Friday, October 30, 2009

Pre-Race Report: Team Ortho Monster 5K9 Race

On Halloween Day, at 10:35 AM the gun will sound and I'll be racing in my 15th event of the season. Most likely my last for 2009 unless I get the urge for something else.

You may ask, 'why is it a 5K9'? That's because this is a special 5K for runners to have a family member along. Namely, your dog. It should be a blast for me and my whippet, Pont. The Well Kept Wife™, the Boy®, and retired racing whippet Glynis will be watching.

I did this once before. On May 8th, 1993 I competed in a 5K9 with our Dalmatian, Olivia. Olivia passed a few years ago and we miss her dearly. She was also a fantastic running partner. Dalmatian's are breed to trot all day next to horses. That was their original role as a coach or carriage dog, so called because they were formerly used to run in attendance of a coach. To this day, Dalmatians retain a strong affinity for horses, often naturally falling in behind a horse and cart in perfect position.

And Olivia's endurance surpassed my own. She could keep pace with me during any running workout. As she did on this day. In fact, it was nothing more than a lazy jog for her.

I didn't keep the time, but we were good enough for 3rd place overall. A nice finish.

If I had Olivia tomorrow, I'd dare say we could be favored. Instead, I have this:

Not to say Pont is not athletic. He can hunt down a gazelle in seconds long as he catches the prey inside 300-yards. After that, a whippet is done. All fast twitch fibers. No reserve fuel. So it will be interesting to see exactly how we do. I'm guessing we may even need to walk a bit. I'm secretly hoping we can come in under 24-minutes. Keep in mind I ran a 19:31 5K just a bit over a month ago.

The weather looks to be at least sunny, with the temps in the upper 30's. It will be gusty, though. Thankfully, no bike.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Quilt Concept

I'm now saving up my race t-shirts to do something unusual....have a quilt made. Of course, I hope to stay in the good graces of my sister-in-law to actually have mine made for me, but if you don't know a seamstress there are people out there you can work with.

Campus Quilts: Sort of a cool idea. Got a bunch of old race t-shirts hanging around? Have this company make a quilt for you. Little pricey.

I'm going to save up for a 36-square Wide Full Bedspread T-Shirt quilt. I will have nineteen shirts after the Monster 5K9 this Saturday. In case you were wondering, it is a 5K9 as I'm doing it with my youngest dog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Boy® Has New Wheels

The Boy® had Thursday and Friday off from school this past week. So along with the Well Kept Wife we all decided to take a much deserved break from the rigors of corporate life.

On Friday afternoon, the Boy® and I headed to the place that holds most of my money...Gear we were looking to upgrade him from his 20" clown bike to the real deal: a 24" bike with no coaster brake and 21 gears of impending daredevil-death-defying acts of pure speed and exhilaration.

I love bike shopping. Almost as much as looking at next year's BMW models. And this was no exception. I had done my homework and conferred with some local experts (thx Mario!) and we immediately dialed in on the Trek line of kids bikes.

We settled on the Trek MT 220, in nice blue with rich Corinthian leather. What is seriously great about this line of bikes is Trek's Dialed for the Ride setup. With its durable aluminum frame and front suspension, the MT 220 is ready for all the fun a kid can shell out. The Dialed crank has two pedal positions for growing legs.

The frame is aluminum....still heavy by our tri-bike standards but it seems lighter than the 20" clown bike he just grew out of. The quality Bontrager, Shimano and SRAM components should keep the ride going for a few years, at least.

And the smile this kid had on when they put him on a wind-trainer for his fit was something only a Dad can understand. Now he wants a wind-trainer so he can ride alongside Dad this winter. Now, I'm getting verklempt! Talk amongst yourselves for a moment. Or just check out this video of a boy and his first real bike.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Avocado Hummus

We recently tried the following recipe and can say it is very good. This twist on hummus, a Mediterranean diet staple, is so creamy and delicious (and packed with healthy fats), that you may just eat it with a spoon and lose the pita altogether.

- one can chickpeas (drained)
- one avocado
- 5 tablespoons tahini
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- four or five cloves of garlic
- 3/4 cup water
- salt/pepper to taste
- juice of one lemon (or more to taste)

Directions - Peel and cut avocado, removing the pit. Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Serve with warm pita wedges.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

H1N1 & the Endurance Athlete

This is a great little article on the effects of H1N1 on the endurance athlete. I bring it to you for your reading enjoyment. Thanks to the tip from Mr. William Jenks, Ironman & esquire. This article appeared in the NY Times on October 14, 2009. I bolded the most prominent paragraph for those who only have three minutes left in your day to read something.

Phys Ed: Does Exercise Boost Immunity?
By Gretchen Reynolds

Two recent experiments hit rather close to home at this time of year. In the first, published last year in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, researchers divided mice into two groups. One rested comfortably in their cages. The other ran on little treadmills until they were exhausted. This continued for three days. The mice were then exposed to an influenza virus. After a few days, more of the mice who’d exhausted themselves running came down with the flu than the control mice. They also had more severe symptoms.

In the second experiment, published in the same journal, scientists 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.

Is this good news or bad? This is a particularly relevant question as two important human events converge: the peaking of the fall marathon and other sports seasons and the simultaneous onset of the winter cold and flu term. Scientists are diligently working to answer that question, perhaps because they are as interested as the rest of us in avoiding or lessening the severity of colds and the flu. The bulk of the new research, including the mouse studies mentioned, reinforce a theory that physiologists advanced some years ago, about what they call “a J-shaped curve” involving exercise and immunity. In this model, the risk both of catching a cold or the flu and of having a particularly severe form of the infection “drop if you exercise moderately,” says Mary P. Miles, PhD, an associate professor of exercise sciences at Montana State University and the author of an editorial about exercise and immunity published in the most recent edition of the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Review. But the risk both of catching an illness and of becoming especially sick when you do “jump right back up” if you exercise intensely or for a prolonged period of time, surpassing the risks among the sedentary. (Although definitions of intense exercise vary among researchers, most define it as a workout or race of an hour or more during which your heart rate and respiration soar and you feel as if you are working hard.)

Why exercise should affect either your susceptibility to catching an illness or how badly a particular bug affects you is still unclear. But it does appear that intense workouts and racing suppress the body’s immune response for a period of time immediately after you’ve finished exercising and that “the longer the duration and the more intense” the exercise, “the longer the temporary period of immunosuppression lasts — anything from a few hours to a few days has been suggested,” says Nicolette Bishop, an associate professor of sport and exercise sciences at Loughborough University and the author of a review article about exercise and immunity published in January.

A telling new study, published in August in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, looked at cellular markers of immune system activity in the saliva of twenty-four, Spanish, professional soccer players, before and after a strenuous, 70-minute match. Before play, the saliva of most of the players showed normal levels of immunoglobulins, substances that help to fight off infection. Afterward, concentrations of saliva immunoglobulins in many of them had fallen dramatically.

If scientists aren’t sure yet why intense exercise temporarily depresses the immune system, however, they seem to be closer to understanding why, once 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.

On the other hand, intense or prolonged exercise “may suppress TH1 too much,” he says. Long, hard runs or other workouts may shut down that first line of defense before it has completed its work, which could lead, Woods says “to increased susceptibility to viral infection.” So, if you have just completed a strenuous 20-mile training run and have, in consequence, a depressed immune response, avoid colleagues who are sniffling. Wash your hands often. “I would recommend everyone get the annual influenza vaccination and the new H1N1 vaccination,” Woods says. But if all of that has been for naught and you now feel the early stirrings of sickness, “listen to your body and be prudent in your exercise decisions,” Woods says. In general, moderate exercise, such as a leisurely jog or walk, may prop up your immune response and lessen the duration and severity of a mild infection, but be honest about your condition. “If you don’t feel well, especially if you have fever or body aches, I would recommend stopping daily exercise until you are recovered,” Woods says. “It is okay to exercise if you have a simple head cold or congestion — in fact, it may improve the way you feel. I would avoid heavy, prolonged exercise with a head cold, though,” since it can unbalance that important T1 and T2-helper cell response.

And take comfort in the results of the most recent study to look at actual, practicing marathoners. In it, 1,694 runners at the 2000 Stockholm Marathon informed researchers about any colds or other infectious illness they developed in the three weeks before or three weeks after the race. Nearly one-fifth of the runners fell ill during that time period. That’s higher than the rates in people generally, but it still means that the overwhelming majority of runners didn’t get sick.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Snow! Holy Crap!

The Well Kept Wife and the Boy® were up very early Saturday morning as they were scheduled to be at Camp Stearns for a Cub Scout event. The WKW drew the blinds in our bedroom and was heard to exclaim, "F*cking-A! There is snow on the ground!"

I replied with my best Nelson Muntz 'Haw--Haw' laugh and dived deeper between the bed covers.

A little after 10 AM, I decided that I needed to share some pain with the aforementioned family members and ventured out for a three mile run. Temp was 27 with windchill factor at 17. Uh-huh. And the aforementioned family members continue to scoff at my request to move to Arizona. 'cause I tell you what, if is far too early for this crap-O-la of staring at a wall until spring decides to come.

I still hope to get some more outdoor rides in October. But things are looking nasty at the moment.

For those keeping score at home, I did not do last weekends duathlon in Grand Rapids, MN. Three reasons: 1) I was neck deep in work still at 5 PM Friday, 2) I had a bad head cold, 3) the race time forecast was upper 30's with 50% chance of rain. In other words, I woosied out.

I was thinking about doing a duathlon in Osceola this Sunday (10/11). I elected not to. Three reasons: 1) I am still neck deep in work and have not trained all week, 2) I am still getting over a bad head cold, 3) the race time forecast is upper 20's with chance of snow. In other words, I woosied out.

I do have a new suggestion under the helpful hint category. It's new from Starbucks, and I've been experimenting with it this week. Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew is a truly great cup of coffee that you can prepare by just adding water. To enjoy it, all you have to do is tear open a pack and add water. Let the coffee brew 10 seconds and stir.

I prefer the Columbia. What I've been doing is just adding a packet to a bottle of chilled water (such as Ice Mountain)...shake it up, and enjoy the effects of caffeine hitting the ol' body when I'm experiencing my usual post lunch slumber. Instant gas without having to reach for a sugar laden soda. Try it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Boy® Continues His Swim Education

The Boy® has been participating on the Lifetime Fitness swim team for a few months now. He has gone from smacking the water and treating each lap like it was a Olympic race to controlled breathing, nice even strokes, and pacing himself throughout sixty to ninety minute workouts. Its been pure joy to watch his transformation.

We are very fortunate to have Tom Franke as one of the talented people coaching these young kids. Tom has coached competitive swimming for 30 years, and he is currently head coach of the US Paralympic Swim Team coaching staff. I've been around coaches for my entire life, and Tom is exceptional.

Take a look for yourself. Watch this nine year old kid now literally glide along. Hell, he may be beating the Old Man sooner than later.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Race, or Not to Race? That is the Question.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The sleet and rain of outrageous weather,
Or to take comfort in ones own bed,
And give the finger to the race season?

I'm suppose to race a duathlon this Saturday, just a short three hours north of the Twin Cities. The Kickin' Leaves Duathlon in Grand Rapids, MN consists of a 2.5 Mile Trail Run/ 10 Mile Bike/ 2.5 Mile Trail Run.

I have a cold...a real doozy. The race time temperature currently being forecast will be between 35-38 degrees. It will be raining. It may even sleet.

Now my good Iowegian friend, Mr. William Jenks, recently completed IM Moo with a cold and sore throat. So, if I skip a simple sprint event due to a cold I can certainly be classified a woosie in comparison.

Throw in a potentially muddy run course, as the run portion is a trail run and one can view the event as being totally fun or totally insane.

And I'm just not ready to start packing cold weather gear for an event. Plus, I already did my Miserable As Hell Weather event this year.

What to do. What to do. Stay tuned.