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

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