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!

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