Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Its So On...Again

As you know, I've been hobbled up recently with my aching IT band following the marathon. I've iced, stretched, foam rolled, taken ibuprofen, seen general doctors, and running specialists. Its now been approximately 4 weeks since I became the unproud owner of "the world's tightest IT band".

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...

Study on Muscle Cramps

This is a pretty interesting article that discusses various potential causes of muscle cramps. I am definitely in the boat of those who frequently suffer from them during races, but strangely do not suffer them nearly as often while training. I assume this is due to the increase fatigue in race situations. However, there are several other proposals for the causes of cramps and what we can do to avoid them. Unfortunately, the conclusion of what causes cramps is that "the question is still open to investigation". Regardless, an interesting read to hear about different thoughts on muscle cramps.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/14/health/nutrition/14BEST.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

A Long-Running Mystery, the Common Cramp

Photo illustrations by Filip Kwiatkowski for The New York Times

Published: February 14, 2008

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' Comments

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

My New Bike Valet Service

So in the spirit of inventing unnecessarily monstrous machines designed to do something as simple as parking your bike, I bring you this clip from Tokyo:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

B-Fit B-Day Gear Has Arrived!

As many of you know, I was the male winner of the February B-Fit B-Day Challenge contest for documenting my full day of swimming 2 miles, biking 28 miles, and running 8 miles. As the winner, I received a Rudy Project Helmet and pair of sunglasses. For the helmet, I selected the Actyum in the Titanium/Black Matte and for the sunglasses I selected the Syluro S-Wide.

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

The Hills Have Returned

Now that marathon training in behind me, my IT band injury is keeping me from cranking out long runs, and the weather has warmed up a lot, most of my time is being focused on cycling. So far in the past week or so, I've ridden about 150 miles on my new bike. Since I haven't been able to get in any long rides yet, I am uping my cycling frequency to add mileage so I can get my bike mojo working and crank out some big rides.

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.

The World's Tightest IT Band

I went to see an orthopedic specialist, and after asking me some questions, he started feeling around my general knee area. His conclusion: "You have the world's tightest IT band". This is what my doctor told me! Finally, there is something I can appreciate about this injury. The world's tightest...who would've thought? That explains a lot I guess and why I can't just shake this thing, even after a few weeks of rehabbing. He basically told me I don't need him for anything, because I am doing everything I should be doing to get better. Just goes to show what solid research skillz I have. Too bad its taking so long. Bottom line is that I will continue progressing (hopefully) with my run times and distances. Once I can do 15 minutes without major discomfort (already done), try 20 minutes, and so on. According to him, I'm not going to re-aggravate it or do any further damage to slow my progress, so its just going to be nagging for the time being. And thats it...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Maasai Warriors Run For Drinking Water

Although this article is a few days old, I think it is still a very relevant to post. I had planned to post this earlier, but didn't get to it. People raising money for charity is nothing new. Survivors, everyday people, and organizations do it every day. But this story hits with a different impact.

Six Maasai warriors from northern Tanzania jump at the chance to run the London Marathon and raise money to dig wells for safe drinking water.
Six Maasai warriors from northern Tanzania jump at the chance to run the London Marathon and raise money to dig wells for safe drinking water. (By Sang Tan -- Associated Press)

Saturday, April 12, 2008; Page E02

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.

Completing the race shouldn't be too much of a challenge for the men of the Maasai, who number between 500,000 and 1 million and live across an area of east Africa straddling Kenya and Tanzania.

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

I Can Run Again!

Just got back from the doctor (my primary care physician) and got some good news. She wants me to try to run. Nothing fast or long, but she wants me to give it a try for no more than 15 minutes. Of course, its not as simple as just getting up and going. No, that would be too easy. Here is the run down of how my appointment went:

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

Baby Steps

Well...the road back to full strength may take a little longer. Ever since finishing the marathon 2 weeks ago, I've had some residual IT band soreness in my upper calf and lower hamstring. Like my previous injury, I've been rehabbing through rest, ice, stretching, and strengthening. I had no more soreness from walking up steps and swimming was going great, so I really wanted to see how it would feel out on the road. Since cycling is the next step to progress to, I went for a 25 mile bike ride yesterday at a relatively light effort...my first non swimming activity since the marathon. I really just wanted to get outside (it was 70 degrees!) and see how everything felt. I had a great ride and felt only very minor IT band issues. After the ride, I stretched and iced.

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

Movie Review: Run Fat Boy Run

Since I wasn't able to make it to either premier of Spirit of the Marathon, I've had other movies to look forward to this year for fun, running motivation. Saturday night, Rebecca and I went to see Run Fat Boy Run. I'll admit that the running part of the movie was not the primary reason for wanting to go see it. I personally thought it looked like a funny movie, that happened to involve marathon running. A good part of the movie does revolve around running a marathon, so I'd classify this is a running movie. This movie has appeal for both men and women, otherwise there's no way I'd be able to convince Rebecca to go see it with me ;)

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

To Heel Strike or Not To Heel Strike?

A long time debate among runners has been which running technique is the "best". With different body types, muscle composition, and running speed, running technique cannot be placed into a one size fits all solution. I've always been of the impression that the mid/forefoot strike was the "best" way. I felt that landing the heel first creates added friction, forcing the body backward, rather than trying to move in a forward direction. Little did I know, my mindset follows the Pose running mindset (which I wasn't aware of until after I had developed my running style), which believes in landing in the mid/forefoot and relying on the hamstrings and gravity to continually propel the runner forward. Of course, I'm the one who comes from a sprinters background, where running on your heels in a 100m dash race would look foolish. The Pose method also believes in the same running style, regardless of whether it is a 100m dash or a marathon. As I began my triathlon training, which branched out into marathon training, I started analyzing my run technique to be as efficient as possible. To me, it has always been a mid/forefoot strike. Again, what works for me may not work for you.

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

Bike P0rn - For Real

Some of you...cough...have been clamoring for the results of my romance with several bikes over the past month. Well today is the day, when I announce the winner of The (Bike) Bachelor.

(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 Onix
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 Kharma
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 Z35
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....

KUOTA KHARMA!!!!!!!!!!!!


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

How Many Miles?

I thought it would be kind of cool to see how many miles I actually ran during my marathon training. I wish I would have been able to run all of the planned miles, but sadly my knee injury forced me to cut my training short. Basically, my highest volume weeks were cut out, which caused me to miss a good chuck of the total volume of my plan. Regardless, below are my stats for my marathon training:
  • 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.

Official SunTrust National Marathon Pictures








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.
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