Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nine Chicago Winter Running Tips

This is February in San Diego.

This is February in my area of Chicago.


"If Chicago had weather like San Diego there would be 40 million people living here."  True, but we don't have that kind of weather in Chicago.  Unless you bounce between San Diego and Chicago, well, you better learn to dress for the cold.  Running outside in the tundra of Chicago isn't as horrible as many would have you believe.  No need to retreat for the "dreadmill" unless you are doing a specific session.  Running in this cold actually lends to several advantages.

Cold doesn't seem to bother these Chicago area runners.

Deal with the Cold
Tony Robbins teaches about starting with your mental state.  If you are saying to yourself, "This is going to suck.  This is going to suck."  Guess what?  You may get done and feel it sucked.  Start off positive.  I run with a fun group.  Regardless of the weather I wake up thinking, "Man, I can't wait to see John and Dean and tell them that joke I heard."  My first 20 mile run was done at -10 F (warmed up to -2 by the time we were done); I've never laughed that hard in my life for that long.  (Thank you Pat and Bill.)  I didn't feel super tired until 18 and then we only had two miles to go.  The thought of warm coffee and bagels kept me going.  Laughing at breakfast and shooting coffee through my nose wasn't in that visualization - but it was fun none the less.

This is "spring" in Chicago.

There is no bad weather, just poor clothing choices and excuses.
Earlier in this blog I told you my first 20 miler was at -10 F. It isn't that hard.  Dress in layers.  Tech clothing is coming down in price and you could always add an old sweatshirt and cheapo windbreaker.  You don't need to be decked out in Craft Wind Stopper head to toe.  That said...  I LOVE the Craft winder gear.  2XU makes a great cycling vest.  Pearl Izumi has some awesome wind stopper jackets and gloves.  Find what works for you and ask for it for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries - whatever.  You'll be glad you have that gear when the first spring rides start out at 40 F or if you go to San Diego and it is "cold" in the morning before Swami's ride.  After a few runs you will be amazed at how "warm" 20 F feels.  

Start a little cold
Dress for temps about 15 degrees warmer than the current and expected outside temperature.  If you are too warm you will sweat a ton and that puts you at a greater risk of hypothermia AND in the end you will feel COLDER for dressing warmer.  I use a glove that allows air to pass through.  Once I've warmed up I really don't notice the cold.  

Warm up 
In spite of being cold at the start, allow your body to warm up.  Don't start off at 6:00/mile pace and slow back to aerobic pace.  Everything is cold.  It's only a few minutes of cold.  Suck it up.

Light up
Leave the cigarettes in the car, that's not what I mean.  I'm amazed at how stupid so many runners are.  My car doesn't have an infrared windshield.  I don't own infrared glasses for night driving.  I don't know you are out running at 6pm in 10 F weather.  Wear a reflective vest.  Get reflective tops, gloves, hats and lights.  I'm partial to the Pulsar lights by RoadID and the headlamp from Petzl.  These might just give you that extra split second to dive off the road when "Happy hour Harry" or "Harriet") heads home. **When I'm out on the road I assume EVERYONE out there a) cannot see me b) is homicidal c) is drunk and high d) has a loaded weapon in the car.**  I live where there are no street lights.  This is mandatory equipment unless you have a death wish.  Lastly, be smart.  Where I live and where my in-laws live there have been coyote attacks.  Don't think that a few hungry coyotes won't try and take you down.  Last spring I had three following me out of the forest preserve.  My easy run turned into a hard cross country run as I hoped a fence and got onto the road ASAP.  They ended their pursuit.  These animals are trying to make it through the winter.  Late December through late February they need food.  My running vest was hanging next to the dog food AND I found a few puppy cookies in the back pocket.   

Trails, Snowshoes, XC Skis and Soccer Fields
Frozen trails can be just like asphalt and concrete.  Go off roadin'.  I run around flood control "hills" and fields a lot.  It keeps me off the same old streets.  Try snowshoes.  They will get your heart pumping.  I XC ski a lot in the winter.  I live right off of a long trail.  It's wonderful fun and my dog can sniff the bushes at the side of the trail too.  Soccer fields... not just for soccer, but also running across them in the winter will get you strong.

Bring Water, Gel and a Towel
I'm amazed at how many folks don't bring water on a run in the winter.  If GSSI taught me anything, they taught me to always have something to drink and extra in the car.  I normally have extra drinks in the car.  I always have a gel with me.  A nice, big, dry towel in the car afterwards can make you feel a lot better too.

Get Loopy
Instead of running a hard loop like the Home Economist (Fisher Nut) in Barrington, IL - run the out and back first.  If you can handle that a few weeks then go for the full run.  No sense in getting eight miles from the car and realizing you are bonking badly or can't run another step and now will freeze solid as you walk back to the car.

Eat Right 
When you are expending energy to stay warm your bodies immune system will need more fuel to fight illness.  Taking something like Zone Diet's fish oil, vitamin C and CoQ10 will help you stay healthy at a cellular level.  Think this is a joke?  Look at the people around you who eat like crap relative to those who don't.  Who is sick more?  Who has more energy?  Who is happier?  Additionally, there was a recent British study that found taking fish oil helps cure the winter blues.

Lastly, when you run outside in the morning and the sun starts appearing earlier and earlier you will feel better in the spring having toughed out a winter running season in Chicago.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Compression Gear

The first time I saw or heard of compression gear I saw my paternal grandfather with knee high black socks after working all day as a welder.  He told me his feet didn't get as tired or as cold on the factory floor.  Of course, neither of us foresaw the use for triathletes and dorks who wear them ALL DAY before ANY triathlon.  My personal favorite is the guy or call walking around town three days before the race in running shorts and compression sleeves.  It's the new underwear run - only this is mostly Americans.  The Germans should do a compression run.  It would be awesome fun. 

I'll cover some of the different benefits of wearing compression gear.  I encourage you to read this page before making a decision on which compression garment is best for you.  All brands have there own strengths, weaknesses and the most expensive does not always mean its the best garment for your bodies needs.

Increased Circulation:  

Faster delivery of blood to the muscle and quicker removal of waste; grandpa had it right.

The main benefit advertised are claims around the performance if you wear the garments.  The next time you are on a longer flight wear some compression socks under your jeans.  See how you feel.  The reason is that increased circulation is claimed to give you benefits in performance.  Speeding up blood flow, you get nutrients to your muscles faster and remove waste products such as lactic acid more efficiently.  This means that you should experience a higher level of performance with faster recovery times when wearing garments post exercise.  This in turn will let you train harder in your next session.  I have felt this at training camps in the past.  

In Arizona at a Coach Troy training camp, I put on compression tights and a compression top after a very cold swim and 80 mile bike ride when it SNOWED in Arizona.  I was so cold that when I returned even a hot shower didn't warm me up.  I put everything I had (that was clean) on.  The next day I felt fresh and ready to go.  The difference in my entire body from one day to the next was night and day.  Notably, my compression top made my tired arms feel awesome.  This same top is gettin' a bit ratty.  What I learned from my favorite triathlon store is that compression tops don't sell.  Interesting but not surprising.  Most amateurs don't swim enough either so why would they buy compression tops?  Swimming is a topic for another day.
It is worth pointing out that in this case often you are getting better performance from garments that have a higher price tag as more money has been put into the research and design of the product.  Some garments have features like graduated compression (tighter in extremities) and compartmental compression (meaning = tighter in certain areas), there are both positive and negative outcomes form these features.  Remember, its not always science that determines the designs.  

Reduced Muscle Oscillation:

Every time you move your muscles move too.  Watch the "slo-mo" of the running in Kona.  It looks violent.  When muscles move small tears appear within the muscle tissue.  The presence of these tears along with the build up of lactic acid is what causes muscle pain both during and post exercise.   Reducing the rate at which this damage takes place allows the athlete to work longer and experience less pain following training.  The principles behind stopping body shake are very old and probably the best example is the wearing of appropriate sports bras in female athletes or the jock in male athletes.  Imagine having the wrong type of jock as a dude?  Ouch. Squish.  In the last NBC coverage of the 2010 Ironman World Championship, one female athlete very obviously didn't have enough support (or coverage for that matter).  These are the reasons that your garments must be firm fitting and appropriate for your sporting activity. 


Your body will operate best when at the right temperature, muscles must be kept warm for optimal performance and to avoid injury, but overheating is just as bad, it puts stress on your heart and slows your reactions.  Thermoregulation may be one of the most beneficial features of wearing compression garments.   Often it is overlooked.  It is important to consider where you will be wearing your compression wear because the brands all use different but similar fabrics. 

Increased Proprioception: 

Having a garment that is effectively a second skin you are heightening these senses.  This is achieved through the contact with the skin and the elastic properties of the fabric.  These are heavily used in the NBA.  Watch any game and you'll see at least two or three in use any night.

Increased Muscle Power Output:

There are claims that the stretch in the fabric will help with power output aiding the reflex and the movement in general. The suits that were tested are the ones worn by elite Olympic athletes.  These so-called "super suits" are not available in your local sports store and are much heavier and over larger amounts of compression.  The jury is still out.

So... what do you need?  I own a compression top.  Soon to be two as one may turn into a bike rag soon.  Compression shorts - not sure the comfort loss is worth it.  Perhaps in a bike time trial and certainly not in a long distance triathlon without some design changes.  Compression tights - really quite awesome except for one thing they chafe in odd areas and would not recommend them for long runs. Lastly, compression socks and sleeves - I have never raced with them.  I have worn them for long flights to Kona and the west coast as well as for recovery.  For a long day like Ironman

Before the last paragraph... I am not sponsored by these companies and have never received any free product from these companies or their subsidiaries.  

I really like the Zoot compression tights and top.  2XU makes a very good compression top.  For socks, I like the CEP socks a lot.  CEP are notably better than the Zensah in that after many wearings and washings.  The Zensah lost shape after a lot of washings.  They did still work though.  I'm convinced they work for recovery.  Racing?  Not sure personally.  My personal results for the last four years have been awful.  Maybe I'll give it a go - although if you aren't training much it will affect your results more than any compression gear.  

Credit to my friend Fernando in New Zealand and Jon at the Australian Olympic Committee for giving me the "science content" of this blog entry.  Friendships forged in the lava fields go far beyond "normal" friendships.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Lesson of Ironman Rajesh Durbal - Triple Amputee

Rajesh Durbal - triple amputee - this is his website

I have not formally met Rajesh.  I spoke to him on the road in Kona as he ran by and inspired me. If you don't get inspired by a triple amputee doing KONA in 14 hours and change check yourself into a morgue because you're a corpse.  

I took this shot of Rajesh against the sunset.

Rajesh is a guy who is getting things done in spite of EVERY possible reason to roll over and feel sorry for himself...  he doesn't.  LIFE would be hard as a triple amputee.  Rajesh is taking on things like Ironman and living.

Listen to this interview.

When I returned from Kona a few rouge people took liberties with my projects and things were in a state of chaos. (I fix chaos.)  I was asked by my client's leadership team, "How do you feel about these problems?"  My response shocked and surprised them.  "I have no problems.  I have a few things to fix from a few people who tried to help, but didn't have all the facts, while I was away.  I have no problems."  In the grand scheme of things, I have it easy.  I just have to be tough enough to tackle it.

Here is Rajesh at mile 25.2.  Carleen, Lorrie, Jay and I all told him to "soak it in" and "you are entering the greatest one mile run in the world" and "you're going to be a Kona Ironman".  He simply smiled and said, "Hey guys.  Thanks for being out here." 14 hours into Kona - most everyone is on Alii Drive, in a restaurant and certainly NOT where we were.

I then went on to explain to "leadership" what I saw in Kona.  I saw people with two arms, two legs and an amputated will to fight to a finish line.  You know those people.  The people who talk and blog tough but turn to dust when the TV lights go away.  Ironman is about when the cameras aren't watching.  When the only person out there is you.  Fatigue makes cowards of a lot of people and eventually all people.  That is when an Ironman makes their statement of who they are.  It was all there.

I saw a woman with a broken foot walking the marathon (she was featured in the NBC coverage).  Unfortunately, NBC didn't tell Rajesh's story.  Maybe they didn't think people would believe it.  Maybe he is so strong mentally that he would be a pro if he had both legs and his arm back.  NBC missed an opportunity.  Hopefully, Ironman will have Rajesh back many times.

The most amazing person I saw was Rajesh.  A triple amputee taking on Madame Pele and handling everything she had to dish out like he was out for a Sunday evening run.  Kona is amazing every year, but this year seeing this man with no legs was a turning point in my life.  This year has been tough mentally, but I see why it was and why I was supposed to be in Kona.

Here are Rajesh's times from Kona:

Swim:  1:17:54           (remember... no legs and ONE arm)
Bike:   7:07:39
Run:    5:36:18

Total: 14:19:12

1639th overall beating 234 "able bodied" qualifiers who "earned it" - yeah... they earned a beating from a guy missing three limbs.

All this and I never (really) spoke with the man.  I do feel I understand his spirit being an Ironman finisher.  I think anyone who has finished an Ironman would.  I identify with a lot of what I saw.  I am proud to be in the same fraternity with him - Ironman Hawaii Finisher.

I am a spiritual person (but don't wear it on my sleeve).  I believe your faith is a private matter.  You see all kinds of passages from various religious books.  One of my favorites is, Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall i fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?  It applies to racing as well as life.  Life being far more important.  
So... you've got problems?  No courage to try?

"This is your life.  Not some dress rehearsal."  - Jon Blais, 2005 Ironman Hawaii Finisher, ALS victim

Friday, December 17, 2010

An Athlete's Christmas List

Here are a few things I've tried and really like.  Hope to help you with last minute gift ideas for your family member or for yourself if Santa fails to bring what you want.

1) Timex Global Trainer - Timex Link to the Product

This watch is the best of 2010 in my opinion.

I've been on Team Polar.  I still love Polar's products, but as this blog is apt to do, I'll call it like I see it with no politically correct speaking.  When it comes to GPS and heart rate watches Timex wins with this watch.  If this were a professional MMA fight or boxing match - it would be a TKO.

The Timex watch is as close to "plug and play" as it gets.  Uploads to Training Peaks easily.  Has very simple interface which is near to intuitive.  I struggled with it a bit but a) I didn't read the directions first (because 1) I am male 2) I am trying to see how easy it is to figure out 3) I ultimately did read the directions and it made more sense) b) I have been using Polar watches the majority of my racing career.

I will train with this watch, but I'm not sure I would race with it.  It isn't too much bigger than my Polar 720i and is slightly smaller than my friend's Garmin 310XT.  It is larger than the smaller Timex Ironman HRM watches and my Polar RS200.  I will probably race in those and train with this one.

2) PowerCranks - PowerCranks Link to the Product

Able to buy one "athletic toy" this off season?  Make it PowerCranks.

Now that I'm able to train full blast again I was doing a retrospective (read: review) of my training logs.  The best results and biggest improvements came from using PowerCranks.  How much do I believe in PCs?  So much so, I'm putting ALL of my athletes on them this off season if they can afford them. 
Numbers don't lie.  Either do the results of PowerCranks users: Mirinda Carfrae, Chris McCormack, Sammy Sanchez, Paolo Bettini, Simon Whitfield, Conrad Stoltz, Melanie McQuaid, Benny VanSteelant, pitcher Randy Johnson, wide receiver Joey Galloway.  

The best reason to get these is a quote from one of the two greatest American cyclists to ever live - Greg Lemond, "If I had access to PowerCranks when I was training I never would have lost a time trial."

3) MotorTabs - Link to the MotorTabs Product

I was introduced to MotorTabs a few years ago when I was out in California.  The flavors are good.  The packets easily stuff into your jersey pocket.  They are more reasonably priced than Gatorade - unless you pack your own Gatorade powder. (Sorry, Gatorade and my friends at the GSSI.)  Additionally, you can ride all day with these babies and your stomach won't get upset.  Proof?  I have done several eight hour rides a 10 hour ride and one 16.5 hour ride all with MotorTabs and I was strong all day.  Even more important was that the day after these events I felt fine (other than a bit of fatigue) and I was willing and able to drink more MotorTabs the day after these events!

4) Lynskey Performance - Link to Lynskey Performance 

Love your carbon bike?  Weigh 130 lbs as a grown male?  If you don't have a full on sponsorship from a carbon bike manufacturer with several race frames ready for you at the drop of a hat.  Perhaps it is time to get a real bike.  If you are done with the very breakable carbon frames you have hope.

The future of titanium frames is RIGHT NOW!  My Lynskey R420 frame come in just over the UCI weight limit AND it is made of titanium.  It rides like a limo, but flies up hills, hugs corners like a formula one race car and won't crack when I put big boy watts into the frame.

Make the switch.  You'll be riding your Lynskey long after your carbon frames have gone through the recycler.

5) CompuTrainer - Link to CompuTrainer

I don't know about you, but the stories about people getting hit on their bikes are freaking me out.  Around here, about 25 people had season ending bike crashes.  Some were because the bike rider was unsafe.  Some were because the roads are increasingly unsafe.

I'm doing more and more of my quality work on the CompuTrainer.  I can concentrate on my work and not be concerned with traffic, traffic control devices, the texting teenage driver or the drunk behind the wheel headed home from Lake Geneva early on a Saturday morning.

Now with the new collaboration software, I can ride virtually with many of my triathlon friends around the globe, regardless of if they are in Berlin, Mexico D.F., Milan, Cairo, or Sydney.

6) Kurt Kinetic Trainers - Link to Kinetic Trainers 

Can't afford a CompuTrainer?  No worries.  These trainers are indestructible!  More importantly, they are power tested to be equal to riding on the road as far as resistance is concerned.

7) Spinervals - Link to Spinervals

Assume, if you want, that I'm just "shilling" for Troy.  These workouts are the real deal.  Regardless of if you are by yourself or in a group in a basement or garage.  If you ride these workouts you will improve.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Will be blogging later...

I'm taking this very patient puppy to the dog park for a couple of hours of running.

Monday, December 13, 2010

NEVER to Rent a Car From Dollar or Thrifty

Dollar Rent-a-Car and Thrifty Rent-a-Car are one in the same.  This year at Ironman Hawaii I thought I got a good deal $184 for 7.5 days for a Chrysler Seabring convertible.

Well...  the car we picked up after waiting in line for 2 hrs and 45 minutes after an 8 hour flight had bad brakes, blown rotors, shot ball joints and had cigarette ash and dirt on the inside.  Honestly, that wouldn't bother me too much.  Mistakes are forgivable as long as the company owns up to them.

After limping into the hotel lot in Kona I decided that the next day or so I would return the car.  This car was extremely unsafe.  The folks behind the counter sincerely apologized for my trouble and wasting another 90 minutes of my vacation.  They offered me a "free" upgrade to a convertible Ford Mustang.  Cool.

Fast forward to late November where I am CHARGED for the "upgrade".  I've been on the phone four times with the home office of Dollar / Thrifty - wasting another 6 hours.  I've asked for explanations.  I've been very nice.  I've been factual and mean.  The company promised to "research what happened and get back to you".  In the mean time, I received no less than FOUR letters stating that I owe them (the exact amount of the "upgrade".)  Call it bait and switch.  Call it dishonest business practices.  Call it stupid.  Just don't give them one red cent of your money.

Today, after two hours of TRYING TO JUST PAY THE DAMN BILL - I paid the bill and PROMISED to blog about the horrible customer "experience" I went through.

Do me a favor readers...

This isn't over.  I'm filing a BBB complaint next.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

IF You Want To

I've had several conversations with different friends about "desire".  (Perhaps desire should be capitalized.)

When you HAD TO have something... what stopped you?  Probably not much.  As an example, at my second Ironman race (Ironman Canada) I needed water badly around mile 15 in the 95 F heat and at the aid station ran through sucking water from the sponges.  It's amazing I didn't get sick as God only knows how many pro and amateur athletes put those sponges God knows where.  I still remember getting sand in my mouth.  (Those sponges get re-used and tossed on the ground.)  Moving on...

If you WANT TO... you do it.  NOTHING stops you.  In Ironman training and racing this MUST be your drive.  If you want to be exceptional at anything, doing everything required is a "must do" and not a "should do".

Before I go over the top, let's break this down.  Think of times when you have had no money.  "Luxury" and the amount of work you are willing to do probably changed.  20 hour work days don't seem so bad.  Obese people often start to understand this when their health goes south, if they choose to see the signs of disease in their daily life.  Often too late, but occasionally not.  It's the classic underdog movie, like Rocky, situation.  The protagonist has nothing to lose.  Most important things would be housing and feeding your family.  The rest is icing on the cake.

Lately, I've had several conversations with people who are planning their 2011 season.  They are already planning to fail.  Why?  In their conversations with me they are defining what they are "willing to do" to meet their goals.  Twice, I've told people they should reconsider their goal and make it a dream.  Doing a sub-11 Ironman is extraordinarily difficult on less than 10 hours a week of training.  One guy hopes to qualify for Kona and break 11 while training only 10 hours a week.  Good luck with that.

I hear a lot of excuses on why people cannot do x or y in their preparation.  What I RARELY hear is personal accountability for the choices they made.

1) You choose to sleep in.
2) You choose to eat bad food.
3) You choose to not record your workouts and eating habits.


a) You choose to get up at 4 am and get that workout in.
b) You choose to eat a salad at Portillo's with work buddies.
c) You choose to record and review your workouts and diet.
d) You choose to make time and speak with your coach weekly.

IF you truly want to do something set up the smaller "mile markers" and knock them down one after another.  Nobody goes into an Ironman and thinks about the marathon in the swim.  (Well... not my athletes anyway.) During the swim, we go buoy to buoy.  The bike?  Aid station to aid station.  The run?  mile by mile (also, aid station to aid station).  Before you know it, you're done.

Stop talking about it and do it.  My friend Dan challenged me to change something recently.  The first thing I did when I came home was apply for jobs in a different industry - coaching.

Don't whine to people about being fat or out of shape.  If you want to, you'll make the change and it will be permanent.  Everyone struggles to be exceptional in their life.  At being a great family person.  Being athletic.  Eating right.  Balance is the key.  In the end, no one ever regrets their efforts.  People never wish they would have just stayed home.

Make the change.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Coach Bob Joins Coach Troy Jacobson

I'm back with the coach who originally trained me as a coach.  Kokua Multisports is officially an associate coach of the National Triathlon Academy and the "Official Coach of Ironman" and "Lifetime Fitness Triathlon and Endurance".

When I wasn't planning on coaching full time, it made sense to go out on my own.  Today, in my quest to build a serious coaching business to be reckoned with, working with Troy makes sense.  Troy has many resources that make this merger a sound, strategic decision for my business and passion.

Troy's coaches are hand picked.  Most of us have been coaching for more than 10 years.  We are delivering  elite coaching quality for all levels of athlete in an international brand.  Most importantly, these coaches have the art and science of coaching multisport athletes.