Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Well you know what? I ran today. I ran 4 miles. Not much by most standards, but relative to where I've been coming from, this was by far the most I've run since the injury, and by far the fastest pace I've run. I did not push the pace too much, but I ran at a quick pace and averaged 8:15/mile. This is HUGE news for me. This means I can keep progressing until I get back to running longer distances. And, I'm only a little more than 2 weeks out from my first race of the season, the Columbia Triathlon, so this is the confidence booster I needed.
And oh yea, before my run today, I biked an all out 25 miles. So my run was a brick right off the bike. Sweetness.
Its on...its so on...like donkey kong...
A Long-Running Mystery, the Common Cramp
IT can happen for no reason, it seems, taking you completely by surprise. And it can be excruciating. Suddenly, a muscle contracts violently, as if it had been prodded with a jolt of electricity. And it remains balled in a tight knot as painful second after painful second drags on.
Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
A seized calf muscle or a hamstring can be frightening. Swimmers fear they will drown. Cyclists nearly fall off their bikes. Runners drop to the ground, grimacing, gritting their teeth.
The contraction is so strong that you could not will yourself to ball your muscle that tightly. And your muscle is likely to feel sore the next day.
You have had a cramp, an experience so common among endurance athletes, researchers say, that almost everyone who has tried endurance sports has had a muscle cramp or has a friend who has had one.
Cramps afflict 39 percent of marathon runners, 79 percent of triathletes, and 60 percent of cyclists at one time or another, said Dr. Martin P. Schwellnus, a professor of sports medicine at the University of Cape Town.
Cramps can occur during exercise, immediately after, or he said, as long as six hours later.
Yet common as they are and terrible as they can be, no one really understands cramps. They are a medical mystery.
“I would say, bottom line, there is no really convincing biological explanation for muscle cramps,” said Dr. Andrew Marks, a muscle researcher and chairman of the department of physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Medical textbooks skirt the topic, he added, often avoiding any explanation. And few scientists have studied cramps.
But as anyone who has ever complained of cramps will attest, lots of advice is circulating on how to avoid them and lots of people — friends, coaches, doctors — think they have a solution.
Take a multivitamin pill to get zinc and magnesium. Massage the muscles. Drink plenty of water. Be sure to get enough electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Stretch before you start to exercise. No, stretch as soon as you finish. See a nutritionist to correct imbalances in your diet. See a trainer to be sure you are moving correctly.
Of course, Dr. Marks said, medical conditions can lead to cramps, including narrowed blood vessels, usually from atherosclerosis, or compression of a nerve, as happens in spinal stenosis. Cramps also can arise from hypothyroidism. And they can be a side effect of medications like diuretics, used to lower blood pressure, which can lead to a potassium deficiency that can cause cramps.
But, he and others said, those conditions do not explain the vast majority of cramps.
“You are left with the fact that cramping usually occurs in healthy people without any underlying disease,” Dr. Marks said.
There are three leading hypotheses about how to treat cramps and how to prevent them.
There’s the dehydration proposal: you just need more fluid. But, Dr. Schwellnus said, he studied athletes who cramped and found that they were no more dehydrated before or after a race than those who did not have cramps.
Then there’s the electrolyte hypothesis: what you really need is sodium and potassium.
Michael F. Bergeron, who directs the environmental physiology laboratory at the Medical College of Georgia, said the electrolyte hypothesis applies to a specific type of cramp that is related to excessive sweating. It occurs, he said, when the fluid that bathes the connection between muscle and nerve is depleted of sodium and potassium, which was lost through sweat. The nerve then becomes hypersensitive, Dr. Bergeron said.
“Usually you feel little twitches first,” he explained. “They last for 20 to 30 minutes and if you don’t do anything you can be in full-blown cramps.” Those cramps, he continued can move from place to place on your body, from one leg to the next, to your arms, stomach, even your fingers or your face.
The solution, Dr. Bergeron said, is to drink salty fluids like Gatorade (the company sponsors his research). He said he had prevented cramps in tennis players this way.
But asked whether there are any rigorous studies to confirm this hypothesis, he said no. “We haven’t done the study yet,” he said. “We’re at the point of kind of connecting the dots.”
The third hypothesis is advanced by Dr. Schwellnus. He questions the electrolyte hypothesis because his studies of Ironman-distance triathletes as well as other studies of endurance athletes found no difference in electrolyte levels between those who suffered cramps and those who did not.
DR. SCHWELLNUS proposes that the real cause of cramping is an imbalance between nerve signals that excite a muscle and those that inhibit its contractions. And that imbalance, he said, occurs when a muscle is growing fatigued.
His solutions for cramps are to exercise less intensely and for shorter times, to be sure you had enough carbohydrates to fuel your muscles, to train sufficiently and to regularly stretch the muscles that give you problems. These recommendations are based on his recent study of Ironman triathletes, Dr. Schwellnus said.
But while he advocates those practices, he said, they have not been proved in a rigorous study.
In the meantime, some doctors have resorted to experimenting on themselves, devising their own explanations and cures.
Dr. Charles van der Horst, an AIDS researcher at the University of North Carolina, said he was stunned when his calf started to cramp without warning when he was running. The pain was almost unbearable, he said, and even when the muscle finally relaxed, it cramped again when he resumed running.
“I started carrying a cellphone with me on long runs,” Dr. van der Horst said. When a cramp struck, he called his wife to ask her to drive out and get him.
“I think I was getting calcium deposits or something,” Dr. van der Horst said.
His solution was to massage his calves at all hours, pushing deep into the muscle. This seems to work, he said, explaining that it’s been a year now since he had a cramp.
Dr. Stephen Liggett, a professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland, has a different solution. He got terrible cramps in his calf during yoga. The culprit, he decided, was the drugs he takes for asthma, which can diminish the body’s supply of potassium. He knew that potassium is sold over the counter. But because high levels of potassium can be dangerous, store-bought potassium supplements are not very strong.
Dr. Liggett’s solution is not one anyone who is not a doctor should try at home. Before he does yoga, he measures the potassium levels in his blood before and after taking what he describes as a hefty dose of over-the-counter supplement. Then he calculates how much additional potassium he thinks he needs, securing it from concentrated potassium tablets from his research lab — how much he declined to say.
“I didn’t want to drink two gallons of Gatorade,” Dr. Liggett explained. He hasn’t had cramps since he began “preloading,” as he calls it, with potassium. But, he said, “I haven’t done a controlled trial.”
Dr. Marks, for one, is not convinced by the evidence for any of the hypotheses, nor by any of the proposed remedies.
What causes cramps?
“I would say the answer to that question is still open to investigation,” he said. And, he added, he hopes someone takes it up.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
After having a chance to go for several rides sporting both the helmet and sunglasses, I am confident to say they rock! Not only do they look awesome, but the helmet matches perfectly with my new bike. With all these equipment upgrades, I sure feel faster out there, and I know I look good doing it. (Sorry about these terrible quality pictures, I only had my cell phone with me)
As a side note, I also received my samples of Hornet Juice, but I have not had the opportunity to try it yet. I will be sure to provide my review once I have given it a try.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Yesterday's ride was a 40 miler out on the W&OD trail out to Herndon and back. Its an easy ride, since there is a dedicated trail the whole way. Only problem is days like yesterday bring out tons of "amatures", who create havoc on the trails by not knowing the rules. Fortunately, the further you get out from Arlington, the lighter the traffic. I left early enough so I didn't have to deal much, but hit major gridlock on the trail in the last 5 or so miles back to Arlington. I really pushed the first 25 miles or so, probably harder than I should have, which left me without much oomph the last couple of miles. I gotta build up my endurance to keep the pace, because I was hauling for those first 25 miles.
Today, it was hill time. I've avoided the hills like the plague, but I know they are good for me. For my first time out there, I managed to squeak out 2 loops, but it wasn't easy. Each loop has roughly 1500 ft of elevation gain in a short 8 miles. After the first few hills on the first loop, I was thinking I might call it a day after one loop, but I forced myself into the 2nd loop since this is the last workout of the week for me, due to a trip out of town. The 2nd loop...not.so.easy. On the steady climbs, I sat in my 2nd easiest gear cranking as hard as I could. The last hill forced me out of the saddle, and for the first time in a long time, I was truly exhausted both in cardiovascular and muscular fitness. This is a good thing. These hills will make me a much stronger rider so that I can continue to push through on both hilly and flat courses. But don't tell my legs, because they don't want to see the hills for a very long time.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Six Maasai warriors from Tanzania will run in traditional red robes at the London Marathon to bring attention to their drought-stricken country.
The men adorned in beads and carrying shields will be among the professionals and amateurs competing tomorrow. They will run to raise money to dig wells for safe drinking water in their village.
A 40-year drought parched the nomadic people's land and led to the death of many of the warriors' elders, children and cattle.
A discussion during an English language class led to a conversation about the London Marathon. They realized they could raise the $39,400 needed to drill each well for their Eluai village.
"They asked, 'What is a marathon?' " said Paul Martin, a worker with the Greenforce aid agency that has worked with the Maasai for three years. "I explained to them that many people run every year in the London Marathon to raise money for various causes and charities. They found it quite incredible that you can generate funds just by running because this is something they do every day, anyway."
The six lean, leggy warriors -- Isaya, Kesika, Lengamai, Ninna, Nguvu and Taico-- entered the marathon to raise money through sponsorship for their village of about 1,000. Geological surveys of the area found tributaries underground that can be tapped to provide water.
The Eluai villagers roam about 19 miles from home each day with their cattle and run between houses, which can be as far as six miles apart.
Monday, April 14, 2008
To my surprise, the doctor (not my regular one) who treated me today is running her first marathon and recently overcame an IT band injury. Go figure... Well, I think that is the reason she treated me instead of my normal doc. I was glad to be dealing with a fellow athlete, especially in a general medicine office.
So, remember my minor Achilles injury last October? Well it was that injury that prompted me to get checked out by the local running store, which came to the discovery that I was a mild over pronator. I ended up buying 2 pairs of shoes to rotate between while training for the marathon, both being stability control shoes to prevent my Achilles from flaring up. Fast forward to several weeks before the marathon, and you'll learn that I dealt with a knee injury. The reason: stability control shoes place less an emphasis on the Achilles and more on the knee. Long story short (too late, I know), one problem caused the other.
So what do I have to do to get better? Well the first step is to up my ibuprofen intake. I was taking 200 mg 3 times a day, but according to my doctor 200 mg "is child's play". So, that gets bumped up to 800 mg 3 times a day for the next 5 days to hopefully relieve the tenderness. In the meantime, she said to keep doing what I'm doing. That means, continue swimming, cycling, stretching, strengthening, and icing. And if I'm feeling special, I can give water jogging a try, though I hate it when water joggers take up precious lane space, so I may not do that. Oh yea, and the last thing I should start doing: running!
Flat surfaces only - treadmill (blah) or track and only a max of 15 minutes at a time. The other thing is that she said I should try changing my running style to see if my IT band feels better or worse in one style over the other. In the meantime, I need to go see a podiatrist to get fitted for orthotics. She believes that orthotics placed in neutral running shoes will keep me from suffering suffer from the IT band issues, while also resolving any Achilles inflammations. We'll see how it goes. I'm working on my appointment with a podiatrist now to get in there ASAP.
But the good news is that I just got back from the gym and ran for 15 minutes with minimal discomfort. I changed my running style to a heel striker and it seemed to be easier on my IT band. So for now, thats the plan.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Well today, the temperatures were up to 77, so I really wanted to get outside. Rebecca and I went for a short jog to test out my leg. I felt minor dull pain after a few minutes of running, but the longer we ran, the more it started feeling worse. Rather than fighting through it, I stopped to walk after 10 minutes.
So what does this mean? Well it basically means that I need much more rest from running. I need to go back to stretching, icing, and strengthening before trying to run again. I will probably try cycling again since I didn't have much issue yesterday. And of course...more swimming.
As frustrating as it is, I think this injury is keeping me honest in my training by forcing me to hit the pool and work on my weakness. My swim times have dropped significantly from my best swims last year, so I know its working. I guess its just back to the drawing board in taking baby steps toward running again...sigh
Monday, April 7, 2008
The basic plot is about a guy who left his pregnant fiancee at the alter 5 years ago and is trying to win her back into his life over her current boyfriend who is running in the local marathon in London. He thinks that running a marathon will make his ex realize he is a changed man after these 5 years. Of course, he goes through the series of predictable troubles of going from out of shape fatty to marathoner in only 3 weeks. Yes, 3 weeks to train for a marathon. The whole movie has lots of good humor sprinkled throughout. Many opportunities for toilet humor are pleasantly left for classic comedic moments. As with any comedy these days, there are a few toilet humor jokes, but nothing too over the top. The movie takes on the feel of a british comedy even though it is produced by David Schwimmer and written by Michael Ian Black. It does take place in London though, so it doesn't feel forced at all.
Overall, definitely worth going to see for an easy laugh out loud movie. I'd recommend it to everyone.
And FYI - for anyone who still hasn't seen Spirit of the Marathon, they will be doing a tour throughout the US for the rest of the year, following various marathon races. I also believe the DVD will be released early Fall.
Friday, April 4, 2008
I came across this interesting article, which examines the two primary running styles (heel vs mid/forefoot).
What style works best for you?
Thursday, April 3, 2008
(cue suspenseful music)
Trek Madone 4.5/5.2
Trek, you were really nice to me. I test rode 2 of your rides. Since there wasn't a 4.5 in my size, I rode the 5.2 and loved it. You shift very smoothly and ride over bumps without even the littlest bit of notice. Then, I finally found a 4.5 for a test ride. Although smooth, your ride was not as nice as the 5.2. A bit heavier than your brother, but just as smooth.
Orbea, you really know how to design a sweet looking bike. With sleek lines and a brilliant paint job, I liked you from the first time I laid eyes on you. Once I finally got a chance to give you a test ride, I was equally impressed. Smooth riding, light weight, and sweet looks. Its hard not to be attracted to you.
Kuota, I felt like you were the big dark horse in this competition. Though I've always been fascinated by your looks, you were long considered out of my price range. When I had the opportunity to test ride you, I was thoroughly impressed. Your lightweight, sleek looking, Italian ride really made a great impression on me.
Felt, I have always been a big fan of your bikes. When I first thought of buying a triathlon bike, I coveted the S22. Then, as my focus shifted to road bikes, I was drawn to you. You offer the same high quality components package as all the others you are competing against. But was it enough to win my heart?
(cue even more suspenseful music)
And the bike that I selected...the one that impressed me the most...the one that really stood out...the one that wins the competition is....
And here are some pictures of how it actually looks...I had a little help from my bike p0rn model, Piper and of course my photographer, Rebecca. Enjoy!
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
- Total Miles Run: 330.33 miles
- Total Mile Planned: 490 miles
If I had done all my training, I could have made it to Portland, ME.
Just thought I'd add some perspective to the raw distance. Though not nearly as impressive as these guys who ran across the Sahara Desert some 4,300 miles, it is impressive in my book.
These are the official pictures from the marathon. I am kind of disappointed in them. Although I found 9 pictures (2 in the Lost and Found), there isn't a finish shot. The last two were close, but they were taken while heading toward the finish chute, but zero pictures of me actually crossing the line. I looked around through other people's pictures and found a few finish shots, so I know they could have taken them. You'd think for a marathon, the one place the photographers would have been was right as each runner crossed the finish line. I'm just a little dissapointed that they didn't capture that moment.