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San Francisco, California and, Carrboro, North Carolina, United States

Sunday, February 27, 2011

FEBRUARY 21-27 (Oh-No)

A friend and fellow professional triathlete Alex McDonald was unfortunately involved in a very serious cycling accident Thursday.  I just returned from visiting Alex in the hospital, he's recovering and in good spirits, but has two broken legs.  It's really amazing how positive Alex is considering the circumstances. 

Below are a couple of links regarding Alex's accident.

Alex's Blog



Monday, February 14, 2011

TRAINING SICK (Week of February 7 to February 13)

Monday (Great set of workouts after cheering on the Packers Sunday night)
3000 yard swim.
1 hour on the trainer with 20 times 1 minute efforts riding a big gear (lots of resistance) 1 minute easy.
Immediately followed by a Transition Run:
4 Sets of:
5 minutes at 5:20/mile pace; 1 minute at 8:00/mile pace; 3 minutes at 5:25/mile pace; 1 minute at 8:00/mile pace;
10 minutes of easy running. 

Tuesday morning (Hard swim)
Great swim 4500 yards.

Uh-oh, while having breakfast with my better half after the swim, I sneezed a couple times, and I never sneeze.  She too found this interesting.  I thought, oh no big deal, must be the chlorine from the pool, or the cold air outside, I am not sick.  Tuesday called for no more workouts.  I had a bit of work to take care of so I decided to get on with the day and get on with work. 

Sure enough, Tuesday night, I was super sick. 

In hindsight, I may have backed off the effort I put forward Tuesday morning (I swam hard).  I usually take my heart rate every morning when I awake and when things are good, it's between 37 and 42 depending upon the previous day's workouts and how well I rested that night.  On Monday morning it was 37.  However, on Tuesday morning it had elevated to 49.  That's a good indication that my immune system was beginning to battle something.

I remember reading an article in the NY Times regarding training while sick. 
[S]cientists from the University of Illinois and other schools first infected laboratory mice with flu. One group then rested; a second group ran for a leisurely 20 or 30 minutes, an easy jog for a mouse; the third group ran for a taxing two and a half hours. Each group repeated this routine for three days, until they began to show flu symptoms. The flu bug used in this experiment is devastating to rodents, and more than half of the sedentary mice died. But only 12 percent of the gently jogging mice passed away. Meanwhile, an eye-popping 70 percent of the mice in the group that had run for hours died, and even those that survived were more debilitated and sick than the control group.
I realized, I was likely exposed to a bug Saturday, Sunday or Monday, and my 16 mile run on Sunday, followed by a bike ride, coupled with the tough workouts on Monday put me the "eye-popping" category of the poor mice that had the 70% mortality rate.

Time for action.  Another study concluded that:
[O]nce you’ve caught a bug, intense exercise can make the symptoms and severity worse. In work at the University of Illinois, reported last month in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Review, some of the same scientists who’d studied mice and flu looked at just what was going on inside the cells of the affected animals. They found that the leisurely jogging rodents showed signs of a very particular immune response to the flu. In general, and this is true in both mice and men, says Jeffrey A. Woods, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois and one of the scientists involved, viruses evoke an increase in what are called T1-type helper immune cells. These T1-helper cells induce inflammation and other changes in the body that represent a first line of defense against an invading virus. But if the inflammation, at first so helpful, continues for too long, it becomes counterproductive. The immune system needs, then, at some point to lessen the amount of T1-mediated inflammatory response, so that, in fighting the virus, it doesn’t accidentally harm its own host. The immune system does this by gradually increasing the amount of another kind of immune cell, T2-helper cells, which produce mostly an anti-inflammatory immune response. They’re water to the T1 fire. But the balance between the T1- and T2-helper cells must be exquisitely calibrated.
In the mice at the University of Illinois, moderate exercise subtly hastened the shift from a T1 response to a T2-style immune response — not by much, but by just enough, apparently, to have a positive impact against the flu. “Moderate exercise appears to suppress TH1 a little, increase TH2 a little,” Woods says.
I was throwing my lot with the moderately exercising mice.  Now how to do moderately exercise like a mouse?  I contacted my coach, we decided to throw all the hard workouts out until I felt better.  Every workout was downgraded and nothing was to be strenuous on my aerobic system and really elevate my heart rate.

I now had a plan of action, no hard workouts, only easy/moderate workouts.  I could not afford to tax the aerobic system. 

Wednesday, I ran 5 miles (the worst of the sick days).  I ran slow and easy, always keeping my heart rate under 150 beats/minute. 

Thursday, it was a longer run, 8 miles, but still very slow and easy (I actually walked the steep hills because running shot up my heart rate).  In the evening I rode an easy 1 hour and 10 minutes, again focusing on having a low heart rate throughout the ride. 

Photo by Chris Devers
Is that me or a moderately exercising mouse?
Friday was heavier work day, so it was 2 times 1 hour and 10 minute rides on the bike (1 in the am and 1 in the pm).

Saturday, still not 100% an easy 7 mile run again nothing hard.  

Sunday 2 and half hours of easy riding. 

Let's hope I kick this bug and get back to full workouts soon. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

LIMITS OR NO LIMITS (Week of January 31 to February 6)

Limits or No Limits:

Racing, training, or working, each of these activities press us to our limits and each of us have a different threshold for how much we can take. With respect to work last year, I counted 4 all nighters.  Since my days in law school or college, the all nighters have become more difficult and recovery takes much longer.  In my early racing days, I suffered through miles 20-26.2 of each marathon I ran, always running out of energy.  Even now, I sometimes find myself going too hard on a bike ride, only to struggle home the final few miles. 

As for working without sleep, that's simple, do it less and feel better.  However, that's not always an option when racing or training?  What’s the reason for the cracking, bonking or whichever word you prefer to use for the meltdown? Is it psychological or physiological? Is it a combination of both and how can we avoid it?

A key aspect to racing and training well is to make sure you are sufficiently replenishing your caloric needs while exercising.  As someone who suffers from Crohn's disease it can be even trickier.  When do I listen to my body and say enough is enough, and when do I push through and potentially cause some permanent damage?  Also, what can I do minimize these events and what can I do to make sure my body is in a place to really perform at the highest level.  It's a juggling act.  Below is a short description of my thoughts on the matter. 

I am often not absorbing the nutrients that I need to recover from tough workouts so in addition to taking my medications, I take the following supplements.     

Curcumin Phytosome
Omega 3-6-9 Fish Oil (liquid)
Vitamin B12 Floate

When I am racing, in order to avoid the bonk/blow-up/burn out, I need to ingest a certain number of calories per hour.  Every one's caloric number is different and our caloric needs depend on how big and lean one is and how fast one goes.

On the bike I need 500 calories per hour.  

For the run I use the following "back of the envelope" calculation: 

(1) Determine caloric expenditure per mile
     .63 x lean body mass

(2) Determine running pace and number of miles covered in 1 hour

(3) Calculate hourly expenditure based on running pace
     (Number of miles in 1 hour x step 1)

(4) Determine hourly caloric replacement needs
     (Research indicates runners can physically absorb 30% of what they expended)

For me and a half marathon:

(1) .63 x 144.6 = 91.1

Lean body weight is body weight less your percentage of fat.  For me, I weigh 154 lbs, with 6% body fat.
6% of 154 is 9.4.  My lean body weight equals 154 minus 9.4 (144.6)

(2) 5:20 per mile; covers 11.3 miles in 1 hour

(3) 11.3 x 91.1 = 1029

(4) 1029 x .3 = 308

In other words, for a half marathon, I need to consume roughly 310 calories per hour (which is about a drink of Gatorade and 2 Gu or Gel packets). 

I stumbled upon this Radio Lab episode and I found it most interesting.  How far can we push ourselves?  At what point do our bodies and minds simply say no more (click here for the episode)

As for training this was an especially fun week.  With the help of some motivated fellow swimmers and a great coach, I continued to make progress in the pool.  Thursday's swim workout was amazing, hard but amazing.  The main set was 100 yards sprinting immediately followed by 300 yards at a strong effort (we did this 4 times).  This type of workout is perfect for triathlon training, as it simulates the start of a race, when each athlete is sprinting to the first buoy and then settling into their race pace. 

I had four great runs and I am slowly but surely coming into good form.  The week ended with a long run and ride. The long run was fantastic. JP and  I ran in Umstead State Park.  The weather was perfect, the sky beautifully blue, and the hills, terrain and trails were some of the best I have ever run.