Sunday, May 31, 2009

Good Eggs

We're going to talk cholesterol in a bit, but here is a recap of my weekend's workouts and monthly totals.

Friday (5/29)

Cycle (City Bike - Cannondale Bad Boy Ultra)
27.2 miles/18.0 MPH average

Saturday (5/30)

3000 yards - 2x300 warm-up with 30-sec rest inverval; 6x200 moderate with 20-sec RI; 2x400 hard with 20-sec RI; 8x25 hard with 20-sec RI; 4x50 hard with 10-sec RI

Sunday (5/31)

Cycle (Time Trial - Cervélo P3 bike)
13.58 miles/22.0 MPH average
Elevation Gain: 601 ft
Avg Heart Rate: 167 bpm
See Ride via Garmin Connect player

Month of May

313.75 miles (new monthly record)

16,450 yards

Now, to the meat of this blog's entry: cholesterol. As a pharmacist, I have been suspect of focus on ever lowering targeted levels. Levels that have been dropping every few years. When one actually digs into who is sponsoring studies that seemingly validate the need to drop cholesterol releated levels even lower, it should come as no surprise to see drug companies footing the bill for these case studies.

A number of skeptical health professionals like myself — including a variety of doctors and academic researchers — have long insisted that the establishment doctrine on cholesterol is misguided, has been manipulated by pharmaceutical interests, and that the so-called scientific conclusions supporting the now-accepted-as-fact hypotheses are, in fact, deeply flawed.

The advice we’ve been given (to cut out all foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol and embrace diet foods instead) has actually made our heart-disease problems far worse, these experts say. It has distracted us from understanding cholesterol’s health-supporting roles in the body, robbed us of our pleasure in eating, given rise to obesity and resulted in widespread overmedication. It has also dissuaded us from taking more effective and sustainable steps — like embracing a high-nutrition, anti-inflammatory diet and exercising more — that would have improved national health and dramatically lowered healthcare costs.

Now that the important health-supporting role played by natural dietary fats has become better understood, the characterization of dietary cholesterol as a big health-risk factor has been called into serious doubt.

Robert Knopp, MD, an endocrinologist and the endowed professor of lipid research at the University of Washington in Seattle, puts it bluntly: “Cholesterol in the diet is a minor player in heart disease.”

Let's take a quick step back for a second and look at how we got here.

The case against cholesterol traces back to the mid-20th century, when scientists first found its sticky fingerprints inside plaque-filled arteries. The leap from having located blood-borne cholesterol in arterial plaques to assuming it came from the cholesterol in food (and was a root cause of arterial damage) was a short and notoriously unscientific one.

Nevertheless, the medical and dietary-advice establishments put out a loud all-points bulletin: If you eat fat-rich, cholesterol-rich foods, like beef, butter and egg yolks, you’re digging your own grave — one forkful at a time.

Myth No. 1: Cholesterol is just plain bad for the body
Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is actually vital for human life and health. Technically a type of alcohol, cholesterol is water insoluble, which allows it to serve as a stable ingredient in a variety of structures within the body. Cholesterol is a component in the membrane of every living cell, preventing the cell's contents from leaking out and keeping harmful chemicals outside the cell from getting in. It plays a role in forming several key hormones as well as synapses, the circuitry through which nerve cells communicate.

"Cholesterol is also an important repair substance," notes Mary Enig, PhD, a biochemist and the author of Know Your Fats (Bethesda Press, 2000). "When the body has an infection or inflammation or wound, cholesterol is concentrated in the areas that are getting healed." In other words, it's possible that the presence of cholesterol may be an indicator of inflammation rather than a root cause.

Because cholesterol is essential to so many functions, inadequate cholesterol levels may lead to a number of health problems, including depression. A Finnish study of men between the ages of 50 and 69, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that those reporting depression had significantly lower blood-cholesterol levels than those who were not.

It's possible the correlation exists because of the role cholesterol plays in the metabolism of serotonin, an important mood-regulating chemical in the brain that is lower in people with low cholesterol. In addition to causing health problems, abnormally low cholesterol levels are frequently an indication of serious infirmities. These include overactive thyroid gland, liver disease, anemia, malnutrition, cancer and poor absorption of foods from the digestive tract.

The good news is that abnormally low cholesterol levels are rare, because a healthy liver can manufacture all the cholesterol we need. Furthermore, only a fraction of cholesterol consumed in foods is actually absorbed into the body.

What about the much-hyped distinction between "good" cholesterol and "bad" cholesterol? These labels, too, are a bit simplistic. High-density lipoproteins (HDL, or "good" cholesterol) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) are actually not cholesterol at all; they are the fat molecules that transport cholesterol through the bloodstream.

LDL is responsible for shuttling cholesterol from the liver (where it is made) through the bloodstream and then depositing it in the tissues where it's needed. HDL transports cholesterol from the tissues back to the liver, where the majority of it is secreted in the bile that is used to break down food. What's more, both HDL and LDL are indispensable. In the proper ratios, both are good. The reason LDL is called "bad" is that a too-high ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol in the blood is associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease. But make no mistake: You couldn't live without LDL.

Myth No. 2: High blood cholesterol is caused by eating too much fat and cholesterol
The theory that there is a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in one's diet and the incidence of high blood pressure and coronary heart disease (CHD) is known as the "lipid hypothesis" – and it's hotly debated.

While some saturated fats (particularly animal fats) do appear to negatively impact lipid blood profiles, there's a lot more to the diet-and-heart-disease connection. We know, for example, that the old concept of cholesterol coating or clogging the arteries is a flawed one (see Myth No. 4), and that (when eaten in moderation) eggs and red meat needn't be off-limits to cholesterol-concerned people.

Saturated fat does appear to raise LDL by down-regulating LDL receptors in the liver, which are then cleared out of the bloodstream more slowly. On the other hand, it also raises "good" HDL. The most important thing to remember is that cholesterol levels and heart-disease risk are affected to a much greater degree by a combination of other dietary factors:

- Trans-fatty acids raise LDL and lower HDL and thus have a worse effect than saturated fats on the overall cholesterol ratio. Also, the medium-chain fatty acids in some plant-based saturated fats (like coconut oil) appear not to be implicated in raising cholesterol.

- Monounsaturated and other healthy fats (like those found in nuts, fish, olive oil and avocados) increase the activity of LDL receptors in the liver and thereby lower LDL levels in the blood.

- Overeating and underexercising raise cholesterol levels by increasing abdominal fat stores. Abdominal fat also decreases insulin sensitivity, causing excess glucose to accumulate in the bloodstream and exacerbate the formation of arterial plaques.

- B vitamins (especially folate) reduce blood levels of homocysteine, an intermediate in amino acid metabolism. Elevated homocysteine levels are an important risk factor for CHD.

- Plant sterols and stanols (the plant equivalents of cholesterol) reduce cholesterol levels by blocking cholesterol absorption, as does dietary fiber. (For more on sterols, see the July/August 2004 issue of Experience Life.)

- Antioxidants do not reduce cholesterol levels, but, just as important, they do reduce the oxidation of LDLs in the bloodstream.

Based on these dietary facts, it's safe to say that the problem is not so much that we are eating too much saturated fat but that we're eating too much food – period. And yet we're still not eating enough fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains – which are some of the best sources of monounsaturated fats, B vitamins, fiber, plant sterols, plant stanols and antioxidants.

Myth No. 3: A cholesterol level above 200 is too high
Determining what constitutes an unhealthy cholesterol level is probably the most confused and controversial aspect of current science on the subject. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute still uses the following guidelines:

However, the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel recently published new, lower guidelines recommending that LDL levels be brought below 100 mg for high- and moderate-risk patients.

Even the less aggressive guidelines have been attacked on a number of fronts. So-called cholesterol skeptics believe that the numbers are simply irrelevant. "A total cholesterol level of 200 is normal," says Enig. "For some individuals, 220 is normal. For others, 240 and even 260 is normal." Enig and others base their views on the fact that many studies have established a less-than-airtight connection between high cholesterol levels and heart disease.

For example, in the famous Framingham study, which is considered the cornerstone of the cholesterol-CHD connection, the "correlation coefficient" between high cholesterol and coronary heart disease was only 0.36 – about half of that between smoking and lung cancer.

Some researchers even believe that relatively high cholesterol levels may actually prevent coronary heart disease by defending against the infections that may contribute to atherosclerosis. Uffe Ravnskov, a well-known cholesterol skeptic and author of The Cholesterol Myths (New Trends, 2000), recently presented evidence for this case in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine (December 2003). And in a University of Hawaii study, men over age 70 were much more likely to develop heart disease if their total cholesterol level was below 200 than if it was between 200 and 219.

Another problem for the most common cholesterol guidelines is that elderly people (and especially women) with moderately high cholesterol levels tend to be healthier than their peers with lower levels. In the Framingham study, although individuals with high cholesterol were more likely to die from CHD, their overall mortality rate was actually lower than that of individuals with lower cholesterol.

What's more, there is now growing evidence that the quality of LDL particles is as important as their number. Some are big and fluffy and less likely to deposit in an arterial wall. Others are small and dense and are more likely to get trapped. "If two people have borderline cholesterol and one has a good profile [i.e., good-quality particles] and one has a bad one, I would be much more inclined to treat the bad one," says William Kraus, MD, of Duke University.

Kraus has conducted experiments demonstrating that moderate exercise improves the quality of LDL particles. It has long been known that exercise reduces the risk of CHD without directly lowering LDL levels (although it does lower them indirectly by inducing weight loss).

Myth No. 4: Cholesterol is the root cause of coronary heart disease (CHD)
You might think that all doctors agree on this assertion. You'd be wrong. In fact, it is a point of enormous contention and debate. "The majority of the risk [for coronary heart disease] is not explained by cholesterol," says Jeffrey Anderson, MD, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Utah. The old belief – still widely held by many opinion leaders of medical science – was that cholesterol coated and clogged arteries, which in turn caused potentially fatal problems such as heart attacks and strokes. The real story is not so simple.

"What we've learned in recent years is that the problem is not just passive infiltration of cholesterol, but the fact that it provokes an inflammatory/immune process," Anderson explains. "Some people have a greater inflammatory process going on than others. We're still trying to track down the factors that make one group prone to this and others less so."

Here's what's known: Low-density lipoproteins are small particles, and those that are especially small can infiltrate the lining of an artery and get deposited in its wall. There are a number of reasons cholesterol might end up there, including preceding damage to the artery caused by infection, previous inflammation or the presence of free radicals.

Some of the LDL that does get trapped in artery walls can then get oxidized (i.e., damaged) by any number of factors and then provoke a complex (secondary) inflammatory response. These trapped fats are subsequently ingested by the immune system's white blood cells, which accumulate (along with fibrous material, calcium and other substances) within the artery wall. Over the years, these areas of accumulation form scab-like plaques, which partially or even completely block the artery. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. Either a complete blockage or a ruptured plaque can cut off blood supply to the heart or brain, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.

The important point here is that high LDL levels alone are not sufficient, nor even necessary, for atherosclerosis to develop. Atherosclerosis is common in individuals with low LDL levels as well, perhaps because there is a disproportionate number of small LDL particles or because too many are being oxidized. Likewise, individuals with high LDL levels often have perfectly healthy arteries, because one or more of the many other causes of plaque formation are not a contributing factor.

As is the case with many other diseases, genetic predisposition is one of the main culprits in causing CHD. Some of us are simply more prone to high LDL levels, LDL oxidation, easily damaged arteries and blood clotting. Other strong predictors of CHD are family history of the disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. (Stress and anger are weaker, but still significant, predictors.)

Myth No. 5: Statin drugs like Lipitor prolong life by lowering cholesterol
Widely regarded as wonder drugs, statins slow cholesterol production in the liver. More than 20 million Americans now take them, and the statin Lipitor is the most prescribed cholesterol-lowering medicine in the world. It's interesting to note, though, that while statins lower LDL in everyone, they slightly lower coronary heart-disease death rates only in middle-aged men who already have CHD or are at high risk for it. When it comes to women, the elderly and middle-aged men at a lower risk of CHD, "there isn't even a trend toward total mortality benefit," says Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego.

Worse, statins cause a number of side effects, which Golomb is currently studying. "The most common side effects associated with the statins are muscle pains and weakness, fatigue, deteriorating cognitive function, liver toxicity, and neuropathy [pain from damaged nerves]," she says. "The problems in some cases can be very serious, with some people actually losing the ability to walk."

These problems are probably due to the fact that statins lower the level of coenzyme Q10, a vitamin-like nutrient that plays a pivotal role in providing energy to the muscles and brain. Golomb feels that middle-aged men at high risk for CHD should still try statins, but they should be aware of the risks and be prepared to get off the drugs if side effects emerge.

Cholesterol is also an important repair substance: It concentrates wherever the body has an infection, wound or other source of inflammation. The average person ingests between 200 and 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day from animal-derived foods, such as cheese, egg yolks and meat. But that’s only a small portion of the body’s normal cholesterol requirement. The liver makes up the difference (roughly 1,000 mg daily in a normal, healthy person), generating cholesterol from a variety of fats, proteins and carbohydrates available in the bloodstream.

When you eat large amounts of cholesterol, your body’s production goes down. When you eat small amounts, it goes up. So your body regulates its cholesterol production — and, thus, the concentration of cholesterol in your blood — based on its needs for the substance. And one of the things that dictates the body’s level of need is the presence of free radicals, infection and inflammation. The more inflammation, oxidation or irritation present in the body, the more cholesterol the body produces in an effort to help tackle the problem.

There are now some views that high LDL cholesterol is not the cause of arterial inflammation but is actually a noble knight that, working with other lipoproteins, is an important actor in our immune system valiantly striving to repair damage already done.

Now for the truly skilled marketing departments of drug companies. In part because attempts to control cholesterol by conventional low-fat dietary recommendations have not been effective, pharmaceutical companies are raking in record profits selling cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins, to an ever-expanding market, which now includes young children and individuals with only slightly elevated cholesterol levels.

15 million people currently take cholesterol-lowering drugs in the United States, and many policymakers want to extend that to 36 million more adults, including those who don’t even have high cholesterol. They want folks to use them prophylactically, and currently children are the next target market.

But forcing cholesterol levels down with drugs may not deliver the benefits we’ve been led to believe, and it may also pose some real dangers. Although the potential risks of artificially depressed cholesterol levels are still being debated, critics point to research showing it can lead to memory loss, erectile dysfunction, depression, severe nutritional deficiencies, even cancer. A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal links low levels of LDL cholesterol to higher rates of cancer and premature death.

Less than 10 years ago, an LDL cholesterol level of under 130 mg was considered fine. But the guidelines, updated in 2004, lowered the “optimal” level of LDL to less than 100 mg and nudged doctors with patients at very high risk of heart disease to aim for less than 70. At there seems to be no stopping point. A more recent study suggests 55 mg is an even better target.

The only way to push levels that low is with drug therapy. And if every doctor followed the guidelines to the letter, 36 million Americans would be on statins.

That’s a windfall for the drug makers, but is it a boon for patients? Not according to a review published last year in the British health journal Lancet. When researchers looked at the drugs’ ability to prevent heart attacks, they found no evidence showing statins can protect women (for whom HDL is the key lipoprotein), nor did they find a benefit in men and women over age 69 — presumably the same group many doctors are trying to help.

My doc has been trying to get me on a statin for years. I've yet to do it. Same for my wife. We have adjusted our life-styles and eating habits and our levels have come down on their own. We look to our family history....our genetic well. All parents and siblings have had mild to moderately elevated cholesterol levels and to date the family members are living well into their 80's and 90's. My aunt, a nurse for years and years, agrees that our family has raised levels but since we're all living well into old age, there is no need to address with shoving yet another pill down our throats.

Here are five ways to right-size your cholesterol, reduce your heart-disease risk factors and get a whole lot healthier in the process:

- Eat less sugar and flour. Refined flours and sugars not only spark inflammation, they elevate triglycerides, a potentially dangerous form of cholesterol. Too many triglycerides in the blood impede the circulation of healthy cholesterol, causing the entire system to break down. When choosing grain products, look for those made with whole and sprouted grains. Avoid sugary cereals, cookies, cakes and other sweets, and minimize your intake of pastas and breads made with refined flours.

- Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole foods. The antioxidants and phytonutrients in vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains help protect cholesterol in the blood from free-radical damage. They are also high in fiber (see below), which assists the body in ridding itself of cholesterol-laden bile.

- Prioritize quality fats over junk fats. That means nixing trans fats entirely, and avoiding high-fat processed and fried foods in favor of healthy, nutrient-dense whole foods. Enjoy nuts, seeds, fish, avocados and olive oil — fis tacos anyone! And don’t feel you need to cut out saturated fats entirely, either. The body craves these and requires them for proper cell, nerve and brain function. Plus, when people don’t satisfy their flavor and satisfaction desires for saturated fats, they’ll often substitute processed carbohydrates instead, thereby increasing weight gain and inflammation. When selecting meat and dairy, choose minimally processed foods, ideally from pastured, free-range and grass-fed animals. And whole eggs are fine: Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people eating up to seven eggs a week are no more likely to experience heart attacks or strokes than those who eat less than an egg a week.

- Befriend fiber. Eating more soluble fiber is one of the easiest ways to lower your cholesterol naturally. That’s because fiber binds to bile, which is composed of cholesterol and triglycerides, and escorts it (along with a variety of pro-inflammatory toxins) out of the body. The body then produces fresh bile, making use of cholesterol and triglycerides that would otherwise accumulate in the bloodstream. Nuts, whole grains, vegetables and berries are all high in fiber, but legumes (like kidney, lima, pinto beans and black-eyed peas) are perhaps the very best source. Not a big fan of beans? You can substitute 2 teaspoons of psyllium husk mixed in a glass of water for one or more of those servings.

- Get a Move On. Moderate to intense exercise lowers cholesterol overall and raises the relative levels of protective HDL. Exercise also helps reduce excess weight and moderate the negative, inflammatory effects of stress. A 2006 Duke study that examined the effects of exercise on inactive, overweight adults found that, after six months, many of the factors putting them at risk for heart disease had reversed or improved.

Product Endorsement

Sticking with the egg theme...I'd like to recommend a product for those suffering from calloused feet. The Ped Egg Pedicure Foot File is device with precision micro-files that gently remove calluses and dead skin to give your feet a nice touch-up. I use the file and the included buffing pad to smooth out my ugly looking soles and follow it up with foot creme or lotion to keep in the moisture.

Warning - go slowly at first, especially if your foot is badly cracked as loose skin can be pulled by the file causing minor tearing. It would be better to just use the buffing pad first and then the file thereafter.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Classic Overuse Case

Today was my much anticipated meeting with an orthopedic specialist. It is Achilles tendinosis as I had thought. The tendon is fine and intact and will not require surgery or even a temporary boot. That's the good news.

The bad is that cases of tendinosis are resolved in terms of months. Not days. Not weeks.

The condition is actual degeneration of the tendon in which the tendon itself becomes thicker and blood supply is reduced. The decreased blood supply stops the tendon healing, creating a vicious circle that is tricky to break. It is caused by overuse.

I think the stress I put over the winter months on the calf muscle may have been the culprit here. In 2008, I had issue with my calves and set a goal over the winter to strengthen the calf muscles. This lead to stress on the Achilles and may have introduced some microtears as well...which when I started to incorporate my speed work in early March led to the Achilles essentially saying, "enough is enough".

Treatment will include rest, over-the-counter inflammatories, and ice. It can take weeks to months of rest for the tendon to repair itself. My hardest task will be to be patient and not return too soon to the run.

The doc even brought up the "have you considered giving up running", to which I most have given him a Stare of Death as he quickly moved on.

Last resort, should my Achilles be in the same state after a few months is to try a splint, brace, walking boot, or other device that keeps the lower leg from moving.

Best thing is that although treatment for Achilles tendon problems takes time, it usually works. Most people can return to their beloved activity and get on with life.

My current plan will be to do no running for at least the next five weeks. I then hope to start with very slow and very low mileage. That plus the two weeks I've already not run since my last event will give me almost two full months of rest for the Achilles. I leave open the possibility of competing in the Lake Waconia Triathlon on June 28 with me not forcing the run at all.

We'll see.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Holiday Gallimaufry

Gallimaufry [gal-uh-maw-free] - A hodgepodge or jumble

There. You have a new word for the day.

We had great weather for the three-day holiday weekend. I got in 95.74 miles on the bike and 3500 yards in the pool. Don't ask about the run.

Even the Boy® got into the act, biking nine miles on Monday.

A good weekend to enjoy food as well. From burgers to chicken kabobs to corn on the cob with some suds on the side. Good stuff. Though I burnt the crust on my apple pie. Still can't figure out what happened there.

My appointment to start diving into what is going on with my Achilles is this coming Thursday (5/29) with Kayvon S. Riggi, M.D., a graduate of Mayo Medical School. He was voted a top orthopedic surgeon by his peers in Mpls/St. Paul magazine (2006 & 2007). I hope it doesn't come to surgery. And I don't think it will. More later this week.

Worked in the garden laying down some mulch and moving dirt. It usually takes us a few weeks to complete mulching. Typically we'll go through 80 to 100 bags of mulch. We used to get a pile for free...even the city but they don't provide that service any longer. And the mulch was of low quality and I always expected to find severed body parts.

The new Star Trek film is a fine piece of motion picture production. I knew I'd love it within the first ten minutes. Good stuff. Go see it.

I invite you to visit a blog that I came across this weekend as I was posting on The blog is put together by John Post, MD. He is the Medical Director of Training Bible Coaching and we got into a on-line discussion on various topics from stress fractures to my current Achilles issue. He knows his stuff. I recommend the blog and invite you to check it out.

Congrats to the duathletes that went nuts at the Apple Duathlon this past weekend. Who say's the Midwest is not competitive!?!? Look at the top four finishers....all went sub 5's per mile in the opening 5K. DKT almost goes 26 MPH for his bike split. 8 Divisional records fall, 5 by Minnesotans....DKT bagged 50th career win.....Todd Firebaugh, 45-49 AG (my AG), puts up another incredible time. Man. I should have gone just to watch this. From the people I've spoken to, that opening 5K was totally insane. (Mario...congrats! What about that opening 5K pace??)

Peace out!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lego Tri-Man

I'd love to be a Lego creature so I could just switch out broken down body parts! Make your own and see what you can come up with.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lakes To Pines Race Report

My competitive running days may be at an end depending at what I find out in the next few weeks once I line up a physician appointment to determine what is going on with my right Achilles. It may in fact just be a very severe case of Achilles tendinosis. This condition is actual degeneration of the tendon in which the tendon itself becomes thicker and blood supply is reduced. The decreased blood supply stops the tendon healing, creating a vicious circle that is tricky to break.

Essentially, I race and blow the tendon out. It takes me two to three weeks to get the tendon back to where I can just about train on it and then I jump into another race...blow it out again...and I'm back to square one. I hope to meet up with a sports medicine orthopaedic specialist in the very near future. I'm tired of dealing with this, tired of writing about it...and I bet you're tired of reading about it.

I write this as I had my first overall victory in 20-years slip away at the Lakes To Pines triathlon. In the position I hoped to find myself at the end of the bike, I was no more than thirty to forty yards behind the race leaders. That is 'blood in the water time" for this old shark as I should have easily hunted them down. But the Achilles just wouldn't let me do anything other than a painful jog.

The day started at 5:30 as I got up. A quick look at the outdoor conditions revealed the temperature was 33-degrees but with 24 mph wind it felt like 21-degrees! I had already made the decision to lose time in T1 in order to layer up for the bike. The night before I had decided to swim in trunks for the pool swim and then don a tri uni followed by long sleeved UnderArmour top followed by a long sleeved bike jersey. Two pairs of socks and light gloves. That would have to do.

By the time the event started, the winds were at a steady 24-MPH with gusts to 29-MPH. We would be riding into or at a crosswind for about sixty percent of the two-lap bike event.

There were four waves of swim in the Park Rapids high school indoor pool. I was in the last wave. As I watched the first three waves, I witnessed something that you may only ever see in The Tundra during a triathlon event. People would exit the pool and saunter into the locker rooms to get on their clothing for the bike/swim portion. Think about that for a moment.

It wasn't as stupid as it sounds. Had you actually left your gear outdoors, you would not have located it due to the high winds. I saw people leave helmet, shoes, etc all out in T1 and as I set up my bike, watched as peoples gear blew around the transition area. In the video, you see my lose one glove, only to recover it due to a nearby volunteer. In the end, I decided to don all my stuff, including helmet, at pool side.

The temperature, 42-degrees as we started, was not that bad on the bike. But the wind was a bitch. Especially the crosswind as you left a roadside shelter belt in which you and bike were fighting a 45-degree angle. I never felt out of control or in a dangerous was just nasty. I have never used my upper body so much on a bike before.

The first lap went fine and then something amazing happened: I was catching all the fast cyclists. At first, I wasn't sure. But as I got within 400-yards of the Big Boy's I could recognize the bikes and uniforms. I put the hammer down and kept gaining.

With about 2-miles left I caught and passed the lead cyclists. With about a half-mile to go my calves started to cramp just a bit so I slowed to stretch them out and get ready for the run. I was ecstatic at this point. I would be right where I wanted to be in preparation for the run. In fact, ahead of where I wanted to be! All that separated me from finishing first overall was a run around 6:40 pace and how my nagging Achilles would respond. In the days leading up to the event, my confidence had soared as I was even doing stair risers with the right foot. The Achilles was sore, but I felt it would at least give me three miles.

For the first half-mile it was going well. I was really starting to think I could win the event. Then the right Achilles twinged and that was that. I could not push off. I could not maintain stride. All I could do was muster enough will-power just to finish the race.

I swam a PR in the pool. I had the day's fastest split on the bike. And when it came to my bread and butter, the run, I couldn't bring home the bacon. Depressing as Hell and then some. In the end, I finished third overall. Of special note, and perhaps of inspiration to all your old farts: The top four positions were aged 47-41-48-51.

My congrats to Craig Peterson and Dave Bjorklund (still course record holder) for their great finishes! And to the boys who made the trip from Beatrice, Nebraska and had a great event as well in the relay division. So many great athletes. And so many friendly people!

My days as a triathlete will now depend on how I eventually recover from this Achilles injury. Or if I recover. If it is permanent I may be subjected to begging race directors to include Aqua-Bike events (swim-bike). Or competing in tri's as a member of a relay. Neither seems satisfying to me though. Sort of like kissing your sister.

But then, there is The Boy®. He competed in his second triathlon and posted a second overall in the Boys division (8-12 yo's). He also had a very strong bike leg. Maybe in a few years he'll be out there with the Big Boys and I can draft off him on the bike. Or would he rat on his Old Man!?!?

I would like to thank the wonderful staff and volunteers in Park Rapids for putting on another great event. My your event continue to grow! You all do a great job. We look forward to returning in the coming years.

Race Numbers: Note - I list both the official times per the race results and my own. This was a non-chipped event. And since I dressed inside I did not cross the T1 line until after I had donned my gear, and my swim time is inflated.

Swim (500-yards)
Race Results - 10:27 (includes gear transition)
My Own - 7:57 (PR)

T1 (I definitely lost time here as I elected to put on more gear than others...wussy that I am)
Race Results - 1:10
Mine - 3:13

Bike (14.7 miles)
Race Results - 42:39 (20.68, best bike time of the day)
Mine - 43:42 (includes T2 as I forgot to do a split)

Race Results - 1:06
Mine - included in bike

Race Results - 23:54 (7:43 pace, more than a minute per mile...three minutes total... over my goal)
Mine - 24:04

So, what's next? I am scheduled for a 5K-K9 on May 31st. This would be a 5K run with my youngest whippet. If I do this, it would be a walk. I may also decide to just pick up the jersey and skip the event.

My planned June 14th tri in Bismarck or June 13th tri at the Liberty triathlon probably will not happen pending my Achilles issue. Luckily, I have yet to sign up for either event.

I am signed up for the Lake Waconia Triathlon on June 28. I'll have to hope for the best that maybe 6-weeks is enough time to prepare for that event. I guess time will truly tell.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pre-Race Report

Just sipping coffee before heading to the first triathlon of the season for me. It is the Lakes To Pines event in Park Rapids, Minnesota population 3000 & growing. Very good pasta feed last night with many familiar faces.

I 'll be sipping on that coffee for a while! The temp is currently 32 which is down within the last hour. Feels like 19°F with a strong wind from the NNW at 21 mph, gusting to 29.

I think my plan will be just trunks for the pool swim and then a tri uni follwed by long sleeved UnderArmour top followed by a long sleeved bike jersey. Two pairs of socks and light gloves. That will have to do. I practiced that last night & I can don that in under 40 seconds.

I sure know how to pick 'em.....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oh, Fuuuuuuudge

Next event is my season opening triathlon in Park Rapids, Minnesota way up high in The Tundra. Want to know why I call Minnesota The Tundra? By the time my swim wave takes off Saturday morning (OK, indoor pool swim...we're not stupid) the outdoor conditions will be thus:

That's right, I'll leave the pool dripping wet only to head outside and be greeted by winds out of the NW at 21-22 MPH with the temp hovering around 39-degrees. Toss in a wind-chill of 29-degrees and my T1 time may be a just a tad bit longer since I'll have to throw on the winter Gortex just to survive.

It ought to be a blast.

Monday, May 11, 2009

News Ticker

Various things I pulled from the news today that you may or may not have seen.

From the Giro d'Italia - How neat is this!?!?

Per a Mr. Armstrong via Twitter

lancearmstrong: - Italian Air Force flyover during the stage today. Was really badass in person.

Phelps back in Action - Well, sort of. Hopefully the Boy® won't see this story. It was bad enough explaining 'pot' to him.

And I leave you with the question of the day: If doing a bike/run workout is a BRICK, then doing a swim/bike/run workout is a TRICK?

On Sunday, as I was having a bachelor weekend, I did a 2850 total yds swim. 2x200 easy w/u with 30 RI, 6x200 medium with 20 sec RI; 2x400 hard with 20 sec RI; 8x25 hard on 20 RI; 5x50 hard on 10. I followed that with a 13.6 mi TT on the bike at 22.2 MPH. Hey! I'll take it as long as I can start to repeat that speed come race day. I followed that with a short run on the sore Achilles/heel because, well, I had to complete the TRICK!

Monday, I did my second TRICK on as many days. A short, easy (but surprisingly fast) 30-minute bike. Another slow, agonizing run. And then a short pool swim with the Boy® since we both have our first tri of the season this coming Saturday.

Two days. Two tricks. Maybe Phelps and I have something in common after all. No, strike that!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturday Stream of Consciousness

I'm having a bachelor's weekend. The Mrs.® and the Boy® departed on Friday for parts unknown to view a college graduation of Niece Numero Uno. The first thing I did not do was a Tom Cruise Risky Business impersonation. I was going to cycle but at that exact moment Mother Nature laughed in my face and said, "Oh, Dearie no." A few crackles of thunder and the rain set in.

So I putzed. That's what men do. We putz. If you aren't sure that that entails...ask around.

I did end up watching Without Limits. It is a 1998 biographical film about the friendship between running star Steve Prefontaine and his coach Bill Bowerman, who had co-founded Nike, Inc. Billy Crudup plays Prefontaine and Donald Sutherland plays Bowerman.

Without Limits was produced by Tom Cruise. Yep, that Tom Cruise. Cruise originally wanted to play the role of Steve Prefontaine, but it was decided he was too old. Well, duh! Tommy Lee Jones turned down the part of Bill Bowerman. I think Sutherland did a great job. The film is a must see if. I bet you put on the running shoes and head out once the film is over.

We now have a robin who has nested directly above one of our backyard security lights. So the light goes, all night long. I'd move the nest but I am 99.9% certain she is, ahem, with child. I'm going to leave it be. After all, it is Mother's Day on Sunday.

I'm trying to decide whether to head to Bismarck for their annual triathlon on June 14. Or bag that long haul and instead race locally at the Liberty Tri on June 13. Or skip a race that weekend altogether and give the Achilles (or whatever will be the injury flavor of the month in June) a period to heal.

I like the Bismarck course and it is flat and fast. But the Liberty Tri is literally in my backyard and is where I do all my cycling, So I know each hill, pothole, and blade of grass like it belongs to me. Well, I pay taxes so I suppose the road does belong to me.

The other thing about the Liberty Tri: It is a special qualifier event for the 2009 USAT Age Group Championships!! USAT A.G. Championships will be held in Tuscaloosa, AL on August 22nd. The Liberty Triathlon will qualify the top 33% or top 5 people (whichever is greater) per age group for the 2009 Age Group Nationals.

One problem with that: I can't even run a 5K, how will I run a 10K? I guess I'll cross that bridge should I come to it.

I'm considering jumping into a few of the local Tuesday night cycling time-trials hosted by Gear West Bike & Triathlon and Cadence Multisport. The T'N'T Time Trials are certified by American Bicycle Racing. I've never done one of these, and so I'm being a little like Bashful from Snow White. Maybe I need to be like Dumbo and find my magic feather that will make me fly? I do know that if I want to achieve my goal this year of racing in the 22 MPH zone, I need to practice speed.

The only problem is the Boy® has soccer on Tuesday's. Maybe if I just did two time trials....?

That's all for now. I have a kickstand I need to put on the Boy®'s bike. I know, kickstand = loser but he also just 'parks' the bike wherever he jumps off. Whether the middle of the driveway, the street, on the neighbor's cat....he needs to learn the bike is an extension of himself. "Take the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper."

Have a good one.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Link(s) of the Week

Ever wonder "if I can increase my 100-yd swim pace by 10-seconds, how much time do I save over a 1 mile swim?"

Ever wonder "if I increase the treadmill incline from 1% to 2% and set the speed from 7.0 MPH to 8.0 MPH what is my flat road pace?"

Ever wonder "if I can increase my bike from 21 MPH to 22 MPH, how much time do I save over a 40K?"

Ever wonder "if I can increase my mile pace just 10-seconds, how much time would I shave of my 5K time?"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Steal of the Week

Asics GEL-Kinsei

Regular price - $164.99
Sale price - $79.99
Savings - $85
Location - Sports Authority

Monday, May 4, 2009

Podcast 008 - Music Track for a 40-Minute Run

Audio Description: A music track for your approximate forty minute run. We'll see how this goes. Next week maybe I'll put together a honky-tonk track!

Duration: 39 minutes, 32 seconds

Date Last Updated: Sat 02 May 2009 10:17:47 PM CDT

File Size: 36.2 MB

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nice Four Day's of Training

I worked it hard over the last four days. I had been in a funk ever since the disappointing bike at last weekends duathlon opener. I needed to get back in the groove and I needed to start by hauling a$$ on the bike. Over a four day stretch I put in 96.7 miles on the bike with a 27-mile ride on Thursday, a short time-trial on Friday, a 40-mile ride Saturday, and then a sweet time-trial on Sunday over 19-miles that saw me put in my best performance so far this year. Now, why couldn't I have done this in the duathlon a week ago?

Best of all, I was in Zone 3 for 86% of the ride. So I could have gone even harder. With two weeks before my season-opening triathlon I still have for room for improvement.

Play the Sunday Time-Trial

To top it off, I had a good four day stretch in the pool. I'm back on course where I should be for my swim. I swam a 8:18 500-yard on Saturday followed by a set of 50-yard sprints timing between 36-38 seconds. That's very good for me.

Now if I can just get back out running! The Achilles (right this time around) swelling has come down so that I should be able to go out for some short runs the next few days and see how I feel. I picked up a couple of things this week that I have been using to speed up the recovery.

Cramer Neoprene Ankle Support: I'm using this product, one on each foot, to retain heat and reduce discomfort of tendinitis while providing compression to help support and minimize swelling. I'm placing it over my compression socks.

OPTP Pro Stretch: I'm using this product to improve stretching effectiveness. It targets the Gastroc in the calf, and also the Achilles Tendon. Man, this is great for stretching both areas.

Dr Scholl's Adjustable Arch Pain Relief Orthotics: I decide to try this product after talking with a few people. Since my recurring Achilles issue is also in the heel, I've decided to give the arch control a try. Soon as I can get back out running that is.

Friday, May 1, 2009

More Miles Than You Can Shake a Stick At

I just ended up setting a new PR for total bike miles in one month since I started my 'comeback' in the fall of '06. Now, many of you put in this kind of mileage in one week. Some in two or three days! So have a care! Drum roll, please....

306.65 bike miles for the month of April! Most was cycling into hurricane force winds. Or at least it felt that way.

See you all later. Gotta run, er, I mean bike.