Friday, June 29, 2012

Post #400 - How Healthy Is My Gut?

This my 400th post...and I have chosen to devote it to my gut. More specifically, the results of a recent complete Gastrointestinal panel test that I had done. I was tested for parasites, allergens for cow's milk, soy, egg and gluten, intestinal function and overall gut heath through multiple stool and saliva samples. Yes, you read that correctly.

If you want to know more about the process of collecting the "specimens", send me an email...I'll spare the rest of you the details. I collected the samples and sent them to the lab on May 29th. Last week, I received the results in the mail. I'll do my best to explain what the results mean and what the recommended action to correct them should be.

Stool Culture test for Fungi, Yeast, Parasites, Ova 
No yeast isolated, ova or parasites seen

Bacterial Stool Culture 
No Pathogens detected 
Abundant mixed Gram negative rods/flora. Rare mixed Gram positive rods/flora
  - Based on this abundant amount of gram positive flora, but a rare amount of gram negative flora, I need to eat more probiotics. I already eat Greek yogurt every morning with live active cultures, but apparently this isn't providing me with enough good bacteria. So I've ordered a capsule form of probiotics and have also started drinking Kefir on a daily basis.

Stool Test for Clostridium Difficile (bacteria)

Stool Test for Giardia Antigen (parasite)

Stool Test for Cryptosporidium Antigen (parasite)

Silvia Test for Toxoplasma Ab, SIgA (parasite)

Silvia Test for Ameba histolytica Ab, SIgA (parasite)
Not Detected

Silvia Test for Helicobacter pylori Ab, IgG (bateria)
less than 3 U/ml - Negative

Stool Test for Total Intestinal SIgA (antibodies)
less than 1 mg/100g dry wt - Low
- Intestinal Secretory IgA (SIgA) inhibits the binding of microorganisms to mucosal (stomach barrier) surfaces, preventing entry into the body. This is basically a test of my gut immune system function. This means that I don't produce the normal amounts of these antibodies. I need fortify my intestinal membrane (mucosa). This can be done by taking the supplement L-Glutamine. I picked some up a Whole Foods this morning. I'll start taking one capsule before bed each night. A little research shows that it's best to take on an empty stomach for optimal and quickest absorption. Glutamine is absorbed in the small intestine, which is the main transport system for absorbing amino acids after protein is physically broken down in the stomach. Taking glutamine on an empty stomach eliminates the need for it to compete with other amino acids for absorption during this process.

Stool Test for Intestinal Lysozyme (antibodies)
62 mg/100g dry wt - Elevated
- Indicator of ongoing colonic inflammation. This can be lowered with anti-inflammatory enzymes and/or by removing the antagonists, such as allergens or enteropathogens. I will start taking some digestive emzymes to see if I can get this level back to normal. Below you will see that my test results for a gluten allergy were negative, but were actually positive...yeah, it's confusing. So by eating gluten, I could be causing this inflammation.

Stool Test for Alpha Anti-Chymotryspin (protein produced by the live - high amounts indicate inflammation)
17 mg/100g dry wt - Normal

Stool Test for Chymotrypsin (digestive enzyme)
11 U/10g - Normal

Fecal pH
6.0 - Normal

Saliva Test for Cow Milk Allergy (Casein)

Saliva Test for Soy Allergy (Protein)

Saliva Test for Egg Allergy (Albumin)

Saliva Test for Gliadin (Gluten)
2 U/ml - Negative
 - Even though I tested negative for a gluten allergy, when you have a low Total Intestinal SIgA, this result is considered a "false" negative. They test the gluten on the SIgA to see if there is a reaction. Since I have very low amounts of SIgA, they were unable to get a reaction. The research indicates that a negative result is only 71% accurate and a positive result is 97% accurate. The only true way to find out if I have an allergy to gluten is to cut it out of my diet. The test results recommended that I avoid foods containing wheat, rye, barley, bran and basically all bread and pastas until I get the SIgA levels up and can retest.

Saliva Test for Roundworm
Not Detected

Saliva Test for Tapeworm
Not Detected

Saliva Test for Trichinella (parasite)
Not Detected

So what does all this mean? It means that I've definitely got something bad going on in my gut. I obviously had an idea that there was a problem, since I ordered the test.  I called the testing lab and discussed my results and they basically told me that everything that was abnormal could all be tied to a gluten intolerance. On the other hand, I could have some other issue causing the inflammation and low levels of good bacteria that is not related to gluten at all. 

I eat a pretty clean diet as it is, no bread or white pasta. But I do eat Ezekiel cereal almost every day, as well as oats and whole wheat pasta at least once a week. So I'm going to make an effort to completely eliminate gluten for a few weeks and see what happens. My poor wife...I continue to make it more and more difficult for her to fix dinner for our family. Sorry babe.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How I Recover

Last week was not supposed to be a "recovery" week. However, based on how sore my quads were in the days after the Southern Indiana Triathlon, I decided to listen to my body and take a week to recover. 

So what exactly does a week of recovery mean for me? It contains three key ingredients: Easy workouts/off days, muscle recovery, more sleep.

The race was on Sunday and although I was tired later that day, I felt pretty good. Monday morning was a different story. As I mentioned, I hadn't planned on a recovery week, so I got up Monday and went to the Train Smart group swim like I do every week. My legs were very sore as I rolled out of bed, but I figured a swim would be good to loosen things up. The workout ended up being a tough one, consisting of lots of kicking sets! So my legs were completely fried come Monday afternoon. By Tuesday, walking up and down steps was painful and if I sat for more than 30 minutes, getting up was a challenge. That is when I decided to scrap my planned workouts for the week and let my body recover.

My workouts the rest of the week looked like this:
Tuesday - Off
Wednesday - Very easy 40 minute indoor trainer ride
Thursday - 3 x 1/2 mile swim intervals
Friday - Off
Saturday - 4.5 mile run
Sunday - 30 minute indoor trainer ride with some higher intensity

As for the muscle recovery, here's what I did:
Compression socks for the rest of the day on Sunday after the race
Full compression tights for 1-2 hours every night while laying in bed
Cold showers (I do this anyway)
Ice bath (15 minutes after Wednesday's ride)
Foam roller sessions (10-15 minutes) every day
Slept on "earthing" mat every night
Light stretching later in the week
Drink plenty of water

The more sleep was easy to do. Since my workouts were either much shorter than normal, or non-existent, I just set the alarm clock for 30-60 minutes later.

As you read some of the muscle recovery techniques I used, you may have rolled your eyes once or twice. Which of these contributed the most to my recovery? Who knows, but by Friday morning, my muscles were fully recovered. Considering that I was still in pain on Wednesday, that's quite an accomplishment.

Although the research isn't 100% conclusive on the compression gear, I believe that wearing socks or full-leg tights helps with recovery. I haven't seen any studies that show it's benefit during an event, but the research backs up wearing it after. The compression garmets help return the body fluids from the legs where they tend to accumulate after a hard effort. I wore the full-leg compression stockings every night for a few hours. A quick tip - go to Walgreens or Rite-Aid and buy the "therapeutic compression support stockings" that are made for improved circulaton and blood flow in elderly ladies. They do the same thing as the name-brand triathlon compression tights and cost $100 less...seriously.

Don't spend $130 on these...

buy these instead...for $30!
The ice baths are something that I started doing after long runs/rides last summer while training for Ironman. It's not as bad as it sounds and it works wonders. The cold water constricts your blood vessels and flushes lactic acid from your legs. It also reduces swelling, aiding in recovery time. I started taking cold showers about 2 months ago for the same reasons. I don't have access to a bath tub after most of my workouts, so I just turn the water on as cold as it will go and take my normal shower. I'm used to it now and it only takes my breath away for the first few seconds. 

As for the "earthing" mat....well, that will require it's own blog post. For now, I will refer you to this website:

So that's how I recovered from a very hard race. I'm back into full training mode this week, revving up for my next race, the Buckhead Boarder Challenge...just 4 weeks from yesterday!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Southern Indiana Triathlon Race Report

I had several goals heading into this race. Top priority was to try and beat my Olympic distance PR of 2:25:11. Granted this time was set on a different course, but with this race being fairly flat, just as that one was, I knew I would be able to challenge that time with a good effort. Another goal was to see just how fast I could do the 40K bike. I stripped off all unnecessary weight (bento box, extra water bottle, even dropped a few pounds myself), and made the bike and myself as aerodynamic as possible. I didn't tape gels to my top tube like I usually do and I borrowed my good buddy Bill Marks' aero helmet. I was built for speed! My final goal was to have a podium finish in my Age Group (this is always a goal).

So I started race morning like I always do. Up early and eating a sweet potato. I left the house around 5:30am and made it to the race site around 6:00 or so. After checking-in, I found a good spot on the bike rack nearest the bike exit (where I always try to be). I set up my transition area and enjoyed the spare time I had to chat with my fellow triathletes and those that just came out to spectate. As the clock ticked closer to 7:30, the late arrivals began to flood in. I always arrive early...usually way too early. It's just my style. I like to take my time and not feel rushed. Apparently most people don't have the same mentality. It became obvious pretty quickly that there were not enough bike racks to support the amount of people racing. The racks that they used can accommodate 4-5 bikes. By the time the race started, we had 8 bikes on our rack. Needless to say, things were tight. 

After the pre-race meeting, we walked down to the swim start. There were 4 waves. Sprint distance women, Sprint men, Olympic women and then my wave, the Olympic men. We were the largest wave and the river current became evident as I tread water waiting for the rest of the guys to get in the river. The water temperature was around 70F, so this was a wetsuit legal swim. I positioned myself to the far right of the pack - furthest away from shore. I didn't want to get caught up in the may-lay and could see the first buoy clearly from where I was. As we started, I was in a pretty good size pack and drafted on the feet of a few guys...then I was all alone. Once we passed the first buoy (the sprint turn-around), I couldn't find the second one. I kept looking and looking. I began to notice that I was drifting to the right (further away from shore). All the other swimmers were to my left. I was breathing on my left side, which is opposite from what I normally find myself doing in a race. I only saw random swimmers the rest of the time and assumed that I was at the back of the pack. After the turn around, my drifting to the right was taking me towards the shore. I tried to correct my stroke to swim straight, but this is obviously something that I need to work on in the pool. Whatever side a breathe on, I pull in the opposite direction. This has been a problem for all of my open water swims this season. I finally made it out of the water and wasn't too disappointed to see my time was 26+ minutes. Based on how alone I was out there, I thought for sure I was going to be around a half hour. I exited the water and started to get my wetsuit off as I ran the 100 or so yards to T1.

1500 meter Swim time (includes run to T1) = 28:29.4 (1:44 / 100 yd)
6th out of 22 in my Age Group
34th out of 138 Overall

I ran into T1 and finished pulling my wetsuit off of my legs. A few seconds were lost trying to get one of my feet out, but nothing too bad. I also struggled to get the borrowed aero helmet on. Overall, T1 was a little slower than usual for me.

T1 time = 0:53.1
4th out of 22 in my Age Group
25th out of 138 Overall

I got my feet in my shoes easily and quickly and was ready to hammer down. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted a fast bike split. So I pushed it from the beginning. I began passing people quickly and only shifted gears a few times. I never moved out of the big chain ring and only came out of the saddle once or twice for a few seconds to give my hip flexors a stretch. My only nutrition was some Hammer Perpetuem that I had mixed in a water bottle. I took a few sips of it when I could, but I often found myself reluctant to even get our of my aero position to take a drink. I coasted into T2 and had another perfect flying dismount. No problems with the bike, this ended up being my fastest ever bike split in an Olympic this goal was accomplished.

24.8 mile Bike time = 1:07:11.3 (22.2 mph)
2nd out of 22 in my Age Group
13th out of 138 Overall

I usually throw my bike helmet off quickly, but since I was wearing a borrowed (and expensive) helmet, I took my time and laid it gently on a towel that was next to my bike. I struggled a little bit getting one of my shoes on (gotta remember baby powder next time), and was out of T2 pretty quickly.

T2 time = 0:43.3
3rd out of 22 in my Age Group
19th out of 138 Overall

I could tell early on that my legs were heavy from pushing things on the bike. I was surprised to make it to the 1 mile mark in just a little over 7 minutes. This is when I started doing the math. Was my goal of beating 2:25:11 within reach? Absolutely. I grabbed a gel in T2 and felt the need for the energy boast almost immediately, so I took at as soon as I came to the first aid station. Miles 2-3 were slower...and I was starting to pay for the stress I put on my quads during the hour long bike. As my splits moved up to 7:30-7:45 per mile, I asked my legs for more. This is when I felt the muscles in my upper legs start to tighten. If I tried to push it much harder, cramps were going to start. Once cramps start, they are difficult to get under control. So I had to dial back the intensity. This was very frustrating! My breathing and level of exertion were under control, but I knew that my muscles we too fatigued. Around mile 4 I started to get passed by a few people. I just tried to hold a steady pace and keep the cramps from setting in. My quads were screaming at me as I passed the 5 mile mark. Looking at my watch, I knew that it would take a pace of around 7:00/mile for me to get to my goal finish time. It just wasn't going to happen. I dug deep, but my legs were toast. Adding insult to injury, I was passed in the last 200 or so yards by a guy in my Age Group. I never look back during the run and I don't know if it would have made a difference. I didn't see him coming, but I had nothing left anyway. Props to Arthur Kaiser for a strong finish. He beat me by 14 seconds to take home 3rd in our Age Group.

6.2 mile Run time = 48:51.4 (7:52 min/mile)
10th out of 22 in my Age Group
33rd out of 138 Overall

I was really disappointed in myself when I crossed the finish line. To miss my goal time by less than a minute was really tough to swallow. When I looked at the results and saw that getting passed at the end kept me from achieving one of my other goals, I was even more disappointed. I try to keep things in perspective, but I train hard and it's tough to get so close and miss what you are striving for.

Total Time = 2:26:08.8
4th out of 22 in my Age Group
17th out of 138 Overall

It took me about 24 hours to get over it and move on. Based on how sore my legs are even now, I know that I gave it all I had on Sunday. My next triathlon is a little over a month away and it's another flat course. I'm more motivated than ever to put in some good work these next three weeks and get my legs better prepared to run after a hard effort on the bike!

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
Rudy Project Wingspan aero helmet
Asics Gel-Noosa Tri 7 shoes

Nutrition used:
  • (1) Medium Sweet Potato
  • Water bottle with NUUN tablet
  • (1) Clif Chot Blocks - ate about 30 minutes before race start
  • (1) 24oz. bottle of water with Hammer Perpeteum mix (1-1/2 scoops)
  • (1) GU Roctane gel (Vanilla/Orange)
  • Water at every aid station, Gatorade/HEED at last two aid stations

Monday, June 11, 2012

Southern Indiana Triathlon Results


1500m Swim - 28:29.4 (1:44/100yd) includes run from swim exit to T1

T1 - 0:53.1

24.8 mile Bike - 1:07:11.3 (22.2 mph)

T2 - 0:43.3

6.2 mile Run - 48:51.4 (7:52 min/mile)

Total Time - 2:26:08.8

4th out of 22 in my Age Group
17th out of 138 Overall

A little upset that I missed the goal time of sub 2:25, but based on the fact that my legs are very sore today...I know that I gave it all I had.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Southern Indiana Triatlon Preview

This is the second year for the Southern Indiana Triathlon (aka "Race the Bridge"). I didn't participate in the inaugural race last year, but from what I heard, it was a good time. After my June 16th race in Washington DC was cancelled, I started to look for a race to do in June. This one seemed like a good choice...and it was a tiny bit closer to home. 

As you can guess by the name, the race takes place in Southern Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville. The swim portion of this Olympic distance race will be in the Ohio. I know that this is going to come off sounding insane, but I have missed swimming in the dirty old river. I had a weekly swim in the river last summer leading up to Ironman and I kind of like the feeling of being out there in such a huge body of water.

The first 500 or so meters of the 1500 meter swim have racers going upstream. Then you turn around and get to finish the remainder of the swim with the aid of the current. Sounds like an exit ramp has been added this year after several people fell on the large rocks last year trying to get out of the water.

The 40K out-and-back bike will take riders east out of downtown Jeffersonsville. A few turns on some streets in Jeff and then its onto Utica Pike...a long, flat stretch of road right along the river. You turn off of this road and head up a long, steady incline on a two-lane road to the turn-around. Pretty straight forward course that should lend itself to some fast times. 

The 10K run took runners across the bridge to Kentucky last year, thus the "Race the Bridge" name of the race. The bridge is currently under some repairs, so a change in the course was necessary. The run now goes west from the transition area along a scenic path next to the river. Sounds like a pretty cool run with lots of good views of the river and Falls of the Ohio. However, I find that I rarely notice the scenery during races...I'm usually staring straight ahead trying to keep myself from slowing down. No time to stop and enjoy the view!

The combination of the river swim and a pretty flat bike and run should lend itself to a fast race. My Olympic distance PR is a 2:25:11, which I did at the 2010 Boilerman Triathlon in West Lafayette, IN (very, very flat course). If all goes well, I hope to break that PR this Sunday.

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