Friday, December 28, 2012

My Final 2012 USAT Ranking

Every year the USAT, the official governing body of triathlons in the U.S., issues a ranking. It's kind of a weird ranking system, but still better than the BCS! Each race that you do has several "pace setters". These pace setters give USAT a "par time" for that particular race. Therefore, every race has a unique par time, depending on who is competing and the race conditions. This is a better system than just giving a ranking based on race time since every race, even if they are the same distance, is different. The pace setter is determined by the rankings from the previous year. A calculated time is determined for each pace setter. This is calculated by taking their overall score from the previous year and dividing it by 100, and then multiplying that number by their finish time for the current race, which is converted to minutes.

This means that if Johnny Tripants is a pace setter and he finished a race this year in 1:30:00, they can find his calculated time for the race. If his final overall score from last year was 95.234, they would divide it by 100 to get .95234. Then, they multiply that by his finish time, which would be 90 minutes. 90 x .95234 = 85.7106

Par time is calculated by dropping the top 20% and bottom 20% of all the pace setters - only the middle 60 percent is averaged together. If there are 100 pace setters in a race, the top 20 and bottom 20 pace setters are not included, and the remaining 60 pace setters' calculated times are averaged together to equal the par time.

After the par time is calculated, the time of every participant in the race is compared against the par time. If the par time of Johnny's race is 80 minutes, and he finished in 90 minutes, his score would be 88.888 (80 / 90 = .88888 * 100 = 88.888). It's a lot of math, I know.

Your top three scores are averaged to find your final score for the season. Everyone's scores are entered in and then the rankings are released. Here's what my season looked like:

Shelbyville Tri #1 = 82.03973
Shelbyville Tri #2 = 78.94914
Shelbyville Tri #3 = 79.14953
Shelbyville Tri #4 = 78.05374
Rev3 Knoxville = 79.08295
TriFest Sprint = 78.24364
TriFest Olympic = 78.65230
So. Indiana Tri = 81.15078
Buckead Border Challenge = 77.94462
Tom Sawyer Tri = 79.77182
Landsharks Tri = 77.31515

So my top three scores were from Shelbyville Tri #1, Tom Sawyer and Shelbyville Tri #3. But overall, I was pretty consistent, so it really didn't matter what races they used. My official score for 2012 was 80.9767

This ranked me at 598th out of 3738 in the Male 30-34 Division (including Pros). That's top 16%.

In 2011, I was ranked 1567th out of 5897 in my Division (top 26%). I was ranked 1539th in 2010 out of 3133 (top 49%). My 2011 score was 78.53, and 74.47 in 2010. So my score and ranking has improved each year, which I guess means I'm doing something right!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Healthy Eating Guide

It's been two years since my wife Jessica and I decided to go from eating "healthy" to really eating as clean as possible. We emptied out nearly everything in our cupboard, throwing out or giving away all of our processed foods and basically anything that comes in a package. The first few weeks were tough. Jessica had to learn new recipes that included raw more vegetables and different ways to cook and prepare meat. Thankfully for us, she is an awesome cook and quickly migrated to the new diet.

We've added some things back in over the last two years, like cereal and graham crackers - but not too many things that are what we consider really bad for us to consume. Here's a quick video I shot recently, showing you what we typically have on hand at the house...

So as you can see, most of what we have is raw, whole foods. This is what we eat and what we feed our children. It's amazing what toddlers and young kids will eat when they've never had to option of processed junk food. I hear people complain that their kids will only eat hot dogs or french fries...but even with a couple of picky eaters in our house, we still manage to get them to eat vegetables, fruit and meats every day (some days it takes a little more creativity than others).

Another excuse that I hear is that eating healthy is too expensive. I have two responses to this. First of all, if you just look at price per calorie, this is true. But that makes no sense to me. Of course it is going to be more expensive to eat 600 calories of carrots, broccoli and baked chicken than 600 calories of McDonald's or Hungry Man dinners! But when you compare price per gram (weight) and price per average portion, healthy food wins almost every time. The second response that I have is, what is the cost of NOT eating healthy? Even if it was true that eating a healthy diet was more expensive (which it's not), how much is not eating healthy going to cost you in the long run?

In my line of work, I talk to customers all the time about the difference between initial cost and life-cycle cost of equipment. Maybe you pay more up-front for something, but over its life-span, you will pay much less than you would for the competition due to energy savings and less maintenance/replacement parts. The same is true for your body. If you put good fuel in, you will notice the difference in how you feel and perform. I'm proud to say that we haven't had to take either of our children to the doctor this year for anything other than well check-ups. This is despite the fact that our three-year old is now in Preschool and around sick kids all the time. I haven't been to a doctor in over 8 years and my wife has only been to see an acupuncturist and massage therapist. No one in my house has had a prescription for anything in over two years. It's no accident that we don't get's a direct result of what we eat on a daily basis.

You can find organic food at lots of stores, but we like to buy local and try to get stuff from farmers markets and through GreenBEAN Delivery as much as possible. I usually only need to go to an actual grocery store once every 10-14 days...and even then, I'm only getting a few things that we can't order from GreenBEAN or find at the farmer's market. We also have to have toilet paper than that kind of stuff (we aren't total hippies yet!).

Feel free to ask me any questions you have about what we eat or how we prepare it...I'm always happy to pass what I've learned on to others!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Otter Creek Trail Race Results

Distance - 8.83 miles
Overall Place - 8th out of 136
Division Place (M 30-34) - 2nd out of 10
Gender Place - 8th out of 78
Total Time - 1:17:02.64 (8:44/mile)

It's kind of strange to wake up on race morning without having to worry about a full list of things that I need to make sure and take with me. No bike helmet, no nutrition, no wetsuit...just me an my trail running shoes!

I carpooled down to Otter Creek with Charlie and Bill, some triathlete buddies of mine. We managed to easily find the race start and had plenty of time to chat with everyone before the race got underway. 

I positioned myself near the front of the pack as I knew that I didn't want to be worried about constantly trying to pass people on the narrow trail. The race started, and we were off. The first quarter mile or so is on a paved road, so I went out quickly (6:00/mile pace) with the really fast guys and settled in line as we hit the trail. I was surprised at how big and level the trail was. There were no big changes in elevation during the first two miles, so I turned in some fast splits.

I was passed by a few people early on and wondered if I should be running faster. It's a delicate balance on the trails. You have to watch every step and going too fast can not only cause you to bonk later, but can lead to you ending up eating some dirt. It rained on us a little bit, which made the trails really muddy in some parts. I slipped a few times, but never went down. 

 I had guys on my heals for most of the race. I prefer to be in front of a group, so that nothing sneaks up on me. I ran right behind someone for a little bit and didn't like it. On the trails, you can hear the foot steps and breathing behind you better than you can on the road. So I knew when there was someone there.
I chatted with Ricky George for about a mile or so. He's an ultra runner that runs with Troy Shelhammer sometimes. It was fun to talk to Ricky about Ultra's and Ironman. Ricky was doing the full marathon, which was three loops of the trail. Unfortunately, somewhere around mile 4, Ricky rolled his ankle pretty bad. I heard him yell and looked back to see him hobble off the trail. He said he was ok, so I ran on. He managed to walk the rest of the loop (4+ miles!), but his plans on running the marathon were toast. Spraining an ankle is my biggest fear when running on trails. I literally roll an ankle every time I'm out there...furtunately, none of mine have been severe enough that I had to quit running. But I think about it with every step I take. Hopefully my ankles will get strong enough one day that it won't be a constant worry.

The only real big climb of the race started at mile 5. Despite what I would consider a fast pace on trails, I was still feeling pretty good at the start of the ascent. I quickly noticed that the guy running behind me (I won't name any names) was unable to keep up. Then I started gaining on some runners as I climbed. I kept the legs moving quickly and was flying up the incline. Miles 6 and 7 were pretty much all climbing and this is where all those runs up the monster hills at Jefferson Memorial Forest paid off. My legs were ready for the hills and I did some real damage during these two miles. 

Things leveled out for the last few miles and once I got my breath back and my legs stopped burning, I increased the pace and made sure that no one I passed on the hills caught back up. I left the trail and sprinted down the road to the start/finish line. I was pretty happy with my race and really had fun with it...but I was very glad that I was only doing one loop and not two or three!

I was surprised when I found out that I had a top 10 finish! Much better than I expected. 

Food at the finish line was awesome and once my stomach felt ready, I down two bowls of Bill Mark's famous white chilli and some hot chocolate. Good times!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Otter Creek Trail Race Preview

Tomorrow morning I'll head down to Otter Creek Park for my first ever trail race. I've run on trails exactly seven times...and all of those have been in the past two months. It's only taken that long for me to fall head-over-heels (not literally) for trail running. It's been a great addition to my off-season training plan.

The race tomorrow consists of a 8-9 mile loop (seems like no one knows the actual distance). Racers have the option of doing 1, 2 or 3 loops. Being the beginner that I am, I signed up to do a single loop. I've never been on the trails here before, so I'm not sure what to expect as far as climbs and terrain. I hope that it's challenging enough to get my legs burning!

Without knowing the trail, it's really hard to predict a time or set a goal. So I'll just say that I'm hoping to finish in the top 5 in my age group...and I have absolutely no idea if that is a realistic goal or not...I guess I'll find out!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why I Take Cold Showers

When you hear someone talk about taking a cold shower, it's usually related to cooling down a fire in your loins (if you know what I mean). Thankfully, this is not the reason I take cold showers.

For the last six months or so I have taken cold showers. I can only think of one or two times where I turned on hot water in the shower. Literally every shower I take is as cold as I can get the water. My water at home is pretty cold, but not as cold as the water at the gym...and the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center has ice cold water in the showers. No matter where I take the shower, the first few seconds is tough. It always takes my breath away and I never just hang out in the shower - I get clean and get out. I'm covered in goose bumps and if I'm not coming off of a workout, it takes my body a while to warm back up.

So why would I do this to myself day in and day out?
  • Reduce Inflammation
  • Lower body fat
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Improve adrenal function
  • Control thyroid levels
  • Enhance immune function
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Increase pain tolerance
  • Increase hormone levels
  • Improve fertility (not that I need this)
Showering the body with cold water releases a hormone called adinopectin. It breaks down fat and shuttles glucose into muscles (which can lower blood sugar). This not only has a muscle repair effect, but it also enhances recovery. It's also worth nothing that low adiponectin levels have been associated with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Cold exposure also stimulates norepinephrine release - which creates a rise in the circulating levels of a substance known as interleukin-6. This substance plays a very important role in improving your immune system.

Cold exposure can also cause blood glucose to be burned rapidly as fuel to assist in heating the body.

I also take an ice bath after really hard workouts. The post-workout ice baths help prevent excessive inflammation. While some inflammation and swelling is an important part of the healing process, too much can delay healing and recovery time. Ice reduces metabolic activity in the muscles, making them better able to resist the damaging effects of the loss of oxygen associated with inflammation.

So these are just a few of the many reasons why my showers are now icy cold and only around 5 minutes long. The ice baths are more like 10-15 minutes, but since only my lower body is submurged, they are not nearly as uncomfortable. 

Here are a few links to studies yo back me up on this:

Cold exposure increases adiponectin levels

Cold exposure and glucose turnover

Cold exposure boosts immune system

Cold exposure and fat burning

So don't be scared to take a cold shower. It will make that cold water at the pool or lake seem very warm!

Monday, November 26, 2012

IRH Thanksgiving Day Race Results

Distance                 5.0 Miles
Overall Place           80 / 924
Division Place         14 / 55
Gender Place           69 / 485
Total Time           34:47 (6:57/mile)

I felt better than expected during this race considering my lackluster training this time of year. I guess the climbing I've been getting in on the trails has helped my hill running. 

The first mile was pretty crowded, so even though it was flat early on, I only managed a 7:28 mile. 

Mile 2 was all uphill and I was happy to knocking it out in 7:20 while still feeling in control. 

Mile 3 doesn't have any big climbs, but a few rollers. I ran a 6:52 and had lots left in the tank for a quick downhill run to finish. 

Mile 4 is all downhill and while that sounds fun, it's hard to maintain control when gravity wants to pull you faster. I was actually passing people coming down the hill and ran mile 4 in 6:36.

I was still feeling strong, so I decided to increase my pace slightly and then wait until there was only about a 1/4 mile left before going into a full sprint. This turned out to be a good strategy as I passed two guys at the end that pulled the trigger too early when they passed me with a mile to go - they just ran out of juice. I ran the last mile in 6:24. 

I shaved almost two minutes off of my time from this race in 2010, so despite feeling out of shape and slightly heavy, I'm happy with the results. As always, nice job by the Iroquois Hill Runners and Swag's crew.

After the race, Jessica and the kids were pretty cold, so we quickly hopped in the car and headed over to my parent's for a Thanksgiving post-race meal ever!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

IHR Thanksgiving Day Run Race Preview

I love Iroquois Park. I grew up a block away from it and when I first started running, I did the majority of my runs in the park. The constant hills were good training grounds for me. I know the road that loops around the bottom of the park better than any 3 mile stretch in the world. 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and every year (for the past 32 years) the Iroquois Hill Runners (IHR) have held a 5 mile race at the park. The races doesn't loop around the road that I know so well - it starts on this road, but then heads straight up a huge climb (200+ feet) to the top of the park. You basically run uphill for 2.5 miles, then turn around and run downhill back to the start. Fun times.

Despite my love for the park, I have only run this race once in the past. I did the race in 2010, just a few weeks removed from the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. The weather was horrible that day. It was a little chilly and it rained from the time I pulled in the parking lot until I drove off after the race. I remember being a little disappointed in my time that day; but more than anything, I just wanted to get out of there, dry off and eat some turkey!

The goal tomorrow is to just have fun and get in a good workout. This is an "offseason" race, so I haven't really been training for it and I know I'm far from being in peak race shape. I'm about 5-7 pounds heavy and I haven't done any speed work in months. If I had a goal, it would be to try and set a PR for this course...which is currently 36:36.

One last thing that I would like to mention in regards to Thanksgiving and eating in general this time of year. While I still try and eat healthy and clean even in the offseason, I have given in to a few sweets and second helpings over the last few months (thus the extra 5-7 pounds). I will also be enjoying all of the typical Thanksgiving Day foods that I normally steer clear of. I'll have some rolls and even a few sugar-packed desserts over the next few days. Keeping all that in mind, you don't have to go crazy over the holidays and add unnecessary weight. You can enjoy all of your favorites without going overboard. Here is a link to a post I did last year at this time...Food Guide for the Holiday's.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trail Running

I never knew what I was missing!

After the triathlon season is over, several of my tri-buds like to run trails. I thought about doing it last winter, but never got around to it. This year I knew that I wanted to give it a try, so I went out and bought a pair of trail running shoes a little over a month ago. The next step was to find some actual trails to run. I figured that most parks around Louisville would have trails...I was wrong. I'm sure that there are some short trails somewhere in Cherokee, Seneca and Iroquois Park, but I was looking for a real challenge. I knew that there were trail races at Jefferson Memorial Forest, so I decided to start there.

After finding some maps online, I headed to JMF for my first ever trail run. I was only planing on doing a few miles, and I had literally had no idea how fast I would be. I ran a trail called the Yost Ridge Trail. It starts off going straight up a heart rate immediately jumped into the 160's and I knew I was in for a good workout. I managed to only go about two and a half miles, but I learned a lot in that 20 minutes.

I learned that trail running is NOTHING like road running. Sure, you put one foot in front of the other just like you do on the road, but on a trail, you better keep your eyes firmly planted on the misstep and all kinds of bad things can happen. Tree roots, rocks, fallen limps...these are all things that require you to make split-second decisions and plant each foot very carefully. The hills on trails are like nothing I have ever encountered on a road. Some inclines are so steep (15% grade) that I literally have to use my hands to help me crawl up. I also learned that you can throw pace out the window when running on the trails. A 9 minute mile would be a slow jog for me on a road, but on a trail, it's about as fast as I can go. My "speed" up some long climbs is closer to 12-13 minutes per mile. Coming back down the hills is actually harder. The trails I have been on are very technical and narrow. There's no time to "open it up" and run down the hill fast like you can on a road. I have a couple of ankle sprains and a head-first wipe out to prove it! The uneven nature of a trail enlists some muscles that are not used while running on the road. Stability in the ankles, feet and knees is very important. Ever since my Grade 3 sprain back in December of 2010, I have incorporated some ankle strength exercises into my routine. I thought that this had given me strong ankles...I was wrong. Any trail run I do now includes some kinesio tape on my right ankle for added support.

This time of year, actually seeing the trail is pretty tricky. Fallen leaves cover the trail, so there are lots of times when I'm just running...assuming that I'm still on the trail. They have white dots painted on trees next to the trail every so often (see image above), so it's always nice to see one of those and know that you are still on course.

After only four trail runs, I can honestly say that I love it! I look forward to my Sunday afternoon trail runs more than my road work during the week. I love a challenge, so I've run on the difficult Siltstone Trail the last two weeks. Check out this elevation chart from my run this past weekend:

4700+ feet of elevation change over the 6.2 miles!

I have my first trail race coming up in a month. It's an 8 mile run at Otter Creek that is supposed to be very challenging. I have no idea what this trail looks like or how fast I am on trails compared to others. That's part of the excitement of trying something new! Hopefully this new form of running will benefit me come triathlon season!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What is Prop 37?

Yesterday was election day here in the United States. Everyone was focused (rightly so) on the race for the White House, but there was a bill on the ballot in California that had my attention.

Proposition 37 would have required that most foods containing genetically modified ingredients carry a "Made with GMO" label on the box. Whether you know it or not, genetically engineered corn and soy are pretty prevalent in processed/packaged foods (as much as 80% contain them) these days. The dangers of GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods is a highly contested. GMO's are designed to be pest and drought resistant and produce more crops. They use labs to create foods that are a mix of genes from different organisms in combinations that would never naturally occur in nature. Supporters of GMO's claim that they are safe and are needed to solve global food production problems. Not surprisingly, the main supporters of GMO's are not farmers or consumers (even those in areas of the world that are facing food shortages), but Big Agriculture. It's no surprise that most GMO's have been banned in European countries...just like artificial coloring.

A quick Google search will turn up several studies that link GMO's to significant "organ disruptions" or organ failure in rats and mice. GMO's also have insecticides IN them. This alone should be enough for you to be concerned. They are new enough (most developed in the last 10 years) that no one has a clue to their long term effects on humans. Bottom line is that these are foods that the human body was not designed to digest and use as fuel. What you put into your body determines how you feel and look not only on a daily basis but also long term.

So back to this Prop 37 measure. It was defeated 53% to 47%. Why wouldn't people want to know if a food they were eating contained GMO's? Because they believe what they see on TV. Big Agra spent $46 million in advertising to insure that they would not have to label their packages. Here's a complete list of companies that forked over the cash. They include Pepsi, Kraft, Bayer, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, General Mills, Del Monte, Mars, Hershey, Campbell Soup, Sara get the point. The biggest contributor on the list was Monsanto...the biotech company that makes the GMO seeds!

So what did the ads say that scared people into voting no to the labeling? They were told that their groceries would cost more and that GMO's were safe. Here's an example:

So there you have it. Companies don't want to tell you what's in the food they are producing for you.  This is just another example of how big money talks. If nothing else, I hope this Prop 37 draws national attention to GMO's and people will think twice about buying ANYTHING that comes in a box! So what else can you do to avoid GMO's? 
  • Look for foods that are labeled "GMO free"
  • Shop organic. If they have an organic label, they must contain less than 5% GMO products)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thanks Lance!

You can (and should) blame Lance Armstrong for lots of things...including the potential demise of cycling. But one thing we can thank him for is NBC moving their telecast of the Ironman World Championship up 6 weeks. They normally don't air this pre-recorded version of the race until early December...but back before Lance's world came crashing down, he was planning on participating in this race. Seeing it as an opportunity to cash in on a little name recognition, NBC had everything in place to get production done early this year. So even after Lance was banned from racing, NBC decided to proceed as planned.

Spoiler Alert - Pete Jacobs wins!
So tomorrow afternoon at 4pm Eastern Time, NBC will air the 2012 Ironman World Championship. My DVR is already set! The two hour telecast (30 minutes longer than in the past) will show how the pro Men's and Women's races unfolded and will highlight several Age-Group athlete's journey to completing the 140.6 mile race in Kailau-Kona, Hawaii.

Word is that this year's show will be in two parts. The first part will be an "all-access" experience taking viewers through the whole week leading up to the race with lots of interviews from Pros and AGer's. The second part of the show will be the actual race. They will attempt to show this part as if the race was going on live, showing the day as it unfolded.

So there you have it. For all of us that love the sport, this is our one chance a year to get friends and family to watch a triathlon and hopefully begin to understand where the obsession comes from!

Monday, October 22, 2012

What I Learned From My Blood Test

I recently had a blood and urine test done as part of an application for some additional life insurance and disability. I thought just telling them that I was an Ironman would be enough...but they wanted to do the blood and urine profile anyway.

The results of the test arrived in the mail the other day. There were lots of things on there that I understood...and several that I didn't. So I thought that I would review the results on here, maybe giving someone else a little insight as to exactly what some of the common things tested are and what the results mean. Some of the results are in units called mg/dl. This is short of milligrams per deciliter. In these results it will be milligrams of whatever substance is being tested for per deciliter of blood. Other were in U/L. This is units per liter.

First on the list was Glucose. With a history of diabetes in my family, keeping an eye on my glucose is something that I should probably do more often. This test is used to determine the amount of glucose in the blood. The test that I had done was a fasting one, done 12+ hours after my last meal. My glucose level was 62 mg/dl. Anything below 100 mg/dl is considered normal. If I was in the 101-125 mg/dl range, this would mean that I would need to monitor my blood sugar a little closer. Anything above 126 mg/dl would be really high and would cause me to have another test done. I am pretty strict with my diet and very rarely eat sugar. If my glucose level was higher than normal after fasting, it would be a good indicator that my body was not producing enough insulin.

The next test on the list was something called BUN. This is short of Blood Urea Nitrogen. It is used to evaluate kidney function and help diagnose kidney disease. My result was 15 mg/dl. Normal human blood should contain between 7 and 21 mg or urea nitrogen per 100 ml (7-21 mg/dl) of blood.

The next test was call Creatinine. This is another test used to assess kidney function. Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule that is generated from muscle metabolism. Creatinine is produced from Creatine, a molecule of major importance for energy production in muscles. You may have heard of creatine before - lots of body-builders and athletes take a Creatine supplement to try and stimulate muscle growth. The kidneys filter out most of the creatinine and dispose of it in the urine. Elevated levels of Creatinine would signify impaired kidney function or kidney disease. My results were 1.2 mg/dl. Normal range is 0.5-1.5 mg/dl.

Next was a test for Alkaline Phosphatase. This test is used to detect liver disease or bone disorders. In conditions that affect the liver, damaged liver cells release high amounts of Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP) into the blood. This test is often used to detect blocked bile ducts. If one or more of the bile ducts is blocked, for example by a tumor, then the blood levels of ALP will be high. My results were 47 U/L. Normal range is 30-115 U/L.

They also tested for something called Bilirubin Total. This is another test for liver or gallbladder problems. Elevated levels can mean cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, gallstones or cancer of the pancreas or gallbladder. My results were 0.3 mg/dl. Normal is 0.1-1.2 mg/dl.

Now comes some test with really complicated names. The first was serum glutamic oxalacetic transaminase (SGOT). This measures for enzyme present in tissues with high metabolic activity. This enzyme is normally found in the liver, heart muscles, muscles and red blood cells. When these cells sustain damage, they release this protein enzyme into your blood. If your levels are high, it could mean a problem with your liver, or that some medications you are currently taking are damaging your liver. My results were 32 U/L. Normal range is 0-41 U/L.

A similar test for liver problems is the Serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT). This test is more specific for liver necrosis. This particular enzyme is very concentrated in the liver. Elevated levels could indicated alcoholism, liver congestion, etc. My results were 31 U/L. Normal is 0-45 U/L. I guess the Bourbon Chase didn't do too much damage to my liver!!

Another test to check for liver disease and/or alcoholism is called Gamma-glutamyl (GGT). My results were 44 U/L. Normal is 2-65 U/L.

Total Proteins were also tested. Protein levels in the blood can tell you a lot. They become increased in dehydration or multiple myeloma..and can indicate a weak immune system caused by chronic inflammation. A decreased level of proteins can indicated kidney disease, liver disease, poor nutrition, or celiac disease. My level was 7.7 G/dl. Normal is 6.0-8.5 G/dl.

Next up was Albumin. Albumin holds water in blood. Albumin testing is used to help diagnose disease or to monitor change in health status with treatment or with disease progression. It is typically used along with the BUN and Creatinine tests to evaluate kidney function and nutritional status. Low levels can suggest liver disease, inflammation and malnutrition. High levels can be seen with dehydration; although this test is usually not used to monitor or detect dehydration. My level was 5.4 G/dl. Normal is 3.0-5.5 G/dl.

Globulins are proteins active in immunity. It's the antibody protein important for fighting disease. My level was 2.3 G/dl, normal is 2.0-4.0 G/dl. If my levels were low, it might indicate acute infection, chronic inflammatory disease or hyper-immunization.

Triglycerides were one of the things that I actually recognized. This test is used to monitor risk factors for heart disease. Elevated levels can be caused by being overweight, physically inactive, smoking, alcohol consumption, type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, or just plain genetics. High levels of triglycerides are bad news, so thankfully mine were 62 mg/dl, with normal being in the 10-150 mg/dl range.

Next was the good ol' Cholesterol test. In my opinion this is a blood test done too often with results that scare people unnecessarily. This test is used to evaluate risk of heart disease. The issue here is not what the results say, but what do they mean. I like to group "Cholesterol" with "Fat". Both are seen as very negative things, but in reality they are things that are needed by the body to remain healthy. If someone has "high" levels of cholesterol, they are told to avoid red meat, eggs, butter, etc. Problem is, these are good fats that the body needs. Cholesterol is also found in processed sugars, processed carbohydrates and other packaged foods, but you never hear of doctors telling people to avoid this stuff. The other thing that doctors will do for people with high cholesterol is to prescribe a drug (i.e. Lipator). Problem is, if you drive your levels too low with a drug, your body quits producing hormones, without stopping the root cause of the high cholesterol...which is generally a bad diet. The reality is that it's about the whole balance of your entire diet that determines how you actually are affected by things in your food. And how you're actually affected with inflammation and how your cells react to every single thing that you eat. It all requires your body getting the proper nutrients and avoiding non-whole foods. With all that being said, my cholesterol level was 172 mg/dl. Normal is 140-200 mg/dl. My LDL was 94 mg/dl and my HDL was 66 mg/dl. My Cholesterol/HDL ratio was 2.6. A ratio that I feel is more important than the cholesterol numbers alone is the triglyceride-HDL ratio. My ratio was 62/66, or 0.939. Anything under 2 is good. This means that I'm burning fat efficient.

So there you have it. Lots of inforrmation, but the good news is that all of my tests came back in the "normal" I guess I'll just keep in doin' what I'm doin'!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kona Recap, Trail Running & More

We had a very busy day on Saturday around my house, so I didn't get to watch much of the Ironman World Championship online. However, thanks to the 6 hour time difference, I was able to see the last hour or so of both the men's and women's races after I got the kids to bed. 

When I caught up with things, Marino Vanhoenacker was leading the men's race after turning in a crazy fast bike split of 4:35:15 (24.4 mph average). Marino had a lead of around 6 minutes when I started watching...but several guys were gaining on him. This usually happens. Guys that have the fastest bike splits rarely hold on in the run. By mile 15 of the 26.2 mile marathon, Marino stopped and eventually dropped out of the race. This opened the door for Pete Jacobs and Andy Raelert. Jacobs built a big cushion and there was no way anyone was catching him. It was cool to see him realize this soon enough to enjoy the last mile or so of the race. Pete Jacobs, as I predicted he might do, won the race in 8:18:37 and kept the title in Austrailia (that's six winners in a row from down under!).

The real race was for second place. Frederik Van Lierde, I'll call him Freddy, caught up to Andy Raelert with a few miles left after being previously passed. They battled it out until Raelert pulled away with about a mile to go. Former champs Craig Alexander and Chris McCormack didn't fair so well. Alexander was with the lead pack on the bike until the half-way point. He faded and was unable to make up the ground on the run. He finished 12th. McCormack had a good swim and was holding his own on the bike before dropping out around mile 50.

Cave (right) passing Steffen.
The women had a more exciting battle. A lead group of Amanda Stevens, Leanda Cave, Mary Beth Ellis and Gina Crawford dominated on the bike. Caroline Steffen battled up to the front despite her and several other girls getting 4 minute penalties.  Steffen lead on the run, but was being hunted down by Cave and Ellis...and of course Mirinda Carfrae. Cave looked good on the run, catching Ellis pretty early. As expected, Carfrae was running faster than anyone else. She eventually caught Leanda Cave, who was in second behind Stefffen at the time. I fully expected Carfrae to cruise past Cave and then run down Steffen. Funny thing happened. Similar to the battle between MACCA and Raelert in 2010, Carfrae caught Cave, but then couldn't complete the pass. To my surprise, Leanda found an extra gear and left Carfrae behind. She surged on and eventually caught Steffen with about 3 miles to go. Leanda Cave went on to win in a time of 9:15:54. Steffen held on for 2nd with Carfrae finishing 3rd. 


I had planned all summer to start trail running after triathlon season was over. I finally made it out last week and bought some trail running shoes from my good buddy Swag. I love Asics running shoes (I currently have three pair that I regularly use), so I went ahead and stuck with the brand. I bought the Asics GEL-Scout. With my new shoes securely laced up, I head off to Jefferson Memorial Forest on Sunday afternoon to hit the trails for the first time ever. I briefly looked at a map online, but since I wasn't planning on going too long, I didn't have an exact course planned. I couldn't get my GPS watch to locate any satellites (I assume due to the dense tree cover), so I'm not 100% sure how far I went...I think it was just shy of 3 miles. The trail I chose was called the Yost Ridge Trail. It's considered a "moderate" trail, but with it's uphill start, my heart rate was jacked quickly. I tried to maintain a strong pace, but with the constant up and down of the trail, it was difficult. All in all, it was fun...but tough. I have a whole new respect for guys like Troy Shellhamer, that run 50-100 mile trail races. My plan is to try and get in a trail run once a week all winter and maybe even do a trail race or two. We'll see how it goes.


We get most of our fresh produce delivered, but I do buy some stuff in stores. All fruits and vegetables have little stickers on them with a Price Look-Up (PLU) code. I also like to use the self check-out line if I only have a few items, so I have to type in the produce code. I have bananas memorized (#4011). What you may not have realized is that besides identifying the price of the food for the cashier, these codes have a second function. They tell you how the produce was grown. 

The last four digits tell you what the food is, and are all in the 3000-4000 range. The digit before the last four is what is important. If there is only four digits, it means that the food is conventionally grown (using pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, etc.). If there is an "8" before the last four digits, it means that it is genetically modified (PUT IT BACK!). If there is a "9" before the last four digits, it means that it was organically grown (BUY IT). Keep in mind that PLU codes are for use by stores and suppliers, so not all produce will have the stickers. For example, a conventionally grown Golden Delicious apple (my favorite) will have a code of 4021. If it's organic, the code will be 94021.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ironman World Championships Preview

The Ironman World Championships (aka Kona) will take place tomorrow. For the first time in several years, I don't personally know anyone racing. That will not stop me from following the race online. Unfortunately, live streaming video online is still the only way to see the event live. When Lance Armstrong was going to race, there were rumors of a live telecast, but since he's been banned from racing, we get no such TV coverage.

For those of you that would like to watch online, just go to The race starts at 6:30am Hawaii time, which is 12:30pm Eastern time. 

In recent years, a lot of people have started to have negative feelings towards Ironman and their owners, the WTC. Some of this is justified, some is not. But there is still no doubt that this race is the "Super Bowl" of triathlon.

This years Pro fields are interesting. There are some big names that are not racing, and some old winners that are back again. 

The Men's race will feature the course recorded holder, and defending champ, Craig Alexander from Australia. Yes, he's 39 years old...but he was 38 last year and dominated. I think he's still the favorite until someone beats him. That someone could be Peter Jacobs. He was second last year and he's a good runner...which the winner always is. It will be fun to see MACCA back out on the course and I'm sure he is ready to play mind games with the rest of the top guys. The top American contenders are Greg Bennett (winner of Rev3 Knoxville), Tim O'Donnell, Andy Potts and Jordan Rapp. Rapp has won several IM distance races and is my pick as the top finisher with USA by his name.

The Women's field is once again up for grabs as the unbeatable Chrissie Wellington is taking the year off. The clear favorite has to be Caroline Steffen. She has had a great 2012 season and all signs point to her being ready to take the title. Last years runner-up, Mirinda Carfrae has had a rough season. She has finished behind Steffen in her only IM distance race this year and her times have slipped from where they were a year ago. My only hope is to have some good views of Carfrae from behind...that girl has one nice caboose (as you can see in the pic above)! The top American contenders are Mary Beth Ellis, Kelly Williamson and Lindsey Corbin.

Personally, I will be tracking Lew Hollander. This dude is my idol!

Course records are held by Craig Alexander (2011), with a time of 8:03:56 and Chrissie Wellington (2009) with a time of 8:54:02.

According to reports, NBC had planned to televise a tape of the race on October 27th. They usually don't air it until December. I haven't seen this confirmed recently (since Lance was banned), so we'll just wait and see.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Bourbon Chase Race Report

Triathlons and road races are individual sports. Your races results are based strictly on how YOU perform. Doing The Bourbon Chase made me realize how much I miss team sports. I've been a member of baseball, football and basketball teams in the past...and I've always enjoyed the comradery of a group.

Our team consisted of twelve runners, six guys and six girls. We were divided up into two with the dudes and one with the chicks. Our van started off the race, running legs 1-6. Our start time was 2:00pm on Friday at Jim Beam Distillery. We arrived in plenty of time and enjoyed a few trips to the tasting room before the race started! Jeremy Becker, a late substitute for our team, ran leg #1. Once he started, the rest of us guys piled back in the van and drove to the hand-off spot. We waited for Jeremy to arrive and once he got there, he handed off the baton (slap bracelet) to Bill Marks. We then repeated the process for runners 3-6 (David Mull, Jeremy Brown, myself, and Shawn Wilson). Shawn finished up leg #6 at Maker's Mark Distillery - where we handed off to the ladies van for legs 7-12.

Van #1 (R-L): Shawn, me, Matt (our driver), David, Jeremy Brown, Bill Marks, Jeremy Becker

My first leg was #5. It was a short, but very hilly adventure that I started just a few minutes before 5pm.  I felt good on the run and pushed it pretty hard up the climb. The elevation was so steep that my ears popped! First time that this has ever happened on a run. Once I reached the summit, the view was amazing. As I crested the hill and the view of miles and miles of hills and blue sky came into view and let out a "wow", which was completely involuntary. The downhill was steeped than the climb and there were several times that I had to put the brakes on to keep from losing control. I sprinted to the hand-off spot and passed off to Shawn. We drove to Maker's Mark and I enjoyed a few sips of my favorite bourbon.

Leg #5 - Little Pottershop of Horrors, the Sequel
4.7 miles
Rating - Difficult
Start Time - 4:52pm 
Time - 00:33:56 (7:13/mile pace)

After handing the reins off to van #2, we drove into Lebanon, KY and had some dinner at a little Italian spot called Ragetti's. We loaded up on some pasta and split a few pitchers of Sam Adams Octoberfest before heading back to the van and driving to Danville for the exchange from van 2.

Once we got to Danville, we parked and tried to get some such luck. Too much noise outside and inside the van to fall asleep. It was getting pretty late (close to midnight) and the fog was starting to roll in. We met up with the girls and waited for Terri to finish her leg. She came into town and handed off to Jeremy. We watched him run off into the fog and loaded back up to drive on down the road.

Jeremy Becker waiting in the fog for the hand-off...looking very confused!

This is the point where I started to get tired. The adrenaline had worn off and I was sleepy. I knew that I had my longest and most challenging leg coming up in a few hours and I struggled to find the energy to get excited. I watched all of the other guys run and before I knew it, I was standing on Main Street in Stanford, wearing a reflective vest, headlamp and flashing light...waiting for Jeremy Brown to come flying in.

He arrived a few minutes after 2:00am and I headed out into the darkness. Once I got out of town, the lights disappeared and the fog thickened. I could only see about 6 feet in any direction. My headlamp was bright enough that I could see the mist in the air from the fog. I decided to take a gel with me on this leg because of how long it was. I borrowed a hand-held water bottle from Jeremy Becker to wash it down since there are no aid stations on the course. I was holding a decent pace until mile 4. I started to lose my momentum and really struggled to keep the legs moving. Mile 6 was all uphill and it was brutal. I had the urge to just stop and lay down on the side of the road to sleep. I took the gel just before mile 6 and it must have kicked in because miles 6 & 7 felt good and I ran the last 1.7 miles at a pace of 7:20/mile. I handed off to Shawn at the Shell station in Junction City and raided the cooler for a sweet potato!

Leg #17 - Traveller's Rest, but not for Runners!
8.6 miles
Rating - Difficult
Start Time - 2:03am  
Time - 1:10:13 (8:09/mile pace)

After Shawn handed back off to the ladies van in Danville, we drove up to Wild Turkey Distillery to try and sleep. We parked and the guys that brought sleeping bags found a spot in the grass to lay. I tried to stretch out on one of the van seats. I managed about 30 minutes of shuteye before it was time to head to Four Roses Distillery to start our final segment. We were all pretty drained at this point, but we knew that we each only had one leg left to run. With the sun now up and the fog gone, we got a little boost of energy and pushed it on home!

Our funky van!

I took the baton from Jeremy in the beautiful town of Versailles and started my final leg around 11:00am on Saturday. Despite my legs being fried, I was excited about this run. After a short uphill run out of town, I was out in horse country enjoying the view. The weather was perfect and I was feeling strong. Each mile was faster than the one before and I was passing lots of people. I cruised in and handed off to Shawn for the last time. I was excited to be down and ready to head to Woodford Reserve and enjoy some bourbon!

Leg #29 - Going to the Chapel
5.0 miles
Rating - Easy
Start Time - 11:08am  
Time - 00:35:45 (7:09/mile pace)

After a few hours at Woodford, we headed to the finish line in Lexington. We parked and walked to the YMCA to take a much needed shower. Sweating, drying off, laying around and then repeating the process two more times over the course of 24 hours without ever getting clean is not fun. I felt like I had about an inch of funk on my body. 

The finish line was a big party with bourbon tasting and beer drinking. We waiting around for the girls van to get there and all twelve of us crossed the finish line together. Our total time for the 200 miles was 28 hours, 4 minutes and 20 seconds. We finished 37th out of 179 teams in the Open Mixed Division and 74th out of 287 teams overall. 

This race was a great time and I really enjoyed the time with the guys in the van. We had lots of laughs and managed to make some good memories. I look forward to doing this race again next year!

Picture above is from the finish line. (Back row): Christy, Shawn, Jeremy Becker, Me, Jeremy Brown, Terri, Rachel, Bill, David. (Front row): Heidi, Madelyn, Rhonda, Allison, Matt

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Bourbon Chase Preview

Despite only being 3 years old, this race is hugely popular. The race sold out quickly this year and consists of 288 teams! Runners literally come from all over the country to experience a race that combines two of my favorite things...running and good bourbon! 

The Bourbon Chase is an overnight relay road race that covers 200 miles of the historic Bourbon Trail. The race starts at Jim Beam and sends runners past Heaven Hill, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, Four Roses and Woodford Reserve Distilleries while traveling along the beautiful back roads of central Kentucky. 

Each team consists of 12 members. The teams are divided into two groups of 6, with each group having their own van. My group will start and will run legs 1-6. Then the other van on our team takes over for legs 7-12. Then we are up again for legs 13-18. The process repeats until we have completed all 36 legs of the race...which will take us around 28 or 29 hours. Yes, you read that any given time from 2:00pm on Friday until around 6:30pm on Saturday, we will have someone running.

I am runner #5 on our team. Here's a look at the three legs I will be running:

Leg #5 - Little Pottershop of Horrors, the Sequel
4.7 miles
Rating: Difficult
Projected Start Time - 5:05pm
This run starts out downhill...for half a mile...then reality sets in.  The next half mile is literally straight up a hill. The 5-6% grade is no joke. I get a little break at the top of the climb and then it's back up a small incline around the 1.5 mile mark before a long descend. Running downhill (-10% grade) is actually harder on your legs than running uphill. I'll have about two miles of reality flat road to finish out this leg, but my muscles are going to be angry! Route goes down Pottershop Road (south of Bardstown, KY) to a little town called Manton. Here's the elevation profile:

Leg #17 - Traveller's Rest, but not for Runners!
8.6 miles
Rating: Difficult
Projected Start Time - 2:35am 
This run will be fun. I love running in the dark and I hope that adrenaline will get me through this one as I know I will be tired and going on little or no (more likely) sleep. I start out just outside of Stanford, KY and once I'm out of "town", things will get quite and very dark. Looks like lots of narrow country roads and tight curves as I wind my way the Traveller's Rest State Historic Site in Junction City, just south of Danville, KY. A few big climbs on this one, but nothing like Pottershop. The grades here are only around 3%. Running past a cemetery in the middle of the night that hold's Kentucky's first Governor should be interesting!


Leg #29 - Going to the Chapel
5.0 miles
Rating: Easy
Projected Start Time - 11:55am 
This leg will take me out of Versailles and into some beautiful horse country. I lucked out getting this one, but I deserve it after my first two very difficult runs. This run is almost all downhill and even features a stone bridge. The five mile trek ends at Glenn's Creek Baptist Church (typical small town church name), which was established 211 years ago! I'll hand off the baton for the last time, the van will make a short trip up to Woodford Reserve Distillery and I will start my celebration!

I'll be seeing a lot of this on my final leg!
If you are interesting in tracking us as we run, you can do so at the link below. Hopefully we will be able to stay on pace. We've had a runner or two change out since we sent in our approximate running paces, so who knows. Either way, we are guaranteed to have a good time! I can't wait to write the race report for this one!!

Follow us here:

Team # 485 (Louisville Landsharks Team 2)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Landsharks Triathlon Race Report

Subtitle: You get out what you put in!

I thought maybe all the training I did up until the beginning of August would be enough to carry me through. I thought maybe I could cheat a little on my diet and still be able to slim down enough the week before the race. I knew better...but I thought it anyway.

After my last triathlon, the Tom Sawyer Sprint, on August 5th, I kind of "mailed it in" for the season. I wasn't even sure if I was going to do the Landsharks Triathlon because the date had not been finalized. I knew that I had a vacation coming up and I wanted to start getting in an extra run or two each week leading up to The Bourbon Chase (200 mile running relay race), which is at the end of September. My bike training in-particular has been very lackluster. I've only been out on the road once in the last month and my Trainer workouts haven't exactly been tough. Keep all of this in mind as you continue reading.

I am a creature of habit. This is never more true than on race morning. I pack all my gear the night before so I don't lay in bed thinking about what I need to do in the morning. I get up, visit my porcelain throne, eat a plain sweet potato, and hit the road. I always get to the race site way too early and take my time setting up my transition area. This race was no different.

With the water temperature announced at 78F, that meant that the race was wetsuit legal. I don't mind swimming in cold water, in fact, I actually enjoy it. But I will always wear my wetsuit when given the chance, for it's added buoyancy. Jessica and the kiddos showed up just before the race, so it was good to see them before I entered the water (I think Daddy is a little scary in his wetsuit, swim cap and goggles!).

Bill Marks and I before the race

The swim was two loops of a 750m course in Taylorsville Lake. I planned to stay with the lead group as long as possible. I went out hard and managed to stay on someone's feet until the first turn (around 400 meters). For a long time after that I was all alone. I could see swimmers up in front of me, but I knew that I couldn't catch them, so I just focused on maintaining good form and sighting often enough to not drift too far off course. On the second lap, I was caught by someone and I managed to slip in behind them and draft for a good while. At the final turnaround, I saw Mike Purvis (eventual race winner) on my left side. I decided to try and hang with him, which I did until we exited the water. I came out of the water in just over 25 minutes, which is my fastest 1500M swim time in the lake.

1500m swim
26:35.5 (1:46/100m) - includes run up the boat ramp to T1
2nd out of 3 in my Age Group
11th out of 36 Overall

Exiting the water. Thanks to Carlos Mendia for the pic.
I had a pretty fast T1 considering I had to strip off a wetsuit.

1st out of 3 in my Age Group
7th out of 36 Overall

I got my feet into my shoes before I hit the first big hill (which is always tough to do on this course). My breathing and heart rate were through the roof by the time I reached the top of this hill. I did my best to get into a gear where I could get things under control. I managed to reign things in before I exited the park (around mile 3). As usual, my goal was to set my sights on riders ahead of me and try to catch them. I was picking off people pretty steadily all the way to the turnaround. Right after the turnaround, there is a long (nearly 2 miles) climb. The whole course is hilly, but this climb (2-3%) is brutal. The lack of riding, and specifically hill training came back to bite me in a big way once I started this climb. I was with a friend of mine, Bill Marks at the turn around. As we started up the hill, he left me in his dust. I was pushing hard but my legs weren't there. I was passed about half-way up the hill and began to get angry. I hung with this guy (Gary Morris), for a while, but eventually he pulled away. After I crested the hill, the rest of the ride was equally as difficult. My quads were useless and I was just trying to get back to transition.

40K bike
1:17:44.1 (19.2 mph)
2nd out of 3 in my Age Group
7th out of 36 Overall

Finishing up the bike. Thanks for Carlos Mendia for the pic.

I quickly racked my bike and grabbed my hat and race number belt once in T2. I also grabbed my Garmin GPS watch. With the exception of Ironman, I've never worn my Garmin during a race. I knew that this run was going to be tough and that there were no mile markers, so I wanted to know what kind of pace I was (or wasn't) holding.

1st in my Age Group
9th out of 36 Overall

Just like the bike, the run starts off with a big climb. I did my best to keep my cadence high and just make it to the top without walking. My legs were already in pain and I was curious to see how this 6.2 mile run was going to go. I tried to block out the pain and hold a pace close to 8 minute miles. I've run 7:30's on this course before, but I knew that was not in the cards on this day. I caught up with Bill and Gary as we approached the turn around. Shortly thereafter, my legs really began to ache and I was slowing down. Both Bill and Gary ran past me around mile 4. I was determined to stick with them. I was in some serious pain, but I knew that this was my last triathlon of the season and I didn't want to sit around all winter wishing I had pushed it harder. I kept them both within range and with about a little over a mile to go, I decided to "empty the tank" and run as hard as I could. I managed to catch Bill and was gaining on Gary. As we crested the last hill before going down the descend to the finish, I was only a few seconds from catching him. I was sprinting, but just as I was closing in, Gary turned around and saw me coming. He started to sprint and I couldn't gain anymore ground. He ended up beating me by 10 seconds.

10K run
49:19.10 (7:56/mile)
2nd out of 3 Age Group
14th out of 36 Overall

Final push at the end of the run. Thanks to Carlos Mendia for the pic.

This was my slowest run on this course, but I kind of expected it. Despite all of the extra running that I've been doing lately, the bike shredded my legs to the point that I couldn't run the pace I wanted. Mile splits from my Garmin - 8:38, 8:03, 8:07, 8:38, 8:20, 7:28

 Total Time
2nd out of 3 in my Age Group
9th out of 36 Overall

I've done this exact course almost 6 minutes faster in the past, so I am a little disappointed in my race. A podium spot in my Age Group and a Top 10 Overall finish is always my thanks to the small race size, I walked away with hardware.

Gear used:
2XU C:2 wetsuit
Aqua Sphere Kayenne goggles
Louis Garneau Elite Lazer Tek Suit
Tifosi Dolomite sunglasses
Argon 18 E-112 Triathlon bike
Bike Javelin aero helmet
Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 7 shoes

Nutrition used:
  • (1) Medium Sweet Potato
  • Water bottle with NUUN tablet
  • (1) GU Chomps - ate about 30 minutes before race start
  • (1) 24oz. bottle of water
  • (2) GU Roctane gels (one at 20 minutes, one at 40 minutes)
  • Water at every aid station, HEED at last two aid stations

This is what running in pain looks like (doesn't this look fun?!?!):


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