving this after 3 hours on the bike! Then you go down a hill, up another hill, then a long steady descend back to transition. But wait...that's only 6.5 miles. So let's just do the whole thing again! Yeppie! Here's the run course elevation profile:

I've done a lot of running on hills too, but this will be challenging to say the least. I love challenges though, so I'm ready to spend some time in the pain cave tomorrow! I'll be happy with a total race time between five and a half and six hours.

Speaking of pain, I had a first this morning. While I was out for my quick brick session, I lost control of my bike going around a curve and did my best baseball slide across the wet pavement. Fortunately I wasn't going too fast and I only have some minor scrapes and bruises...but I can't say the same for Flash. She's at the bike shop as I type this getting a new base bar installed. This was my first wreck in three years of triathlon training and I feel very lucky considering the stories that I've heard. Flash and I will both recover and be ready to rock in the morning!

 Left a little skin on the road.

Yeah, it's not supposed to bend that way!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sunscreen Review

Despite all of data showing that the sun's ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB rays) damage the skin, people still spend long periods of time outside with no skin protection. This leads to lots of wrinkles, spots on your skin and even cancer. If you have been around me long enough you will at some point have had the privilege of hearing me preach to you about the dangers of too much sun exposure and if I hear about you going to a tanning bed...well, it won't be pretty!

I've used lots of different types of sunscreen over the years, but I've had limited success with finding one that can hold up to the type of training that I'm doing now. Before I get into the particular brands that I've tried, I want to explain the difference between sunscreen and sunblock. 

Sunscreen contains chemicals that protect your skin by absorbing and reflecting UV rays while allowing a certain range of UV light to be absorbed into the skin. Sunblock is a physical barrier on the skin that reflects UV rays and acts as a wall between your skin and the sun. Hearing about chemicals being absorbed into or painted on our skin doesn't sound like something that I would promote, but the benefits far outweigh and potential risk. Over 1 million people get skin cancer every year. It's a no brainer.

So here's a picture of some of the products that I've tried:

Let's start with the NO-AD Sunblock lotion (second from the right).

  • Protects against UVA & UVB
  • Contains Aloe Vera and Vitamin E
  • Only lasts for about an hour (label says 80 minutes)
  • Claims to be water and sweat resistant, but it runs when wet
  • Sunblock layer prevents the body from being able to sweat as much = overheating
  • Only SPF 30

Anther lotion that I tried was the Coppertone Sport (third from the left)

  • Protects against UVA & UVB
  • Contains antioxidants
  • Sweatproof (actually stays on pretty well)
  • SPF 50
  • Longevity - needs to be reapplied after 1 hour
  • Stains clothes

Now let's talk about the aerosol sprays. They are an alcohol based spray from an aluminum can. They are obviously very popular because they are easy to apply. After doing some more research, I've learned a few things about them that I don't like. First of all, the alcohol dries your skin. It also increases the amount of chemicals that can penetrate your skin. These sunscreens also contain chemicals that are very hard to pronounce...and they get into your body.

Let's start with the Coppertone Sport spray suncreen (first on the left)

  • Continuous spray is easy to apply, espeically on the hard to reach areas of the back and shoulders
  • Waterproof
  • Dries quickly
  • Leaves a film on your skin
  • Prevents you from sweating
  • Contains alcohol...lots of alcohol

The second from the left is made by Ocean Potion Suncare

  • Continuous spray
  • Highly water and sweat resistant (does not wash off)
  • UVA & UVB protection
  • Contains alcohol
  • Needs to be reapplied often
The other spray shown is just the Equate (walmart) brand of the Coppertone spray. Same basic ingredients and pros/cons

So big surprise, none of these worked for me. If you are just going to be sitting outside relaxing, then maybe one of these is right for you. But if there's any sweating or activity going on, these aren't going to cut it. None of them last long enough and most of them prevent me from sweating enough.

After doing some research, I came across a sunblock that was made for what I intend to use it for...rigorous training in the sun and heat. The product is called SCAPE (pictured on the far right). SCAPE is an acronym that stands for Skin Cancer Awareness Protection and Education.
The one thing that sold me on this product was the fact that two-time Ironman World Champion, Craig Alexander used it while racing the Ironman in Hawaii. He put it on before the race, then swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 and ran 26.2 in the blazing sun...without ever reapplying it...and finished the race without a single tan line from his tri jersey or shorts!

The sunblock has been formulated to stay on the skin, but at the same time allowing your body to sweat. It uses an ultra-thin gore-tex layer to hold the sunblock in place, while keeping it your body temp doesn't rise.

The only drawback is the price. I paid $14.95 + shipping for a 4oz bottle of SPF 50. 

I've used SCAPE now on two long rides (80 miles and 100 miles) that kept me out in the sun for over four and five hours. The tan lines and plenty of sweat making it through. Good stuff!

6/23/11: Bike - Sprint intervals (18.7 miles in 45:00) 
6/23/11: Weights - Extreme Core I - 4 sets 
6/24/11: Bike - Drills (19.0 miles in 1:00:00) 
6/24/11: Swim - Pace Test (1008yd in 18:06) 
6/25/11: Brick - Bike (20.78 miles in 1:01:13), Run (6.04 miles in 47:15) 
6/27/11 Run - Fartlek (3.75 miles in 28:30) 
6/27/11: Weights - Extreme Core II - 4 sets 
6/28/11: Bike - Sprint intervals (15.0 miles in 45:00) 
6/28/11: Swim - Drills with fins/paddles (1500yd in 30:11) 
6/29/11: Swim - Train Smart Group Swim (2650m in 1:11:03) 
6/30/11: Bike - Hill intervals (14.5 miles in 50:00) 
6/30/11: Swim - Endurance 500's (2400yd in 44:36) 
7/1/11 Run - Long Aerobic Run (20.26 miles in 2:53:22) 
7/2/11: Bike - Long Aerobic Ride (100.52 miles in 5:17:50) 
7/4/11: Bike - Recovery Ride (13.5 miles in 45:00) 
7/5/11 Run - Recovery Run (5.13 miles in 44:08) 
7/5/11: Swim - Recovery Swim (1008yd in 18:13) 

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Feet and My Shoes

I already know that I'm going to stir up some controversy with this post. There is a large group (growing every day) of runners that believe that a minimal shoe is the answer to all of those nagging injuries that runners face. I for one, do not believe this to be true. In fact, I've seen articles written that talk about the increase in running injuries due to people running in these shoes. In full disclosure, I will admit that I have never run in a minimal shoe. Why not? Because of my feet.

In his infinite wisdom, God gave me feet that are flat. I don't mean that I have a low arch, I mean that I have NO arch! They are so flat that the Army may not even take me. Flat feet are not ideal for running. When my foot hits the ground, the lack of an arch causes my foot to roll inward. This inward roll is known as pronation. The more the foot rotates inward, the more the leg internally rotates. Most people's feet only pronate a few degrees, mine rotate more in the 10-15 degree range. Excessive internal rotation of the legs (tibia) leads to a chain reaction, affecting the knees, hips, IT band and shins. It can lead to serious problems like stress fractures and degenerative joint disease.

When I first decided to run back in the late 90's, I went and bought a pair of Reebok running shoes from a sporting goods store (I cringe just typing that!). I trained in these and ran a half marathon...through pain. I assumed that the pain in my knees and shins was normal for new runners and just sucked it up. My Dad found out that I was running in these shoes after the race and immediately took me see someone that could fit me with the proper shoe. I'll never forget what Swag said to me when I showed him what I had been running in. "I can't believe you've been running in those bloody shoes." He's from across the pond, so the word "bloody" is part of his typical vocabulary. He fitted me with some good stability shoes and I've never looked back.

Based on my knowledge of what my flat feet and overpronation can lead to, there is no chance that I am going to throw on a pair of running shoes that does not offer the arch support I need. I like to run, I don't like to be sitting at home nursing an injury!

So this is why I do not think that Vibram Five Fingers or Newton's are for everyone. If your foot is biomechanically correct, then these types of shoes will probably be fine for you to run long distances in. I understand that wearing these shoes over time will strengthen the muscles and joints in your feet, ankles and legs; but they are not going to magically create an arch for me. I also understand that they force you to land on your mid-foot as apposed to your you a much more efficient stride - but you can train yourself to have a mid-foot strike without wearing a minimal shoe...I've done it.

So why do I bring all of this up today? It's because this morning was my first long run in my new Mizuno's. I've run in Asics exclusively for the last three years. I've probably been through six or seven pair of Asics Gel Foundation shoes. These are what Asics has to offer for sever over-pronators and has the support that my foot needs. I've had zero problems with them. So why do I now have Mizuno's? Because I waited too long and put too many miles on my Asics before finally making time to get some new ones. When I finally made it out to Swag's store, my timing couldn't have been worse. They were awaiting a shipment of the newest model of the Foundations, but they were out of the current model. So I was stuck. I was afraid to run another step in my shoes because they were already broken down and I had a gut feeling that an injury would result in more use. So Swag suggested that I try out the Mizuno Wave Alchemy (see picture). This shoe is what Mizuno offers for stability and it's had great reviews. So I reluctantly walked out of the store with a box that didn't say Asics on it.

I've worn the Mizuno's for some shorter runs and they felt good, but today's 20 miler was the true test...and they passed with flying colors. Will I go back to my Asics once I've worn these out? Probably...but your never know. The point is, if you make the effort to go to someone that can properly fit you in the right shoe for your feet, it doesn't matter what brand it is, how cool it looks, or what other people tell you to run in. Your body will thank you for it.

I have lots more I could say on this topic, but I'll just leave it at that for now. Happy running!!

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