Friday, July 22, 2011

An Evening with Sally Edwards - Sporting Legend

When Runner's High 'n Tri announced that Sally Edwards was coming to speak it wasn't on a convenient day for me (which is quite an understatement).  Sally is a legend in sport; the women's sports "movement", the first Olympic Women's Marathon, among the first women to attempt and finish Ironman Hawaii, founder of Fleet Feet stores when stores like that didn't exist, founder of the Danskin Triathlon Series, creator of Heart Zones training systems.  All this before Title IX.  All this before large NCAA schools started using Title IX as the excuse to cut "non-revenue" sport and re-apportion money to football and basketball.  Wonder how that will work out for us in future Olympic games?  (I know how this will end.)  Getting back to positive - Sally wants participation for everyone.  Pretty cool.

I found her delightful and energetic.

Her goal?  Get America fit. Sounds so simple.

She gave 13 items that I thought were note worthy (as did she).  I found Sally inspiring and refreshing in this "everyone knows everything" environment.  I think the fact that many people except those long into the sport have no idea who she is contributed to the smaller crowd.  It made the session perfect for bouncing questions off of a living legend.

1) Your sporting success: 50% DNA, 50% YOU

2) Running isn't easy.  It's an endurance game.  Learn and become a student of running & training.

3) When was the last time you did something for the first time?

4) "Target Fixation" You accomplish what you focus on.

5) Your competition is your best friend.  Your competition makes you a better runner.

6) The person who starts the race is not the same one who finishes.

7) You have to believe in yourself because you can do it.  (This wasn't as rah-rah as it seems.  We talked about execution toward goals.)

8) The competitive weapons - HRMs, GPS, iPhone apps, Power Meters.

9) Never give up.

10) First to worst - when Sally started she was winning everything - in new and different events don't be afraid to be worst or last.

11) Follow your heart and success will follow.  I'm planning on leaving corporate life to be a full time trainer and coach.  Where are you going?

12) "365-fit" to be fit enough and ready to participate in any sport on any day 365 days a year.

13) Identify what you love and fill your life with it.  MOST people DON'T live here.

Words to live by.

Friday, July 15, 2011

CLEAR to Workout

Got the call.  A great call.  No meds.  Start working out - easy and consistently.  Get back into working out.  I have an "athlete's heart".  This means a slightly enlarged heart.  Very common.  A giant relief.

What do I change?
Shorter runs - for now.  Diet is strictly being watched. Meaning - clean protein sources (usually grilled or baked) with veggies.  CHO (carbs) come from fruits and veggies.  In 2003, I watched my weight in a balanced, intelligent manner and toed the line at IM USA at 157 lbs.  I think I could have gone lower, but I was burnt out from preparing for Ironman for four straight years and doing a ton of travel for work.  (Burning the candle at both ends.)

While I'm working my tail off...  I have learned how to balance things much better.

See you on the trail

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Day of Testing the Heart

I love to workout.  I really do.  Jump on my bike with a group of friends and ride around Lake Geneva or a long swim outside.  A hot early Sunday run finishing by dumping cold water over the head before heading to grab a bagel with the "old guys" who run the same route.  You either "get it" or you don't.  There is no middle ground.  Those who don't, all seem to be miserable to me.  Lacking self confidence or a belief that you can do anything if you set your mind to it.  Additionally, those folks miss the spirituality of an early morning run and wild life or an amazing sun rise - or even a wall of snow or rain. One step in front of the other.  One at a time.  It moves you toward the goal.  All that may need to change pending the results of Friday's tests.

Emotionally, this has been a little rough.  Of course, the weather has been ideal for training and I have the bug to train in the worst way.  I'm not going to be concerned about it because I'm much more than just a triathlete, although my athletes might not appreciate the scrutiny of their power, rpms and heart rate numbers that I'm giving them this week.  This week I've put in a lot of thinking about "what if".  What if I'm not "allowed" to swim, bike or run again?  More about that later.

Thursday night, after my week off of training and putting in 34 hours at my client in three days; I felt like this original test was bullshit.  I'm fine.  I'm going to treat this test like a performance test.

Friday came and off to the hospital I went.  Walked into the Cardiac Testing center of the hospital and then it got real.  Once changed and ready to go, I got the chest shaved for the heart leads.  So many, I didn't count.  This was a nuclear medicine test.  This means running with a catheter in my hand.  OK, just like the GSSI lab.  This also meant injections while running.  That's new.  This means that I got a shot of an isotope 10 minutes before the running began.  Fast forward roughly 20 minutes (16.5% grade and 8.9 mph), and I told them 1 more minute.  Where I got 1 more shot of isotope (while running the same speed).  I forget the max heart rate to be honest; something around 197.  The scary number that I saw (the only bad thing all day) is when I was running at slower pace - my blood pressure was 220 over 90.  That cannot be good.  What is interesting is the faster I went, the better the blood pressure got.  At 183 heart rate I recall hearing that my BP was around 190 over 80.  Cardiologist said, "This looks fine" and abruptly left.  Dude... what about the frickin' blood pressure? What's up with that?  I'm not sick!  I feel fine!  Why the hell is this going on?  Hey!  Off to get a scan to look for blockages.  Got a ride in a wheelchair - 'hospital policy' to the nuclear medicine area of the hospital.  13 minutes of scan - "Don't move your chest - but breathe normally."  When I breathe normally... ok, whatever.  I just tried not to move around a lot.

I now had 1 hr 15 minutes of "down time".  Off to lunch in the hospital cafe.  Soup and a bowl of fruit.  Back to Nuclear Medicine.  The saline "push" before another injection of isotope was cool.  The isotope itself was cold this time. 10 minute wait and back for another 13 minute scan.  I was counting heart beats between movements of the machine.  Roughly 24.  Kinda like counting swim strokes - only not nearly as fun (and I hate counting swim strokes).

The last test of the day was an echocardiogram.  It was very interesting.  I know enough about anatomy to understand some things about function better than the "general public".  The tester was nice, but not allowed to tell me anything for fear she could say something wrong followed by a freaked out patient and legal action.  I just want to know what is going on so I can get on with our life.  No holes in any veins or arteries.  Valves all working; opening and closing fine with no noticeable back-slosh of blood.  Blood volume was hard to follow.  She recorded them so fast I couldn't see what they were.  There were no, "OH SHIT! Get me a doctor" or "CLEAR AN ER STAT!" calls.  After all, that wouldn't instill confidence in their patients.  I got a $5 gift card for "free" soup/coffee in the cafe for waiting an extra hour in the prep room.  The gift card has replaced the lollipop for good behavior at a doctors visit.

What to do?  Well, I've had some quality fishing time.  Some fun with Greta in the lake.  Thoughts of, what if I can race again?  Then what?  Where?  Why?  What new event can I try?  (When was the last time you did something for the first time?)  What about riding a bike across country?  Not necessarily in a race... just to do it.  What next?  What will happen to my health?  Maybe another degree?  Maybe coaching a large group for a race?

What next if I'm not allowed or physically able to race anymore?  1) Well, I didn't forget how to train people.  I'll be able to start a new chapter in coaching and take on more people.  2) We can travel more.  Going to see a race like the Tour de France in person.

Hope to see you tomorrow.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thor de France & Independence Day Thank You

Our annual watching of the Le Tour got real exciting really fast.  During the team time trial Lorrie knew to the second what Thor Hoshovd needed to get into the yellow jersey.  As I'm typing this, Lorrie is on the edge of her seat (literally) hoping for a another day in yellow for Thor.

Have a great Independence Day.  Thank you to all the friends we have in the military fighting for our freedom, namely: Ken, Tommy, Justine, Nate, Danny, Jeff, Dan, Andy, Lisa, Janet and Chris.  Looking forward to seeing you all at a starting line again ASAP.  No pictures of the special forces or Navy Seal guys.

Ken in Iraq with the owner of a restaurant who he had to take an AK-47 from.  They later became allies.                              


Ken doing his first Ironman finishing with "only" military training and 21 days of cycling before the race.

Tommy finishing the Pro race in Chicago.  Great swim.  Great bike (until a flat halted him).  Mailing in the run (won the following week in Washington D.C.).


 Justine and Tommy in Tucson.  Justine was 3rd overall.  Tommy won his age group at the Tucson Sprint on day three of our training camp.

Y'all know who that is right?  Neighbor in Kona.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Medical Answers in the EKG

Well... now we know.  After doing significant miles, watching the diet and other changes to my own personal training habits (without results) I have a (partial) answer to the root cause.

A full work week at a desk job had me doing 58 hours in four days.  I work a lot as an independent coach and management consultant.  An "average" week is 60 hours + coaching (20 hours) + training 15 hours - there are 168 hrs possible in a week.  I also spend 2 hrs commuting (each way) to my client unless I get a hotel.  In this economic depression, you work when there is work.  Coaching and management consulting first and all else second.  I did manage to swim three days and run three days (even if I was only able to average ~3 miles - it was better than nothing).  Friday, the long awaited physical from an actual MD.  Not a physician's assistant.  Not a nurse.  Not a cardiology tech with golf on his mind testing for a large beverage company.  A real doctor looking at me and some of the experiences I've had recently.  He actually took the time to look at my experience and combine the factors.

I joked around (I admit nervously) with the nurses.  When they weighed me I flexed and said, "This is how they do it before big Vegas prize fights."  When asked about my height I responded with, "5' 8" with the afro."  I had several other jokes that had the nurse cracking up.  Including singing "Moon River" - watch Fletch if you don't get that one.  Hey, I'm the last patient of a holiday week and I am a full physical.  The office was cracking up.  My doc is next to a funeral home.  I joked, "Hey, if we get the diagnosis wrong at least you don't have to roll my body too far."  That got a nervous laugh understandably.  I even managed to ask, "Will I be able to play the piano after this test?"  The nurse said, "Sure."  I responded, "Cool, I've always wanted to play piano."  Took her totally by surprise.

I don't take any supplements with regularity.  This includes vitamins.  In my build period I was great about taking Vitamin D, fish oil and a veggie replacement along with eating right.  Are those supplements?  Technically yes.  They aren't in my diet.  I haven't taken the time to figure out what is legal and what actually works.  I like coffee, but only drink it once or twice a week.  I made it through overtraining in college without it.  I'm not a soda hound.  It's cheaper to drink water.  I'm cheap about certain things.  Sugar water that is one.

You ever get a  (fill in the blank) ?  I hate when that happens. 
I started really training and watching my diet in September of last year.  Balancing my diet to the calorie versus workouts.  Training in the right zones - lower even.  Consistency at the levels rivaling 2003 Ironman training.  I felt something may be wrong when I didn't see more than an eight pound fluctuation in my weight.  Hmm, this can't be right.

First, a bit of family history.  My mom's mom - is from a region of Italy (Italian Alps) where people have high HDL cholesterol and no heart problems.  They have other heart problems.  Many live into their 100s with: "heart flutter" (symptom #1 for me - not all the time), #2 occasional profuse sweating - sitting at a computer - I keep a towel in my work computer bag, #3 numbness in my arm (occasionally - lately, daily - but normally - once in a blue moon), #4 extreme fatigue - ask Lorrie - I can sleep 12-14 hours any day of the week no matter how much I've slept.  #5 The last one is a elevated blood pressure.  130/90 - odd because when I'm training this much I'm usually down around 105-109/58-65.  #6 This plus the incredibly odd heart rates and power numbers I've had led me to seek out a new doctor who.  One who went from "keep an eye on that" to "Let's test this now.  You're a better athlete than this."  Helps to have a doc who actually talks to his patients and participates in athletics.  Doc left me with this, "If you had any one of these symptoms and it was 2003, we would slap you on the back and wish you well.  These days - we are more careful.  I don't want you dropping dead in a training session or race."

Both of my Italian grandparents had heart issues, but lost battles to cancer.  Same side of the family, same region of Italy, my uncle Gino passed away at 106 in his sleep.  My aunt Mary walks to mass every day at 103 - she will be 104 in August.  My father's side of the family - grandfather had congestive heart failure - smoking unfiltered cigarettes won't help you much.  He passed away at 76.  My grandmother just passed away of "old age" - in her sleep.  I believe her heart just quit as a complication of other factors.

This winter I trained at the "Mark Allen" prescribed 137-139 heart rate and did miles.  Running, cycling and swimming - check the ego at the door.  Get passed by 75 year old women kinda "check".  I ramped it up in the pool and a little on the bike as the running numbers just didn't work out properly.  The training response wasn't there.

In the Florida 70.3, my heart rate was either in the 120s or 160s.  160 felt like 210.  I averaged 158 for 6:30:00 in Florida.  For the record, I've always been able to get my heart rate up to "crazy high" numbers.  Research seems to show that if you were trained as a runner or swimmer as a kid - you can do this as an adult.  For example, I "warm up" in the pool around 150-160 (6 second count starting with a 0 measuring at the pectoral - rounding the heart rate - so, a warm up would be a 15 or 16 count in 6 seconds).  I'm "working" at 180-190 and can hold that for most sets.  For all out efforts it is not difficult for me to be at a 21 count.  Going into Florida - I DID the training.  I really did.  I heat acclimatized in my office by jacking the heat up to 94 for the month before the race.  10 hours a day - heat and humidity.  Explains why on race day I felt great - just lethargic.  It was the heart (if this is not just a bad test).

What does it all mean?
Worst case scenario: In short, my doctor tells me that the left side of my heart "could be" miss firing. This means that all the blood the right side is pushing out to the body could be more.  Left isn't getting enough blood into the lungs for oxygenation.  This explains why I'm out of breath all the time.  Why recovery is taking days and not hours.  Why when I use compression gear - I feel much better.  To look for a positive... I could be in much better shape and something in my body is misfiring and not allowing me to achieve like I'm used to when I try.

OR...

It could be too much or too little of something in my diet.  Too much potassium would give us the same result.  Not sure yet.  I'm hoping it is a diet thing.

Rx for now - "take it easy" - no hard training sessions, no hills, walking instead of running, no races.  I've got more medical tests to do.

Someone asked me, "What will you do as a triathlete who cannot train or race during the peak season?" I told them (and don't take this the wrong way), "Well... first of all, I'm way more than just a triathlete.  Triathlon is part of my life, but it is not the only part of my life.  Maybe Greta and I are supposed to go dominate 'dock dog' competitions now.  Perhaps I'm supposed to go into full time coaching and develop the first Olympic champion from the USA.  Maybe I'm just supposed to be more grateful for the physical abilities I have and I need to take care of myself better than I have.  I fish really well.  Perhaps the Pro Bass circuit is in my future.  How about another degree?  Just a 'triathlete'?  Hardly."

Time to go workout - for dock dogs.

My family's youngest athlete.